Saturday, July 19, 2008

FA Cup of British Rock: Don't Forget to Vote!

Just a reminder that it is your Unprofessional Foul duty to vote in the FA Cup of British Rock. The polls close at 5pm on Sunday, with the Quarterfinals scheduled for next week.

There are some tight contests and some potential surprises, so be sure to ballot stuff get your friends to vote as well.

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Friday Backpasses: Hope Solo alert!


Grant Wahl on Hope Solo's return [SI]
Sir Alex stealing from his son [The Sun]
German match-fixing ref released from prison [Fox Sports]

More, as often, after the jump

Small time club faces sex discrimination fight [EADT]
NE Revs personnel subdue jackass on flight [Soccernet]
If you are in New York, adidas would like you to stop by on July 26 [Offside Rules]

And, finally:
Here is your Olympic TV schedule for the beautiful game [World Cup Blog]

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Breaking News: Kaka to Chelsea for 100 Million Euros

I am admittedly not an expert on string theory, but I do know that one of its basic tenets is that the universe is made up of 9-10 simultaneous dimensions, most of which we cannot perceive. Although somewhat controversial, I would argue that Chelsea prove this theory to be true: they exist on a completely different plane than the rest of the football universe.

Want proof? Okay. The Guardian is reporting that Chelsea are in "advanced" negotiations to bring World Footballer of the Year Kaka to North London for an astronomical sum of 80 million pounds/100 million euros. The move does seem to make sense for both sides considering that AC Milan won't be playing in the Champion's League next year, except when you consider that the transfer fee equals the GDP of some third world nations. No matter: Abramovich just needs to open his checkbook. Guess this means that hiring Scolari really was a shrewd move and that Chelsea can afford to let Lampard and Drogba go, although I wouldn't bet on it. This also makes the rest of this summer's transfers seem like chump change.

More coverage to come, assuming the deal really does go through, but frankly I'm somewhat speechless at the moment.

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Magic Spray? How About Invisible Spray!

Have you ever watched a match where the referee is forced to continuously blow his whistle on dead balls because the defending team keeps encroaching on the 10-yards?



I mean, just look at these guys! (Why yes, that is RvP scoring the equaliser against Everton. Haha!). So what is the solution to this time-draining practice? Well, the Argies think they have the answer.



Just yesterday the Argentina Football Association agreed to use a new magic spray to address the concern of defenders creeping forward during a free kick. And what does this magic spray do? It sprays a line onto the pitch to mark off the 10 yards, and then disappears after one minute! This brilliant idea was brought to fruition by an Argentine journalist who began working with chemical engineers after he lost an amateur match in which he missed a potential game-tying free kick due to the encroachment of the wall.

It's not enough for the Argentinians that we drew them 0-0 at the Meadowlands, now we also get to mock them for idiotic and utterly useless technological advances.

Point #1: Have you ever seen a free kick? Have you ever taken a free kick? Some of these clowns dawdle so long that one minute is nowhere near enough time. The journalist himself notes that in a recent Boca Juniors game it took Juan Riquelme 2 and a half minutes to get off his free kick. Does the ref then give out a yellow card for unsportsmanlike behavior if he has to reapply the invisible spray?

Point #2: What if the Argentinians are playing Colombia (or Robbie Fowler), and someone tries to sniff the line? Is it hazardous to humans?

Point #3: All of these encroachment issues could be solved if more people took free kicks like this:



Of course, it's only a matter of time before Platini and Blatter sound off on this issue and expound for hours on its virtues.

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UR 2 FAT. KTHNXBYE.

Let's see. A guy is too fat to do his job. So, in response, he decides to sue. Yep, totally must be an American.

Oops.

Twenty-five year old Michael Keane was given the heave by St. Patrick's Athletic of Ireland's Eircom League because:

"...he had failed to adhere to an ultimatum set down earlier this year regarding his physical condition."


Translation: He was too fat. Oh, we already said, but look at the boy, he's got his own weather system.

The hefty lefty–I'm assuming from the pic—has responded by appealing the decision. And if he wins, he'll have the remaining €200,000 ($315,000) of his salary paid out in doughnuts. Sorry, but when Ireland moved from the Irish pound to the Euro, it pretty much deprived us of the best jokes here.

See what your Union has wrought? Bastards.

The club sent Keane a letter earlier in the year (similarly) urging him to drop the pounds, going so far as to include a target weight. Even though Keane has yet to miss a training session since that time, he apparently hasn't missed too many desserts either and failed to hit the number. Ergo, he got the boot.

Anyway, not sure which is a better line to go out on:

A) "Ricky Gervais, is being lined up to play title role in the film version of the story"
B) "Maybe Michael Keane is Irish for Jared Lorenzen" Or
C) "Ronaldinho has apparently ponied up to help cover Keane's legal expenses."

None of those is particularly great—eh, it's a Friday, so we mail a couple in every now and then (some of us already have our heads elsewhere)—but any help with Costanza'ing is much appreciated.

Read more on "UR 2 FAT. KTHNXBYE."...

FA Cup of British Rock / Round of 16 - Match #8

Again... the ground rules: 16 teams, each represented by a musician or band who happens to be a supporter. You, our fair reader, vote on who advances. Use whatever criteria you wish: favorite team, favorite band, prettiest faces (sorry, Pete) etc. Ballot stuffing is not encouraged, but will be tolerated, because we’re just as corrupt as the real FA. Voting for the Round of Sixteen will close on Sunday, July 20.

Today concludes the first round, but remember that you can keep voting on all of the matches until Sunday... at which point we'll announce the winners and get ready for the quarterfinal draw!

Today’s contestants are:

The founders of "Rockney," they're as diverse, clever and fun as the club they so vocally support-- and occasionally as frustrating and stupid... the team is Tottenham and their representatives at the 2008 FA Cup of British Rock are Chas 'n' Dave! Rabbit on! (note: after tense eleventh-hour negotiations, Jeff Beck ceded his spot in the team. He is content with his place as most underrated former Yardbird and thought it was time for C & D to get their props.)


-versus

A man who names ol' Chas 'n' Dave as one of his inspirations, but has himself done more to re-invent British rock than any other individual since the days of Cool Brittania. Drug addict? Yes. Publicity whore? Of course. He's Pete Doherty, the crackerjack poetic mind behind the Libertines and Babyshambles, and a boyhood QPR fan... even starting a fanzine about the club as a kid.


Make your voice heard and clicks count, after the jump...




The Likely Lad, his biases cancelled out here as Spurs and the Libertines, within their respective spheres, carry a heavy weight, will spare you dear reader the pain of my amateur analysis.

Doherty and C&D are both very cool, but for very different reasons. That the twang and wit of the older duo were studied and enjoyed so much by a young Pete is certainly worth noting. So too is the fact that the Libertines created something so simply their own, so honest and fun-- a true monument to the fleeting magic of great pop music.

Enough from me then... let's go to the videotape.

Chas 'n' Dave, with Spurs, on their way to Wembley:




and Pete, w/ Carl and the lads:




Alas, have your say. You can't go wrong (or right)...



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This is why soccer has no chance in the U.S of A


[Ed. Update: once you've finally calmed down from watching the video below, check out this vid that captures an earlier incarnation of the Radnich/soccer insanity. He loves Posh Spice, and Freddy Adu. H/T to The Offside Rules]


In a moment you are going to watch the video clip below from KRON in San Jose. The clip features KRON's resident sports guy in a segment called "The World according to Gary".

For those who aren't aware, Gary's world is a place that no one should find themselves in. It is a world of stupidity, overseen by jolly old Gary, A guy who could not be bothered to do his homework before he interviewed San Jose's newest import and ex-Norwich player Darren Huckerby. This turnip lets KRON's viewers know just how much he thinks of the football and the Earthquakes as he wastes Darren's time with stupid and irrelevant questions.

Gary then shows his viewers "the greatest goal ever" which Darren scored in 1996 against Manchester United. What he is actually watching is a super goal Hucks scored against Birmingham 2 years ago. He lets the viewers know that it's the second best goal he has ever seen... clearly the first being the ONLY other goal he has seen.

Gary then calls Darren 'Derek' and digs deep into his extensive knowledge of the game to find out what Hucks thinks of Posh Spice.

It's no wonder people in the U.S are failing to connect with the MLS when the game is being shown so little respect and effort by soft heads like Gary Radnich, imbeciles who actually have access to players and an audience!

People like Gary who cannot be bothered to do their homework are not bringing the game any credibility!



Cringe-worthy, I know! Well Bigus wants to apologize to Darren for having been subjected to such a half-wit, and hopefully Bigus will get his chance to do so. Stand by for news on that.

One thing is for sure, I will ask him some relevant and interesting questions that do not involve Posh Spice or Freddy Adu.


-Bigus

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Parents Just Don't Understand

Life is full of asshats and it just so happens that parents of child-athletes seem to have higher proportion of asshats compared to regular society. Case in point, two Wisconsin gentlemen arrested earlier this week after an altercation at their daughters' soccer game.



Jeffrey Perlewitz, an off-duty Waukesha cop, and Ralph Newcomb were arrested and ticketed for disorderly conduct. The details of which could not be funnier.

Perlewitz was watching his daughter play soccer when he saw his daughter get slapped by another player. He yelled to his daughter to “just slap her,” the report said.

A 45-year-old City of Waukesha woman was displeased by the comment and told Perlewitz his comment was inappropriate, the report said.

Perlewitz and the woman exchanged words and later, when the officer’s wife arrived at the park and he told her that he got into a tiff with a woman, she asked who it was. Perlewitz said it was the “fat lady,” the report said.

Newcomb overheard the “fat lady” comment and called Perlewitz a name and told him to pick on someone else, the report said.

To be fair, truth is an absolute defense to slander and she is a 45-year-old Wisconsin woman.

Even better is the seemingly animalistic ritual the two men engaged in after Perlewitz truth-speaking!

Perlewitz approached Newcomb and asked if he had a problem, and the two men started to belly bump each other, the report said.
I just imagine a couple of walruses fighting.

Perlewitz then proved his true class as a police officer when Newcomb and his wife tried to leave. Perlewitz stood in front of the car blocking their path, then moved to the side of the car and in a performance that would have impressed Cristiano Ronaldo flopped to the feigning a foot injury.

However, a witness said the car did not strike Perlewitz and that he, in fact, faked the whole thing, the report said.
No worries, the coach just came over and sprayed some of that magic spray and Perlewitz got back in the game.

Read more on "Parents Just Don't Understand"...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thursday Backpasses: Would you be fooled?


JT loves him some Becks [My Park Magazine]
And kisses his feet [OK!]
C. Ron does not score with Paris. Includes a link to us and confusion between Ronaldos. [Candy Kirby]

Blah, blah blah. Hit the jump.

Wambach broke her leg. May never get to 100 [MSNBC]
Two takes on a fake SGE in Mexico [The Fiver][Guardian]

And, finally:
It must really suck to be a close relative of a successful footballer from a poor country [Soccernet]



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Manchester City brings a little shui to Eastlands


From the "Just When You Think You've Seen It All" department comes this wonderful lede:

Having missed out on superstar Brazilian Ronaldinho, Manchester City have resorted to feng shui to boost their chances this season.

Magic crystals have been buried under the turf to energise the team's players.

Several have already been dug into the centre circle - and dozens more will be hidden beneath the corner flags before the season kicks off on August 17, according to The Daily Mirror.

Absolutely brilliant. How long until one of them worms up to the surface and leaves a giant gash in Vassell's leg?

One thing is certain: Thaksin Shinawatra is definitely angling to be the most eccentric owner in English football history (move over, Sullivan).


The Daily Mail managed to talk to some club sources, who were somewhat underwhelmed by the Eastern influence at Eastlands:

"It's really bizarre behaviour.

The older City fans won't like it one bit. Apparently the Thai owners love the superstitious principles of the Far East and hope the crystals will improve the team's performance and the club's financial success."

Granted, it's a nice idea, but they'd have been better off spending the money on flying me over there to do a lion dance. On second thoughts, probably not.

This sort of activity makes me wonder just what lengths other next-tier-down clubs will try. Perhaps Aston Villa will be besieged by shaman and witch doctors right before a home fixture against Newcastle. Will Spurs bring a reiki master onto the payroll? Will Everton turn to stuffing sacred geometry maps all over Goodison Park? Yoga at Fratton Park?

Regardless of what happens next, this makes for a continually comical offseason for Man City. Their fans get stuck on a ship bound for the Faroe Islands, they endure pitch troubles at the hands of a scheduled Bon Jovi concert, they sign a Brazilian from CSKA Moscow for close to 20 million pounds (I am scared for them as to how that pans out... Brazilians aren't suited to our turgid weather, and they get laughed at by Ronaldinho and his agent.

What on earth could be next?

Of course, Simon Brown, the feng shui consultant (also known as "guy who moves furniture around"), is impressed with Man City's decisions, not that they're paying him a lot of money or anything:

"Crystals come from deep inside mountains and have a strong energy. Putting them under the pitch will bring that energy on to the field. The three-legged toad and lucky trees are aimed at promoting financial success.

It's like a Catholic putting a Crucifix on the wall, for Thai people these symbols are important. But if they really want to affect the players they should change the colour of their jerseys. Teams who wear red like Manchester United seem to win far more often than clubs in blue."

No word yet on how long these crystals will protect new manager Mark Hughes from the danger of having a fickle maniac in charge of your job security.

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US Olympic Roster Announced

The US Mens Olympic Soccer roster was announced Thursday with no real surprises. The three over-23 players allowed by rule are Brian McBride, Michael Parkhurst and Brad Guzan. Benny Feilhaber did make the squad despite his lack of play last season at Derby County.

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FA Cup of British Rock / Round of 16 - Match #7

These are the ground rules: 16 teams, each represented by a musician or band who happens to be a supporter. You, our fair reader, vote on who advances. Use whatever criteria you wish: favorite team, favorite band, prettiest uniforms (looking at you Elton), etc. Ballot stuffing is not encouraged, but will be tolerated, because we’re just as corrupt as the real FA. Voting for the Round of 16 will close on Sunday, July 20.

We are nearing the end of the Round of Sixteen, but remember that you can keep voting on all of the matches until Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

Today’s teams are:


Underrated psych-pop act and diehard Cardiff City FC supporters, the Super Furry Animals

- versus -


Sting, that occasional lute-playing Police frontman turned Newcastle United fan



I have to admit that one of the reasons why I wanted to organize this FA Cup of British Rock was to include photos of Cardiff City players wearing Super Furry Animals-sponsored kits. Just seemed like the right kind of oddball pairing of rock band and footy club. I also looked forward to relaying a couple anecdotes from a good friend in the “music biz” who worked with the Super Furries in the late 90s/early aughts. During their American 2000 tour, funded with oodles of Oasis-generated cash from Creation Records, the Super Furry Animals demanded and received an expensive satellite hookup on their tour bus so they could watch the European Cup. When not watching the actual Euros, they also concocted their own Cuny Cup (it means what you think it does) that was played on their Play Station and featured an extensive schedule of play and a giant trophy made out of tinfoil. So, while the Super Furry Animals’ career might have waned slightly since they sponsored Cardiff City back in 1999-2000 (even though this year’s Hey Venus was generally thought to be a fantastic return to form), they have nonetheless succeeded in inspiring yet another made-up tournament.


What can honestly be said about Sting that hasn’t been said before? Gordon Sumner was a teacher who changed his name to Sting and decided he would form a rock band and so he did form the Police and released “Roxanne” and “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and “Every Breath You Take” and his bandmates generally thought he was a prick and then he had a solo career and at some point started playing the lute and practicing tantric sex and even worse he gave interviews where he talked about tantric sex but more recently he re-formed the Police and the band played all around the world and his bandmates probably still generally thought he was a prick but I’m sure they were very, very appreciative of the tour income. Oh, and Sting also now supports Newcastle FC seeing as how he grew up in Tyneside, although he supposedly was teased for being a Sunderland fan as a kid. And for anyone who teased Sting as a kid? He bought them and had them fed to lions.


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An Update: Cuauhtemoc Blanco

Remember last week when we pleaded for our readers to find the video of the Cuauhtemoc Blanco incident in the US Open Cup against D.C. United? No. I didn't think so, because none of you wankers sent us anything.

Anyway, after MLS improperly made a copyright claim on a Youtube video of the incident, the league has relented and allowed the video back up. This despite my conversation with a PR hack said that there were no plans to release it and that MLS owned the rights to all of its teams and images thereof and then told me to ask US Soccer whether they were going to release the video. Huh? That's what I said.

Here's the video with Blanco in all his cheap-, gut-shot glory. Doesn't he know how Harry Houdini died?

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MLS to West Ham: Please Be Sure to Stow Your Carry-on Luggage in the Overhead Compartment

It’s really difficult not to make fun of MLS when stories like this one pop up in the international press. (Okay, so the Sun isn’t exactly Pulitzer Prize material, but you get the idea.)

The story goes something like this: West Ham United agrees to play a couple friendlies against the MLS All-Stars and the Columbus Crew, with half a million pounds being paid in exchange for the “right” to avoid injury on astroturf fieldturf. Part of the arrangements included the promise of business class travel. Only problem is that the travel agency that MLS booked the charter flights with went under.

MLS then had to scramble to book alternate arrangements, and the West Ham players were left bitching and moaning about the unusual itinerary:

First, stay overnight at a hotel near Heathrow, where two separate planes will whisk the Hammers away - in economy class - all the way to Chicago – with one flight leaving hours after the first - total flight time around nine hours.

Then a layover at O’Hare, which is arguably the worst airport in the world, and another flight to Columbus, where West Ham will play the Crew on Sunday. The team will then make their way up to Toronto where they’ll play the MLS All-Stars, before returning back to jolly ol’ England, assuming that the wings of their econo-plane don’t fall off.

This incident is all fairly embarrassing, but to be honest not all the blame can be placed at the feet of MLS when the recession is sinking airlines left and right. (Don’t forget the San Antonio Spurs travel debacle in the NBA Playoffs.)

That said, stories like this suggest that MLS is a long way off from international respectability. It’s difficult to claim that you are world class when your invited guests have to fly economy class.

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Badger Badger Badger

[Thanks to Bigus for the swift photoshop]


A quick wildlife preservation story for the morning rush, as Pompey revealed yesterday that they finally have permission to build their new training grounds. It's a major coup for them, along with the recent signing of Crouchaldinho, and money to burn on a couple of other players before the season starts.

However, the relief is tempered slightly by the main provision of their training ground deal: they must look after the local badgers.

While details are especially vague at the moment as to what this means, at least Pompey will now have a mascot more cuddly than the skin-and-bones of lanky Nwankwo Kanu. The grounds will cost them 15 million, and I'm still hunting down how much it'll cost to house and care for the displaced wildlife that will need new homes.

Does Redknapp have any space under his hairpiece?

After the jump, a vicious reminder of what badgers are capable of. I suppose it's a good motivation device for Portsmouth's swollen striking corps... keep missing sitters, and I'll set the badger on you!

[Also, I just wanted an excuse to link to this]




And last, but not least,



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The Great Crystal Palace Cradle Crime


It's a funny old game, well that's the saying at least. Simon Jordan was not laughing yesterday though.

The animated Crystal Palace chairman is still fuming at the tribunal decision to allow John Bostock of his academy to join Spurs for a measly 700,000 pounds. So much so that he is selling up.



Back to Bostock for a moment. That's not bad, right? 700k for a 16-year-old kid?

Well, let's look at this way. You are not a Premiership side and you cannot afford Premiership fees and wages. What do you do? Well, you can either say "sod it" and claim your place in the Blue Square division, getting your thrills sitting on a mini bus to Forest Green, or you can invest in a top-notch academy and find your own future players. Well Mr Jordan did just that, ploughing his own cash into the club. He began rubbing his hands together, dreaming of a home-grown super team.

Cue the evil laughter... easy, right?

Not quite. You see, that heavy laugh was heard all across London and scouts for Tottenham Hotspur came sniffing around. They had good look around and then left, taking one 16-year-old wonder-kid with them.

How good is Bostock? Good enough for Barca! Have a look at this article I found from last year!


John Bostock just couldn't resist the overtures of playing Spurs reserve games at Stevenage Borough's mighty Broadhall Way, oh wait, no, it was probably the money, that and the delusion that he would burst into the Tottenham starting XI anytime before his 21st birthday. Regardless, Master Bostock is a Spurs man... boy.

John Bostock..Look out for him in 2013


The Football League's tribunal decided that 700,000 pounds was a fair price for young master Bostock. Bargain, eh?

But wait a minute? How much did Aaron Ramsey head to Arsenal for? 5 million pounds.

Theo Walcott? 12 million pounds.

Suddenly it looks as if Mr Jordan has been shafted, doesn't it?

The tribunal argued that its previous highest award was 400,000 to Charlton for Jermaine Defoe. What really sticks out here is that Palace rejected 900,000 pounds from Chelsea when Bostock was just 14. Palace then gave him his debut at age 15.

Simon Jordan

Palace Chairman Simon Jordan


I have never been a fan of Simon Jordan. He struts around Laaaandan Taaaaaahhn fondling his long blonde hair while admiring his fake tan. He speaks when he should be quiet and ALWAYS has something to say.

But I feel for him with this one. It's an absolute disgrace. What kind of message is this sending to other clubs? Don't bother funding academies, because the big teams will come and take the kids anyway. Where does that leave us? With not many young English players, that's where.

In the end, all of this has been too much for Mr Jordan and he has decided to pack up his aviators and march his Gucci loafers elsewhere, and Palace are now for sale. Jordan has had enough. Quite frankly, who can blame him?

Mr Jordan had this to say:

"It's my specific intention to find a buyer this season... I kept my sanity by pumping millions into my academy, feeling the saving grace of my club was finding players who I thought would be chomping at the bit and ready to play in the first team. But that's been taken away from me as well. Bostock was one of the best players my academy has produced in the last 10 years and he has been sold for a packet of crisps."
What else is left to say after that? Well done, the Football League! On Tuesday you all but buried Luton Town and with Bostock you have truly proved what's important to you... and it certainly isn't grass roots football.

I cannot wait to see what they have up their sleeves for tomorrow!

-Bigus.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wednesday Backpasses: Are we there yet?


Europe's longest road trips. For extra fun, click the link for the world's longest road trips [The Best Eleven]
DaMarcus Beasley hurt. Not a repeat [Soccer365]
"Interview" with Sepp Blatter [This is Extra Time]
Iranian doping scandal. Yes, you read that right [Last Kick]
Hull really seem to want to try to stay up [Soccerway]

Read more on "Wednesday Backpasses: Are we there yet?"...

Man City fans take to the seas without a paddle


I love stories like this because they remind me just why we're all fans of this wonderful game. Despite their lunacy, you can't fault a loyal crowd of Man City fans from doing literally whatever it takes to see their team play.

As their UEFA Cup qualifier against EB/Streymur from the Faroe Islands loomed, a group of fans noticed how expensive plane tickets were to the tiny Northern European country, and so they made alternative arrangements: they hired a fishing vessel to take them.

For Mancunians, this is some seriously forward thinking.


The plan was simple: drive from Manchester to Aberdeen, then take a ferry from the northeastern tip of Scotland to the Shetland Islands, and then board the vessel that would carry them on a 26-hour odyssey across to the Faroe port of Torshavn. Presumably they could then walk to Streymur from there considering how small the islands are.

It's a brilliant plan, and an inspiring one at that. It's just a shame that Mother Nature shat on their parade already.

Within 24 hours of the original story via the Telegraph, the BBC reported this afternoon that the vessel was grounded in the Shetlands due to sustained poor weather. Dear oh dear.

If you needed more proof that Man City were not God's team of choice, that would be it.

However, as with all feel-good stories of love and devotion, the force of human kindness intervened, not without the natural PR upside, and gave these sullen Mancs a happy ending: a Faroes-based airline, Atlantic Airlines, has agreed to come and pick them up and fly 'em round trip for free.

Said company president Magni Arge:

"We've agreed to help these Manchester City supporters because this is a great event in the Faroes having Manchester City here.

This is a great opportunity for us to show there is an airline based in the Faroes which can serve both Shetland and the Faroes Islands and we've got some sponsors to help us make this feasible."

Problem solved! Now all they need to worry about is the Blues coming away with a solid victory.

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FA Cup of British Rock/Round of 16 - Match #6

These are the ground rules: 16 teams, each represented by a musician or band who happens to be a supporter. You, our fair reader, vote on who advances. Use whatever criteria you wish: favorite team, favorite band, prettiest uniforms (looking at you Elton), etc. Ballot stuffing is not encouraged, but will be tolerated, because we’re just as corrupt as the real FA. Voting for the Round of 16 will close on Sunday, July 20.


Ahh... today is a fun battle thanks to the natural rivalry involved between Bigus and I.

Liverpool and Norwich.

Two cities with a lot of history and a lot of past success. Of course, one's a lot better for music than the other, but we're looking at musical fans of the modern day, and it's an intriguing matchup:


In the LFC corner: the nerdy New Wave hero, Declan Patrick MacManus (aka Elvis Costello)


versus

And for Norrich City: the cocksure, high-pitched, high-strung British scream-rock of The Darkness?


Who will prevail? Let's analyze the combatants after the jump.



Elvis Costello is a great musician. Hate on him all you want; maybe you don't like his unique inflection, his obtuse lyrics, his quirky pop/punk compositions and general eccentricity. Perhaps it's his odd instrumentation, or his eclectic taste in collaborations (Honestly, I don't know what there is to dislike about any of this, but music is perhaps the most fiercely subjective and fickle of all the arts).

Seriously though, he's a treat for the ears and tbe brain. Capable of being cerebral and catchy all in the same concise three minute chunk of time, Costello is a legend. For me, it starts and ends with "Oliver's Army", the first EC track I ever heard and the one that's still fondest in my heart. And no, you eager sons of bitches, it's not my favourite because of THAT line where he says the n-word. Nope. It's just a well-constructed song. The doo-wop feel, the organ backing, the chorus and the playful, twee sound... can't beat it in the heat, for my money.

"Pump It Up" was fantastic, and that duo is just the tip of the iceberg. What about "(I Don't Want to Go To) Chelsea," complete with its darker, funkier ska-infused melody?

Come on people, this man is an institution, and he hates Chelsea!

I also love Costello for his fervent use of the Fender Jazzmaster, the red-headed stepchild of the Fender family. It was the first guitar I ever owned, a sweet Japanese reproduction of the '58 classic set in pearl white with a cherry red pickboard and retro machine head.

It's also a great fucking guitar, but only the weirdos use 'em. It was that connection for me that cemented Costello's legend in my mind.


---


The Darkness. Where do we begin? The quintet of cider-drinking pub rockers from Lowestoft hit the scene in 2003 with their single "Get Your Hands Off My Woman", a track that sent grown men rushing to the karaoke nights in a desperate attempt to hit frontman Justin Hawkins' high notes.

The album, Permission to Land, went to #2 in the UK charts, eventually selling 1.5 million copies in my homeland. They won a slew of rock magazine awards for their throwback metal sound, and then came the video and the next big hit single, "I Believe in a Thing Called Love".

Seriously, this song is beyond insane. Go watch the video, listen to the song, and then return.

A lazy, breezy rock n' roll hook gives way to a song sung almost entirely in howling falsetto, and a chorus that will drill into your brain, never to escape.

It's a tough one today, people, I cannot lie. In the end, it'll come down to the simple matter of taste. Do you prefer intelligent New Wave with mild casual racism, or are you more of a beer-and-brute pub rock type?

Are you someone who values longevity and constant creative evolution in your music, or do you have a fondness for short-lived, sensational novelty acts?


Your choice, interwebs. Do what you must. Liverpool, or Norwich. (I am scared at what the outcome will be, but confidence still reigns)



Read more on "FA Cup of British Rock/Round of 16 - Match #6"...

The Good, The Bad, The WTF


You know, I kind of like it when a team picks a theme and runs with it. Usually. When a team picks the wrong theme, it can be horrible for all involved. While not on par with, say, a pub bombing, these two shirts were undoubtedly the worst disaster for Northern Ireland's football squad since Pat Jennings stopped being world class.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you the home and away shirts for Northern Ireland from 1990 to 1993.






Pinwheels! A shirt fully inspired by the most boring toy ever. "Here son, here's a toy that I want you to blow into until you feel faint. Once you do that, it will continue to spin for about 1.2 seconds until friction stops the movement entirely. Play with it for ten minutes. Then you should tire enough to take that nap that Mommy and Daddy so desperately want you to take." Or something like that.

On the plus side for the Protestant counties of Ireland, these shirts may have been able to induce a hypnotic effect on the opposite squad. Picture this- it's the 85th minute and your team has given up a corner. You get set to mark your opposite number, setting up just behind him. You let your eyes drift downward and take in the jersey. You start to hallucinate that something is moving within the pinwheels and lose concentration. Next thing you know, the kick is taken, your man is gone and gets a free header on frame. Goal, Northern Ireland, and you need smelling salts to get back in the correct frame of mind.

Of course, given how inept the squad was at the time, I don't think this happened. The Northern Irish players probably hypnotized themselves, if anything. Which wouldn't be so bad, if it kept you from remembering how badly you just lost.

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UEFA's Convictions Are As Steadfast As Cristiano Ronaldo's

Once again UEFA has proven that it is unable to truly regulate clubs and hold them accountable for their chosen course of action. UEFA has denied Portuguese club Benfica's appeal of UEFA's reversal of FC Porto's Champions League ban. Rather than focus on a ban in the future that harms a club that is currently fundamentally different than the offending club, in that the manager and players are different, UEFA should focus on a penalty that strikes where it really hurts--Porto's history and pocketbook.

In June this year, UEFA determined that Porto had forfeited its Champions League berth next season due to its involvement in a referee bribing scandal in the 2003-04 season--the year Porto won the Champions League under Jose Mourinho. Porto had successfully appealed the ban with UEFA determining an additional hearing was needed, despite Porto's conviction in the Portuguese courts of bribing referees.

All of this leads to the conclusion that UEFA's disciplinary are is feckless and powerless. One of the most storied Portuguese soccer clubs was convicted in a court of the country of bribing referees but UEFA can't enforce a simple punishment. Presumably the standards of conviction are a bit higher in the court than UEFA, but the organization needs a further hearing to determine if the club was involved in this scandal. It should be a simple case..."Your honor I present the conviction of FC Porto in court and the prosecution rests." Tweet. Tweet. Tweet. Ban upheld.

Of course, that's not how it works in nepotic UEFA, where politics and money outweigh any sense of justice. Remember way back to 2006 when AC Milan was allowed back into the CL after being found complicit in the Italian match fixing scandal? Yeah. Back then UEFA said it regretted that it's rules did not permit it to uphold AC Milan's ban but would change its rules so this could not happen in the future. Well, I remember it, but I'm not sure UEFA does because its rules still reveal a true disciplinary dunce.

Why not just strip the club of one of its most prestigious titles? Forfeit the 2003-04 title it won during the season for which it was convicted of bribing referees. Disgorge any profits Porto earned from its Champions League victories in 2003-04. That would be a fitting punishment for the bad acts of that season, with the added benefit of upsetting Jose Mourinho.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tuesday Backpasses: Whither Gooch?


Oguchi Onyewu has gone AWOL [The Offside Rules]
Reyna's rehab goes off the rails, he is set to retire [Soccernet]
Spurs do some homoerotic training. The extra fun is in the comments [The Spoiler]
Betting parlors upset as Euros cut into profits [Online Casino Reports]
Eto'o wants more reporters in the locker room. He'll regret that [SI]

Read more on "Tuesday Backpasses: Whither Gooch?"...

Beware of the black mirrors


Here's a nice job, if you can get it. Be the guy assigned to spy on the Danish women's football team. By running a camera through a two-way mirror in their hotel room. The pay may or may not be great, but you will never be prosecuted, even when caught and detained by Danish officials until the police arrive. FIFA and the IOC will have your back, too.

Before you lot go and get visions of Revenge of the Nerds, and start screaming "Bush! Bush!" at the monitor, it's not like that. No, this wasn't filming hot lady on lady action in the showers, this was filming a tactical meeting between the coaches.

When said meeting was going on, one of the Danish officials noticed movement behind a black glass mirror. They called the hotel and demanded the adjoining door be unlocked and found two Chinese men with cameras taking notes. The Danes did the sensible thing and held the men until the police arrived.

The police, however, were no help. Instead of frog marching these two down to the station house, they seem to have let them go on their own recognizance. When the Danish federation complained to FIFA, FIFA said, "Hey, there's no problem of ours here". Sepp Blatter, who is used to talking out of his ass, opined on the incident as well. He says there was a clear security failure, but as a member of the IOC himself, he has no reason to believe anything like this will happen next month as well.

Well, sure, maybe not. But if Dara Torres is placed in a room with black mirrors, she had better question if that's where she wants to inject her horse steroids or not.*

*Not really my belief. Innocent until proven guilty, anyway.

[Update: There is a very thorough account of the whole incident in this Sports Illustrated piece. Definitely worth a read.]

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SuperLiga: Better Than Better Than Nothing

Large crowds, bitter rivals, and missed PKs.

Sure, it sounds like Brave John Terry's recurring nightmare, but if Ronaldo fatigue hasn't completely consumed you and you're still combing the British papers waiting for the all of the dominos to fall in the Bentley and Barry sagas, you're kind of missing out of some decent soccer.

The NorthAmerican SuperLiga kicked off its second go round over the weekend with four quality matches—okay, three quality, and one featuring DC United—two of which were lost by MLS teams on missed PKs.

Put together to capitalize on the growing rivalry between the USMNT and El Tri, the hope was that the same vitriol from that match up would spill over into club competitions. And it seems to be working.

Still, it has no history, it doesn't involve too many household names (unless your house is in Guadalajara), and you have to put in a little effort just to find it on your TV dial, so why should you watch?

There are a few reasons...

1) It's not much of a time commitment: Eight teams. Two groups. This thing is almost halfway over after tomorrow night. The last group games are this weekend, then it's just the semis and finals on consecutive weekends after that. Hell you can schedule in some living around that kind of soccer schedule.

2) The upper hand is on our foot: The prevailing wisdom is that the Mexican teams are at a disadvantage because they are in their pre-season, and less match fit, while MLS is in full swingers mode. It's a soft swap to the CONCACAF Champions League when the opposite is in full effect.

3) The EPL schedule: As in "there isn't one." And the ink of the Euro history books is pretty much dry as well. So if you are starved for watchable soccer that is broadcast at hours when people with jobs and such can watch, here are your options A, B, and C. Oh, but hot tip, it's only being broadcast on Telefutura, so you get to practicar su Español (bonus: no ESPN announcers to muck it up).

4) It's pretty good: No, really. I'm being serious. The teams that are in the SuperLiga earned there way in. It's the top four teams from MLS last season (by points I believe) and the last four Apertura and Clausura winners out of the Mexican Primera División. So you don't get invited to play just because you've got some fellow named Beckham on your roster (cough, 2007 SuperLiga, cough). And yeah, you can bag on MLS. It is a second rate league. But even with its restrictive salary cap, its upper teams have just about caught up to the Primera División. And the Mexicans and the Americans, they don't like each other too good. So what the games lack in size, skill and/or speed, it more than makes up for in intensity.

Tonight might be the best match-up of the second group stage with Chivas at Houston. The Dynamo absolutely dismantled Atlante 4-0 on Saturday. And Chivas kind of turned conventional wisdom (see item number 2 above) on its cabeza by coming out blazing against DC United that same night. Towards the end of their 2-1 win Guadalajara started to look a little shaky in the knees. So with a 3 day turnaround, it'll be interesting to see how well they rebound physically.

But the Houston team they're facing will be without Dwayne DeRosario, their best player. DDR got a Red in the 44th. It was kind of bullshitty, but he'll be spectating along with top striker Brian Ching who is nursing an abdominal injury. Additionally, the Dynamo are short a couple of defenders, so an already thin squad is that much more Olsen'ed.

But the Dynamo have never lost an international match at Robertson Stadium. So it's the New York Yankees of the Mexican teams (read: small and not overly athletic) unfit they may be, against the two-time defending MLS champs that even when not hobbled seems to draw every other match.

The opening act will be interesting if only because Atlante are going to be desperate for the win, and DC United didn't look so good either (even then, Chivas gave them a chance to get off the mat, but United missed a PK).

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Nice Knowing You!


Remember Luton Town? Remember them winning the League Cup against Arsenal in 1988 and making the final again in '89?

Remember how gutsy they were in the top flight?

Remember having a giggle as you climbed the stairs to the away section between terraced houses? Waving to people inside as they had their tea?

Remember Ray Harford, Joe Kinnear, Paul Walsh?

Remember the club that nurtured young talent before being forced to sell to the big boys? John Hartson, Matthew Taylor, Steve Howard, Carlos Edwards and Curtis Davies?

Well, remembering Luton Town could become the a nostalgic topic of conversation for football fans, as Luton could soon be reduced to the odd quiz question..."I know, I know... uhmmm that team that disappeared... mascot was a hatter... LUTON!!!"



It is entirely possible. You see, today Luton Town FC failed in an appeal to overturn a 10 point deduction awarded by the Football Association for paying agents via a third party. To this point, Luton had already been deducted 20 points for "financial irregularities".

What does this mean for the Bedfordshire club? They will start League 2 on Aug 9th 30 points behind the rest. Overturning that and accumulating the 47 points necessary for survival will take a season of play-off form... some 77 points or so! A tough challenge for a side that was forced to put it's entire team up for sale as administrators took the reigns of a side that has been mismanaged for years.

I for one doubt that Luton Town will come close, which means that they'll drop from the Football League into the Abyss of non-league football. They will no longer be able to pay professional wages and will have to scrap around for talent that spend their days working like the rest of us*.


It's a dump, but some folks love Kenilworth Rd. You enter the away stand between the houses to the right, and you can actually see into peoples' humble abodes as they go about their business.

But why should we care, Bigus? They broke the rules didn't they? Shouldn't they be punished?

All of the mismanagement, dodgy dealings and back-handed business was conducted by the previous owners of the club! After nearly closing the gates after 113 years, LTFC was saved by a consortium headed by bland local news presenter Nick Owen. What does he get for his trouble? He gets to bend over while the Football Association shoves a rule book up his backside.

What they should have done is recognize what this consortium has done to keep a struggling local side afloat, and to save a side that is the heart of a small town. No-one makes money from running a football club, and a club like Luton is a bottomless pit. The Football League should be doing all they can to help the supporters after years of mismanagement and false dawns. Isn't that what football is all about? It could be your club next!

As you can imagine Mr Owen is quite upset about the whole thing. Speaking after the initial proceedings...

"We can't believe the tribunal can be so vindictive. What on earth are they thinking of, trying to destroy us like this?"
And ahead of today's appeal?
"We feel we have a very strong case because these misdemeanors were carried out by people who are absolutely nothing to do with the club now."

On yer bike Owen....The F.A will do sweet F.A.

Think again Nick. The Football League are sticking to their guns. After today's failed appeal, an official statement read:

"The FA Regulatory Commission's responsibility was to decide the appropriate punishment for Luton's admitted breaches of the FA's own rules and regulations.

The deduction of 10 points was a heavy sanction, as it was intended to be, but was not excessive as a reflection of the seriousness of the breaches and the need to deter such conduct within football clubs."

Heavy indeed! The punishment will surely see Luton disappear from professional football next season. It's good to see that in a summer of high-priced transfers and approved planning permission for new multi-million pound stadiums, in a year when the sequacious whims of a certain Portuguese footballer will make all the headlines and Ronaldinho will earn $400,000 a week for making Sol Campbell look old, that football can turn it's back on the very foundation of the game.

The F.A should go after the previous owners and impose fines. That would set a precedent to all of the dodgy folks who like to play fantasy football with the hearts of real football fans. Instead, they punish the punters. Also without teams like Luton, young players will have nowhere to flourish and learn. If Luton are to be relegated, it should be based on the merit of their football. At least the supporters can understand that concept.

R.I.P Luton Town. It was nice knowing you.


-Bigus


PS *Did you know that Barry Hayles was a carpenter when he played for non-league Stevenage Borough? Well he was!

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FA Cup of British Rock - Round of 16 / Match #5

These are the ground rules: 16 teams, each represented by a musician or band who happens to be a supporter. You, our fair reader, vote on who advances. Use whatever criteria you wish: favorite team, favorite band, prettiest uniforms (looking at you Elton), etc. Ballot stuffing is not encouraged, but will be tolerated, because we’re just as corrupt as the real FA. Voting for the Round of 16 will close on Sunday, July 20.

Round 5 combatants are really old. But seeing how they have no actual job skills, they have to hit the road every few years so they can rake in a couple more boatloads of money. Rough lives. But at least they aren't modern day slaves like the footballers they support.




Yes. Sure, they only barrack for Accrington Stanley but it's tough to beat a band in sepia.



Aston Villa fans looking none more Black Sabbath. And man, that's a lot of hair, but what's Ozzy's problem? Dude too cool to rock the 'stache?


Doesn't Steve Howe and Billy Sherwood sound a bit like a striker tandem? "Howe feeds Sherwood with a beautiful low cross, and he slips it passed Keith Emerson, who had no chance of stopping it." Rick Wakeman, that's more a manager's name. This might all be slightly irrelevant as Yes singer Jon Anderson is the only admitted follower of Accrington Stanley. And how much do we actually know about the recently promoted League Two side? Answer: not much. As for Yes, or just Seventies prog rock in general, that we can discuss ad nauseum. We're not proud and we'd rather not do that lest we induce said nauseum in our devoted readership. We're also not sure we'd want to sit through an entire League Two match, much like we're not sure we'd want to sit through all of Tales From Topographic Oceans... again. Although both are probably about the same length, I'd bet you've get more goals in the former than there are tracks on the latter. Americans talk about soccer being boring, but they made six Yes albums platinum? (Full disclosure: I own both The Yes Album and Fragile... as well as 90125, but is it really Yes if it doesn't have Steve Howe?). Anyway, I'm sure Anderson would aver that if the Accies get relegated, there's is no disgrace.


And from the other end of the classic rock spectrum we have Black Sabbath. And you know what's great about this match-up? These two teams could actually face off. Not Aston Villa and Accrington Stanley (well, they could in the real FA Cup obviously) but Yes and Sabbath. Each has easily had eleven members pass through their ranks. With Ozzy, Dio, Ian Gillian, Tony Martin, Ray Gillen, and Dave Donato, Sabbath gets over halfway there on singers alone. Although, probably don't want to let Ozzy on the pitch given his declining motor skills. And this could be an interesting match, as the art rock pansies might get beat up early, but you don't fancy anyone in Sabbath to be match fit enough to go 90, or even 45. So a late surge is possible. Now, is Black Sabbath like Villa in any way? Hmmm... Tony Iommi is on the verge of hitting his 40th year of consecutive and serious riffage service in the band. Have the Villans had a player roaming the midfield for 40 years? Let's go with "No." Maybe we'll just start a rumor that Randy Lerner is particularly Paranoid and leave it at that.

So, who do you like? The early progenitors of prog? Or Sabbath fucking Sabbath?





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Transfer Market Irritations

Thanks to the idiot press back home, the papers are flooded with every possible transfer rumour under the sun. Every day, we get more news about so-and-so to Big Club FC, or the aging hero meekly accepting a small-ball bid to move to a small-town franchise. Even Jesus Christ himself is on the move, leaving heaven to ply his trade at FC Porto on a 2-year deal.

Bad jokes aside, there are a few players whose names are appearing far too much, and it has to stop. At this point, all quality and calibre aside, I couldn't care less where they play next year as their sagas have become so protracted that you just wish the season began tomorrow and that we could enjoy 3 months with silence on the transfer front.

So who are these oiks that are overpopulating the world's sports pages with will-they, won't-they?



5. Anything involving Spurs

Yep, I'm sick of all the rumours involving Spurs. I could single out just one -- the Berbatov-to-Man U break, the Robbie Keane-to-Liverpool story, or how they've chased several players of interest, only to have them all publicly say they're not interested.

Rafael van der Vaart said he'd rather stay in Hamburg (which speaks volumes, really), Capel wasn't interested either, they were never in with a sniff of Podolski, but they're labouring on. Granted, they have made big signings of Modric and Geovanni, but honestly, they're being linked with just about anyone and everyone at the moment, and it's torturous to digest.

Bentley is the latest apple of their eye, and meanwhile, we sit and sigh, waiting for August.


4. Emmanuel Adebayor

Another one I'm sick of. The constant flirtation between his manager and AC Milan is becoming so indecent, it could almost be considered pornographic and unsuitable for consumption.

There's also Adebayor's wonderful gift for PR, whereby he said publicly that he wants to remain at Arsenal during a press conference, only to go backstage and tell a Sky Sports employee that he's looking at all options including a dream trip to Milan.

June 27th:

"Of course [I'm staying put], I have three more years contract so, no matter what, I have to stay. I’m staying at Arsenal."
Then, later on June 27th:
"I have a lot of big clubs trying to buy me and it is up to me and my agent, Stephane Courbis, to sit down next week and find a good solution. I am in a position that I don't know where I will be playing but that is normal. If you told me seven years ago when I was playing in Togo without football boots that I would have a choice of playing in Spain or Italy it would seem crazy."
You can't teach media management like that.

The broth is soured further by the constant fluctuation of his value, with his price ranging from 15 to 25 million and all points in-between, not to mention his club that's looking to offload more dead weight than the two numbskulls in Weekend at Bernie's.

The Togolese striker will make a club very happy indeed; it just remains to be seen exactly which one.


3. Ronaldinho

The bucktoothed Brazilian should really be higher on the list, but the homeland contempt brewing in the top 2 spots has consigned him to third, which is coincidentally a position in the league that his hungriest suitors, Manchester City, could never dream of achieving.

We've seen pictures of fat Ronnie all over the web, and yet Trashcan Sinatra is still wetting himself over the prospect of hooking the long-haired midfielder to come play at Eastlands. The price seems high, and pundits are advising teams to look elsewhere, but he's still a marketable name, and that means everything nowadays.

In addition to Man City, there's always AC Milan, who crop up so frequently in transfer rumours that I might dub them the Italian Tottenham due to their predilection for hijacking or voicing interest in any player that is for sale.

Please, make it end. Ronnie's agent needs to be Old Yeller'd, lest we go insane with all the noise.


2. Gareth Barry.

Of course he's on the list! Was there any doubt? The saga (that I detailed last week as best I could) is bordering on Monty Python-esque farce as neither Liverpool nor Villa show any signs of being able to compromise. Today's fresh coat of paint came in the form of Arsenal, who apparently expressed interest to O'Neill, who promptly then told The Sun in the hopes of scaring open the Anfield pursestrings.

Savvy on his part, yes, but entirely boring for the rest of us. Barry's fate is essentially sealed away from Villa Park due to his comments in the media about wanting better football (and I'm still not convinced that my Reds could even give him that), but the question remains as to where he'll end up.

There is an inevitability about a move to Anfield eventually being ironed out, but it would be magic if this could happen soon. It might spare us all the added grief of the merry-go-round.


1. Cristiano Ronaldo.

At last, something he'll finish first in on his own merits! Despite roundly failing at Euro '08, he enjoyed the spotlight that Spain should have had by stringing the media on for two straight weeks with veiled comments and entendres that whipped the writers into a fucking agonizing frenzy. Talk of Real Madrid being a dream move immediately woke Calderon from his coke-and-sunshine binge, and the world hasn't been the same since.

The petulant one is facing a three-month layoff after some ankle surgery, but it hasn't dampened the speculation much.

For the love of all that is holy, I wish it had.


---
Am I missing any? Other candidates for most annoying transfer talk?

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An Interview: Playing Soccer Against Thierry Henry



As you may know, there was a little event a couple weeks ago, The Showdown in Chinatown, that may be fairly described as the ultimate pickup soccer game. Future NBA Hall of Famers Steve Nash and Jason Kidd slipped on boots along with Thierry Henry, Robbie Fowler, and Salomon Kalou. Thousands watched, scaling the fences, aching to catch a glimpse of some legends.

It was a show for the ages. And some people were lucky enough to lace up in the actual game. Through a winding path of connections, I was able to correspond with one of those lucky bastards, who was on the business end of several Thierry Henry shots. His words are after the jump.

Mike Quarino, an employee of Red Bull New York sat between the sticks in for Team Reyna at The Showdown in Chinatown.

Before I wade into the interview, I'd like to thank UF contributor Spectator for all of the pictures in this post. They were all his work and he did a great job. So, for all you photo borrowers out there, please be sure to credit him and UF has copyrighted all photographs on this blog of The Showdown in Chinatown.

First off, I have to apologize on behalf of Unprofessional Foul for misidentifying you in our initial post about the Showdown in Chinatown. We regret the error. [Ed. Note: We also put Mike on the incorrect team. It's all Lingering Bursitis' fault.]

No worries about that, the fact that I was even mentioned was enough for me. I just didn't want to take credit for the win. That honor goes Davide Di Malta (who was in goal for Team Nash).

You were able to participate in what was probably one of the most unique pickup soccer games of all time playing with all-time great soccer players and some all-time great basketball players. I know I am jealous and so are a lot of others. Can you tell how you came to be involved in the event and what your soccer background is?

A couple of years ago (2006) some members of the Red Bulls front office started playing some pickup games against Steve Nash, Simone Sandri, and some of their friends in Chinatown, so I have known those guys for a couple of years. I have gotten to know Claudio over the last couple of years since he has been here and he knew I played against those guys so when they were looking for a goalkeeper (for target practice) he asked if I wanted to be involved. Originally Ronald Waterreus (RBNY goalkeeper last year) was supposed to start, and I was just going to jump in late in the match, but something happened where Ronald couldn't make it and I got the start. I literally found that out when we were on our way to the field.

I was a late bloomer with soccer, I didn't start playing until High School when I fell in love with the sport. I was the worst field player ever, so I made the transition to goalkeeper pretty quickly. I took to the position and I played through college. I still play in a few competitive leagues and had a few call ups to the Red Bulls reserve team.


Prior to the match did you meet with your teammates to discuss "strategy" or anything else? Or was it more like running out on the field spotting the people in the same color shirt and game on? If there was any pre-game discussion what was covered? What formation did your team use?

There was a little discussion when we got to the field. We had a coach who went over a quick formation and set up the team photo. I think we played a 3-2-2, but it changed throughout the match. It was a pretty free flowing system.


Describe what was going through your mind when the game kicked off? Was it surreal or were you solely focusing on the game?

It's funny, when I heard Henry was going to be playing all I could think about was the Joga Bonito commercial from a few years back, and not getting embarrassed. The atmosphere there was amazing, so I got caught up in that a little bit. I just wanted to get a touch on the ball as soon as possible, lucky for me that touch came early, and there were plenty more to follow. I made a pretty good save on Nash early in the game and there was a big "whoaaaaa" from the crowd. At that point I was pleased with my performance and thought to myself, it is only going to get worse. I wanted to pull a Costanza.... "ALRIGHT, THAT'S IT FOR ME, GOOD NIGHT!"


What was the most memorable part of the match for you? Was it this?


Haha....well played. That was one of them for sure, but I prefer to remember the few saves I made on Henry instead. Funny how I can't find those photos anywhere on the internet. Getting shuttled around in the Escalades wasn't that bad either.


Sorry.

Don't be...I was expecting it at some point.


Since, I brought it up, what were you thinking at the time this photo was taken? It doesn't look like you got very far off your line? Is this something you will be telling your grandkids about?

Well before the game Baron Davis was telling me he wanted to play in goal, so when they called for the PK I asked Baron Davis if he was ready to jump in the net. He declined. Then I just thought that it's me vs Thierry Henry, and there is only 7 yards between us! I was thinking if I save this I would be a legend (at least in my own head). And then he hit it......and all I can say is it sounded fast. If I could have been any further back behind my line I would have. The grandkids are definitely going to hear about this, along with anyone else who will listen!


How about this one? Sorry, we only have pictures you getting scored on.



I see a pattern developing here. Honestly, I did make a few saves during the game. This was the last goal of the game, I was pretty exhausted and my legs didn't have much left in them. McManaman played a good long ball up to Steve who did a great job of taking it off his chest and hitting it with his left. It was a really good finish, but I knew it was coming since it was part of the script and I was told to let Steve score at the final whistle, you know since it was his event. He was supposed to score on a bicycle kick, but I guess we'll just have to settle for the full volley. OK, so that's not true at all, but it makes me feel better about myself.

[Ed. Note: We located a few pics of Mike not getting scored upon. See the pic up top and directly below.]

















Since when did keepers wear Capri pants?


Haha, since Replay started sponsoring pickup soccer matches in Chinatown. I'm not gonna lie, I like them a lot and plan to get a couple more pairs.

Were you impressed by the basketball players' soccer skills? If so, which ones and why?

Absolutely, all of the guys are obviously great athletes, but that doesn't always translate to good soccer skills. Having played against Steve I knew what he could do and he impresses me every time we play. Out of the guys I saw for the first time I would have to say Jason Kidd really impressed me. He has the same style and vision on a soccer field that he does on a basketball court.

Of the soccer players, who were you most impressed with?

Henry put on a show, and I'm just glad I was as close as I was to watch it (refer to that picture above!). Kalou has amazing pace and his feet are incredibly quick. Fowler is just class.

Who was trash talking on the field? Anything good?

There wasn't that much going on. I heard some of the basketball guys having fun with each other. Baron Davis was involved in most of it. He stole the show.

One of the most amazing aspects of the game, I think, is the crowd that was watching. There were a ton of people there. How would you describe the atmosphere? Was it like an "And1" event?

The crowd was great, it was more than everyone expected. I'm just glad no one got hurt. I mean people were on fences, on street poles and in trees. The best part about it was that they were knowledgeable about soccer and applauded all the finer points of the game and not just the goals.
Finally, some quick hitters.

Besides Red Bull New York, your favorite club?

Barcelona and Juventus. But I find myself cheering for the European teams that have U.S. players on them. Everton, Fulham, Reading, 1860 Munich, Hanover, Heerenveen, and now Villareal.

Favorite all-time player?

Roberto Baggio and Diego Maradona

Favorite current player?

Lionel Messi

4-4-2 or 4-5-1?

4-4-2, but my preferred system is 3-5-2.


Thanks for your time.

I'd like to take this opportunity to extend a hearty thank you to Mike Quarino for taking time out of his day to answer my questions and for being such a good sport. I'm sure I can speak for all of the UFers in saying we are incredibly jealous of his experience.

Also, we located a few pics of Marc Stein that I thought we could throw up here for the benefit of Marc.





All photos property of Unprofessional Foul.

Read more on "An Interview: Playing Soccer Against Thierry Henry"...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Monday Backpasses: Mastroeni is old


Cristiano Ronaldo ready for new, exciting, dating challenges [Kickette]
Pablo Mastroeni looking to accumulate red cards in Europe soon [Colorado Springs Gazette]
Revs player retires to become priest [USA Today]

Other inanity after the jump

Retired Israeli star leaving the country after incurring underworld's wrath [Haaretz]
USSF club competition hurting High School soccer in California [LA Times]

Rumor round up, Daily Mail style
Bentley to Spurs; Carson to Stoke; Pennant to Blackburn?
Roque Santa Cruz to Spurs?
Berba to Man U?

Read more on "Monday Backpasses: Mastroeni is old"...

FA Cup of British Rock - Round of 16 / Match #4

These are the ground rules: 16 teams, each represented by a musician or band who happens to be a supporter. You, our fair reader, vote on who advances. Use whatever criteria you wish: favorite team, favorite band, prettiest uniforms (looking at you Elton), etc. Ballot stuffing is not encouraged, but will be tolerated, because we’re just as corrupt as the real FA. Voting for the Round of 16 will close on Sunday, July 20.

Today's matchup is the derby game of this tournament. A titanic clash of Britpop giants who had an entertaining feud and managed to single handledly save rock and roll. Etc...etc...etc....


In the blue corner we have the boys from Manchester, Oasis, noted Citeh supporters.




In the other Blue corner we have Damon Albarn, Blur frontman and later involved in the Gorillaz, as well as a supposed Chelsea fan. 



Oasis, founded by the Gallagher brothers, Liam and Noel, were the most commercially successful of the Britpop bands of the mid 90s. Cool Britannia, Tony Blair, New Labour, and all the rest... While they weren't the most innovative musicians, they did have a knack for songwriting and a catchy tune. When Definitely Maybe was released in 1994, it marked the start of a new era of guitar-influenced rock music, and their follow up, So Whats the Story Morning Glory, became a huge seller both in the UK and the US. Around this time Oasis provided forests worth of copy for the likes of NME and Q, as the brothers Gallagher feuded both with themselves and with Damon Albarn. Be Here Now, released in 1997, was the height of Oasis's powers. It featured ridiculous Beatles-rip off riffs and music videos, 10 minute songs with 3 minute sample intros (including Vietnam war reenactments), and proclamations of "bigger than Jesus" greatness from Liam. Its been pretty much all downhill from then on as their sound has more or less stagnated and the world has moved on. Way on. Noel especially is a noted City fan, and earlier this year he ripped his despotic owner for sacking SGE after a great (as in not fighting for relegation) season. 

Albarn, on the other hand, was always more intellectual. Think art school. Blur could lay claim to being the more innovative of the Britpop bands, but they never achieved the same commercial success as the boys from Manchester. Pretty much everyone in the US can pick out a (one) Blur song, but there is no way in hell they could tell you who did it. The band pretty much petered out by the early oughties, and Albarn went on to achieve great success with the Gorillaz. Couldn't unearth any football-related punditry from Damon, so I can't tell you what his thoughts are on the 4-5-1. 

I can't leave without some youtubage. Best Behind the Music Ever. 


So, who's ego deserves a bit of massaging? The louts from up North or the vegetarian Chelsea supporter?

Read more on "FA Cup of British Rock - Round of 16 / Match #4"...