Friday, March 14, 2008

Italian Soccer: Now Featuring Slightly More Fascists as well as Lawsuits

Only football could set up such a delicious grudge match between such reviled individuals.

In this corner, we have Rupert Murdoch, the veritable Citizen Kane of our time, owner of various media corporations, including Sky Italia.

And in this corner, we have the increasingly right-wing, corrupt owners of Italian football clubs, including right-wing, corrupt AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi.

Who will win? And why should we care?

To be exact, the fight is over the television rights for Italian football matches. According to Variety:

"The Italian government passed legislation last year stipulating that soccer rights must be sold collectively rather than individually, team by team, in order to give smaller clubs a bigger piece of the pie. The new Italo rules are meant to go into effect in 2010."

Sky Italia's complaint is over "the way the law is drafted contains elements that raise concerns regarding competition and a fair rights auction."

While just about every sports league in the world is permitted to negotiate television rights collectively, you needn't be a political scientist or historian to see what the problem would be. The Italian government is still very much controlled by Berlusconi (who has a decent shot at being re-elected Prime Minister in April), and the legislation apparently has a fair number of provisions that arguably favor ownership and are "anti-competitive." As a result, Sky Italia has brought a lawsuit in the European Commission. There are some fine print legal issues here that would maybe, maybe interest a European antitrust lawyer, but let's cut to the chase....

For everyone else, it is merely the delicious irony of Murdoch versus Berlusconi. We can only hope that this lawsuit drags on and on in the European Commission (which doesn't usually deliver the swiftest justice), costing billions of lira and euros, consuming vast amounts of time and energy, and eventually destroys both empires.

Sadly, that probably won't be case, as these little skirmishes are instead fairly common and mundane. So, at best you can expect an EC ruling saying that the legislation is or isn't fair, maybe suggesting a few changes, and in the meantime Murdoch and Berlusconi will continue on their merry way, raping and pillaging as they go. For the rest of us plebes, well, at least we'll be able to watch some football matches on TV. Too bad it'll be Italian football. Couldn't pay me to watch that crap.

Read more on "Italian Soccer: Now Featuring Slightly More Fascists as well as Lawsuits"...

Sir Alex Ferguson's prayers and pocketbook pay off


The Champions League draw for the rest of the tournament took place this morning, and what a crock of shit it was.

Manchester United, after slinking past Lyon in the last round, were given the kind fortune of a date with AS Roma, a team they battered 7-1 in the knockout stages last season. Lucky fucks.

Arsenal and Liverpool got drawn against one another, much to the chagrin of either side, and this puts them in the rather ridiculous position of playing three games against each other within a calendar week. The CL ties will fall either side of their EPL clash on Sunday, March 5th, and honestly, that's just too ridiculous for words. You can bet your bottom dollar that the EPL game will be a reserves match for the most part.

Meanwhile, Chelsea get a nice little trip to Turkey for their troubles, and you wonder which will be higher there: the score, or the number of Blues fans getting stabbed.

The final tie sees the impressive FC Schalke 04 get shafted with a date with Barcelona, Ronaldinho, Messi and co.

The breakdown for the semis would work like this:
Liverpool/Arsenal vs. Fenerbahce SK/Chelsea
Man Utd/AS Roma vs. Barcelona/FC Schalke 04

After the jump, some entirely baseless predictions.

Man U vs. AS Roma
Ronaldo, Rooney and Tevez against Francesco Totti, Mirko Vucinic and Ludovic Giuly. It won't be a blowout like last year, as Roma has tightened the ship since then, but you have to fancy the Reds to prevail, irritating as it will be. Expect none of the flair that either side exhibited in earlier rounds; instead, both sides will adopt a rather cautious, defensive stance like two aging boxers who are a little rusty in the ring. Prediction: 4-2 Man Utd

Liverpool vs. Arsenal
Neither side deserved this after the raping and pillaging job they put on both sides of Milan in recent weeks, but that's how the cookie crumbles, or so they say. I fancy my LFC to prevail, simply because their recent run of form has been miles better, they're playing confident football, Torres & Gerrard have 9 goals in the CL this season, and a pesky Mascherano is a good match to bottle up Fabregas. Meanwhile, Arsenal are dangerous, but three dismal draws in the EPL lately doesn't exactly inspire, does it? And what's happened to Adebayor since his haircut? Should we call him Samson yet? They will be cagey games, snuck in the end by the team that wants the CL just a little bit more. That will be the team that has precious little else to play for. Prediction: 2-1 Liverpool

Chelsea vs. Fenerbahce SK
Atrocious. The Turkish side will be more of a match for Chelsea than Avram realizes, and despite a 6-1 pasting of Derby the other night, Chelsea's recent form has been far from godlike. I'm calling the upset special on this one.... Fenerbahce SK will steal an away goal and hold them back in the hostile confines of their home turf. With Steven Appiah in midfield and former Chelsea striker Mateza Kezman up front, I foresee heartbreak for Roman's mercenaries. Prediction: 2-1 Fenerbahce

FC Schalke 04 vs. Barcelona
Sorry, Germany. No chance here. Even with wonder striker Kevin Kuranyi, you're up against a four-pronged attack with goals that could come from anywhere. For Barca, as Celtic found out, it's only a matter of time before they conjure up a goal, and you can't hold them down for very long. Messi, Henry, Ronaldinho, Gudjohnsen, Eto'o.... pick your poison. Prediction: 5-0 Barcelona

Read more on "Sir Alex Ferguson's prayers and pocketbook pay off"...

Beckham Watch: Friday Edition

Rumors abound that Victoria Beckham and ergo her husband, David Beckham, are displeased with life in America. David's inaugural season with LA Galaxy was a huge disappointment due to his fragility and Posh Spice has not had much luck becoming an older, more plastic version of Paris Hilton. So much so, that they are reportedly shopping for a Chelsea home.

Even more troubling, it appears David's Asian popularity is on the wane, or perhaps was never that high. Perhaps it seemed high because he was on a team in Madrid full of many superstars, or Galacticos as it were, that had huge drawing power. This has to eat into the revenue sharing he has on jersey sales. (Don't forget, the US dollar is weaker than Derby County's back line his salary has to be incredibly low compared to what it could have been back in Europe.)

Naturally, to get away from this stress, the Beckhams went shopping for sex toys in public.

The couple visited Hollywood's notorious Pleasure Chest adult store where they purchased massage oil, personal lubricant, a Cyberskin vibrator, a leather braided cane and a padded black collar and restraint.

Clearly this means something. I don't know what, but it means something. Probably that these two are the biggest media whores ever.

Read more on "Beckham Watch: Friday Edition"...

U-23 Olympic Qualifying Roundup

The current round of CONCACAF qualification was rocked on the very first day when a very unfancied Cuba squad drew the USA 1-1. That night, five Cuban players were presumed to defect to the USA when they walked out of their hotel. Combined with the red card in that first match, Cuba was facing going into their second match against Honduras with only 12 available players. Just when they thought it could not get any worse, two more players disappeared, leaving the squad with 10 players. What is a team to do? They could quit, but we will leave that to Gretna. No, the Cubans lined up with 10 men and salvaged themselves some pride.

Inside we'll take a quick look at qualifying so far.

Well, playing with 10 men did not work magic for Cuba. Honduras handled their shorthanded foes, defeating Cuba 2-0 behind second half goals by Sanchez and Thomas. Honduras outshot Cuba 25-3. After watching the Cuba-USA game and knowing that shot count was only 19-9, I can only imagine how lopsided this game was.

In the other Group A match, the USA did better, squeaking past a spirited Panama squad in a match that sometimes degenerated into a pushing and shoving match. Adu scored a penalty late in the first half after Altidore had rounded the keeper on a one on one and drew the contact. Panama pressed for an equalizer in the second half, looking especially bright in the first 15 minutes, but never really threatened Chris Seitz's net.

Honduras has already qualified, and Panama is eliminated.
Group A Standings (W-D-L; Pts; GD)
Honduras 2-0-0; 6; +3
USA 1-1-0; 4; +1
Cuba 0-1-1; 1; -2
Panama 0-0-2; 0; -2

In Group B, only the first matches have been played. Guatemala dispatched Haiti 1-0 on a 27th minute goal from Avila. Mexico had a USA-style slip up in their first match, drawing Canada 1-1. Canada scored in the third minute form Johnson, while Mexico knotted up from the penalty spot through Landin in the 22nd. Neither team was especially proficient in front of net, as both sides only had 2 attempts on goal.

Group B Standings (W-D-L; Pts; GD0
Guatemala 1-0-0; 3; +1
Mexico 0-1-0; 1; 0
Canada 0-1-0; 1; 0
Haiti 0-0-1; 0; -1

Group B resumes today with Canada playing Haiti and Mexico tussling with Guatemala. The group finishes on Sunday. Group A finishes on Saturday. USA will play Honduras, while Cuba takes on Panama. The top two teams of each group will advance to the semifinals in Nashville on March 20. The winner of those two matches will go to the Olympics, and the CONCACAF champion will be decided in Nashville on March 23.

Read more on "U-23 Olympic Qualifying Roundup"...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

England and Penalties: the pain continues

The UEFA Cup was not kind to the English last night, as both Everton and Spurs dropped out of the competition after overcoming their first-leg deficits before losing in penalty shoot-outs.

Both teams looked sharper and more dangerous during open play, but as things ticked down towards penalties, you had to wonder. After all, we don't exactly have the best relationship with the shoot-out.

Putting club competitions aside, penalties are our national nightmare.

Simply put: we're crap at them.

Our national team fails every time from the spot-kick, leaving the nation weeping and heartbroken until the next tournament rolls around. In my lifetime, I've seen the national team bow out of 5 tournaments [3 World Cups, 2 European Championships] at the hands of the penalty shoot-out.

I can still remember the misses.

Italia '90, semi-finals
4-3 on pens to West Germany, 1-1 aet
[Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle missed]

Euro '96, semi-finals
6-5 on pens to Germany, 1-1 aet
[Gareth Southgate]

France '98, 2nd round
4-3 on pens to Argentina, 2-2 aet
[Paul Ince and David Batty]

Euro '04, quarter-finals
6-5 on pens to Portugal, 2-2 aet
[David Beckham, Darius Vassell]

Germany '06, quarter-finals
3-1 on pens to Portugal, 0-0 aet
[Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher]

8 tournaments qualified for since 1990
5 of them, eliminated on penalties
2 of them, eliminated in the first round
1 we lost outright to Brazil, 2-1, in Korea/Japan '02

Of course, there is one English team that isn't half-bad at penalties: that's right... Liverpool FC.


Read more on "England and Penalties: the pain continues"...

Gretna fallout

Gretna at "home". Note the crowd

It looks more and more likely that Gretna will not be around after the weekend. Admitting that the club has breached its contract with its players, Gretna has now allowed them to leave if they want. Because of this and injury concerns combined with no insurance, only 10 players have made themselves available for Saturday's game at Aberdeen.

Inside, a look at the new table should Gretna's games be abandoned entirely, as has been suggested.

The suggestion is that if Gretna are unable to finish the season, their matches will be wiped for the register entirely. If this happens, considering the games played so far, the table will look like this (team; points)
  • Rangers 59
  • Celtic 59
  • Dundee United 43
  • Motherwell 37
  • Hibernian 35
  • Falkirk 31
  • Hearts 31
  • Aberdeen 30
  • Inverness CT 27
  • Kilmarnock 24
  • St Mirren 24

Now, I have not calculated goal differential into this, so the ties on the board may not be properly ordered. But compare that table with the current table.
  • Rangers 68
  • Celtic 65
  • Dundee United 46
  • Motherwell 46
  • Hibernian 44
  • Falkirk 37
  • Hearts 36
  • Aberdeen 34
  • Inverness CT 33
  • Kilmarnock 28
  • St Mirren 27

The places are largely the same, without accounting for goal differential. The big winner though, is Dundee United. Currently tied with Motherwell on points for third, they would take a six point lead in the quest for what may be the last Euro spot available by league position. It must be nice for the Terrors,as they went 1-0-2 against Gretna this season. Celtic are also greatly helped by only having played Gretna twice to date.

Obversely, Hibernian and Motherwell are punished for having three wins against Gretna. Hibernian goes from being two points back of Dundee United to 8 points adrift. Motherwell, now placed six points back, are rumored to be willing to let many payments for use of Fir Park slide. For them I am sure it makes more financial sense to attempt to get into Europe than to look to get pennies on the pound from the team in administration.

Read more on "Gretna fallout"...

The Colaship doesn't pay well enough these days

Bradley Wright-Phillips: fond of ladies' purses

When football players try and relax, the Law of Averages will dictate that for every player that is tucked in and asleep by eleven o'clock, there will be a few that stay out late, get in fights, film themselves masturbating on a webcam, videotape orgies with their teammates, or simply commit petty theft.

This week is no different, as Southampton stars Nathan Dyer and Bradley Wright-Phillips got caught on CCTV stealing money, cigarettes and cell phones from some bartenders' handbags at a nightclub.

One can only hope that the phones had some good ringtones.

Bradley is the son of former Arsenal & England star Ian Wright, and half-brother to Chelsea winger Shaun, and currently earns about $16,000 a week, while Nathan makes $10,000 a week.

The bartenders? 10 bucks an hour. A little lopsided, no?

The duo were disciplined for their actions, made even more laughable as the night in question was less than 48 hours before their next match against Ipswich [a game they drew 1-1].

It's no OJ-level of robbery, sure, but it's still pretty pathetic. If they make it up to the EPL, they'll need to try harder than this to get tabloid attention. Like maybe shaving their balls.

Read more on "The Colaship doesn't pay well enough these days"...

Jermain Defoe: Smooth Operator

Jermain Defoe starred for Portsmouth in yesterday's 4-2 victory over Birmingham in Premiership play scoring a brace in the first ten minutes. Mr. Defoe has been starring in the tabloids recently as well for his off-the-field scoring. Recently, the striker was caught red-handed (NSFW-ish)stepping out on his then-girlfriend, Danielle Lloyd (NSFW), with "model" Sarah Giggle.

Defoe chatted Giggle up at a nightclub, sent her some dirty text messages and then took her home to his mansion to "watch some tv." Ever the smooth operator, in more ways than one, Defoe displayed the sort of cunning off-the-field as he does on the field when he stole off to his closet only to return a short time later, ready to go the full ninety.

Let's have Miss Giggle tell the rest of her love story.

"It was at that point that he jumped up and went to the walk-in wardrobe.

"When he came out stark naked, obviously excited and kitted out in condom ready for action I said, 'You're having a laugh, aren't you? What makes you think I'm going to say yes?'

"He just gave me that cheeky smile of his and said, 'Maybe you won't.' I did though-but only after he'd tickled my thigh and really turned me on.

"It wasn't amazing sex. We started off sitting upright face to face and ended up on the floor.

"I thought it was a bit odd that he's all shaven down below. But the best thing about him is his beautiful skin. He told me he uses rose oil on it.

Giggle really showed him who's boss by holding out for so long. I've got to hand it to Giggle, for as easy as she gave it up, she gave it back to him in this interview.

As for Defoe, well, at least he has his money.

Read more on "Jermain Defoe: Smooth Operator"...

Managerial Silly Season Begins

In the wake of Inter's pitiful showing against Liverpool at the San Siro on Tuesday night, manager Roberto Mancini stunned reporters at the press conference afterwards by announcing he was leaving the club after the season. To be fair, it was probably a smart move on his part, as owner Massimo Moratti was probably going to sack him over the summer anyways after repeated bedshitting in Europe's top level club competition. So Inter is the first big job open, and the rumors are starting to fly. An attempt to sort out the rumor carousel, after the jump.

Rafa Benitez was asked if he would want the Inter job on Tuesday night, and responded that he was happy at Liverpool. But the ongoing turmoil in the boardroom at Anfield might lead him to look for a more stable situation. One place that is likely to have a vacancy is Barcelona, where Frank Rijkaard is almost certainly on his way out, especially in the wake of Barca's two week choke fiesta in La Liga. The Dutchman may be a decent tactician, but he is clearly not a disciplinarian, and Ronaldinho et al appear to be taking full advantage. Even the great Thierry Henry is reportedly disgruntled.

The rumor is that Roman Abramovich would like Rijkaard to take over at Stamford Bridge, where Avram Grant is clearly gone after this season. The loss at Barnsley may have sealed his fate, but its pretty clear that he is out of his depth in trying to manage such an expensive squad. John Terry appears to have decided he doesn't have to listen to the coaching staff, and other less vocal players have probably already tuned out the gaffer. Drogba looks like he is on his way out the door, along with Frank Lampard and the useless Shevchenko (get your wallet out, Alexi Lalas!).

The Rijkaard connection makes sense if Roman is really serious about buying Ronaldinho, but such a laissez faire manager is the worst thing a club like Chelsea needs right now. Jose Mourinho was successful because he had a strong personality and was able to instill discipline in the squad. If Roman wasn't such a starfucker, he would consider someone sensible like Martin O'Neill. Maybe Marco Van Basten would be interested in the wake of the apparent collapse of the Johan Cruyff revolution at Ajax. The most hilarious rumor I have seen is Mancini taking over. Hopefully Roman doesn't read the ebays and see this hilarious diatribe from a Nerazurri blooger.

The media savvy Portuguese was in the news last week claiming that he would like to "kill" Chelsea in the Champions League next year. Jose will have his pick of jobs this summer, and the place where he would be the best fit is at the Nou Camp. Barca are in desperate need of some direction, and Mourinho did feature in the coaching set up there in the 1990s. The Catalan press has even been doing its best to rehabilitate him in the wake of the contentious Champions League ties he presided over. Mourinho is also in play for the Inter job, and Barca will supposedly go for a younger manager, such as Laurent Blanc at Bordeaux, if Jose goes to Milan.

One other "big" job that should be open is at Lyon, where Alain Perrin has underachieved despite winning a crucial match against Bordeaux over the weekend. Lyon were dumped out of the Champions League again this year, and team president Jean-Michel Aulas has indicated his ambition to actually have a deep run in the competition. Didier Deschamps, who took serious dark horse Monaco to the 2004 Champions League final, is rumored to be sniffing around. Whoever is running the club will likely have some serious coin to spend after Lyon unload Benzama during the summer transfer window.

Getting back to Inter, the smart money says they go for Cesare Prandelli, fashion icon and Fiorentina boss, who just finished dumping Everton out of the UEFA Cup. I think the fans want Moratti to "Italianize" the team a bit more (were there any Italians in the starting XI at the San Siro on Tuesday?), and I doubt he looks abroad for a manager. Unless Mourinho is available. He's sooooo hot right now.

[Editor's note: Well apparently Mancini is staying, so disregard all the Inter-based speculation, at least for now. But Avram is still getting sacked...]

Read more on "Managerial Silly Season Begins"...

Goodbye, Gretna. At least one Yank will miss you

The news out of Gretna keeps getting worse. Initially, of course, they were well overmatched in the SPL. Not long ago, we wrote about how a double relegation looked likely for them. Then, they went into administration because their financial backer decided not to fund the club anymore. And now, Gretna could be out of business by the weekend.

Later today, Gretna have to have the money together for their trip to Aberdeen, or else face closure of the club. The sum is $60,000, and they do not have it. Gretna officials asked the SPL to give them an advance on their eventual end-of-season bonus, but the SPL declined, basically citing them as a credit risk. In addition, the club owes former managers around $1.8 million, the taxman $700k, Motherwell is owed an unknown amount for ground rental, and the players have not been paid this month.

The situation is dire, but most Scottish football fans seem not to care. In fact, there is a reported general feeling that Gretna deserve this fate. Apparently, Gretna rankled some feathers as they motored up the leagues, and their current situation is seen as just deserts.

Of course, the man who should be drawing the ire of everyone involved is Brooks Mileson. Yes, Mileson backed the club as they moved up the ladder, but now he has abandoned them when he is most needed. It would seem that the long standing rumor that Mileson had a bet to take Gretna to the top flight is indeed true. I know that Mileson has been in the hospital lately, but he is out now and just not paying attention to the club anymore. Mileson should be shamed, but I would guess that he will not.

Think of all the hand-wringing this would cause south of the border. Imagine MK Dons, a team with whom Gretna share some similarities (free-spending, unpopular in league because of ownership), moving from League Two to the EPL in quick succession. Then, once the Dons got all the way up, they had a Derby-type season. If ownership subsequently pulled out, I think there would be a shitstorm of controversy in the London press. Instead, in Scotland (and the English press that covers the Scottish football), there is none of this.

It's too bad, really. Instead of having a dream that supporters around the world could wish to replicate--the team that came from nowhere to face the giants of its country--we get a whimper of an ending to be followed by a wake that no one will attend. Maybe the next time something this improbable happens, the inevitable demise will not take place so soon.

pics from and

Read more on "Goodbye, Gretna. At least one Yank will miss you"...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

As the Wheel Turns

Rafa has done it again. He took the side to the San Siro, and broke Inter Milan down. The runaway Serie A leaders looked ordinary, despite starting brightly and winning a scrappy midfield battle for most of the first half, and then another sublime goal from Fernando Torres in the 2nd half killed off the tie.

Inter did have chances, but Ibrahimovic insisted on missing them all. The 2nd bookable offense for Burdisso might have been a little harsh, but the game was over by that point. His sending-off was more justified that Materazzi's in the leg at Anfield, but the Italians have little complaint. For once, they're the ones on the wrong end of refereeing decisions, but they could have had 13 men on the pitch last night and it wouldn't have made a difference.

The difference, as has so often been the case this season, was Rafa Benitez. Going through arguably his toughest season as a manager, catching criticism and flak from owners, players, fans and the media, Rafa's been juggling all the pressure much like he juggles his team sheets.

Recently, his rotation fetish has subsided considerably, and what a surprise: we've won every game since the Barnsley mess, including two games against Inter Milan.

The big question is: why couldn't he have done this sooner?

I've slagged Benitez off many times, on UF and in various pub conversations. I remain convinced that he's not the best manager for Liverpool going forward, and that we need a manager more suited to the mental punishment of a long domestic league season. While his tactics and organization in knockout European competitions cannot be faulted, that alone won't be enough to save his job.

When he looks back on this season, regardless of the final outcome, I wonder if he'll see that Barnsley game as the same turning-point many of us did. It was a shock result at home, but it snapped the club out of a four-month lethargy. Players and manager finally began to live up to all that potential we had stored in them at the beginning of the season.

Not only that, but the Barnsley game saw the rotation policy finally discarded, and is it any wonder that our fortunes have turned around?

4 straight wins in the league, scoring 13 goals, and two impressive wins against Inter Milan in the Champions League.

The core of the team is finally getting to play together with regularity, and they're building an understanding that I've been desperate to see since September. Torres and Gerrard work so well together, Mascherano has made the defensive midfielder spot his own, Babel's speed and pace are developing nicely [needs to work on his temper a bit though], and our defense is finally gelling now that we have someone younger to replace Hyppia until Agger is healthy again.

Confidence is high, and it needs to be considering the battle up ahead for 4th place. Everton are no slouches either, and there's a run of games against Man Utd, Everton and Arsenal at the end of the month that could settle matters once and for all.

Say what you want about Rafa [and I frequently have], but the nightmarish scenario of spinning the wheel of fortune might finally be a thing of the past.

Read more on "As the Wheel Turns"...

Speaking of Cuba's U-23 team

...several of them have gone missing. A couple of hours after the 1-1 draw with the US in Tampa, five players -- goalie Jose Manuel Miranda, captain Yenier Bermudez, Erlys Garcia Baro, Yordany Alvarez and Loanni Prieto -- left the team hotel and haven't been since.

Are they trying to defect, or were they merely hoping to complete a quick tour of Sea World and Universal Studios?

The disappearances are bad news for the Cuban squad, who are now left with just 13 players on the squad for their next match. Of course, Roberto Linares was sent off last night, leaving only 12 that could participate in the Honduras game on Thursday afternoon.

It's hardly surprising that some would defect once they travel across to the US with the team, as it's happened before in football and other sports. Shit, as Ives Galarcep points out, one of the defectors during the Gold Cup, Lester More, just signed a deal with the Charleston Battery this past week.

Miranda will certainly find a home somewhere in the MLS, should he eventually resurface elsewhere in the country. As for the others, I have no idea. I don't know who any of them are, or whether they're any good. I do know that their recent resume addition of a 1-1 draw with the US should get them at least a tryout or two.

Fan's Attic got it right in our email thread, "if you can't beat 'em, at least you can get them to defect."

Read more on "Speaking of Cuba's U-23 team"...

USA U-23 Embarrassment

Just a couple of quick thoughts on last night's Olympic qualifier against Cuba.

The USA should have put it out of reach in the first 15 minutes. By the time Adu scored, it should have been 3-0.

Has no one installed drainage at Raymond James? It looked like the game would have been better fit for bog soccer at times.

When you have a one on one with the keeper and five yards on the defenders, don't hit a one time shot off of your shin. Take your time and finish. There's always a chance you'll get bundled over.

Dax McCarty, stay on your damn feet (and get a haircut). Same to you Charlie Davies. Until Americans learn to dive properly, it's just embarrassing.

Those were two pretty weak yellows to Lines. One for a goal celebration, and the other (and ultimately a red card) for kicking away after the whistle.

Just because Arsenal play a nice brand of football with the passing and whatnot, don't emulate their inability to get a shot off.

Jose Manuel Miranda had a pretty nice game in goal for the Cubans. I hope he continues to stymie the other teams. I fear that he will not.

If you had told me that the US would get any less that 7 points in this pool, I would have laughed. Now I think I'll take 5 and advancement, although that could lead to a semifinal date with Mexico, who knocked the US out at that stage last time.

Here is the tables after one round: (Record, Points, Goals For-Against)

  1. Honduras 1-0-0 3 1-0
  2. Cuba 0-1-0 1 1-1
  3. USA 0-1-0 1 1-1
  4. Panama 0-0-1 0 0-1

Let's all hate on Heerenveen for not releasing Bradley.

Next game: Friday against Panama.

image courtesy AOL Fanhouse

Read more on "USA U-23 Embarrassment"...

Bigus Tripus, part 4

While I shake off the last of this flu that's been plaguing me, and while I wait for Bigus and RZM to file more reports [too drunk, too full of pies], I'll dust off RZM's interpretation of Saturday's Norwich game, sent from an iPhone and containing more spelling errors than Vince Young's Wonderlic.

Get into it, RZM, and try not to mention how much you love Dimitar Berbatov....

I do not know where to start. I will not even go into details re Friday evening 7 pints and a curry. You know for a fact that I am "Two Pint Pack", so 7 was a big effort. Saturday a.m the day began with a very hung over Packimo rolling out of bed to a banging on my door.

Bigus Dickus and Bigus Dickus Sr. were up and ready to hit the road in their neon yellow Norwich kits. After I managed to get dressed we hit the road for the Midlands, Coventry City here we come.

As we were zooming up the M1 I quickly realized that everyone on the road was heading to a fixture somewhere in the country. That thought was validated as we made a pit stop at The Watford Gap rest stop (Nowhere near Watford). Everyone going inside for a coffee and egg sandwich had a kit on. Leicester, Oldham, Barnsley (Well done mate), and of course Norwich City.

We made it to Coventry approx 1:00 and headed to a pub dedicated to away supporters. Coventry is clearly not the wealthiest town in England and I really should not have been surprised that the pub did not have Sky Sports. Instead of having Man U-Portsmouth we had to settle for Rugby. (Crap).

We met up with some Canaries that Bigus Dickus met on the Norwich chat sites, and as you would expect they had the personalities of people who hang out on Norwich chat sites. Not the funniest bunch but overall were good people. After the previous evening I surely was not going to drink again yet Bigus had the Tetley's [Ed. Note: the English Ale, not the tea] on the table before I could decline. 2 Tetley's later we were off to the Ricoh arena for the 3 p.m kick off.

Walking up to the Ricoh I was very impressed with stadium. Very modern with all of the amenities that you would expect in a modern stadium. We walked in and I had a shite Carling in a bottle and a rather dodgy steak and kidney pie. My stomach was not pleased that I made such a poor decision.

Anyway it was now time to head for our seats. This is where I got scared. We were in the JEWSON stand row SS. What the fuck is that about?

A New York Jew has to sit in the JEWson stand in row SS. Not the best feeling in a country of 4 jews. When I did make it up to our seats they were in a sea of yellow, approx 3800 Canaries in full voice.

No need for a match report, Norwich lost 1-nil. Great atmosphere, shit footy. Tomorrow I am off the White Hart Lane for proper football and a proper club!! C'mon You Spurs!

Read more on "Bigus Tripus, part 4"...

The Good, The Bad, The WTF

This week's shirt is so horrible, so hideous, I have to hide it behind the jump. Make sure you get the kids out of the room before you go forward. We here at UF are not to be held responsible for the seared retinas of the youth of today. I would advise all adults to make sure their stomachs are set as well, just in case. For what comes next is truly disgusting.

Scotland wore this abomination as a second shirt in 1988. Oddly, I can't say that it's the colors that make it horrible, as all three are traditional Scotland shirt colors, but instead it's the putting them all together. Blue and gold would have been okay, but adding the old school "roseberry" color really throws it all off. Not to mention the fact that Umbro thought it wise to introduce a rather unserviceable origami print for this shirt. All in all, a series of bad decision here.

So, what do you think? Is this the worst international shirt of all time, or is there another one that deserves our attention?

Read more on "The Good, The Bad, The WTF"...

Questionable E-Bay Purchases for: The Manchester United Fan

[Ed. Note: The flu is finally subsiding, fading away like Man City's aspirations for 4th place. Slow start this morning, but it'll come back together again. A barrage of posts today, and then back to normal service.]

This is the second in a series of reports on the beautiful bounty provided by E-Bay. If you know someone who is a fan of Manchester United, then first of all you have my condolences. If for some reason you actually like this person and wish to buy them a gift, then you may be a candidate for beatification. After the jump you will find some suggestions for the depraved ManUre fan in your life.

Item #1: Manchester United Teddy Bear (note: This item is not Teddy Sheringham).

This lovely item is for the little one or woman (or non-traditional male) in your life. At only $.92, it is an absolute steal, but there is already one bid, so be sure to act fast.

Item #2: Manchester United bedspread and canopy set.

The second item is a wonderful ManUre bedspread and canopy set for your little ankle-biter. If you insist on having your child tormented by dreaming of that diving poofter Ronaldo, this may be for you.

At $99.99, this is an expensive item, but there are currently 0 bids, so you may be able to talk them down a bit.

Item #3: Manchester United belt buckle

In the Venn diagram covering ManUre fans and cowboys, the overlap is approximately .00001% of the total population. However, this item may come in handy for your favorite hooligan, as this belt buckle may come in useful during the latest donnybrook against rival supporters (or even against Sir Alex).

At only $6.99, this item makes a wonderful season's end gift, and there are currently 0 bids.

Item #4: Manchester United blazer

For the unstable ManUre fan (note: this is repetitively redundant), we offer this lovely blazer in an eye-popping design.

Please note that it is apparently necessary to be a fan of #9, Louis Saha, in order to truly feel comfortable wearing this. The price is a respectable $32.99, and there are actually 2of these monstrosities available.

Read more on "Questionable E-Bay Purchases for: The Manchester United Fan"...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sweet FA Cup Roundup

Unless you have been living under a rock (or don't follow the English brand of football), you have undoubtedly heard of some slight FA Cup upsets from this past weekend. After the jump, some sure to disappear quickly video highlights of the quarterfinal matches.

Manchester United 0 Portsmouth 1
Pompey went up to United and won for the first time in 50 years at Old Trafford. SAF was pissed from the 6th minute onwards, after C. Ronaldo took a knock in the box but didn't get a penalty. Despite not scoring for the rest of the game, Fergie said this is what lost the game for Man U. Actually, it was this:

Rio Ferdinand had to go in goal afterwards and made a valiant, but failing, effort at the penalty. We here at UF could not have been happier.

Barnsley 1 Chelsea 0
Well, we could not have been happier until this happened. The Tykes knock big spending Chelsea out of the cup. Below, extended highlights of the epic fail that is Chelsea.

Middlesbrough 0 Cardiff City 2
The Welsh outfit went northeast to take on Gareth "the teeth" Southgate's squad, and beat them soundly. Two first half goals sealed the deal. Look below for a really fuzzy view of the goals.

Bristol Rovers 1 West Bromwich Albion 5
Ishamel Miller had a hattrick for the visitors. Rovers replied quickly after going down 0-2, but after the (very offside*)third WBA goal, Rovers had no shot. Look below for the highlights from last weekend's highest scoring match.

* Yes I understand the offside rule. I understand active vs. passive. I understand that the defender had the last touch. Miller made himself active on a ball that was initially attempted to be put through by WBA. It was an offside in the way Joe Cole was not in the Chelsea game.

Read more on "Sweet FA Cup Roundup"...

We're sick

We here at UF are under the weather. Understand that to mean that we are also very busy at work, at home or with life in general, as well as being incapacitated by the flu. Please bear with us and we'll be back to normal soon.

Read more on "We're sick"...

Chelsea fans are racists

Maybe, maybe not. I don't really know to be honest with you. But when the news comes out that Fat Frank and Asshole John Terry shirts outsell the one guy who can consistently score for the team, then I don't know what to think.

So, what's an Ivorian to do when confronted with these statistics? Well, Drogba fights back the only way he knows how--by going to the club shop and purchasing his own jersey. Sure, that's how I'd do it.

The Daily Mail article, using conveniently unnamed insider sources (but it's better than making them up, a la Scott Templeton), says that Drogba, hurt by training ground razzings, goes to the club store up to ten times a week to purchase his own jersey in bulk.

Here's what I don't understand. I know that footballers are never the brightest lights, but come on. Drogba is really going tho the club store at Stamford Bridge to purchase his own jerseys by himself? Why not send a mate to a local Sports World to buy them for you?

I call shenanigans on this whole story. Until I get picture proof of thousands of Drogba's closest Ivorian friends wearing this season's Chelsea shirt, I say no way. This feels like an attempt of someone to discredit the guy who is likely leaving in the close season anyway. Maybe, just maybe, that move will mean that this shirt starts to sell instead, you know, to the racist Chelsea crowd.

images from and

Read more on "Chelsea fans are racists"...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Fight! Fight! Fight!

This video has already been making the blog rounds, but Unprofessional Foul cannot ignore it as it's in our wheelhouse--violence, soccer, and absurdities.

Over the weekend a Colombian match between America and Deportivo Cali sparked a riot in Cali, Colombia's third-largest city. The final tally of the riot was 80 injured and 18 stabbings. A schoolyard dustup between the rival managers instigated the riot that suspended the match. Oddly enough, it appears that some of the rioting occurred between the supporters of the same club. Check out the video after the jump.

The video of the riot is quite amazing. You can see the result of the punch to the kisser. One has to wonder why the Arsene Wenger - Alan Pardew dustup last season didn't result in the same aftermath. Could it be massive amounts of cocaine? I would imagine the stadium might be the safest

Also, peep the lady at about the 0:36 mark that appears to be stomping the riot police.

Colombia where the women are as hot as balls and tough as nails. And, if you are so inclined, here is a mail-order bride service for Cali women.

Read more on "Fight! Fight! Fight!"...

Questionable eBay Purchases

Anyone who has ever visited Italy has likely come across their street vendors and the questionable football shirts that they hawk. Many times they are just cheap, unbranded knock-offs of the current shirt of a team, but sometimes they work magic. It's a new form of art, a re-Renaissance, if you will. I warn you though, don't wear this onto (what used to be) the terraces, I don't think these fans would appreciate it.

You can be the proud owner of this shirt for just $13. Well, as long as no one else bids on it, that is. Look at it. It's an unholy amalgam of a NUFC shirt and the image inside the star of a Newcastle Brown Ale label. Speaking of the ale, it makes its return here as the sponsor of the shirt, something that hasn't happened since 2000.

So tread lightly, foreign Newcastle fan, don't go thinking this is a rare third shirt that you just don't remember. This is a genuine, grade-A, Eye-Tie knockoff. You might be able to pull it off in an Atlanta suburb, but you'll never get away with it on your sad pilgrimage to St. James' Park

Read more on "Questionable eBay Purchases"...

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Ballad of Eddie Johnson

On a Saturday full of massive upsets in the FA Cup, most Americans were paying attention to the Blackburn vs. Fulham game. Why? Well, because Fulham sports an inordinate number of American players. Although Carlos Bocanegra and Brian McBride were on the bench for the game, on the pitch were GK Kasey Keller, Clint Dempsey, and Eddie Johnson. We here at UF were eager to see how EJ would perform, given his recent move to the EPL. Check out the exclusive video below for a match assessment.

Seriously? EJ's performance against Blackburn made these guys look good in comparison.

Read more on "The Ballad of Eddie Johnson"...