Saturday, May 17, 2008

Lord, why are there no games on tv today?

Now the crushing reality of the summer sets in, as our Saturday mornings are strangely open (And yeah, no one was going to fork over for the FA Cup Final. Congrats Pompey!). No drinking before noon? No Hirshey mustache jokes? Grrr....All we have to comfort ourselves is the upcoming international season. And the MLS. And lots of rumors, after the jump:

The most interesting rumor today is that Sven Goran Eriksson is being lined up to coach the Mexican national team. I guess Sven really liked Nery Castillo. El Tri was hilariously mismanaged during the Hugo Sanchez era, who failed to even get the U-23s into the Olympics, and couldn't seem to beat Bob Bradley & Co. Of course, if the Mexican federation actually allowed the national team to play games in Mexico, they might get better results. SGE running the Mexicans would actually be pretty neat from a US perspective. Bob Bradley matching wits with a multi-time World Cup and European quarterfinalist!

In other US news, the national team released its provisional roster for the upcoming England/Spain/Argentina troika. Think Eddie Lewis and Frankie Hejduk, and 31 others. I'm hoping for a Michael Bradley hat trick at Wembley and a move to Arsenal. I also believe in Santa Claus. UF will be on hand at the Argentina game, and all UF readers are welcome to join us in for some tailgating in the Jersey swamps beforehand. Its possible there will beer and footie involved.

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Friday Backpasses: Los Campesinos backing a Cardiff City win

Schoolboy set to play in FA Cup final is a complete moron [The Sun]
Bulgarian keeper who plays in Holland, that hotbed of defense, dates hot model []
English manager fired for coaching team to promotion too many times [Guardian Blogs]
ESPN rumo(u)red to be in the bidding for EPL in 2009 [EPL Talk]

Other stuff, plus video, after the jump

In the last round in Italy, the second place team's fan are not allowed to travel, but the first place team's are []
Journalists who broke/mad-up story on gambling on football in Vietnam have been arrested [Casino Gambling Web]
How English footballers buy their homes. With sample homes for sale [Telegraph]
Dunga drops overrated player from Brazil squad, again [Soccerway]

Finally, this is how ESPN is going to market the Euros. You have been warned.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

It’s Contest Time! Time to Find Out Who the "Winner" Is!

El Hadji Diouf wants to know what everybody's talking about. We'll give you a hint: It's America's favorite past time!

Way back in January, when UF was a just a plucky newborn, we decided to run a contest to see who could guess how useless Bolton are. More specifically, the contest was to guess how many league goals Bolton would score the rest of the season. You can re-visit that magical post here.

Now that the season is over, we know that you have been dying to see who won, checking the site constantly in the hopes that maybe, just maybe we would post an update. Well, you are very lucky my friend. Read on after the jump and find out who won...

To refresh your memory, here were the “rules”:

How many goals do you reckon that Bolton will score in the Premier League during the 14 games that remain in their season? [meaning Bolton’s league games starting in February, roughly after they sold Anelka, for those of you keeping track at home]

The tie-breaker is how many goals will Bolton score against Atlético Madrid in their two UEFA Cup matches (penalty shootout doesn't count, and we'll assume Bolton won't advance past Atlético so any other goals scored in the UEFA don't count either).

Now, Bolton did of course advance past Atlético Madrid, which kind of screwed up our tie-breaker, but thankfully Bolton only advanced on a 1-0 aggregate so their useless was nonetheless in tact.

As for the league, tallying up Bolton’s total goals beginning in February we arrive at the correct answer of 10 goals in Bolton's last 14 games. This makes for a stupefying .71 goals per game (and actually it was .65 goals per game after Bolton sold Anelka -- we waited a couple matches before starting our contest). How Bolton ever managed to stay in the league is a tribute to, well, the fact that there were even more inept teams this year.

Speaking of ineptitude, take a look at our table of guesses, where we find that the winner is Ian, who guessed spot on that Bolton would score 10 league goals!

Precious Roy: 5 league goals
Moonshine Mike: 5 league goals
Sven: 6 league goals
Spectator: 8 league goals
Badly Drawn Boykins: 8 league goals
Ian: 10 league goals
The Fan's Attic: 11 league goals
Lingering Bursitis: 11 league goals
ü75: 23 league goals

So a hearty congratulations to Ian, who will be buying the first round of drinks at our first Pants Party.

And let me just end our contest by pointing out that ü75 has a lot of explaining to do.

Read more on "It’s Contest Time! Time to Find Out Who the "Winner" Is!"...

Life is cruel.

Right now, they're imagining those balls to be the heads of Blatter and Platini

It's not hard to get a yellow card in the EPL. Heck, several of them are dished out each week by the discipline-givers, the order-preservers. If it's not down to a card-happy ref hellbent on injecting himself into the game, it's the peril and danger of dealing with the foreign flopping crowd, the porcelain superstars who fall in agony at the slightest hint of bodily contact. Just ask whoever has to mark Didier Drogba each week.

And yes, this simple yellow card has come back to haunt our brave American heroes at Fulham, for the final Fair Play standings were just released. It turns out the relegation-escaping marauders at the Cottage missed out on that unlikely UEFA Cup spot by 0.02 points, or, to put it more bluntly, 4 yellow cards.

Somewhere in Manchester, last week's red card hero Richard Dunne just unclenched his squeaky bum.

Four yellow cards is so slight considering the grueling nature of the entire season. It's 4 half-arsed lunges for a 50/50 ball, it's 4 Drogba flops, 4 ticky-tack fouls, 4 separate incidents in which Cristiano wept.

It's also a crying fucking shame, because I was really hoping that the farce that is the Fair Play League and its backdoor Europe entry could have been exposed, a bit like the times during the college football season when I crave a BCS in ruins and left for dead at the side of the road.

To think a team so close to being relegated could have actually had a UEFA spot. It almost boggles the mind as much as it did to see Bolton playing in Europe this season. So strange.

It's also a nice slap in the face to Thaksin, to see his Euro dreams realized right after he kicked his girlfriend Eriksson out of the moving car.

I hope Man City can honor their UEFA spot with several scintillating 1-0 wins to the likes of Anderlecht, Braga, FC Cologne, and many others.

[thx Sean P for bringing it to my attention]

Read more on "Life is cruel."...

How not to endear yourself to the fans

I understand the temptation. As a former keeper myself, I know that sometimes you have to keep yourself entertained. For example, when the team I played for were far superior to our opponents, I would go on walkabout in the 18 yard box. With no fear of actually being involved in the play, I would trace the outside of the box with my footsteps. So, yes, I understand the temptation to inject a little more excitement into the game as a keeper.

However, I never played at the level this keeper does. Agustin Orion (a pretty kickass name) is the backstop for San Lorenzo, who hail from Argentina. Yesterday, in the Copa Libertadores, San Lorenzo hosted LDU-Quito from Ecuador. The story is not that the game ended in a 1-1 draw, but in how LDU got their away goal.

In the 36th minute, A San Lorenzo defender passed the ball back to Orion, who promptly started to juggle the ball. The second bit of keepy-uppy got away from him and--voila--LDU forward Claudio Bieler knocked the ball in the net.

Without further ado, I present the video highlights before someone pulls them. The fun you are looking for starts at 00:30.

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Germans Plan South African Naval Blockade

We should all be very afraid, wealthy German industrialists are scheming again. We know how that turned out last time. Five thousand wealthy Germans will be dropping anchor outside of Durban, South Africa during World Cup 2010. On a ship. For a whole month.

Actually, five thousand Germans hanging around watching soccer turned out pretty good last time.

Read more on "Germans Plan South African Naval Blockade"...

Long-Term Pocketlining Plan

Elite European clubs, and even lesser European clubs, look to line their pockets during the summer season through international tours. The holy grail of these tours seem to be rich middle eastern countries and the U.S. Barcelona is tapping the U.S. vein...long term...signing a five-year agreement to play 6 games over five years with the MLS.

These exhibition tours are somewhat of a sham, though. The teams lead fans to believe they will see the stars play, see high quality play and general greatness and fans suck up the tickets, lining the pockets of the clubs to pay transfer fees. The reality of the situation is that some of the stars come on these tours, the competition is lesser, and the players don't give their all.

I don't blame the players for their performances. They already play for 9 months with high stakes. Their bodies need to recover from the grueling season. And, yet, if a squad comes near me, I will still fork over the dough. So, I'm still a fool, even though I know what's going on.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Thursday Backpasses: Lo, there was much chaos in Manchester

Hey, look! We're successful! Not enough that our whole XI can quit our jobs or anything, but enough that someone is ripping off our material to try to get adwords revenue. We readily admit to not being skilled enough to pull it off, but if someone wants to rampage Cowherd-audience style and pull off a DDoS, well, you'd do so here.

On to the links.

Oliver Kahn to play last game. Good riddance says I[Soccernet]
Here's a helping hint. If you say you have high contacts, you had better have thos contacts [Gulf Daily News]
Rich Germans to spend WC 2010 on a cruise ship. [Independent Online]
Maradona pulls off butt trap and dives for a penalty in charity game [The Spoiler]
Marcus Hahnemann starts negotiations for a transfer, in a way [Sports Illustrated]
Liverpool stadium looks to be a no go, at least with current ownership [Soccernet]

Finally, The Sun has plenty of transfer rumo(u)rs

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Another Reason Nebraska is No Hot Bed For Soccer

That, as the caption indicates, is Sanford Kaplan of Lincoln Nebraska. And he's got a problem.

He's actually got two of them now: one legal, and the other sexual, the latter being the cause of the former as Kaplan was arrested Wednesday.

From the local Omaha news:

57-year-old Sanford Kaplan was arrested Wednesday following complaints that numerous young boys were bound, blindfolded, gagged and suspended from the rafters of Kaplan's garage at 14647 Country Lane... Court affidavits show testimony from teens who says he used duct tape and rope. When they were blindfolded, they also say they heard him masturbating.

No Paul Jewell, so what's this got to do with soccer? Well, Kaplan was a local soccer coach. The article is a little vague over whether he coached at Lincoln Northeast High School or if that's just where the reporter went to get a quote—predictably the kid says that he had no idea.

Kaplan did coach for the Capital Soccer Association as well as teach geology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He also kept a gimp in his basement.

Okay, that last one is a blatant fabrication.

But really, if you care about soccer in this country and want to instruct kids to help them become better players, you probably ought not to be the sort of person that's got a harness for teens in your garage. In fact, you probably ought not to be that sort of person at all.

Unless by "teens" you restrict it to "eighteen." Even then, it's still creepy even if it is legal.

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Arsenal + Americans > Russians + Arsenal

This comparison brought to you by capitalism. In an abrupt change in position, Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood has welcomed the interest of American minority shareholder Stan Kroenke in a takeover of the club. Just last summer Hill-Wood was about as anti-American as the French, which makes sense because Arsenal is a French soccer club through and through. It may be highly cultured but at the slightest whiff of a struggle, it turns tail...just like France.

Hill-Wood famously said, in reference to Kroenke's interest, "We don't need his money and don't need his sort. He knows sweet FA about our football." After shooting down the advances of the American, Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov made his intentions known. The Russian already owns 25% of the club and wants to become the majority shareholder.

Apparently, Usmanov's bid doesn't provide the shareholders with enough profit, so Hill-Wood is starting to see an old flame, Kroenke. The chairman did a complete about-face saying:

"Contrary to what I said before, I now believe he may have a vital contribution to make to the future of this football club. I am not denying I said what I said, but I made those observations before meeting Stan. I have now got to know him and I have changed my opinions.

"When I hadn't met him, yes, I didn't think he was the right person to take control of Arsenal Football Club. Now I know him as a man who is very much steeped in sport. He is a sports man."
So, the Chairman is saying he is full of prejudice--judging Kroenke based on nothing other than rumor and preconceived notions. Nice man. Really, sound likes a great guy.
Now the American sportsman, owner of the Colorado Rapids, Avalanche and Denver Nuggets and co-owner of the NFL St. Louis Rams, is a perfectly suitable suitor for the club? What gives? My fan-sense says money. Hill-Wood has come to realize that English football has finally gone the way of big business and it doesn't matter which obscenely rich person wants to buy the club. It will never be like the old days.

Now, the goal is yield the maximum return for the shareholders. Courting the American can only serve to up the Russian's offer. Usmanov is a smart man and will not bid against himself.

Read more on "Arsenal + Americans > Russians + Arsenal"...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wednesday Backpasses: Short but sweet

Not a lot to link to tonight, we were all busy watching the UEFA Cup final and bitching at each other over who was supposed to write which Euro 2008 previews.

Girls may get more soccer-related leg injuries because it's politically incorrect to say their bodies are built differently [Tierny Lab]
LA Galaxy lose to USL-1 team [Soccer America Daily]
Probably because their coach admits there is no leadership at the club [LA Times]

Finally, we put together a video of a kickaround we had last week. Take a look.

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The Good, The Bad, The WTF

Every week, a new jersey brings us new questions. The most obvious one is generally, what were they thinking? Sometimes we ask, where can I get one? This week's main question is a little different. Instead of being focused on the jersey's horrible look (and I assure you that it is bad), the shirt begs one question. Why is a second tier club in Scotland taking its badge inspiration from the Albanian flag?

Sadly, I don't have the answer, and can't really be arsed to look. What I do have is this wonderful shirt to look at.
This is the home shirt for St Johnstone from 1994-96. They must have had a bunch of fatties on the team at the time to need all of those slimming vertical stripes. A bunch of fat, former commies (the Albanian connection). It's the only possible answer.

Now, I've been sitting here for the last few minutes giving myself a Rorschach test trying to figure out exactly what I see in this shirt. It speaks to me, but I can't figure it out. After 15 minutes of soul-searching, I bring it together. If I rotate this shirt 90 degrees and blur my eyes, I can make out a Frogger screen. I don't know what this says about me, as I remember nothing of the sort from my Abnormal Psych class.

And, oh, I try so hard for you, the reader. I try to find you the best links to buy the shirt of your dreams. As long as that link is on ebay, of course. Get to it, there are only 7 days left. However, if you miss out on it there, try this Danish site. Not for danishes (or Roses of Prophet Muhammad, if you prefer), but for the shirt, albeit at a much higher price.

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Euro 2008 Team Profiles: Sweden ** UPDATE

Today's installment of UF's Euro 2008 preview brings you fair readers the blonde hair and blue-eyed Nords from the Kingdom of Sweden. The land of the Swedish Bikini Team, lutefisk, the Swedish Chef, and IKEA. I volunteered to write up the preview not out of any allegiances, but to merely post the picture to the right.

Sweden has never won a major tournament but is a perennial qualifier. The country has produced world class talent, but has only finished as high as runner-up and third-place in the 1958 and 1994 World Cups, respectively. Sweden qualified for Euro 2008 second in its group behind Spain.

Qualifying was not without significant events. During its match against Denmark, a Danish fan attacked the referee after he red carded a Dane. Denmark forfeited the match as a result.

Heading into Euro 2008, Sweden has significant injury issues. Starting defender Erik Edman is out with an ACL tear; perennially injured and highly talented Zlatan Ibrahimovic is struggling with fitness; and, captain cum underwear model cum midfielder Freddy Llungberg (if forced to choose, I would take Freddy over Becks, but since I am not forced let's forget I ever said anything)is battling a rib injury.

I couldn't seem to locate much about the expected squad but below was the team called up for a recent friendly against Brazil.

Goalkeepers - Andreas Isaksson, Manchester City; Rami Shaaban, Hammarby

Defenders - Daniel Majstorovic, Basel; Olof Mellberg, Aston Villa; Mikael Nilsson, Panathinaikos; Erik Edman, Wigan; Fredrik Risp, Ankarastor; Fredrik Stoor, Rosenborg

Midfielders - Niclas Alexandorsson, IFK Göteborg; Daniel Andersson, MFF; Kim Källström, Lyon; Christian Wilhelmsson, Deportivo; Anders Svensson, Elfsborg; Sebastian Larsson, Birmingham; Kennedy Bakircioglü, Ajax; Fredrik Ljungberg, West Ham

Attackers - Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Inter; Johan Elmander, Toulouse; Marcus Allbäck, FC Köpenhamn; Marcus Rosenberg, Werder Bremen.

Ibrahimovic is probably the Swede's best player, but without a strong midfield he isn't the type to put a team on his back. Unfortunately, Sweden doesn't have the imperious midfielder Ibrahimovic needs. So, on to the pertinent questions.

(1) Could England beat this team? Of course. England is one of the top squads in the world filled with talented players, who never perform up to standard in meaningful matches. So, England could beat the team in a friendly but would have trouble in a tournament.

(2) Can Sweden win Euro 2008? Well, they have a better chance than England. But, so does everybody else. It would require an incredible run of luck. Joining Sweden in Group D are Spain, Russia and the defending champs. My money is on Spain topping the group, with the other three battling it out for the other spot. Greece will not surprise anybody this time and Russia probably doesn't have the talent to advance. So, Sweden has a good chance to reach the knockout stages.

(3) What is the squad's pre-made excuse for not winning Euro 2008? Injuries and talent.

(4) What is the biggest question mark surrounding the team? As in most cases, it is whether they can play together well as a team. There is moderate talent on the squad, they just need to play well together to advance.

(5) Who is their worst player? Who knows? Certainly not me.

UPDATE - 5/14/08: Sweden has named its Euro 2008 squad and has a surprise callup of Henrik Larsson who had retired from international football after the 2006 World Cup.

Goalkeepers: Andreas Isaksson (Man. City, England), Rami Shaaban (Hammarby), Johan Wiland (Elfsborg)

Defenders: Olof Mellberg (Aston Villa, England), Petter Hansson (Rennes, France), Mikael Nilsson (Panathinaikos, Greece), Niclas Alexandersson (IFK Gothenburg), Andreas Granqvist (Helsingborg), Daniel Majstorovic (FC Basel, Switzerland), Fredrik Stoor (Rosenborg, Norway), Mikael Dorsin (CFR Cluj, Romania)

Midfielders: Tobias Linderoth (Galatasaray, Turley), Daniel Andersson (Malmo), Anders Svensson (Elfsborg), Kim Kallstrom (Lyon, France), Christian Wilhelmsson (Deportivo Coruna, Spain), Fredrik Ljungberg (West Ham, England), Sebastian Larsson (Birmingham City, England)

Forwards: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Inter Milan, Italy), Johan Elmander (Toulouse, France), Marcus Allback (FC Copenhagen, Denmark), Markus Rosenberg (Werder Bremen, Germany), Henrik Larsson (Helsingborg).

Read more on "Euro 2008 Team Profiles: Sweden ** UPDATE"...

Tuesday Backpasses: Holy crap, it's late

Chelsea teammates caught drinking and driving on film [This is Extra Time]
Convicted bad driver rates a kid [Guardian Blogs]
Dudes, he's 10 [The Soccer Blog]
iVillage sends us stuff, we oblige by linking [iVillage]

For some reason, we have two Vietnamese links, come see them after the jump.

Arsenal to promote Vietnamese instant coffee. ü75 struggles to find relevant joke [Thanh Nien News]
Thai U-19 team show some real class by not accepting winner's trophy at tournament because of bad penalty call. Bonus--the other team intentionally missed the kick. [Thanh Nien News]
Former Liverpool player has one hell of an interesting career after football [Soccernet]
Beasley ready to be hurt again [US Soccer Global]
Heerenveen, Michael Bradley's home for now, qualify for UEFA Cup [Soccer America Daily]
An interesting idea for the dispersal of Fair Play UEFA Cup spots [Reuters Blogs]

Now go to sleep. Jeez.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Better Than A Sharp Stick In The Eye

In England there is position in the club called a boot boy. No, this isn't the poor intern that has to follow around the first-teamers to the clubs and clean up their vomit. It's actually a position that involves wearing kneepads and always carrying a big bottle of lube.

Young lads that train on the club's youth teams are assigned to a player, ostensibly to clean their boots but I'm sure it involves more things like making up alibis for when the footballers are out with their mistresses, gathering up the whores and generally being the bitch of player. Otherwise known as an intern.

Olivier Kapo, midfielder for recently relegated Birmingham City, has a lackey bootboy and as reward for servicing Kapo, James McPike received more than a poke in the eye. Kapo flipped James the keys to his $60,000 Mercedes.

A club source said James, who signed a professional contract with Birmingham City on his 17th birthday, had asked Kapo for a pair of boots to mark the end of the season.

"He was obviously disappointed when Kapo replied he had taken them home with him," the source said. "He perked up considerably when he was tossed a set of keys."

To further insure he had servant for next year, Kapo then paid for a year's worth of insurance since McPike couldn't afford it. It is believed this is the biggest gift ever to a bootboy.

[Photo Credit: Daily Mail]

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Not to beat Eight Belles with this, but, yes, it is another Fulham-UEFA Cup post (to go with this and this).

Of interest is the new Fair Play table.

It has been updated, but only to go back in time. Where it used to say "Matches up to and including 5th May 2008," it now reads "Matches up to and including 28th April 2008" (of course even that depends on when you, the reader, click on the link).

Not that you wouldn't believe us, but after the jump is a screenshot of the cached page.

Anyway you can see the old "newer" date below the "Fair Play Table" heading on the table itself (well, you might need to click on the image to make it large enough so you can see that the FA has indeed mastered time travel).

This presumably means a couple of things. First, the cards from Fulham's match against Birmingham City (two yellows) come back into play. That's an automatic minus-two points. Citeh, who played Liverfourth in the penultimate week of the season, had no cards for that match week.

Second, it allows the FA more wiggle room in awarding positive (or negative) points. I'm not insinuating they are up to anything nefarious, but if Fulham does make up the point gap, it looks a lot less suspicious if it happened over a two week period than over a single match. Like the kids say: "I'm not saying, I'm just saying."

Finally, looking at the table gives us a little insight into the whole idea of whether wikipedia is correct or not with its fan behavio(u)r in the list of criteria. It's not.

Really, can't believe none of us thought to actually look at the point breakdown on that table itself but the categories are: "R/Y, P/P, R/O, R/R, B/O" which, respectively, stand for "Red & Yellow Cards, Positive Play, Respect Towards Opponent, Respect Toward Referee, Behavior of Officials."

Nothing for the fans. So chair-throwing Citeh spectators can breath easy knowing that they didn't fuck their club. Although the players themselves might have taken care of that for them. Really, losing 8-1 to 'Boro should disqualify you from anything.

Except maybe playing in MLS.

Read more on "Fulhamapalooza"...

Band Wagon Jumping

I’ll admit that I’m one of the few people not named Bill Simmons who still actively follows the NBA. As long as this puts me in the same company as the dudes at freedarko, I’m fine with it.

As a fan of the NBA, I enjoy reading the Associated Press's game reports. Part of this joy comes from the nuggets of useless information hidden under the guise of “Game Notes.” So what does this have to do with the beautiful game known around the world as football? Read on and find out...

Hidden at the bottom of the Game 3 report of the Cavs-Celtics game from several days ago was the following:

There's no doubt about Garnett's passion on the hoop court, but Cavs 7-foot-3 C Zydrunas Ilgauskas has his doubts about the Boston superstar's love of soccer. Ilgauskas is a big fan — literally — of powerful Manchester United, which is battling Chelsea for the English Premier League title. The teams will also meet on May 21 in Moscow in the Champions League final. Ilgauskas was told Garnett was a Chelsea supporter. "He's a fake fan," Ilgauskas laughed. "What, did he become a fan when he went to London?"

That’s right, Garnett, you’re getting called out as a bandwagon jumping fan. At least that sort of thing comes naturally to Boston.


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I hear he is a great dancer

Steve Claridge, formerly of over 20 different English clubs, was in court yesterday to explain being pulled over traveling over 100 mph on wet roads. His defense? Well, he really had to go to the bathroom. Don't believe me? His actual quote, in court, was, "I was desperate for the toilet."

Once he was puled over, the fun began. The arresting officer, acting on a call from an unmarked car that Claridge tried to pass at high speed, says that once Claridge was out of the car he began jumping up and down. That's right, Claridge was doing the pee-pee dance.

What's more, Claridge then begged the officer to let him urinate on the side of the road. The officer initially refused, citing the traffic, but eventually relented, allowing Claridge to head down the slope and finish his business. Brit cops are so nice. American cops would throw you in the back of the squad car, allow you to piss yourself, then beat you up for doing so.

Earlier today, Claridge was unsurprisingly found guilty of the charge. He will be sentenced in early June. I can only hope that whatever the sentence is, there are plenty of toilets nearby.

Read more on "I hear he is a great dancer"...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Monday Backpasses: Did we mention we were first on the Fulham story?

Some people disagree with us [Guardian] (Second Item)
Citeh will be lucky that fan behavio(u)r does not count [Telegraph]
Chelsea had the worst respect to referee rating. Shocking [Times Online]

Other stuff, including a Man City head-scratcher after the jump.

SGE, still fired, to lead Man City tour of Asia [BBC]
Grainy, nekkid pics taken in a soccer stadium. Remember art is what the people with money say it is [CBC]
There is never a slow moment in the Peterborough Sunday Morning League [Peterborough Today]
Kevin Garnett is a fake Chelsea fan, so says the Lithuanian ManU fan [AP] (very bottom)
It's a convoluted story. Let's just say Walter Smith is grasping at 15 year old straws [Daily Record]

Read more on "Monday Backpasses: Did we mention we were first on the Fulham story?"...

BREAKING: Unconfirmed Rumor that Fulham Has Earned the UEFA Spot

My mate Adam just texted me to say that Fox Soccer Channel totally just announced that Fulham will get the UEFA fair play spot -- a story that, as far as we can tell, we were the first to break.

Yup, this constitutes an exclusive for UF. God knows it's probably wrong but, well, we're a blog so we are supposed to get things wrong.

Read more on "BREAKING: Unconfirmed Rumor that Fulham Has Earned the UEFA Spot"...

TWAF: Instead of Praying for a Meteor I'm Going To Start Praying for Competent Refs

I was lucky. I got one of the last seats. Bonus I had a good view of both matches.

"Good" is a bit relative. I could see the United match on a large projection screen on the west wall and over my back shoulder was Chelsea on a flat screen. So I had to turn around for one and had to keep people from sliding in between the fake bookshelves that serve no purpose other than to make the chain Irish bar seem like an authentic Irish bar for the other, but at least I was on my ass. That was important as I was recovering from a wedding (not mine, thank God).

Even with the massive hangover, I wasn't not getting out of bed. Ninety minutes to decide the Prem. About 40 weeks all leading up to this. What football fan wouldn't be excited?

It wasn't until Giggs slotted away a goal on a beauty feed (from Rooney maybe) in the 80th to put United up 2-0 that it was a done deal. Chelsea made it immaterial by giving away an injury time leveler to Bolton (and by the way of three things I can think of named Bolton—singer Michael, former UN ambassador John, and the football team—all are useless, so God help you if you are named Bolton).

And if you want to look at the difference in winning and running-up, you can find it in two pair of injury time goals that resulted in draws. Chelsea gave them up to Bolton and Wigan at home. United, more specifically Carlos Tevez, found them against Tottenham and Blackburn. That's plus-two for United and minus-four for Chelsea and that's more than enough to swing the balance at the top of the table.

Of course, one of those two for United (v. Spurs) came with 95:00 and counting on the clock when the ref had signaled for 4 minutes of extra time.

Now, I'm not going to insinuate that United won the EPL because of one ref's decision. No, despite the fact that they have more losses than the 2nd, 3rd or even 4th place teams, they were the best side start to finish.

That's not snideness. It's sincerity. It's sincerity that I deliver with the pain of a thousand bloody deaths, but it's also the truth.

Still, the only PK called against United the entire season was the one against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the third-to-last week of the season. Really? Only one penalty? The entire season?

No. Because there was one clear as day when Rio Ferdinand committed a hand ball in the box against Wigan on Sunday (oh, and look, there's what looks to be another against Tottenham from back in August in the pic atop the post). And not just that, but Paul Scholes could have, should have, easily been given a second yellow and a sending off (perhaps the FA should start giving ref Steve Bennett a red shirt instead of a black one when he's doing United matches).

How different are the second halves at the JJB and Stamford Bridge if United is a goal down and a man down?

There was a (non-)call that went in Wigan's favor when a foul by Titus Bramble in the box wasn't given. But the foul was committed on Scholes. You know, the guy who shouldn't have even been on the pitch anymore. Can you even make a make-up call when it's committed on a player who should've been shown the showers already?

Again, I'm not saying United were handed the title but with Ronaldo, Tevez, and Rooney on the pitch they probably don't need the help. Still why does it seem that many of the most important calls in the biggest spots do go in their favor? And why do so few go against them?

United was awarded a total of two red cars all season. Two. And both were for headbutts. So no United player the entire season committed two bookable offenses, or one instance of serious foul play during open play? Please.

Maybe some of it is just selective memory from a non-United fan—like the Bramble non-call, I mean I had to be reminded of that—but it would be better if there was no discussion of poor officiating after the biggest matches, the title-deciding matches, that just happen to take place on the last day of the season.

It's a bad taste. And it stays there because there's no more season.

So really congrats to United. I do hate them, but this is not sour grapes. They deserve the title. But if they win it again next year, I'd really like to be able to reflect on the season and maybe recall more than one instance where I think Christiano Ronaldo might have been carded for diving.

Because he does it. Often.

Read more on "TWAF: Instead of Praying for a Meteor I'm Going To Start Praying for Competent Refs"...

England should probably start looking for a new manager

Ever since Fabio Capello took over the England job, there have been rumo(u)rs that he had some outstanding legal problems. Now, it seems that those problems are catching up to him. Further, said problems might land him in jail for up to six years. How does one say "We fucked up" in the Queen's English anyway?

Yes, it seems the English FA did mot perform due diligence in checking Mr. Capello's background. Capello is close to being charged with perjury as Italian investigators confirmed that his testimony from an earlier trial is under investigation. He is not being investigated for outright lying, but for withholding information. However, in Italy, the sin of omission is as great as the sin of commission, at least in the court of law.

So what does the FA have to say about this? Well, not much. An FA spokesman said, "This is a private matter and will remain so." Huh. I'm not so sure that millions of English football fans will agree with you when you have to hire a new coach during the next qualifying cycle. Still, at least the FA doesn't have to worry about Capello exiting during the Euros. I mean, he can exit at that time, it just won't be detrimental to the team.

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Rooney in Vegas

Rumor has it (and by rumor I mean the Las Vegas Review-Journal) that Wayne Rooney will be having his bachelor party in Las Vegas on or about May 26 of this year.

The 22-year-old Manchester United standout is flying to Las Vegas on May 26 with 30 lads, including teammates and boxer Ricky Hatton. Rooney is getting married June 12.

Rooney and Las Vegas figure to be an interesting marriage. In 2006, his six-figure gambling losses made headlines, adding to his bad-boy reputation. Some fans have yet to forgive him for losing his temper and getting kicked out of a 2006 World Cup game that ended in a 1-0 win for Portugal.

Vegas, Rooney, 30 lads...sounds like a great idea. Let's just hope there are pictures of the donkey...and Shrek.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

UF Goes to the Movies: Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos

We continue our somewhat sporadic series of movie reviews here at UF with the film "Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos." As the title implies, this movie is about the history of the North American Soccer League as viewed through the prism of the league's most popular team, the New York Cosmos. As someone who went to numerous Cosmos games growing up in NYC, I thought that it was about time that I took a look at this cinematic masterpiece.

(Not pictured: a young NY Kid flipping off Bugs Bunny. Seriously, that fucker never gave me any of his stupid carrots)

The movie, narrated by Matt Dillon strangely enough, opens with footage of the American soccer scene in the 1970s, and we hear that "the Cosmos were the best and worst of soccer in the US." This is followed by Shep Messing (who looks distrubingly like David Hirshey) stating that "in the summer of '77, the Cosmos took over." At this point our man Hirshey makes his first (of many) appearance(s), where he discusses the 1950 World Cup in which the US shocked the world by defeating England.

The film then delves into the history of the North American Soccer League and the NY Cosmos. Steve Ross had created Warner Communications and Atari, and then expanded his empire by buying Atlantic Records. The Ertegun brothers, who had founded Atlantic Records, told Ross that one condition of the sale would be that he had to help them establish a soccer team. And thus, the idea of the Cosmos was born. The television broadcast of the World Cup final in 1966, in which England defeated Germany, motivated enough people to invest in the Cosmos that the idea became reality in 1971.

The team played their first game in Yankee Stadium, but eventually moved to Hofstra University on Long Island. Disillusioned with the progress of the team, and losing a significant amount of money, the ten original investors sold their shares to Warner Communications for $1 each. The players were also stuggling financially, which lead to Shep Messing posing fully nude in VIVA magazine. Although Cosmos management was initially furious, they realized that the pictorial brought attention to the team. It was also the first sign of the "rock star" status that the players would take on.

In 1974, the team moved to Downey Stadium on Randall Island, and were faced with a pitch that was made up of dirt and rocks in large patches. They went 6-14 that year, although this result was due more to the lack of talent rather than the state of the pitch. This caused management, and Ross in particular, to start looking for big-name players, and at the time no one was bigger than Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pele. At this point in the film, almost everyone associated with the early history of the Cosmos gets on camera and claims to be the one whose idea it was to go after Pele, so it remains unclear where the idea came from. What is clear is that Real Madrid and Juventus were also interested in acquiring Pele's services, but he was intrigued by the prospect of bringing soccer to the US on a grand scale (obviously this would never happen today - if Real Madrid, Juventus, and the LA Galaxy were all interested in bringing Ryan Giggs to their team, it's pretty clear that the Galaxy would be the last option; they get Beckham precisely because Real didn't want him anymore).

Pele eventually signed a multi-part contract worth several million dollars (although it is unclear exactly how much) for playing, public relations/marketing, and music (really? Did Pele ever put out an album?). The Brazilian government wanted to force Pele to play one more year in Brazil, so they declared him a national treasure. Steve Ross, as head of Warner Communications, worked with Nelson Rockefeller, who was also the vice president of the United States, and he asked the latter to intervene. Rockefeller put Henry Kissinger on the case, and the situation was quickly resolved.

In preparation for Pele's first game, the Cosmos organization spray-painted the dirt patches on the pitch at Downing Stadium in order for the field to appear green and lush with grass. CBS broadcast the game, and Pele didn't disappoint by scoring two goals to tie the game 2-2. There were some, however, like prominent sportswriter Dick Young, who didn't believe that soccer was here to stay. In an attempt to discredit Pele, Young took him to Mets game in order to show him the "true American sport." Young was stunned when the Mets game had to be stopped as the crowd acknowledged Pele, forcing him onto the field in order to respond to their ovations.

The next season, the Cosmos moved back to Yankee Stadium and other foreign stars followed Pele to the NASL. Steve Ross went after even more stars, bringing Giorgio Chinaglia to the Cosmos. At this point, the film moves into a montage of people discussing the fact that Chinaglia is a complete asshole. Although he claims that this is due to the fact that he became the NASL's leading scorer and was quite close to Steve Ross, most people in the clips aruge that he was simply an epic douchebag. Obviously, friction developed between Pele and Chinaglia, as tends to happen when two superstars share the pitch.

The next season, 1977, the Cosmos finally moved into Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. This was Pele's final season, and Ross added even more international players. After losing 3 of their first 5 games and averaging only 20,000 fans, Ross brought Franz Beckenbauer to the Cosmos, which pissed off Chinaglia even further. The strain of the season eventually lead to the resignation of president Clive Toye and the firing of coach Gordon Bradley (who recently passed away). Chinaglia exerted some influence and convinced Ross to hire Eddie Frimani, who repaid the favor by using Chinaglia more often in matches. The Cosmos went on a winning streak, but then lost 5 in a row so Ross signed Carlos Alberto from Brazil.

At this point the Cosmos were taking off as a cultural phenomenon, with the players partying at Studio 54 after every game and generally living the good life. In the playoffs that year, the Cosmos sold out Giants Stadium (77,961) for their match against Fort Lauderdale. The Cosmos won the championship that year, leading ABC to negotiate to broadcast NASL games the following season. During that season, during which the NASL expanded to 24 teams, the Cosmos won 15 out of their first 17 games against much weaker competition. They went 24-6 overall but lost their first playoff game 9-2 against Minnesota. However, in the second leg the Cosmos beat Minnesota 4-0, resulting in the need for a shoot-out (apparently they didn't follow the European "away goals" scoring format). Carlos Alberto's chip shot resulted in the 2nd consecutive championship for the Cosmos.

The following season, Chinaglia exerted even more influence and began to take over team operations, alienating much of the management. Although the Cosmos reached the championship match once again, they lost this time, and ABC cancelled their contract due to poor ratings. In 1980, league attendance reached its peak, and the Cosmos won their 3rd title in 4 years. At this point the film delivers another montage of individuals blaming Chinaglia for the downfall of the Cosmos. In 1982, although the Cosmos won their 5th title, the rest of the league was crumbling. After the crash of Atari crippled Warner Communications, the Cosmos eventually folded in 1984 and the league disbanded.

Steve Ross continued to follow his passion for the game, and he was part of the movement to bring the 1986 World Cup to the US, eventually losing out to Mexico. Unfortunately, Ross passed away in 1992, just 2 years before his dream was realized and the World Cup came to the US, playing several significant and well-attended matches at Giants Stadium.

The film ends by noting that the legacy of the Cosmos is that they laid the seed for everyone who plays soccer in the United States today, from the AYSO the MLS teams. Overall, this was a really good movie in terms of providing a history lesson on the Cosmos, including how they impacted both pop culture in the NY of the 1970s as well as the culture of soccer in the US.

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UF Weekend Hat Trick

Whew. It's all over in England. Manchester United win the title, Fulham stay up, and the Thirdsenal and Liverfourth live up to their names.

This week saw an explosion of commenting on UF, especially in our new series, whudafxup?. To start with, we asked just what the hell is wrong with Arsenal and Liverpool. Let berbakeane enlighten you on what poor people we all are.

We also discovered that, even if you run such a post on the weekend, internet tough guys love to look at tits, it doesn't matter if said tits are fake, or if they are better left clothed.

What else do interwebs users like to know about? They like to know when famous guys hook up with trannies. Especially if the WWL uses the word tranny in their headline.

Finally, because we have to do one better than Alfonso Alves here at UF, don't forget to keep an eye on our Euro 2008 previews. Informative and joke-filled, they are undoubtedly your best guide to the summer's premier tournament.

Read more on "UF Weekend Hat Trick"...


So what if it was an Englishman with an Irish surname who scored the clinching goal, Fulhamerica survive. Yippee.

Hey. we are nothing if not partial around here.

And, with Manchester City seemingly trying to throw away any shot at the Fair Play spot it doesn't seem out of the realm of metaphysical possibility that Fulham will get to play in Europe's NIT next season.

But let's not get greedy.

Anyway, congrats to the Cottagers. We're happy that at least a couple of Americans will continue to be employed in the EPL next season (Bocanegra is proabably out and not many people can figure out how Keller got signed in the first place but, eh, that will all get sorted out in time).

So for now, bring on the hookers!

Read more on "USA! USA! USA!"...