Friday, February 29, 2008

Traveling: The Titus Bramble of Blogging

I'm on the rag road. True to form, I draw the one person on the flight who needs the seatbelt extension as a neighbor, then my rental car company downgrades me because they are out of cars. Now, I'm borrowing time on a friend's computer with one of those split ergonomic keyboards and it has taken me 37 minutes to write these three sentences.

At least it's fucking sunny and warm where I am.

Anyway, I'm running late for the rehearsal dinner and none of this has anything to do with football, but they're gonna play games tomorrow no matter where the fuck I am, so I am going to live up to my voluntary responsibilities, goddammit!

I think there are a couple of midweek games. I know there is at least one as I rearranged my fantasy line-up to include Captain Collar-Pop. Seeing how much guff I've given the Scousers around here, I'm pretty sure this ends poorly. I think Chelski might also have a midweeky, but I'm not sure. So I'm just going to cushion the number of "predictions" this week and I'll look like a genius come Wednesday.

4-1 (*The Mancs are on fire)

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Wayne Rooney Is Not Destined to Master Fingertapping

Well, yet another great week of posts here at UF. Big round of applause for everyone.

All that's left is to ask: What do Eddie Van Halen and Wayne Rooney have in common? Apparently nothing. The Sun "reported" yesterday that Rooney is giving up guitar in favor of learning drums.

I guess it's the bang-bang-banging of a drum kit that really interested him, considering his infant-like faculties.

Said the bulldog-ish one:

"I've been trying to learn to play the guitar but it's doing my head in. It's really hard!"
A United source said on the subject:
"Wayne had mentioned how difficult it was to read the music and get his fingers right for all the chords. He is a determined character but this is one battle even he thinks he might not be able to win. He fancies a drum kit — but his neighbours might not be pleased to hear that."
That's right, Wayne Rooney having trouble learning the same instrument that Noel Gallagher plays. Does this make Man City 1, United 0? Maybe.

Rooney shouldn't have given up so quickly. Everyone knows that guitarists get all the chicks.

[Ed. Note: you also hear far more "drummer jokes" than guitarist jokes]

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WaGs, GND edition

When you don't have the cash to buy the best (and perhaps best looking) players, you make adjustments, plan, and spend your money wisely. Conversely, when you're looking for a lady for your small budget team, you need to be a bit more creative.

Here's a homage to a few clubs and what they're getting into. Millwall made a splash recently with their contest to spot the best WaGs, and what small club Weston are up to.

Millwall caused a stir last week with the news leaked out about their Facebook site, and their contest to find Millwall's hottest fan. As expected, it generated some local interest, a bit of buzz in the football community, and a lot of fapping at blurry pictures of women of all shapes and sizes. In the interest of promoting parity in the world of WaGs, we've thrown a few photos in for those who don't use facebook (like myself):

Winner of the "what kind of wine is that shade of red?" award.

Why does this look like every other blurry photo on the interwebs of a female?

Lingering Bursitis's Favorite, as it reminds him of fellow scousers.

Not to be outdone, semi-pro club Weston Mare has been putting together a WaG of the Month Calendar for their club. Sales of which are going to be donated to the Weston Hospicecare. Nobel indeed, though having the winners showing up to visit the blokes would do more for morale than a few extra biscuits with their tea. Winner Candice Davies pictured above the jump is only a mere 19 in years, but is well on her way to going far.

We here at the Unprofessional Foul cheer all female supporters of their teams, as well as the wives and girlfriends of the players. They need someone to come home to after an afternoon of being kicked at.

However, to set the bar, and to cheer up our esteemed editor, we bring you the girlfriend of Scouser Mikel Arteta. Poor guy is paid so little, he can barely buy his lady enough clothes to be seen in public.

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Something about the Intertoto Cup and nipples

Yep, that's what it really looks like: an ashtray with etchings

When you examine the bloated cash cow that is European football, there are many teats.

The Champions League is the fattest tip, full of glorious funding and nourishment for the upper-tier clubs.

The UEFA Cup is still glamorous and milk-producing, feeding the next rung down and taking in those teams kicked off the CL nipple in the early rounds.

And then you come to the end of the line [and, thankfully, the end of this awful analogy], the Intertoto Cup. It's the old, shriveled, dessicated nipple, left open for the mid-level teams to scrap over and hopefully find enough goodies in order to move up the pecking order next time around.

However, all of the notable sub-Big 4 clubs have filed their admission papers while still in the thick of the chase. Everton filed on Wednesday, Aston Villa applied on February 15, and Man City posted their forms off on February 1.

Everton are in 4th place, 3 points clear of Liverpool!

What's this Intertoto crap all about?

The pressure for Euro money is so great on the almost-there teams that filing for the Intertoto is the logical safety net against falling further behind. Spending so much money on players in order to tread water with the Big 4 has to be recouped somehow, and some games against Balkan and Central European minnows is a good way to stroll through the summer with a small profit.

Eleven teams jump from the Intertoto to the UEFA, having to win three rounds of matches against all sorts of ramshackle teams in the process, with the winner of the Intertoto being the team that progresses the furthest in the UEFA that season.

Last year, Newcastle United [man, they were good back then] jumped to the UEFA along with Marseille, Auxerre, Hertha Berlin and others, and this year, Blackburn Rovers hopped in as well.

The formula works, but it is a little limp-wristed compared to the conventional format. UEFA realizes the financial stress that the 2nd tier of clubs across Europe face, and naturally they're all for extending their own tournaments and widening the field to get more matches, more TV money and more exposure in general. It's a win-win in general.

What confuses me is how early teams have to file. Setting the deadlines for application so early, when there's still so much to play for! I realize these just looking for some insurance against missing out altogether, but there's only 6 points separating 5 teams for those final 2 spots in Europe [although the picture is muddled somewhat with Spurs beating Chelsea for the Carling Cup], and now these teams are dealing with their owners protecting against possible loss.

Of course, my real concern is why my team hasn't filed yet. I mean, we're going to secure 4th place eventually, but you never fucking know, do you? With all the most recent bullshit with Hicks and LFC ownership maelstrom [read Hicks' smug fucking quotes in that article and try not to punch your computer out], missing out on Europe would really throw a wrench in the works.

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UF Goes to the Movies: The Oeuvre of Vinnie Jones

Given our recent stories regarding Paul Gascoigne, it seemed only natural to explore the individual on the other side of that most famous picture.

Join me after the jump to explore the brilliance that is Vinnie Jones.

To individuals of a certain age, Vinnie Jones is best known as a footballer, one of the true "hard men" of the game. Vinnie played for the Wimbledon team that won the FA Cup in 1988 (the watershed moment for the club), and then went on to play for Leeds United (89-90), Sheffield United (90-91), Chelsea (91-92), Wimbledon (92-98), and Queens Park Rangers (98-99).

He also played on the Welsh national team from 1994-1997, receiving 8 caps and even captaining the team. Recently, almost 10 years after leaving the game, Vinnie established the Hollywood All-Stars Football Club to compete in a rec league in Los Angeles (no word on whether Andrew Shue is on the team).

In 1992 (while he was still playing, obviously), Vinnie began appearing on television shows and other entertainment venues starring as himself. His first foray was as a "presenter" on "Soccer's Hard Men", a controversial documentary which looked at footballers known more for their strength than their skill. The FA was not amused, and fined Vinnie 10,000 pounds, yet he appeared as himself over 40 more times in various endeavors.

Clearly, all of this action gave Vinnie the itch (they have a cream for that, you know), leading to his entry into the world of cinema. The result of that is that a new generation knows Vinnie Jones solely as a movie "star", albeit one who plays the exact same character in every damn movie. Let's examine Vinnie's work, shall we?

Vinnie Jones first appeared in the Guy Ritchie (aka Mr. Madonna) film "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels" (1998) as Big Chris, a certifiable English thug. He followed this up with a turn as Bullet Tooth Tony in "Snatch" (2000), where he played a...certifiable English thug.

In that same year (2000), he appeared as The Sphinx, a silent-but-deadly car thief in "Gone in 60 Seconds," and then a completely forgettable turn as Marco in "Swordfish" (2001) [although to be fair the only memorable scene in that movie was Halle Berry's boobies].

He expanded his repertoire in 2001, playing Danny Meehan, an English footballer sent to prison, in "Mean Machine", the English equivalent of "The Longest Yard."

It is at this point that Vinnie's filmography begins to diverge somewhat. In 2004, Vinnie takes a turn as Lou Harris, a stereotypical English hooligan, in "The Big Bounce." Also in 2004, Vinnie played Mad Maynard, a stereotypical ManU supporter, in "Euro Trip." Clearly, Vinnie was branching out, really exploring a range of characters. In 2006, Vinnie played another thug, this one with mutant powers, in a turn as Juggernaut in "X-Men: The Last Stand."

However, after filming had wrapped on X-Men 3 [as Juggernaut again], Vinnie began to show his softer side. He played Rommel in "Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties" (2006), where he starred opposite Breckin Meyer and an animated cat, then the role of Dinklage in "She's the Man" (2006), where he played Amanda Bynes' coach (he put her on the practice squad!).

We aren't quite sure where Vinnie Jones will pop up next, although he does have 3-4 films in the works, including "Clive Barker's Midnight Meat Train" (sounds delicious!). One thing is sure - if you ever see Vinnie, tell him that you love his work or he just might squeeze your grapes.

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Love of footballer destroys promising career. Or something.

Alright, if there is one thing I really don't understand about football celebrity culture in England, it's the rise of the WAG. These women--the NASCAR wives of Britain--seem to do very little other than spend the money of their money-making boytoys. Sometimes, though, they do have opportunities to make their own way in life, and summarily turn those opportunities down.

Sorry, ladies. He's taken.

Abbey Clancy, Peter Crouch's girlfriend, announced that she has turned down an opportunity to model in LA, because she can't bear to be apart from Lurch Crouch. Why this made the press, I can't say. Someone made the mistake of asking her, I guess.

All in all, though, I think it's for the best. Sad as it is to say, if she were in LA she would be largely forgotten by the footballing world. Just ask Beckham. Clancy would also lose the attention of Crouch, and there are plenty of Brit women who find his money attractive enough to sleep with him.

Besides, if she were truly going to model in the USA, she would have to move to New York. Any concept of "modeling" based out of LA involves porn, and I sure as hell don't want to see Crouch get mixed up and filmed in that.

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Liam Miller can't keep time

At least Keane can't do this to his players now that he's an authority figure

Some of us at UF were somewhat confused the other day regarding Liam Miller suddenly turning up on the transfer list up at Sunderland.

He's only 27, he's industrious when he's on the pitch, and he's been capped plenty of times by the Republic of Ireland. Just what you'd want on your team, right?

Not Roy Keane. He's absolutely fucking sick and tired of Miller always being late, and that is more important to the manager than getting results.

Said Keane:

"The problem is Liam's time-keeping, it is as simple as that. It is nothing to do with Liam as a player or as a lad. I have got a lot of time for Liam, but we set a very high standard at the football club and unfortunately, Liam has been unable to match that, so we have put him on the transfer list and we will see what happens."
Keane's regime is firm but fair, and he's been trying for a while to get a well-disciplined squad much like Tom Coughlin did at the start of last season [you know, the season before they won the Super Bowl]. He left a few players out of a game against Barnsley [can't type that team easily] last season in the Championship because they turned up late for the team bus, and while this incident with Miller is more extreme, it's still hardly surprising.

Keane's patience simply ran out:

"Miller had a long string of not showing up on time, and "You have got to be on time for training. If a player is late once or twice, well and good; if he is late three or four times, maybe well and good. But when it goes beyond five, six, seven times, then you have got to draw the line. In any walk of life, you have got to be on time. We had an incident last year when players were late for the bus, and you move on. We cannot wait for anybody at the club."
Miller's future at the club is still possible, but it seems like only a matter of time before he gets snapped up for cheap when the window opens again.

My advice to Miller: get a bloody watch.

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This story's all about an expensive car

Blond idiot who loves nice cars, seeks teams that'll pay him for not doing much

Robbie Savage, the blond-haired tosser that I never liked, is in the news this morning for predictably bad reasons.

He's not been playing well for Derby since arriving from Blackburn last month, his team is on pace to shatter the record for futility in the EPL [9 points this season, with just one League victory], his teammates are low on confidence and now, he's turned up for training in a $320,000 car.

Not surprisingly, the other players weren't very happy, considering they're all making bugger-all and Derby's just under three months away from stumbling back down to the Championship.

Is it his scar that scares them? No, it's his car.

As weird as this might sound, there is definitely a precedent. When Sunderland were relegated from the EPL in 2003, then-manager Mick McCarthy fined captain Michael Gray two weeks' wages and removed the captain's armband from him after he showed up at the ground in a new Ferrari.

Jewell's not about to take such measures against the long-haired idiot, although he recognizes the insensitivity of it all:

"It's about having a bit of decorum. If 70 people are getting laid off, leave it a couple of days before you come in in your Ferrari....Sav had a flash car before he got here. All the players here have flash cars, it's the Premier League - 'Premier League player has flash car' shock, horror. Robbie Savage is an international footballer. He's played in the Premier League all his life, so he's entitled to earn a lot of money and to spend it how he likes. It's when some people drive flash cars ... and think they've cracked it, that's more of a problem."
The subconscious punishment for Savage is that he's likely to be dropped this weekend following a string of absolutely shite performances. At least he can cry all the way home in his shiny Mercedes and listen to the match at the same time.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Shameless Attempts to Increase Readership

You may not have noticed with all of the great content that Unprofessional Foul keeps posting, but we have added a shiny new doohickey to the site. [Sidenote: I have never noticed before but "doohickey" sure sounds like one disgusting sex act--a hickey and doo do not belong together.]

Our new whizbang is an RSS Feed. Just hit it up and subscribe to our feed and you can get our content delivered to you with amazing ease. It's like roomservice but without the cost.

[photo: Gizmodo]

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The Discrete Charm of Liveblogging a Painfully Boring FA Cup Replay: "I Wish, I Wish, I Wish that Something Would Happen"

Waiting for Godot Boro
I think I speak for all of UF when I say that the Guardian is the first and last place to get football news. The writers are cerebral, witty and knowledgeable. They also put together an LOL-inducing football podcast.

Occasionally, however, the Guardian descends into the absurd and ridiculous, such as yesterday's liveblog of the Middlesbrough v. Sheffield United FA Cup replay.

The first iteration of this match ended in a nil-nil draw, and yesterday's game was headed into extra time still nil-nil until a pathetic own goal put Middlesbrough up for good and thankfully put the Guardian's poor Scott Murphy out of his misery.

What happened in the interim was pure hilarity, with discussions of Jorge Luis Borges and Masterchef thrown in for good measure, as our brave liveblogger descended further and further into madness and desperation watching two negative and incompetent football teams refusing to take any chances.

So, this particular liveblog reads like a Skinner Box meets Jack Nicholson in the Shining meets Waiting for Godot, and was far more entertaining than a liveblog of a game where, you know, something actually happened.

Give this man a raise!

Middlesbrough v. Sheffield Utd - Live! -

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Counterpoint: These Are Not the Dives You Are Looking For

One of my favorite books about contemporary culture and media is The Culture of Fear by Barry Glassner. The conceit of the book isn't that unique - Americans are made to feel paranoid by the sensationalist media and opportunistic politicians who push non-problems and non-issues to the public. But he's masterful in debunking myths about road rage, date rape drugs, and welfare queens, and gets to the mechanics of manufacturing fear.

I bring this up because whenever I hear people complain about diving in soccer, I'm reminded of The Culture of Fear. Simply put, diving isn't an problem in soccer (well, at least in the Premier League, any way), and hearing people whine about its pervasiveness is more annoying than watching Cristiano Ronaldo appeal for a penalty.

This isn't to say that diving never happens. Couple of years ago, Drogba was forced to backtrack when his "Sometimes I dive, sometimes I stand" comment caused an entire nation to gasp and cry out "Well, I never!" in unison. Nor am I suggesting that it's a natural part of the game (so you can put that strawman away). All I'm saying is, yes, it happens, it affects results, and it sucks. But over the course of the season, the amount of diving is simply not enough to tilt results in any significant way.

Maybe it's because I'm a Moneyball disciple and everything can be quantified if you look for the right numbers, but I'm not willing to believe diving is a problem until I see evidence that it is. I'm more willing to believe that diving is a phenomenon is a classic Culture of Fear non-trend, a "man bites dog" story that has the illusion of being an increasing trend (not to mention the barely hidden xenophobia that rears its head when people decide diving is a pervasive problem).

On the "Great List of Something We Must Do Something About Right Now or We're Doomed, Doomed", diving ranks somewhere between the quality of the pitch at Wigan's JJB Stadium and those new orange Nike Vapors that the kids are wearing these days.

Which is all a very long-winded way of saying, revamping the video review system to catch divers and shame them is silly, if not necessarily wrong or evil. In fact, it's similar to the system the Football Association already has. A video review panel that reviews incidents that weren't dealt with by the referee, so it's not like we're being technophobic here. And simulation is a punishable offense - remember the Tal Ben Haim case from a couple of years back? And except in the most blatant of cases, video evidence is rarely conclusive. If a guy going full speed gets tapped on the heel, he's going to go flying.

The only difference between what my colleague proposes and the current system is that under his suggestion, the panel reviews every incident from every match, whether anyone asks or not. That's nice, but to what effect? Believe it or not, matches are already televised, so I'm not sure if players are that worried about being publicly shamed. And players who do develop reputations for diving become the boy who cried wolf. Which is to say, any effect the added video review won't be worth the trouble.

And curbing diving will somehow prevent incidents like Martin Taylor's tackle on Eduardo da Silva? Are you kidding me? That tackle happens whether or not there's a culture of diving in the Premier League. It's what happens when a slower, less skilled player tries to stop a quicker, skillful player by any means. Taylor knew he would get at least a yellow when he went into the tackle - that was just a professional foul (hey, that's kinda like the name of our blog!) gone very, very wrong.

And, the referee isn't going to have trouble recognizing intentional fouls just because he's watched too many players take a dive, and decided, fool me twice, they won't get fooled again.

The Eduardo incident wasn't about refereeing. It was about recklessness condoned, and too often celebrated, as tough defending. As World Soccer's Gavin Hamilton points out, that's a far more pressing issue than the mythical foreign hordes landing on English shores and flopping all about the pitch. The only gripe I have with FA's current disciplinary system is that there is no sliding scale for suspensions, and how dangerous, career-threatening plays are treated as harshly as harmless displays of petulance.

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Point: Let's Big Brother the Little Leagues

So like everything in fútbol this week, this discussion was precipitated by the Eduardo injury.

And the thought of his fibula and tibia shearing cleanly above the ankle, still makes my spine curve, the same way Fielding Mellish's does every time someone says the word "castration."

Fortunately this quickly mutated away from that, and it's not like I'm the first person ever to float this idea, but the FA should change the way it reviews matches so that it can judge and award (award?) yellow and red cards after the game.

There are a handful of objections as to why this is an awful idea—it will undermine the refs on the pitch, it's too time consuming and it impractical, refs will come to rely and the review refs and that will impact the game, etc.—and you know what?

I agree with all of them.

Well, save for the time-consuming one. That's stupid. Game tape can be edited on the fly so that officials are looking at 15-20 minutes of tape per game. And even if you don't—and you want to have the full match reviewed—okay, 10 EPL fixtures at about 2 hours each, that's 20 hours give or take. You're telling me the richest league in the world can't hire enough eyes to review all of that by end of day by, say, Tuesday.

But, for all of the other objections, I have three words: Yeah? And? So?

It's ridiculous not to try it. But try it, say, in League 2 to start. And see what happens. There is nothing much to lose right, I mean how much can you royally fuck up League 2? It's almost a no lose proposition.

Sure there are details to be worked out and still hosts of questions: What calls would you be able to review, and what standards would you use? (don't know). Can you review cards that were unfairly awarded, and rescind it? (probably not). If a bad call in the box gets a card and a PK that decides the game, can you un-award it? (Don't be stupid)

The FA could easily draw up some guidelines and give it a go. If it works in League 2, move it up to League 1. If the sky still hasn't fallen, then institute it in the Championship. When everyone has learned their cat indeed has not started taking it up the pooper from the family dog, then yep, you can bring it to the Premiership.

Look, the Eduardo tackle was horrible. And with the benefit of distance most non-Arsenal-supporting armchair pundits seem to be settling somewhere along the lines of "It was horrible tackle, but Taylor isn't a dirty player and it wasn't malicious. And we see tackles game in game out like that in the EPL."

Well, that's the problem, that late studs-up tackles have become pretty commonplace, and with that kind of blase attitude there is going to be another injury like that sooner rather than later.

But walk through this with me. What if there was less diving (ostensibly the most frequent result of awarding cards after the fact—or at least as I view it, the majority of the cards would be given for obvious dives attempting to draw spot kicks). Then fouls might start to look more like fouls, and hard fouls would start to look like hard fouls.

It would, over time, actually become easier for officials on the pitch to make calls based on how reckless the action was taken by a player. Straight reds probably go up in the short term, then begin to decline as players start to get conditioned to: "Oh shit. I can't play like Gattuso."

Yes, we're making football Skinnerian. Isn't it lovely?

Look, it's not perfect. There are flaws. It really might undermine the officials on the pitch. But to that, the most serious of the objections, I actually have a well reasoned response:

How many after-the-fact calls are really going to be made? I'd wager not a whole, whole lot. Here's why: you probably want to have match officials who are doing the reviewing. So they are probably going to want to be protective of their brethren on the pitch. They will also be sympathetic to what it takes to make calls in an instant when the game is going full speed. It would have to be a blatantly obvious blown call for anything to be done. If that's the case, why bother? Well, I kind of agree, but correcting the worst of the calls is better than doing nothing. Plus, again, what do you have to lose by trying?

So, yeah, it might not work. But, know what, it also might work.

Try it at League 2 where the stakes are so low it doesn't matter too much if it's a failure. But being able to review actions and reward cards after the fact might actually make the game, gasp, better. It will spread to other leagues. It will eliminate Mexican soccer as we know it. Peace will rule the earth.

It won't eliminate what happened to Eduardo, but it should greatly reduce the probability of it happening again. Additionally, I'll never have to see great players like Drogba and Ronaldo act like biddy little bitches again. And that might be better than world fucking peace.

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De La Hoya's punching his way into Houston Dynamo ownership

No word yet on whether the fishnets will become part of the team kits

We're a couple of days late reporting on this, but this one concerns our favourite diminutive, cross-dressing pugilist, Oscar De La Hoya. As it will be announced tomorrow in a formal ceremony at Houston's Jones Plaza, the Golden Boy is buying into the Houston Dynamo.

His company, Golden Boy Promotions Inc., along with private equity firm Brener International Group LLC, are each purchasing a 25 percent stake in the club with a view to develop the Dynamo brand in the Hispanic market.

Parent company Anschutz Entertainment Group [AEG] will still retain a 50 percent share of the club, and will retain operating responsibility of the team.

So what does it all mean?

Any way you slice it, the deal is a good bit of business for De La Hoya and co., as Houston is arguably the biggest MLS brands right now. They're back-to-back champions, they're currently working on the plans to build an $80 million, 22,000-seater stadium not far from Minute Maid Park, and fuck, they've got Brian Ching!

Their value now is around $40 million, a significant jump from their pre-MLS Cup wins, and they've got recent success on their side. AEG has been looking for a while to cut back its investments in MLS to focus on the "crown jewel" that is the LA Galaxy, and the De La Hoya/Brener fit was a perfect match, as they've partnered before in other sports and boxing ventures and done quite well.

The big unveiling is tomorrow at lunchtime, so expect fireworks. I want the MLS to do thrive and succeed, and bringing in big-name investors is a great sign of things to come. Let's just hope they don't start chasing the other washed-up Beckhams of the world as the Galaxy have done. [LA has recently signed former Newcastle and Chelsea defender Celestine Babayaro, who was released from his Magpies contract at the end of 2007]

Below, the flyer for the Houston Dynamo event tomorrow. If you are in the Houston area and can attend, let us know via the email address to the right.

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Carragher arrested and cautioned, but not for bad defending

Unfortunately, telling Carragher to "calm down" didn't work this time

Today's big news once again concerns Liverpool, although it has nothing to do with annoying American owners, whiny Spanish managers, or losing to Barnsley.

No, today's tidbit is about our mild-mannered milquetoast defender from Bootle, the man whose face is bright red during every match.

It's about Jamie Carragher, the training ground, and common assault. So what did Jamie do exactly?

He was arrested and cautioned for assault.

As he was on his way to the training ground this morning, it appears that Carragher got into an argument near his home in Crosby. From the article in this morning's Times:

The assault was reported to Merseyside Police by a witness who saw the former England player arguing with the man near a busy road. Later that day the apparent victim contacted officers who arranged an appointment to interview Carragher, who accepted his caution.

"We can confirm that a 30-year-old man from the Blundellsands area received a police caution for common assault in relation to an incident on Liverpool Road, Crosby, on Tuesday February 26," a Merseyside Police spokesman said."

Common assault is not a big deal: it covers anything from spitting to just shoving a man. Accepting the caution is an admission of guilt in the eyes of the English law, and while this story will disappear soon, it just amplifies the already obvious truth that LFC is in big trouble.

Bickering with fans and people in the street shows that the tension is running high, and it's yet another thing to add to the long list of distractions currently plaguing the club.

Will Hicks and Gillett sell? Will our new owners be a bunch of despots from Dubai? Will Rafa be fired? Who could replace him? Is Gerrard going to stay? Can we find someone to splash out 6 million for Dirk "I'm shit" Kuyt?

I can only hope we find out exactly what words were exchanged during this little morning tussle. I bet it was an Everton fan doing all the shit-talking, and if it were, I'm amazed that Carragher didn't do more than shove him.

According to English law, common assault is the lowest form of assault. It's also the sincerest form of flattery.

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Antonio Cassano: not washed up yet

For most over-hyped starlets, going from Roma to Real Madrid to Sampdoria might be seen as a bit of a step backwards career wise. But for Antonio Cassano, noted headcase, junk food aficionado, Val Kilmer lookalike, and STD victim, the move to Genoa has thrust him back into the Italian national team picture. Why Cassano should be starting for the Azzurri this summer, after the jump.

Cassano has always been one of those underachieving players, mostly due to the ridiculous 28 million euro transfer fee that Roma paid Bari to get him in 2001, when he was still a teenager. But he did enjoy some good times in Rome before falling out with Fabio Capello and the revolving door of managers that followed (do you realize Roma had four managers during the 04-05 season?).

Real Madrid bought him in January 2006 after he was declared persona non grata in Rome, and some hoped that a reunion with Capello the following year would rejuvenate his career. Instead, he was put on the David Beckham "go fuck off" plan by the now England manager, and was a non-factor in the Merengues' La Liga title last year. Cassano declined to join Sven's revolution at Citeh, and instead moved to Sampdoria on loan at the start of this season.

Cassano was initially terrible, but he has been on fire since the new year. He was the Serie A player of the month in January. Last weekend, he was the best player on the pitch and scored a sweet goal against Inter. Sampdoria now sit just one point out of the final UEFA Cup spot on offer in Italy.

His stellar form has has brought him to the attention of national team manager Roberto Donadoni, who has almost promised him a place in this summer's team for Euro 2008 if he can keep it going. Of course, for Cassano the problem has almost been consistency, but he is probably the third best forward with an Italian passport right now.

You figure Luca Toni is automatic, and then a deeper creative forward a la Francesco Totti or Cassano. Either way, the Azzurri are stacked, and I'm picking them right now as the team to beat this summer in SwitzerAustria '08.

Just ignore the rampant choking going on at Inter in the Champions League. Its not an indictment of Italian football or the Serie A, just proof that Mancini sucks and Jose Mourinho is going to be running the joint come August. Hell, the team has barely any Italian players anyways. Its the Swedes and Argies who are shitting the bed!

Oh and look out LB, your fellow Liverpool supporters are salivating all over a Torres-Cassano partnership.

Read more on "Antonio Cassano: not washed up yet"...

Women Shed Baggage, Finally

The US Women's National Team is in Portugal currently to compete in the annual Algarve Cup. However, upon arrival it was discovered that the team was missing 66 bags.

Luckily, they are women and this amounted to only one-eighth of all their bags.

Their official statement:

We are hopeful that all the gear will all arrive tomorrow as it will be awfully difficult to hold practice with no soccer balls, no air pump to pump up the missing soccer balls, no training gear, no bibs, no cones, etc.
Without practice time, there will be plenty of time for sexy girl-on-girl (perhaps girl-on-girl-on-girl action). [Kidding.]

Unless there are pictures, then we kindly request they be sent in.

[photo: US WNT Blog]

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Chelsea fans are wonderful

Chelsea fans always rise to the occasion, making us wish they hadn't

Well, in order to fulfill the clause in my blogging contract that states I must make fun of Chelsea at least once every 48 hours or so, I bring you this biased nugget from big-time Spurs blog Harry Hotspur.

It's a series of quotes lifted verbatim [according to Harry, and who am I to disbelieve or spend more than 10 minutes researching?] from a Chelsea supporters' forum called CFCnet that demonstrate the unbridled joy and passion of being a Blues fan.

The recurring joke around the UF water cooler concerns the lack of heart displayed by most Chelsea fans, mainly because so many of their current fan base jumped on that glorious Russian bandwagon known as the Roman Express.

Sure, they loved the glory seasons a couple of years ago, all draped in blue ribbons and trophies and glamour and the inspired play of a not-useless Frank Lampard.

However, in the wake of Mourinho's rather farcical backstabbing and departure from the club, their fans are as dull and lifeless as Avram Grant himself.

After the jump, a few choice quotes that I'm sworn are true. And if they're not, well, you're obviously forgetting that this is the blogosphere. We can post anything!

[Addendum: speaking of dull and lifeless, Afonso Alves managed no goals and no real chances in 71 awful minutes for Boro against Sheffield United in the FA Cup tonight. He was subbed off, replaced by Tuncay midway through the 2nd half, and left the pitch in his home stadium to a rather loud chorus of boos. I love it when things go as I predicted.]

"I know people that go now who didn't bother in the days of struggle and only started going when we were started to have success.I don't go so much now but when I have travelled away, I've been shocked to see how watered down our support has become." - footynut

"I was in block 525, can safely say it was only the two of us singing, and only about twice did we catch onto a song from behind the goal underneath. I stood up with Carefree after they one joined in except two blocks in the next block, and when they sang about our support, I looked around, and no one seemed bothered at all about a response...I was constantly asked to sit down, even when we had corners at the other end!" - Sammyblueboy

"...and more embarrassingly to see on telly, 'fans' were leaving before the end rather than try and support the team towards getting an equalizer made me sick - much more than actually losing." - darkblue

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Better Know a Traore! [part 1]

We here at UF came upon a startling discovery the other day during our discussion of the fact that Arsenal's defending against ManUre in the FA Cup was dreadful - there are literally (not literally) thousands of players named Traore!

In light of this, we welcome you to our short-lived feature, Better Know a Traore!

Today we take you through the "A's" of the Traore family (not all related).

Find out all of the exciting details after the jump.

Abdou Traore
Born: January 17, 1988
Nationality: Mali
Current Team: FC Girondins Bordeaux (France Ligue 1); 0 games played
Position: Midfield
Noteworthy: Was part of the 3rd place U-20 Mali team at the 1999 FIFA World Youth Championships
Existing Video: None

Abdou Razak Traore
Born: December 12, 1988
Nationality: Ivory Coast (apparently the family sent him out on loan)
Current Team: Rosenborg B.K. (Norway Premier League); 6 appearances with 0 goals/assists
Position: Forward
Noteworthy: Was featured in the November 2007 issue of World Soccer as one of the 50 most exciting teenagers in world football
Also Noteworthy: Was the victim of an armed robbery at his Ivory Coast home in August 2007
Noteworthier: Played against Chelsea in a Champions League match on September 18, 2007; following the match it was rumoured that Chelsea were interested in obtaining his services
Existing Video: Champions League Magazine 09/28/07 (discussion of playing with RBK)

Alou Traore
Born: November 06, 1974
Nationality: Mali
Current Team: Saipa (Iran Premier League)
Position: Midfield
Noteworthy: He is still alive, despite being older than dirt (for professional football) and playing in Iran
Also Noteworthy: Played in a Champions League match for FC Pyunik (Armenia) against Dynamo Kiev on August 7, 2002 and was yellow-carded
Noteworthier: Visiting the Saipa Tehran website may have resulted in my being placed on an NSA watchlist (and all for naught, since I don't read Farsi!)
Existing Video: Videotaping is not allowed in Iran, infidel!

Armand Traore
Born: October 8, 1989
Nationality: France
Current Team: Arsenal (EPL - suck it, Barclay's!); 9 total appearances in FA Cup, Carling Cup and UEFA matches, 0 goals/2 assists
Position: Defense
Noteworthy: In September 2007, was caught trying to enter White Hart Lane with a "lethal knuckle-duster"(was that wrong?)
Also Noteworthy: Watford was rumoured to want him on loan during the January transfer window, but Arsene told them to bugger off
Existing Video: Playing defense in Dennis Bergkamp's testimonial match

Some of the other UF "staff" will take you through the more exciting Traore "family" over the next few days.

[Ed. Note: Armand's also notable for being quite shit lately... he featured rather badly in the Spurs 5-1 win and the more recent Man U 4-0 win. Sorry, I couldn't resist.]

Read more on "Better Know a Traore! [part 1]"...

Oh Snap! It's the U23 U.S. National Team!

Okay, okay. On the seismic scale of football news, the announcement of the U23 players who will be playing in the Olympics Qualifiers later this year probably registers as a mere plate-rattling tremor. But for those of us still hoping that the U.S. national squad can one day become respectable, maybe even a little feared, there is reason to be cheerful, or even optimistic.

The U.S. will be fielding a strong squad when it plays in March. The final team will include only 20 players, but the following 24 players were announced as taking part in the upcoming training camp:

GOALKEEPERS: Dominic Cervi (Chicago Fire), Tally Hall (Esbjerg fB), Chris Seitz (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS: Maurice Edu (Toronto FC), Hunter Freeman (New York Red Bulls), Kamani Hill (c'mon U.S. Soccer, you could at least spell your players' names correctly) (Vfl Wolfsburg), Patrick Ianni (Houston Dynamo), Michael Orozco (San Luis), Mike Randolph (LA Galaxy), Nathan Sturgis (Real Salt Lake), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC)

MIDFIELDERS: Arturo Alvarez (FC Dallas), Benny Feilhaber (Derby County), Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew), Stuart Holden (Houston Dynamo), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Dax McCarty (FC Dallas), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), Sal Zizzo (Hannover 96)

FORWARDS: Freddy Adu (SL Benfica), Jozy Altidore (New York Red Bulls), Chad Barrett (Chicago Fire), Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake)

I'm really glad to see the U.S.'s young lions represented by Seitz, Edu, Zizzo, Adu and Altidore, and it's interesting that a number of these players have spent time on the national squad. Yanks Abroad seems to think that Michael Bradley and Jonathan Spector have a shot at getting called up as well, but I'd be shocked if Heerenveen and West Ham would allow them to leave (or if they would even want to play in the qualifiers). In contrast, Derby doesn't seem to mind letting Benny Feilhaber disappear for a couple weeks -- poor Benny, still languishing in the slop of the EPL.

The U23 squad will be playing against Cuba, Panama and Honduras starting on March 11. According to the Grey Lady's Goal blog, the top two teams from this group will play the top two teams among Canada, Guatemala, Haiti and Mexico, with two teams then qualifying for the 2008 Olympics. That's all well and good, but the important thing is that the tournament will give our young players more experience, and the games will be broadcast on ESPN Deportes. It also wouldn't be too surprising if there are a few European scouts in the stands, hoping to pick up young Jozy Altidore (please go to Arsenal please go to Arsenal!).

The Tournament takes place in Tampa, Los Angeles and Nashville, in case you are lucky enough to live somewhere warm enough to host outdoor sports in March.

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Where in the world is Afonso Alves?

[Ed. Note: Thanks to Bigus Dickus again for the pic]

[Ed. Note...UPDATE: Alves will start tonight in the FA Cup game against Sheffield United. Let's see if he lights the bloody world on fire. My money's on "no".]

Now I don't know about you, nor can I speak for anyone else, but if I paid 12.7 million pounds for something, well, anything, I'd want my money's worth. If it was a yacht? I'd ride the bastard to work each morning and pray that I don't get a parking ticket. I'd never leave my mansion if it cost that much. If it was a plane? Fuck, even if I'm heading 30 blocks downtown, I'm taking the sky way so have a runway handy.

Unfortunately for Middlesbrough, they just spent that amount on a new plaything, Brazilian striker Afonso Alves, and he's still sitting in the corner gathering dust.

It's been a bloody month since you signed him! What's going on?

The Guardian blog brought this up this morning, and it's something I can't believe I missed. Not even Shevchenko gets that little playing time for his price tag!

There are a few details worth mentioning here: it's not entirely manager Gareth Southgate's fault as the wonderfully-relaxed [can't think why... too much time in the coffee bars?] British Embassy in Holland failed to issue Alves with a visa in time for him to immediately start playing. The long lay-off was apparent in training, as he showed up quite, ahem, larger around the stomach and way off his original game pace.

Southgate did give him three blink-and-you'll-miss-it substitute appearances, but in each one, he displayed the same I-can't-be-arsed attitude, doing little to nothing during his time on the pitch.

Sure, he did manage 34 goals for run-of-the-mill Heerenveen last year, but we've seen the Dutch Corollary [as I like to call it; expect a more nerdy, detailed post on that towards the end of the week] before; quite simply, goals against rubbish Dutch league teams like Venlo and AS Alkmaar don't exactly translate well to the EPL. [Dirk Kurt anyone?]

Alves, of course, is not going to take this criticism lying down [probably mostly sitting, I'd imagine]:

"I look like I'm lazy, like Romario, but it's not the truth. I'm just playing a game with defenders. It's a tactical thing. They are not looking at me and by the time they do look it's too late, I've suddenly scored. Defenders don't know how to defend against me."
[I can't wait to see what he does to Titus Bramble.]

The Dutch Eredivisie is notoriously slack on the defensive side, and I'm skeptical as to how well Alves can adjust to the English game. His innocuous, anonymous start to a career with The Boro is troubling, to say the least.

This is a team that hasn't seen a great striker in a decade, when the silver-haired Fabrizio "White Feather" Ravanelli lit up the Riverside time and time again [I'll never forget, he scored a hat-trick against us on the opening day of the season... ugh]. Since then, they've suffered through the pain of a past-it Alen Boksic and a seemingly-blind Massimo Maccarone.

Afonso Alves has been set up as the goose with the golden egg, but right now, he hasn't laid a bloody thing.

Do we blame Farmer Southgate or the goose himself?

Read more on "Where in the world is Afonso Alves?"...

Streuth, poor bloke

Vukovic doing what he does best: not slapping referees

In our second slapping story of the day, we see the other end of the spectrum, and even the other side of the world.

Now I'm not entirely clear on how Australia governs itself -- I do know it's the land of lazy swine and the distant progeny of British criminals -- but this story is absolutely hilarious.

Central Coast goalkeeper Danny Vukovic got his slap on this past Sunday, slapping a referee's hand, and has since been disciplined.

The ban? 15 months.

According to the Reuters report, via ESPN Soccernet, the ruling isn't as bad as it sounds, but Mr. Vukovic had better keep his hands well away from the faces of anyone other than himself. Quote the Football Federation of Australia [FFA] in a stern statement:

"The suspension was reduced to nine months with the remaining six months to be served under probation, meaning Vukovic will be eligible to resume playing in the A-League in November.

If Vukovic re-offends in the 12 month period after 24 November 2008, he will be required to serve the remaining six months of his 15 month suspension (in addition to any new sanction)."

The ban currently only extends to games in the Aussie A-League where Vukovic peddles his trade, but they're considering extending it to all games in all competitions, which would of course rule him out for the 2008 Olympic Squad that's traveling to Beijing.

That's where I have a problem. Who do the FFA think they are? Eric Cantona was suspended for only 10 months after his karate kick on a fan in 1996, while it's looking unlikely that Matthew Taylor will receive a massive ban despite the shocking challenge on Edu.

Meanwhile, a gentle slap on a referee, and they're thinking of not only shunning him from the league for a massive nine months, but not let him represent his country?

Whatever they're doing down at the FFA, they're mad. Punishments like this send the wrong message, making Vukovic look like the victim and not the one who caused all this mess in the first place. Meanwhile, it deprives the country and his club, Central Coast, of his services. Does that make the game better? Does everyone feel safer now?

Maybe the FFA will rescind when they realize that Mark Schwarzer's certainly no spring chicken. [boom! Another Middlesbrough reference!]

So here's the video. You tell me if this is worth 15 months.

Read more on "Streuth, poor bloke"...

He's French, he should have just surrendered

On Saturday, Jeremie Aliadiere picked up a red card for slapping Javier Mascherano across the face. For the red card, Aliadiere picked up a 3 match ban for violent conduct. Feeling that the card was unjustified, 'Boro appealed to the FA.

The result--an extra game out for Aliadiere because of a frivolous appeal.

Here, if you let the video load and load and load, you can see the slap at the 7:20 mark. Start the video, go get a snack, and come back.

Liverpool fc v Middlesbrough fc

Whoa. Pretty impressive, huh? That was the kind of slap my wife gives me when I've said something disgusting, but funny. Not menacing, but "get out of my face". There, now you know too much of my home life.

Honestly, I have no idea why 'Boro felt the need to contest the red card. Sure, Mascherano baited him into it, but a red card for a slap or hit to the face is a 3 game suspension. Better luck next time, fellas, and make sure you don't book a tour of Australia with this guy.

[Ed. Note: this isn't our only Middlesbrough story today. I know, EPL fans, calm thine excitement.]

image courtesy of

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The Good, The Bad, the WTF

The Away shirt. What used to be the Change shirt has taken on a life of its own. No longer just used to make sure that a visiting team's colors don't run too closely to the home side's, now they are trotted out for any kind of special event. The bonus for the club is that there is no need to follow traditional color schemes, therefore you can come up with all kinds of wild crap that your fans will still buy.

Yes, most away shirts are crap, and best left hanging in the closet after their time on the pitch is done. Sometimes, though, a club will take a real stab at creating a nice away shirt, one that the fans can wear proudly years later. This post is dedicated to one of those.

This is the Juventus Away shirt from 05/06. The images I could find look a little washed out, but on TV, the red popped out. The green stripe runs in muted opposition, flanked on either side by a thin white line that saves our brains from having to referee the fight between the main colors (which has an artsy terminology, but I'll be damned if I can remember it).

All in all, a nice effort from the Old, eternally scandal-ridden Lady. Definitely in the underused "Good" category. And I must say, a departure from these shirts, many of which are the British definition of an Away shirt.

image courtesy of the ebays

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

'Petrov' Must Be Bulgarian for 'Watch Me Fuck Shit Up'

My hatred has a touch of whimsy today. With that in mind, I give you the following haiku:

Stoppage time. Red Card.
You wrecked my fantasy week
Martin Petrov: Dick.

Sometimes it is about me. Okay he didn't wreck my week, but if not for that Red Card I am weekly high point person in my 50-team fantasy league for the first time all season. Newman! Or rather: Martin!

Hey, two Martins fucking my footballing week. Wonder what it means... besides nothing.

With that... the whores!

Oops, I mean... the scores!

Carling Cup Final
We totally nailed this one
Spurs win it. 2 - 1.

No, I'm not going to do all nine other fixtures 5-7-5 style, but if you've got something to say feel free to haiku it in the comments. Let's rock the rest of the scores (oh God, I can't believe I actually said that).

Damn. Only 4 right?
Birmingham 2-2 Arsenal*
Fulham 0-1 West Ham
Liverpool 3-2 'Boro
Portsmouth 1-0 Sunderland

This is kinda close to right
Reading 1-2 Villa (2-2)

Just Gawdawful here
Newcastle 0-3 United (1-5)
Blackburn 1-1 Bolton (4-1)
Man City 0-2 Everton (1-1)
Wigan 0-0 Derby (Does it really matter what the actual score was?)

Read more on "'Petrov' Must Be Bulgarian for 'Watch Me Fuck Shit Up'"...

Chelsea is demanding, ridiculous

Do not look directly into his eyes. You will turn to stone and your team will play a 4-3-3.

Being a footballer at Chelsea is hard these days. The car park's always full of Chelsea tractors [aka the mighty Range Rover], you're only making twice what you made at your last club, and the post-game spread in the players' lounge is always dominated by Asian-fusion cuisine.

The other tough thing is having to play under Avram Grant, a man seemingly devoid of emotion and love [fuck, just look at the spaced-out bastard to the left] and one whose tactics and managerial skills are limited at best.

Now, it's finally coming to a head, as several of their players are vocalizing their distaste.

It would appear that for Chelsea, losing the Carling Cup is apparently something too great to overcome.

Let's see what they have to say, shall we?

From the article in the Evening Standard:

Senior players are privately questioning Grant's approach on and off the pitch, and the faith earned by his good start in the job has been undermined in recent weeks. It was dealt a serious blow by the defeat by Spurs and some players are even hoping the club's owner, Roman Abramovich, or his powerbrokers at Stamford Bridge will pressure the Israeli into changing tack.
Glad that's not my club.

So let me get this straight: you're pissed and want a new manager because you lost the Carling Cup?

That game aside, Chelsea haven't lost in the league since December 16 [1-0 at Arsenal], you just got past the 5th round of the FA Cup, you made it to the Carling Cup final, and you're unbeaten in the Champions League this season. In fact, that December 16 loss is the last loss I can find before Sunday [please, correct me if I'm wrong. I'm lazy, and there were a lot of results to sift through].

I can understand some of their woes, namely that Grant is a sports psychologist and believes as firmly in the rotation as Rafa does, but honestly, isn't that more a problem of ownership for going crazy with signings and squad upgrades when you can only put 11 on the field at any one time?

The players are unhappy at his methodology, and their moaning only goes to show the difficulty of having a massive, expensive, talented squad. [Well, that's being a bit generous but you know what I'm getting at].

Florent Malouda, Joe Cole, Claude Makelele and Frank Lampard have also been among the surprise omissions in the last two games, and the unexplained selection choices have been a source of great frustration.

There were also suggestions today that Grant had been so worried about Spurs finding out what his side was that the first team did not practise their formation at all in training during the week.

Grant is a student of sports psychology and the feeling is that his squad rotation is designed to keep everyone happy, but it is backfiring badly when frustrated players are seeking a strong leader.

Understandable, but that's the players, not the coach. It's tough to argue with an almost 2-month unbeaten streak.

My advice to Chelsea: lighten the fuck up. Skeletor's no genius, but it could be worse. Much, much worse. [You could be Fulham]

Read more on "Chelsea is demanding, ridiculous"...

Hicks and Gillett start packing quietly

Fuck off, you smug c*nt.

A quiet drink in a Liverpool pub over the weekend turned sour for Tom Hicks Jnr, and now, it's looking like the sour taste is spilling over into the boardroom.

The news this morning is that the ownership team of Hicks and Gillett is going to grant the Dubai International Capital [DIC] permission to examine the club's accounts, the first step towards making an official takeover bid.


This isn't going to be good.

The Americans' reign in the EPL has not been very calm, with several highly-publicized fights in the media with Rafa Benitez, as well the uproar over their shaky financial standing and loan re-financing. It's been rough, but they did manage to bring world-class striker Fernando Torres to town, along with some other unpolished gems, and yet, it's time to sell up.

At this point, it's so hard to know what's prompted all of this. They pledged just four weeks ago that they were committed to the long-term prosperity and heart of the club, and now they're suddenly eager to maximize their profits after 12 months in charge.

Gillett will apparently be the first to sell up, although he's been more and more of a ghost over the winter, having little to do with the club and leaving his son to do most of his heavy lifting.

Hicks, meanwhile, has been vocal and outspoken at every turn, and it's highly likely that the incident over the weekend was the straw that broke the camel's back. He knows they're not wanted, but it will be some time before we, the fans, realize that DIC is no bed of roses either.

Of course, the Yanks know how to stretch a dollar, and the likelihood is that they're going to over-value the club in order to bleed more from DIC. The initial takeover in 2007 was valued at 218.9 million pounds, but Hicks & Gillett now put the club's worth in excess of 400 million. They do need to get their 350 million pound loan swallowed back up, but considering the way they went about funding their purchase, that seems a little cheeky to me.

DIC will likely be relucant to meet that estimate considering that it's not a guarantee that LFC will make the Champions League next season, but as a life-long fan, I have to trust in that happening.

Will we ever see this get realized?

This is a fascinating time to be a Liverpool fan, or a fan of soccer in general. This is the first time we as a club have dealt with these issues, and the sudden shift of power in both management and ownership will surely affect the product on the pitch.

Fact of the matter is, this is football now. This is what we have to accept. Clubs are becoming less tied to their localities and more tied to their mythical brands and their long reach over the rest of the world. Identity converted into commerce, history translated into future profits.

Wrapping up fourth place [or even third, ha] in the league, and a long run in the Champions League would certainly remove a lot of this bitter taste. But whatever happens in the boardroom, I have to trust that the club won't fall too far from its grace.

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There Were Ten in the Bed and the Little One Said "I'm only 15!"

To catch a predator, start with one of these guys.

Micah Richards has nothing on the lads at FC Thun of Switzerland, those wholesome looking young men pictured above. Whereas Micah only brought one of his mates to the public restroom and everyone else had to watch his sexual exploits via grainy mobile phone video, ten men, including seven members of FC Thun, churned the butter with a Swiss milk maid.

We'd simply file this one away as a run of the mill MMMMMMMMMMF orgy, except the "F" in that equation was 15 years old at the time (the age of consent in Switzerland is 16).

Seven current or former players with the Swiss first-division side still must answer in court in the case that caused an uproar in Switzerland when arrests were made last year. Three other individuals are accused of having had sexual relations with the then 15-year-old girl.
One other player has already admitted to French kissing the minor and paid a fine.

Now, as far as we can tell, there's no evidence that these 10 dudes were mounting her Mont Blanc at the same time, but that's still way too many skewers in the fondue pot for my taste. How bad is the player-to-groupie ratio in Switzerland? Did the girl not have any friends? Did the players ever consider going to the bar?

Though if it's any consolation, at least the boys of FC Thun did it with an actual girl, unlike our old friend Joseph Okoh, who got totally Hansen'd.

BTW, you might remember FC Thun when they were paired with Arsenal in their Champions League group in 2005-06. Because their regular stadium was too small, they played their "home" matches at their rival BSC Young Boys' stadium - Wankdorf Stadium. The jokes keep making themselves.

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A Lighter Moment

We have, admittedly, been a little taken with the Eduardo story and injuries over the last few days. After the jump, a lighter moment from the world of footballing injuries. All thanks to Tuffy for the link.

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Obscure Football Legends: Emmanuel Sanon

We here at UF pride ourselves on knowing quite a bit about the beautiful game, and therefore we think that it is our responsibility to impart our knowledge to the rest of the world (or at least the 26 of you that read this blog). Today we introduce a new series: Obscure Football Legends.Join me after the jump for the first in the series: Emmanuel Sanon.

Don't know who Emmanuel Sanon is? Well, that's the point. Emmanuel Sanon, known as "Manno" was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and played for the Haitian national team. He passed away of pancreatic cancer on Thursday, February 21, 2008 at the age of 56, leading the Haitian prime minister to call for a moment of silence on Friday, February 22, 2008. Why was "Manno" such an important player in the history of Haitian football?

In 1974, Haiti became the first Caribbean team to qualify for the World Cup, particularly impressive at a time when only 16 teams qualified. After knocking off Puerto Rico in a play-off in order to qualify, Haiti was placed into a group with Italy, Argentina, and Poland.

Haiti's first game was against Italy, whose keeper, Dino Zoff, was working on a record 1,142 minutes over 2 years with a clean sheet. In a monumental shocker, "Manno" broke free of the Italian defense and came in one-on-one with Zoff. One fake to the left and low, hard shot to the right later, "Manno" had made history by scoring the first goal ever for Haiti in World Cup competition.

Video of Emmanuel Sanon's goal against Italy.

Haiti went on to lose the match 3-1, lost to Poland 7-0, and lost their final game to Argentina 4-1 (with "Manno" scoring again), and were eliminated from the World Cup.

"Manno" scoring against Argentina (dig the commentary in Kreyol)

Following the 1974 World Cup, "Manno" played for Beerschot (a Belgian power at the time), and over the next four years scored 47 of the 106 goals scored by the Haitian national team. He eventually went on to help coach the national team in the 1990s. Despite being the first Caribbean team to ever qualify for the World Cup, Haiti has never again qualified, although they won the Caribbean Cup in 2007. However, with his first goal in the 1974 World Cup, Emmanuel Sanon cemented his status as a football legend, obscure though he may be.

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Eduardo: Birmingham City's Reaction

The loss of Eduardo is a huge, but not devastating, loss for Arsenal. By now you have undoubtedly seen what we here have all seen as far as reactions go from Arsenal, via Arsene Wenger, as well as their loyal gooner army. You may have also seen the reaction of Croatians wanting to exact personal revenge on Martin Taylor. What you may have missed out on are the react quotes given by Birmingham City personnel and those close to the club. Step inside to see a bit of the odd, blame-the-victim, bizarro world that these people have cocooned themselves in.

First off, we have Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish. His initial reaction, taken from the tunnel after the game, is understandable. He jumped to the defense of his captain, saying that Taylor was very upset about the injury and was not a dirty player in general. I can buy that, and the stats bear him out. The red card given to Taylor was his first in eight-and-a-half years. Definitely not the disciplinary record of an out of control psychopath.

As Saturday went on, more footballer's opinions were solicited, and it seemed that those associated with Birmingham were eager to talk. Steve Bruce, BCFC's previous manager, went so far as to say the following, "He (Taylor) has mis-timed the tackle, and I've seen it. Some would say it is not even a yellow card." I'm sorry, but that's going too far. The foul was a hard foul with little to no attempt to play the ball. The only reason that is not a card is if the ref missed it. The foul itself is borderline between yellow and red, and Mike Dean chose red.

My favorite reaction (and I use that sarcastically) so far has come from Stephen Kelly. He says that Mike Dean only red carded Taylor because he had seen the leg break. Once again, I'm sorry, but this just isn't possible. Dean looked as shocked as anyone, after he had given the red card, when he looked over to check on Eduardo. Go find the video if you have not seen it already, you'll see. Also, to say that the red was produced because of the break is to say that Eduardo's weak bone structure cost the Blues the chance to play the game with 11 men. Blame the victim, indeed.

Joining the fray, goalkeeper Maik Taylor echoed the whispered contention that the injury was caused as much by Eduardo's footwork as Martin Taylor's tackle saying, "Eduardo has stepped across and he has just caught him." If it is true that Martin Taylor was just going after the ball, was in control and not lunging etc., how is it that he did not react to the movement of the ball and instead stayed locked on Eduardo's leg? As for whether or not Martin Taylor was lunging or sliding, I'll let this point of impact picture be my answer to that. One last point on Maik Taylor. Elsewhere (I've lost the link and therefore stand to be corrected if wrong), he claimed that he had a close-up view of the non-foul (in his opinion) as he was "right behind it". The foul happened at the center circle. As mentioned above, Maik Taylor is the keeper. Unless he was roaming Rene Higuita style, he could never have had such a great view. Quit lying to help your teammate.

The one BCFC player who seems to be doing his part in keeping his mouth shut is Martin Taylor. He must also be commended for making the effort to go see Eduardo when he was still in a Birmingham hospital to offer an apology. His record supports the assertions that he is a decent guy on the field, and his actions off the field back it up. Now if only his teammates (and Steve Bruce) could follow his example.

image courtesy

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Monday, February 25, 2008

To the surprise of no-one

Today's unsurprising news update on the Edu situation [aside from the story that he's expecting to make a full recovery and return to football in just 9 months] revolves around the perpetrator of this revolting act: Bongo FC defender Martin Taylor.

It appears the Croats are pissed at him, and yep, you guessed it: the death threats have begun.

Eduardo da Silva, although Brazilian by birth, took up Croatian citizenship in 2002 after beginning his senior career there the previous year for Dinamo Zagreb. He played well for Dinamo, scoring 73 goals in 110 appearances for the club from 2001-2007, and his 10 goals in the 12 Euro 2008 qualifying were instrumental to their qualification.

And now, with this injury ruling him out of any football until 2009, the Croatian fans are furious.

This is where the delicious irony oozes out everywhere. These are the same Croatian fans who thrive on forming swastikas in the stands, displaying their proud "Aryan" supremacist bullshit for anyone who'll take a picture, and now, they're furious over the loss of their Brazilian naturalized superhero!

As Spectator said in our email thread, "Progress is sometimes measured in small, incremental steps!"

It's just a shame Edu can't take those steps with them just yet.

Photo Credit for the Swastika [Philadelphia Will Do]

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These New Kits are Fantastic!

La Federation Francaise de Football annonce aujourd'hui que nous avons...Quoi? Anglais? Mais, pourquoi ils ne parlent pas francais? Sigh. Stupid English-speaking troglodytes. D'accord, en anglais alors.

Join me after the jump for this wonderful announcement about the superiority of French football. Even if you're English. (Les Anglais savent lire?)

Today we have taken a big step in reminding the world that Les Bleus play the best football in the world. (Quoi? Soccer? Ah non, pas ca encore! Les Americains peuvent l'appeller football).

Although we have been sponsored by adidas since 1972, we have never felt comfortable being so closely associated with a German company (Les Allemands sont des imbeciles). So, beginning in 2011 and continuing through the 2017/2018 season, we will be sponsored by Nike. This means that we will retain the adidas national team kits for the 2008 European Championships and the 2010 World Cup (oui, oui, si on y arrive. Ne t'inquete pas).

Adidas did make an attractive offer, but we feel that Nike is the future of French football (mais bien sur c'est beaucoup plus d'argent). We also fielded an offer from Airness, as we looked to support a French company, but their products are better suited to our former colonies.

The Nike deal will pay 320 million Euros ($506 million), which amounts to 42.6 million Euros ($63.4 million) per year. In addition, as a sign of respect for the brilliance that is French football, the deal will also pay 2.5 million Euros ($3.75 million) per year for equipment and additional bonuses for performance in the European Championship and the World Cup (qu'on va gagner, bien sur).

As you can see, this deal is much more favorable than the current 10 million Euros ($15 million) per year that we are making with adidas.

More importantly, this Nike deal represents their greatest investment in any football team, well above the 13 million Euros ($19.25 million) per year that they provide to the Brazil national team (c'est ca l'effet de gagner la Coupe du Monde en 1998 et d'etre en final en 2006).

So, please remember that la Federation Francaise de Football continues to represent the best football in the world (reviens, Titi!) and we are happy that Nike has confirmed our status.

- Michel Platini*

*Not really

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Hawaii Six-One: Dynamo Gets Gamba'd, Fate of the Galaxy Not So Terrible

There are more people on the podium than in the stands.

Mea culpa: we here at Unprofessional Foul haven't exactly kept up with the Pan Pacific Championship that concluded late Saturday night. We've been too busy praying for Eduardo da Silva, and honestly, some of us are too old to stay up late watching games broadcast from Hawaii.

Here's what you need to know - Gamba Osaka beat Major League Soccer champion Houston Dynamo 6-1 and Beckham took his shirt off.

To be fair, the kids at Center Holds It contend that Dynamo doesn't come off looking that bad, and Soccernet's Andrea Canales saw some promise in the Galaxatives' play over the two matches.

Hawaii didn't acquit itself well as a host though, and the future editions of the tournament will probably be held elsewhere, say, Australia. BTW, if you were Ty Harden, wouldn't you have waited until after the free trip to Hawaii to retire? Then again, if you were Ty Harden, you probably wouldn't retire from soccer to pursue philanthropy.

Still, it's good to see how MLS matches up against other up-and-coming leagues, even if it's preseason, and it's about time had something like this.

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South Korean soccer star scores own goal with his girlfriend

Kim's the second in from the left, although I don't see a baby bump...

It's not often that South Korean soccer players make it into the news, except for that dizzying run of fortune and success in the 2002 World Cup. I still haven't figured out how they managed to beat Portugal, Italy and Spain all in the same tournament, but some things will forever remain a mystery.

What won't remain a mystery any longer is the story of Pohang Steelers defender Hwang Jae-Won, who found all eyes of the media firmly fixed on him this past weekend.

Why? Because he was issuing a public apology for forcing his girlfriend to have an abortion. Oh, and she was a contestant in the Miss Korea beauty pageant.

I'm not entirely clear on the cultural norms of South Korea [someone please fill me in on those in the comments], but the story itself is pretty damning.


Kim initially sparked the controversy by posting a message on the Korea Football Association web site indicating she was dating a soccer player from Pohang for eight months and that his last name was Hwang.

Kim also wrote that Hwang coerced her into having an abortion.

Goal reported that the incident caused Huh Jung-moo, the manager of the South Korean soccer team participating in the East Asian Football Championship in Chonqing, China to boot Hwang from the team.

No-one comes out of this looking particularly good, but hopefully he can make the most of his newly-gifted free time to sort the mess out.

Now the distinction hasn't yet been made by Hwang, as his apology was aimed at atoning for the amount of media furore over the story and NOT a direct apology or admission that the rumours are indeed true. However, the David Beckham school of Media Management indicates that you come out early and often before the media's formed too much of an opinion.

You also have to wonder why he'd apologize if he did nothing wrong.

The matter is still being investigated.

Oh, and for those trying to score at home, Kim finished fifth in that beauty pageant.

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