Saturday, July 26, 2008

Championship preview - Blackpool


Here we go again, the second installment of our Championship preview. Today I will be looking at Blackpool.


First off I would like to say a very big thank you to Blackpool for super Wes Hoolahan. He was the most wanted and talked about player this summer for Norwich fans and I for one am extremely excited to have him in the side. So Will Blackpool miss Wes?

Hoolahan. The tricky winger joined Norwich this summer.

Yes they will. He was hugely influential for the seasiders last year. Blackpool also look like losing defensive rock Kaspar Gorkss. Kaspar's destination is unknown as yet but there are no shortage of teams lining up for him and he has a clause in his contract that appears to have been triggered by many suitors. So how will they do this year?

It will be very tough. They flirted with relegation last year and just survived, finishing 19th. They will need a similar effort this season to stay up. Attacking wise they have have improved greatly signing Steve Kabba on loan from Sheffield United and he could play along side the much hated ankle biting goal thief Paul Dickov or ex-Hull striker Ben Burges. If Dickov decides to sign on permanent terms Blackpool will boast bags of experience BUT a strike partnership with a combined age of 60 or 62 and that could prove a factor as the season develops.

Off the field it has just been announced this week by President Valerie Belokon that work will begin to add another 3500 seats to Bloomfield Rd. According to the statement this work is suppossed to be a "clear signal to potential new players and the football industry that Blackpool are serious contenders to advance further!" Based on their signings so far it looks as if they will need more than 3500 seats to persuade decent players to join them.


Bloomfield Rd. Will expansion yield persuasive powers?

This summer Blackpool also added the much traveled Jermaine Wright after he was released from Southampton, but at 32 I doubt he will be an impact player at Bloomfield Road. I like Stephen Crainey AND Claus Jorgensen in the Blackpool midfield but I just don't see enough in their squad to convince me that they will be able to push on without Gorkss (6 goals from the back - joint 2nd!), Hoolahan (5 goals- joint 3rd) terrorizing defenders and a frontline featuring the aging Dickov, Kabba and Burgess (9 league goals-top scorer). Not enough there for an improved season. A lack of goals and a very average looking defence means...Sorry Blackpool.... Down you go.

-Bigus

UPDATE: It looks as if Dickov is snubbing Blackpool and Leicester for the MLS...

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Carlito's £32 Million Way

Manchester United has finally splashed out the cash, £32 million, this summer...for a player already on the team, Carlos Tevez. United's move will finally put to bed the long, sordid tale of Tevez. He was brought over to West Ham by Kia Joorabchian's MSI company, then loaned to Manchester United but MSI still owned Tevez's contract. It has been a complicated mess.

The transfer fee is an English record, surpassing Andriy Shevchenko's £30.6 million transfer ins 2006. Hopefully, Tevez will be a better buy than Sheva.

Last season Tevez scored 19 goals in 48 appearances, helping Manchester United to the League and Champions League double. This coming a season after Tevez almost single-handedly kept West Ham from relegation.

It's possible this transaction signals United's intent to sell Ronaldo, at the peak of his value. The club is having massive debt issues and this isn't likely to help the situation.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday Backpasses: Hello, Poland


Need proof the NY Times is run by commies? They interviewed Rafa Marquez [NY Times]
More ex-footballers comment on the youth of today. This time: Maradona on Messi [Goal]
Quick interview with Adu at his Monaco signing [Goal]

(jump already)

Thierry Henry on divorce troubles [The Sun]
Barcelona unveil new tartan [Daily Mail]
Michael Owen has the mumps [Guardian]
Scottish club goes to parliament to get reinstated in youth league [The Press and Journal]

And, finally:
Najśmieszniejszy kibic Chelsea [Z czuba]

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FA Cup of British Rock - Quarterfinals - Match #4

These are the ground rules: 16 8 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 closes this Sunday, July 27.

Some of you might think that the FA Cup of British Rock turned into the NBA Playoffs, creaking along interminably. No, no, no this is all wrong! We are continuing stronger than ever with the fourth and final Quarterfinal match-up. And you know what makes the Internets go into a tizzy? Expletives!! Fuck yeah, we will use any gimmicks it takes to get you to vote! [Slightly NSFW edition coming up after the jump... although your boss would probably be more angry about you wasting time on a blog than wasting time on a blog with bad words... and besides, your boss probably uses these words all the time himself.]






Super Furry Animals, who "Don't Give a Fuck About Anybody Else" but Cardiff City!


- versus -



Lifelong Arsenal supporter John Lydon, whose Sex Pistols will not to be outdone and are willing to say rude words on the telly!


Fucking-a, I don't have much else to say. I love the shit out of both these bands, I love Arsenal, I even love Cardiff City because they are Welsh yet play in the Premier League. Plus, the two teams have Aaron Ramsey in common. So, this is going to be a tough motherfucking matchup, heading to penalties no doubt. John Lydon's pissy attitude versus the Super Furry Animals' Power Ranger mask outfit (kind of hard to explain, but trust me). I already told you about the Cuny Cup. I also linked to that interview that Lydon did where he explains his love of Arsenal. Nothing left to do but to turn the voting over to you, our fair reader:



Hey, and don't forget to vote in the rest of the exciting Quarterfinal matches! You have until Sunday, and then next week we'll hold the Semis and Final match! Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker, Tits!

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What would you do to play in League Two?


While some of us always feel like we're the last man picked in the busty pitches across this land, there was one enterprising fellow who decided not only wanted a job on a club team so badly, he decided to take it to another level. Not impressing with his first attempt to make the team, he recruited his girlfriend to help getting a tryout. She raised more than eyebrows.

You know it must be tough in Romania when your players not only want to jump ship to English Football, but will go to such lengths for even League Two. Former Bucharest Player Adrian Patulea wanted out badly. When his first attempt at catching the eye of the Lincoln City manager Peter Jackson didn't work, he realized he needed to make himself noticed. So he took his girlfriend, strapped her to his back naked and ran around the pitch, attracting the attention of the groundskeepers, before getting another chance with Jackson. Patulea did well - knocking back a hat trick in exhibition - that Jackson is keen to try to sign him. We're wondering if they like his foot, or they want to see more of the girlfriend. There is no explanation of how she was carried - piggyback, on his shoulders, fireman carry, or the infamous Estonia Wife-Carrying method.

I'm not sure my spouse would go for me strapping her to my back, let alone naked, for a job interview. But how far would one's spouse go?

Read more on "What would you do to play in League Two?"...

FA Cup of British Rock - Quarterfinals - Match #3

These are the ground rules: 16 8 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 closes this Sunday, July 27.

Long live rockathon, my friends. The FA Cup of British Rock is a turbo-charged custom van that is flying down the highway at 95 mph. It simply cannot be stopped!! Today there's a double-header of Quarterfinal matches, the first of which pits an army of vote-wielding supporters against a man named Noel. See for yourself...




The Darkness, seen here on a shaky punter cam from a gig in -- where else? -- Norwich


- versus -



Oasis, who, as Noel explains circa 2003, will always be Man City fans (key quot is at 2:05 where he says he would rather "kick my door up my arse than support United or Arsenal" ... can you really kick a door up your own arse?)


So, we might as well just hand the FA Cup of British Rock trophy to the mighty Norwich City army, summoned by our own Bigus Dickus. And to that I say, fair play! Unlike the likely result in a real footy match, Norwich City knocked off Liverpool FC in the Round of 16, despite being represented by a band that broke up after only two albums and had maybe one decent song in their repertoire. The Darkness were built solely around Justin Hawkins' falsetto, yet still managed to sell millions of CDs. Kids today! Of course, at the time that Justin left the Darkness, there were rumors of drug abuse. This, of course, is something that our next group would know something about....


You can certainly divide people into two categories: People who (still) love Oasis, and people you hate Oasis. Put me in the first category. I remember hearing about their first gig in Detroit (where I lived at the time) in 1994, where they had to repeat one of their songs during the second encore because they'd run through their entire catalog already (songs off Definitely Maybe plus "I am the Walrus"... and nothing else). I was at a show some time around 2000, where Liam spent the entire show glowering at us Midwesterners in the audience (trust me, we deserved it). And I even think that Don't Believe the Truth was pretty good, especially Noel's tribute songs to Lee Mavers. I always thought it was fitting that, despite being the biggest rock band in the world for a very short time, Oasis would support Man City, the plucky underdog.

So, which team is the true underdog in this contest? Only you can decide!



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Ronaldo Doesn't Like Reality TV

Cristiano Ronaldo seems to be enjoying his time recuperating from his ankle surgery in Los Angeles. Aside from working on his awesomely hideous tan, he has also come into contact with quite a few young ladies. However, he has been a little more receptive to some than to others.


After turning down Paris Hilton at LA nightclub Villa, Ronaldo set about club-hopping all week in an attempt to take his mind off Nereida Gallardo. This apparently involved heading out to the club Kress, where Ronaldo was seen taking a douchetastic picture with Adrian Grenier (double your douchey factor!).



After making the ladies swoon and the guys want to beat both of their asses, Ronaldo left Grenier to hang out with his friends. But yet another reality TV starlet was determined to meet the ManUre star. Unfortunately for Lauren Conrad, Ronaldo had no clue who she was, and denied her the photo op.

No to Paris Hilton? He doesn't know who LC from "The Hills" is? How dare he insult the sluttiest reality stars that America has to offer!

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thursday Backpasses: All-Star hangover

Tevez wants Ronaldo gone, more or less [Guardian]
Will Ferrell wanted to be a pro soccer player. When he was 7 [OC Register]
Chinaglia has all kinds of excuses for his Lazio mess. When in doubt, say it was the Hungarians [Irish Times]
Emile Heskey's finacee robbed at knife point. Not well liked in Wigan, then [Guardian]
Alfonso Alves may or may not have signed a pre-contract with AZ Alkmaar before being transferred to 'Boro. Court decides "may not" [Goal]

And, finally:
Cristiano Ronaldo is now mahogany [Daily Mail]

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Doing the Duty: MLS All-Star Game Liveblog


Alright folks, we're about 30 mins away from the beginning of the MLS All-Star festivities, and ESPN is determined not to interrupt its rigorous highlights schedule to screen any of the preamble. As a sour-puss Scouse, I remember the FA Cup final days, when the BBC was falling all over itself to provide hours of coverage before either team even got changed into their kit! Alas, we wait for the All-Stars vs. West Ham, and we all secretly dream of the ICF getting stuck into the cosmopolitan Canadian crowd.

Delicious.

Join us after the jump in a bit when we give you the XIs and get things underway. I need to make a drink first!

In the meantime, check out the MLSnet preview here.



Yay, we're waiting for things to start!


STARTING XIs
-----


WEST HAM UNITED
--
1 Robert Green
2 Lucas Neill
5 Anton Ferdinand
8 Scott Parker
9 Dean Ashton
11 Matthew Etherington
12 Carlton Cole
17 Hayden Mullins
20 Julien Faubert (welcome back from the awful knee injury)
27 Calum Davenport
40 Freddie Sears


Subs: Walker (GK), Boa Morte, Stokes, Zamora, Reid, Collison, Stanislas


MLS ALL-STARS
--
1 Matt Reis
2 Frankie Hejduk
5 Christian Gomez
8 Juan Toja
12 Jimmy Conrad
13 Jonathan Bornstein
21 Shalrie Joseph
23 David Beckham
25 Pablo Mastroeni
33 Kenny Cooper
70 Cuauhtemoc Blanco


Subs: Onstad (GK), Ralston, Angel, Donovan, Brennan, De Rosario, Buddle


LB @ 6.58 ET:
Yeah, I realize there's no sense of formation. I can't be bothered figuring out who plays where just yet. I'm gonna wait until ESPN tells me. I'd imagine 4-4-2 across the board. If I see a 4-5-1, I might scream.


PR: Hey, why can't I post?... Wait, there it is. But my other comment is floating somewhere in blogging purgatory.

LB: Unsurprisingly, the intro is full of Beckham. Foudy is with us! Thank god... I was worried that someone was going to say something profound this evening. Phew! Thanks MLS!

PR: The Galaxy have given up like 33 goals. In fact, it's exactly 33 goals and that's 14 more than the team directly ahead of them and the team directly behind them in the standings. Not surprisingly none of the three Galaxy reps is a defender.

PR: So is West Ham really the best MLS could do? Or is this them being a 'victim' of its own success. I'm thinking both Chelsea and Celtic were embarrassed by not being able to simply walk on the pitch and win.

LB: Christ, now a Donovan mini-feature? Strangle me where I sit, please.

PR: Did Foudy just give Nicol credit for being able to find young talent? Uh, I'm pretty sure that's part of his job. Moron.

TITLETOWN! Fuck yeah. I so have to vote, because I don't know how to navigate this world until I know which American city is truly Titletown. Fuck you, ESPN. Fuck you and your stupid contests and the horses that the two of you road in on.

Re: The goal highlights. McManus' striking partner should totally be a guy named Fenster.

Free post to the commenter who comes up with the perfect description for the particular type of cruel disappointment-cum-envy on David Beckham's face.

Seven figures for Buddle to go to Norway? Too bad he's like 27 and not 21. Also, as good as Buddle has been this season, I'd totally take Tuttle over him. Okay, that obscure joke totally fails on the spelling of Edson's last name.

I love how the promo didn't even have names for any West Ham players. And did we even let Bellamy in this country? I thought we were trying to keep the terrorists out?

Ha! Ha! Landycakes, not only can you not hack it in Europe, you can't even start your own country's second rate league All Star game.

I think I started Ashton against Derby in my fantasy league last year. So I'm not the greatest of expert on West Ham.

Kick

2nd minute: We have our first Man U reference. I think they said "United" before they said "West Ham."

3rd minute: West Ham looks like a bunch of wussies in their powder blue kits. I should probably start describing the action, huh?

4th minute: Well, by the way Lucas Neill chased down that ball, I'd say he's been enjoying the bars in America.

5th minute: Cole blows the first best chance of the game. I'll give him some credit for not taking a dive because he could have gone down and might have drawn a whistle.

7th minute: No rhythm to this game. Some shitty defending by the MLS almost gives Ashton a freebie, but he also pushed Hejduk.

9th minute: Turn and a shot by Cole. But cleare by whom I couldn't see. Mastroeni maybe. Corner West Ham. Followed by another corner for West Ham. Not great defending here by MLS.

11th minute: Really, I'd try to be a little more descriptive, but so far this looks like an over-40 rec league game than anything you'd want to, you know, watch, or talk about watching. Shot by Kenny Cooper. Low and just wide. Looked more dangerous than it was.

13th minute: Too bad for the offsides rule or else Beckham could just plant himself in the corner and cross balls in. Otherwise, he's pretty useless trying to run on to the ball. Bornstein can't get the ball before it goes over the endline.

14th minute: Etherington on the edge of the box. But he commits a foul? Really? Almost looked like Hejduk with a hand ball.

15th minute: We're 15 minutes in and we see our first good patch of possession from the MLS in the West Ham third. But the build up results in nothing. Ball is turned over.

16th minute: Not a bad little give and go with Gomez and Hejduk. But the ball goes long. Goal kick. Then turned over to the MLS. Fans shouting something. I can't tell because it's in Canadian. And I don't speak that.

18th minute: Okay, that was a really good effort by Cooper. Gomez with a nice little loft to Cooper in the box, and he really stayed with it to get a rocket off on a turn. Too bad it went way wide.

20th minute: Cooper knocks it off the West Ham defender for a corner. Becks to take it. Ball was deflected up and Robert Green hauls in the ball which was sort of hanging in the air for long enough to make it interesting.

21st minute: As if ESPN didn't suck at everything else, their camera work in the last couple of minutes is really making the game tough to follow. Wide shot guys. Show me about 1/3 of the field the entire time. It's not hard.

22nd minuteBlanco must be color blind. He keeps giving it to the guys in the powder blues. Ashton launches one that worries the people in the 18th row but not Reis.

24th minute: Cole with a feed across. Ashton can't get it. Some MLS dope plays it back to give West Ham another chance. Oh great. More Beckham graphics. So far Toja and Cooper are about the only MLS players deserving on being on the pitch. This was the 10th place team from the EPL last year. Although I guess that's better than Tottenham.

26th minute: GOAL! Long ball ends up on the foot of Ashton who pokes it low and away past Matt Reis. West Ham 1-0.

27th minute: GOAL! That was quick. 1-1. Gomez with a feed from Blanco on the backheel. Gomez buries it in pretty much the same spot that Ashton put it. It was acutally a decent run through from Gomez to control it while keeping his speed and get an open look.

29th minute: Game has opened up. Both teams exchanging pushes into the other teams' third.

31st minute: West Ham has decided to solve the carpet by just playing the ball in the air. That's about 4 headers in 5 touches. Then they give it away deep on the left side.

32nd minute: A shot by Beckham. No way. From something besides a set piece. It deflected out for a corner. Corner comes back to Beckham who finds Gomez all alone at the top of the box and he hits it into a different zip code than the goal mouth. So they have zip codes in Canada?

33rd minute: WARNING. I just heard thunder. That's a 50-50 that my electricity goes out in this storm. Public works in Houston totally suck. So if I go dark, there's your explanation.

34th minute: Think there was a good chance from Blanco while I was giving a weather report. Neill on the counter, punches it too far for Cole. GK for Ries. Cooper almost follows a lazy ball back but Green clears it. Throw for MLS.

36th minute: So can you get laid in London if you lose to the MLS All Stars? I guess we could ask EBJT and Fat Frank.

37th minute: Nice job by Hejduk to pick up the ball in midfield. He plays it through to the wide side, but Toja stops his run. Bummer. MLS back in the West Ham third. Blanco to Cooper to the end line. Goal kick.

39th minute: Hey a foul. Let's see if Blanco takes it. Nope. Becks.

40th minute: And the ESPN camera almost cuts completely away right as Beckham runs to strike the ball. Idiots. Ball ends up being headed clear before it got to Carson. MLS gets it back and Beckham with a strike from distance goes wide right. Made a nice sound as it hit the ads behind the goal, but it was never a danger to Carson.

41st minute: Oh awesome. Corn on the cobb. Fuck is this, ESPN? They really are showing us the food available at the stadium?

42nd minute: Toja with a nice push on Faubert. MLS wasting time in the midfield. Bornstein blows the first touch open on the left. He plays it back to Toja... Hey. Blanco. 2-1 MLS.

Was just talking about the wasted effort when Toja recollects the ball and gets it to Blanco on the left this time. He does what Bornstein didn't in controlling it, then cutting it back nicely and with the open look went top shelf on the far side. Carson had no chance. Nice effort by Blanco. Decent stuff.

45th minute: One minute of stoppage time to be added. More shitty camera work. Hejduk checks his run. Beckham plays it all the way across to Blanco who draws a foul. Beckham will take another free kick. This should be it for the half. Parker carded for encroachment on the kick. He also took it in the nuts. Re-kick was dangerous. Right into the box and right toward a trio of MLS'ers but it was cleared wide by West Ham. Another ball in is cleared harmlessly and we're at half.

HALF-TIME: How does Beckham get an assist on that Gomez goal? I mean, I get it. I realize Beckham passed it to Blanco, but it was an innocuous pass from the halfway line that would have been rather mundane if it weren't for Blanco's backheel. So ridiculous, really.

It's LB back for a bit, taking a breather from my bourbon abuse here on the couch.

Who the fuck is Estelle? I reckon this half-time show is going to be awkward.

HALF-TIME: Kudos to Roy for keeping us awake during the 1st half. The lad done good. Meanwhile, about 90 seconds in, my fears for Estelle are confirmed. The song is a weird amalgam of jazz, samba samples, Jamiroquai b-sides and a DJ who really has no place being there. He's just scratching a record. I can do that. The guitarist feigns interest and does nothing to convince us that he's actually playing his instrument.

Meanwhile, a world away, Bigus jr. has been inspired to play a little futbol for himself.


Now Herr Garber is about to rattle on about expansion. I will use this opportunity to pour another drink. Voice your displeasure in the comments!


McBride is coming back to MLS.


"I'm a big Juan Pablo Angel fan." Really, Commish? In the meantime, the most captivating part of that mini-Q&A is the presence of streamers getting thrown in from the stands. Commish quips that "someone's gonna get thrown out soon" as one lands on the ESPN desk, and while he says it with a smile on his face, you really get the impression that he's not joking.

Look out, idiot Columbus fan!

HALF-TIME: Seriously Commish, expanding the league just because soccer is popular is not reason enough. Quality, not quantity, you hopeless fool. Dilute the league, and watch people flock back to other margin sports.

RESTART: Cooper and Blanco off, Donovan and Angel on. Contain yourselves, folks. The pyrotechnics is surely just around the corner.

A ticky-tack foul and I'm reminded why this match is annoying me.

Etherington is off, and Luis Boa Morte (he of the former Arsenal experiment) is on.

47 mins: Bigus, to answer for you, Faubert is still in the match and is unhurt at present. Still, he's been rather shit, so you decide which is better/worse.

Beckham whips in another cross weakly to the near post, fooling no-one. I swear, his ability to cross is dwindling with every passing day, and that's all he's got left!

50 mins: The crowd breaks out the "We Want Brennan" chant again. A tepid sideline chat with Kenny Cooper, and no real football worth talking about. Yet.

52 mins: Good pass from Davenport to Faubert down the left, and some tugging by Bornstein near the edge of the box nets him a yellow card. Ashton lines up behind the ball for the free-kick. Boa Morte hits it into the wall and it deflects into Reis' hands. Much ado about nothing.

54 mins: Toja's played well, but his 1-2 with Angel at the top of the box amounts to nothing. Sportscenter decides that now is a good time to cut in and tell us about Carlos Delgado's 2-run home run. The tension in Toronto is palpable. Lord Beckham touches the ball and passes immediately to Joseph. The ball makes its way all the way across to the left wing, where Bornstein whips in a dangerous cross to the edge of the 6-yard box and no-one gets a touch on it. It whizzes by Angel and out for a West Ham throw-in.

57 mins: Roy, Ian... I completely agree. Does the MLS have an agreement with the EPL for the All-Star game? Bring in Sevilla or Fiorentina or Atletico Madrid. Surely the top-tier European teams wouldn't dare honour the fixture, but an AS Roma contest would be much better than West Ham.

60 mins: Great cross in and Ashton has a wide-open volley and unleashes right at Reis. Then a sweeping move for MLS breaks to Beckham and he blasts a shot well wide left.

The excitement quells after Beckham's terrible miss, and then we cut to a sideline interview with Steve Nash! Beckham now has a free-kick which he also puts wide.

[Sorry, had a phonecall and missed the magic]

64 mins: Toja and Hejduk make way for De Rosario and Brennan.

65 mins: Damn phone won't stop ringing. I'm back now though, and with a full, freshly-topped-up glass of bourbon!

The action is getting scrappy now, and definitely opening up. The obvious chasm of talent between the bench of an All-Star, hand-picked squad vs. the full first-team squad of a mid-table EPL team is becoming evident now, and should the floodgates open for the MLS ALL-STAR TEAM I daresay that Stone, Foudy, Harkes and co. will point to this development as being a sign of some progress.

Shit, my bad. Gomez came off, not Hejduk.

67 mins: GOAL! No Ian, I am not dead, although Reis was caught dead by that wickedly deflected shot by Ashton from the top of the box, and this match is level once more. Came off Joseph's hand and then someone else's head en route to the back of the net. Reis was flat-footed, and Ashton was rather non-plussed, based on his muted celebration. Nice strike though. 2-2

69 mins: PENALTY! Lucas Neill slides clumsily into the back of De Rosario, who was clean through thanks to Angel's pass. De Rosario will take...

70 mins: GOAL! Slammed emphatically off the underside of the crossbar and bounding into the net. Green dives to his left and De Rosario shoots straight. Twice in this game, we've seen goals within 90 seconds of one another. 3-2 MLS XI

71 mins: GO-OH, no, it's not. De Rosario's powerful run down the middle feeds Angel on the left, and he smashes it home. Except he was offside, but not by much. The crowd goes mad, but the goal doesn't count. Still 3-2. Somewhere in all the maelstrom, Onstad (the 3rd and final Canuck on the roster) comes in for Reis.

Beckham swings in a neat cross that Green stumbles out to punch clear, and the resulting corner amounts to another near-miss. As I mentioned a few minutes ago, the gap between a bench full of first-teamers (MLS All-Stars) and a bench full of teens and reserves from a middling English club (West Ham) is becoming rather apparent.

74 mins: I've never seen a middle-aged right winger who stays glued to his sideline get so many people excited before. He whips in cross after cross ineffectually but the crowd is insane for him. It must feel rather good.
/jealous


Stanislas comes in for West Ham? Stokes? Someone with a name beginning with S.

78 mins: More phonecalls, but the hysteria of the match has calmed down considerably. Still MLS push forward, and West Ham are just in scrappy survival mode. It's alright given that it's the English preseason. To be fair, they've acquitted themselves well tonight, and that penalty was a little weak.

80 mins: De Rosario's causing plenty of trouble, making Ferdinand look rather shaky and useless. Ashton, the two-goal hero, leaves the game to be replaced by Kyel Reid. Oh, and it was Stanislas who came on a few minutes ago, replacing the healthy Julien Faubert. I am convinced JP Dellacamera kept calling him "Flaubert" when he touched the ball, which leads me to two possible conclusions:
1. He is an idiot
2. He is a really big fan of French romanticist writers of the 1800s

Which is true?!?!??

84 mins: Both teams are fading somewhat now, and while the crowd is as loud and vocal as ever (and it's great to listen to), the teams are not matching that intensity as we slowly wind down. A long ball forward to Cole gets chested down at the top of the box to Parker, and Mastroeni's clumsy challenge gets them a free-kick right in front.

87 mins: Reid hits the free kick clumsily into the wall and that's the end of that action. The ball does break into the box off the deflection, and a Hammer gets booted in the head as the two players both challenge for the ball; one leads with his head, the MLS lad with his foot. (Who was involved? I missed their names! Damn you bourbon, ruining my short-term memory)

Another sub for the MLS All-Stars, as Buddle and Ralston come in for Hejduk and Bornstein.

Boa Morte whips a vicious cross in from the left, just inches from the Hammer at the far post. Coulda shoulda been 3-3. Into added time, and Stokes comes in for Cole. Cole's played well, but he won't look this good when the EPL rolls around.

Four minutes added on.

90 mins + 2: A tired challenge on Donovan by Neill yields another free-kick, this one miles from goal. Of course Beckham is preening and standing over the ball to take.

Shit, came close! Joseph clatters it on goal, and it's narrowly deflected wide.

90 mins + 3: A decent move forward by West Ham, but Parker can't find help at the top of the box and the MLS sweep away from danger.

90 mins + 4: FULL TIME. 3-2 MLS All-Stars. Blanco rushes out to midfield to do the handshakes, and the shirt-exchanging begins. De Rosario really made a difference, didn't he? I'm waiting for endless, needless close-ups of Becky Pants, but to no ava-WAIT, there he is!

FULL-TIME Guys, guys, guys... please stop. I will never say anything nice about Beckham (especially not tomorrow in a nice little post). He's now being interviewed, and I swear, he's dull as dishwater.

Blanco is shown stood quietly in the middle, not being interviewed, and you just know he's jealous that Becks gets the post-game Q&A when really, he didn't do much. He didn't deserve an assist for his thrilling 10-yard pass to Blanco on Gomez' goal, and if anyone other than Blanco gets Man of the Match, then I might have to eat razorblades for dinner. Fuck. I hope that doesn't happen.

FULL-TIME Bigus: Faubert was rather anonymous. Granted, it's a pre-season friendly on plastiturf, but even so... not much to write home about. I'd hold judgment until October, when we probably will be able to say outright that he's crap. Not worth what they paid for him, that's for sure. He's probably do well at Spurs, a team with no ambition but loads of money to waste.

POST-GAME Phew, thank g-d this one's over. All joking aside, it was a good match for the most part. Lots of speedy, attacking football and some well-taken goals. Now let's see Rob Stone hand over the Man of the Match trophy... Commish gets a few words of fluff first... and, your winner is?

Blanco! He's still an obnoxious oaf, but he played well tonight. Not really that difficult against the Australian donkey Lucas Neill and Ferdinand the lesser, but he made the most of it. Time for some words... Stone asks him what this win and this award means to Mexico, Europe, The USA and the rest of the world. I am confused as to what that question means, exactly.

Christ, now they're asking him, for question #2 of this interview... what was it like to play with David Beckham? Fuck me sideways with a zamboni. That's the follow-up question? Christ almighty. Blanco should have punched him out. Damn you, Stone!

Donovan didn't do shit. Let's not run away with the hyperbole. It was a good match, MLS deserved to win, but it doesn't do much to improve the standing of MLS around the world, lad. It's a pre-season game for the 5th or 6th best team in London!

END Alright, you've all gone, so I'm off too. Thanks for playing along and following the fun with us, and now it's time to get back to drinking.

From Toronto:
MLS All-Stars 3, West Ham United 2

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MLS All-Star Game

We haven't forgotten about this tonight, so just a quick note to let you know that Precious Roy & I will be liveblogging the festivities this evening, so do join us and add your wit to the proceedings.

After the jump, highlights from last year.

See you tonight!




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Quitting so soon?

Fabio previews 'retirement'.


News this afternoon from new England Coach Fabio Capello. England will be his last job as a coach and he is retiring when his contract is up in 4 years. Good to see he has his mind on the job at hand and not on a beach holding a cocktail.

England fans shouldn't panic yet though....

"I would like to end my career having made an impact at a World Cup."
- Fabio Capello.

Well that's good news. I seem to remember Graham Taylor saying something similar, although I am sure Wolves and Villa fans would have wanted Taylor to retire after being England manager also.



It does seem a little odd that Fabio should even bring this up at this time just as he embarks on a long campaign to qualify for the World Cup in 2010. A world cup in which (according to the F.A) England are expected to make the semi's. Of course we will then lose on penalties and half the squad will wait at least a month before signing on to do a Pizza Hut commercial.


Pizza Pillock. Southgate chows down after penalty miss.


I would just like to announce I will be retiring in 2035.


-Bigus

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Championship Preview - Southampton


Welcome one and all to a glimpse at what the new season holds for the giants, minnows, underachievers, overachievers, should do's, won't do's, no chances and surprise packages of the Coca Cola Championship 2008/09.

I am going set the ball roiling with a look at Southampton. Last season was one the saints will truly want to forget about. There was turmoil in the board room, on the pitch and off it. Southampton barely stayed up after being involved in a relegation battle for much of the season. For Saints fans it's bad enough to have one eye starring along the coast at the miracles being achieved at Portsmouth without having to put up with board room wranglings, tales of debt, caretaker managers and players getting themselves in trouble with the law.



Unfortunately I can see no light at the end of the tunnel for Southampton. The new season will bring a new manager in the form of Dutch gaffer Jan Poortvliet, the former Telstar and Helmond sport coach ( yep, neither had I!) has arrived on the south coast with promises of total football. This should send shivers down the spines of the supporters and cheers throughout Portsmouth. Total football is all well and good when you are fielding 11 top class players who can pass the ball to a high standard. Poortvliet has a little to work with. While total football (which was made famous by the Dutch national side in 1970's) is very pretty and entertaining, it is extremely naive to expect a Championship side to execute the style effectively, especially away to Burnley on a rainy Tuesday eve. The fact is that a lot of teams in the Championship will not allow you to keep the ball (The Championship skill level means an average of 6-7 passes before possession is surrendered) long enough to allow your defense to get into forward positions. If they do manage that they will soon find the ball being closed down on their unprotected keeper as soon as they give up possession.

This naive approach, coupled with the lack of signings this summer, should set the alarm bells ringing. The Saints lost the influential Youssef Safri and are about to lose, the even more influential, Rudi Skacel (To Ip..Ip..Ip...them of all teams.)
Jan Poortvliet and "Total Football" ... Good luck with that!

Off the field two Southampton players have found themselves in court up on Burglary charges after items were stolen from a local night club. Also off the field the club announced it is running at a loss and has no cash to spend on incoming players. Their biggest signing this summer has been Spurs fourth string keeper Tommy Forecast. Pootvliet has even had to have emergency talks with midfield star Jhon Viafara to persuade the Colombian international to stay at St Mary's. It is also likely that want away forward Grzegorz Rasiak will be elsewhere next season (hopefully Norwich!), leaving veteran Stern John and goal shy Marek Saganowski to lead the line backed only by inexperienced youth.

I can't see any improvement for Southampton this year and it could be a very tricky season for them*. Poortvliets inexperience in English football, his desired style and their lack of signings to replace the outgoings stars could mean another relegation dog fight this year. If you look at the current Championship table with no games played, Southampton sit 21st in alphabetical order. This is where they will stay.....If they manage to stay!


-Bigus


*Sorry saints fans here's a clip of better times to cheer you up....



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FA Cup of British Rock - Quarterfinals - Match #2

These are the ground rules: 16 8 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 closes this Sunday, July 27.

I promise no last-minute substitutions this time around. Today it's two inductees into the Rock n' Roll hall of Fame who had a fairly easy go of it in the Round of 16. These are two stalwarts of British Rock who kept some very, very good company....




Elton John reppin' Watford, here performing "Bohemian Rhapsody" with Queen and a pre-bloat-yet-still-ridiculous Axl Rose (funny how they didn't even attempt to perform the middle bit)


- versus -




West Brom supporter Eric Clapton, here seen playing "Yer Blues" with John Lennon, Keef Richard and Mitch Mitchell during the Rolling Stones' famous 1968 Rock & Roll Circus special (you can go ahead and ignore Mick Jagger preening at the beginning... also ignore Yoko Ono dancing around like a crazy person under a black cape...)





Seriously, I know it's passe to click on youtube videos but you should watch both of the ones above.

First, there's Elton John -- who is of course honorary chairman for life of Watford FC -- on stage in front of a bazillion people at Wemberley with Axl Rose, who is wearing some sort of kilt and white belt outfit. Sir Elton remains one of the few people in this competition who was genuinely involved in his football club. Check out this comment from a Watford fan site:

I also read on a QPR messageboard of a QPR fan that met him backstage in NYC and was surprised when, having revealed his allegiance, Elton commented on their result that day. A couple of years ago, I got into a taxi in Washington DC and the driver started talking about football and recognised Watford as being Elton's club. So, while Elton, like myself, may not have spent much time at Vicarage Road in the past few years, his involvement has ensured that Watford are talked of outside South-West Hertfordshire.



And then there's Eric Clapton, who may not follow West Brom as much as he once did, but in that video he's the standout musician next to two giants of British rock, John Lennon and Keith Richards. Slowhand pretty much steals the show, just as he would go on to steal Patty Boyd from George Harrison (see "Layla"). Plus, according to a concert review:

[Eric Clapton] also knows something about addiction's little brother, obsession. He has been so obsessed with the West Bromwich Albion football team he used to sign hotel registers as "W.B. Albion."


So, which one of these musicians who have stood the test of time deserve to move on the FA Cup of British Rock Semifinals? Only you can decide!

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MLS expansion? Again?


Time is of the essence, or so the saying goes, and it appears that the MLS alarm clock has gone off again, causing them to leap from their comfortable chairs and scream the word everyone loves to hear: expansion.

It is a wonderful, romantic thought that the addition of more teams all over the country would inspire larger support for the game in general, but then again, we've been here before, haven't we? MLS Commissioner Don Garber is expected to announce today that the self-imposed ceiling of 18 teams will be raised to 24 MLS franchises by 2013-14. Amazing stuff. In addition to the addition of Seattle in '09 and Philadelphia in '10, Garber wants to add four teams in 2011 and at least two more by 2013.

And this is after he added Toronto and San Jose within the last two seasons!



It's a nice idea, to be sure, but we've seen it fail before. Considering that their prime targets for the moment (or, to put it in the MLS parlance, their "expansion priorities") are Vancouver and Montreal.

For those who are excited to finally see an MLS team in Seattle, is the Vancouver team really a wise move? And Montreal? Will they play indoors year-round due to the weather?

The spread of MLS to this point is agreeable, and it appears to be working. Most of the major soccer centers are geographically represented, as well as enough action in the nation's major media markets for it to be considered profitable and successful, which is what we all desperately want it to be. However, the NASL made the exact same mistake: hey, we're riding the wave of current success, now let's expand to every corner of the country and see what happens with our product!

The quicker you spread, the more danger you run of seeing your product diluted, not to mention the costs of creating franchises out of thin air. Who will pay for soccer-specific stadiums? [Just look at the problems Rochester had in paying for their new bank-financed and city-subsidized stadium, or even an established MLS team like DC United!]

Not only that, but where will all the players come from? It's tough enough for the MLS to retain its young stars thanks to the appeal of Europe, as well as the difficulty in finding top-class players to make the journey in the other direction.

MLS is very much flirting with the Icarus effect: their desire to expand and grow is so ravenous that they're losing sight of the #1 factor in their success: the overall quality of their product. MLB flirts with contraction all the time due to its bloated collection of teams and the massive disparity between the worst and the best.

The first iteration of the Premier League was 22 teams, and that lasted 3 seasons before they scaled it back to 20. FIFA wanted all top leagues in Europe to cull themselves to 18 teams due to the lack of quality for those minnows struggling to hang on, and while most have yet to make such a change, it is still within the realm of possibility.

I understand Garber's eagerness, I really do. His product has an established popularity due to the brand names and the promotion, but spreading it too quickly will only lead to another NASL situation. I'd love to see some figures from MLS about just how well they're doing, but for the moment, this pie-in-the-sky expansion plan should be put to bed. Otherwise, in 5 years time, we might well be putting the entire league to sleep.

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Blogs are bad, m'kay?

Athletes should stay away from blogs. Unless you play in the DC metro area (Cooley, Agent Zero and Clinton Portis spring to mind), you will do something stupid and embarrass yourself and your team.

Today's TMI on a blog comes from Japan, where goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa brags that a yellow card he received was intentional and now the league is mad at him.

Nishikawa got his fourth yellow card of the season on Sunday, and bagged a one-month suspension for his efforts. After the game, he bragged to his online friends that he got the card, and suspension, on purpose. The reason being that he is off for international duty in the Olympics, and would miss the month anyway.

The J-League got wind of the post, and dragged him into a sort of tribunal to explain himself. Nishikawa capitulated, saying that the post was in jest, and summarily removed it from said blog. The damage was done, though, and we here at UF are not so sure of his explanation.

On the face of it, intentionally getting the card was a wise move. The suspension would happen almost entirely while Nishikawa was unavailable for his squad. The timing also allows him to get rid of the three yellows hanging over him, and lets him to return to his club with a clean slate after the Olympics. Keep your mouth shut, and no one is the wiser.

The problem is, as always,
Nishikawa publicizing that he attempted to circumvent the rules. Organizations that mete out punishments prefer you to take said punishment with a wince, not a knowing smile.

Besides, what does a keeper have to do to get four yellows in a season? The J-League has only played 18 games to date, and Nishikawa has seen yellow in over 20% of his team's games. Has he run afoul of FIFA's "no taking your shirt off" rule to entice the ladies? Did a series of refs sanction him for not tucking his shirt in? He's a keeper for goodness' sake. Four yellow cards are something to garner over two to three seasons, not half of one.

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The Good, The Bad, The WTF

Whoops. Blown deadline here, I'm afraid. For the first time since (probably) January, this feature fails to appear on a Wednesday. Sorry, for all of those that set their calendar by the weekly look at footie shirts. I hope we can be forgiven. [Ed. Note: It was my fault... I got the date wrong!]

This time around, we will look at a Partick Thistle horror from the olden days. Billy Connolly has been toting around a joke for ages on the club he supported as a lad. How, when he was growing up, he mistakenly thought the club was name "Partick Thistle Nil", because that's how the club would be mentioned on the radio results shows. There's a slightly altered version here, if you skip ahead to around the 7 minute mark. I like the other version better.

Anyway, such jokes were most likely percolating even back when this shirt made its debut. That would be 1987, if my info is correct. I guess the club took the ribbing to heart, and came up with an unforgettable shirt.


Yellow and red are very hard to pull off together. Besides being the two colors a squad would least like to see in card form, putting them together can go horribly wrong. I'm going to go out on a limb here, and say that this shirt is even better than the linked one. Why? Colonel Gee and his wonderful carpet.

It's not often that you can force three different fonts into a sponsor's logo, and this should serve as a warning of why it should not be tried. I'm no font nerd, but I wouldn't be surprised if these three are called Bad, Idea and Execution. Colonel Gee's apparently still exists, but seemingly has no web presence. Shame that.

You know what would have been awesome? If the sponsor was Colonel Angus' Carpets. I'd buy ten.



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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wednesday Backpasses: one last, salivating look at the Euros

More ladies of the Euros. Everyone is clothed, but your boss still won't like it [Fun Grabber]
Five worst shirt designs of the upcoming EPL season. That Liverpool away shirt looks like Umbro's worst idea of 1986 [EPL Talk]
Is Michael Ballack the biggest loser ever? [Guardian]

See you on the other side

Aston Villa doubles up on American 'keepers [American Soccer Reader]
Sepp Blatter speaks. This time on clubs attempting to keep Olympians from Olympics [The Original Winger]
Gary Lineker bags himself a serial WAG [Daily Mail]

And, finally:
There's match fixing going on in Namibia's Second Divison. Namibia has two divisions? [The Namibian]

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NY Cosmos alum suffers, we laugh


In today's installment of "Laughing at the Misfortunes of Horrible People and/or Institutions" we get to point and guffaw at SS Lazio, perhaps the most miserable of Serie A clubs. They've been in trouble before thanks to their right-wing extremist supporters' groups, Paolo Di Canio's angry, rabid fascist salute (captured on camera!), and their dismal run of form since 2001 when their owner was forced to withdraw due to a financial scandal.

Then there was their bank-owned run from 2001-2004, and of course, the match-fixing scandal in 2006!

Their hands are awfully dirty, and now it gets worse. You see, back in 2006, a consortium led by former Lazio player and president Giorgio Chinaglia (also the outspoken striker featured in "Once in a Lifetime", the NY Cosmos documentary that also gives some face time to our friend, David Hirshey), wanted to buy the club. The president, Claudio Lotito, wasn't into that idea and didn't want to sell.

This prompted a wave of harrassment and general unpleasantness from "fans" who were attempting to intimidate him Lotito into selling, and Chinaglia was charged with extortion linked to his bid.

Naturally, he remained in the United States as a fugitive, and yesterday saw more warrants handed down as the police investigation revealed that Chinaglia was played a significant role in the attempted takeover, which was bankrolled by the Camorra, also known as the Naples mafia.

Italian football: does it get any better than this?



Thankfully for Chinaglia, he's still found a fair bit of work as an ESPN talking face over the years, although now he's out of contract and might well be shit out of luck. After all, won't he have to answer to these charges eventually?

He was quite good on the pitch, scoring a remarkable 242 goals in 253 games for the New York Cosmos and 108 in 209 for Lazio before that, but now he's in danger of becoming yet another crooked Italian ex-player with links to the mob.

We might well have a couple of those in our upcoming UF F.F.T.T. series (to be explained later here), but until then, comfort yourself with knowing that he's not in jail yet, despite the fact that he probably should be.

We leave you with a video of Chinaglia in better days, when he wasn't busy being an incoherent fugitive.


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Enslaved footballer gets all the ladies

At UF World HQ, it has become obvious to us that football fans are less interested in the transfer travails of enslaved footballers, and more interested in those footballer's love lives. Specifically, pictures of their conquests, and the less clothed, the better. With that in mind, today we take a look at Cristiano Ronaldo's rumored latest conquest, an Italian television presenter named Letizia Filippi.

By the way, Ronaldo's "tan" has made him as orange as Tony Kornheiser. Are they long lost relatives?

We save the NSFW pics for after the jump.

The Sun (NSFW) has all of the gory details. Seems that when Ronaldo and his ex, Nereida Gallardo, were vacationing last month in Italy, Filippi made Ronaldo change his mind on the usefulness of his Spanish mistress. Casting Gallardo aside, Ronaldo immediately started chasing the Eye-Tie.

Eh, you don't care, do you?

Pics ahoy!




Finally, for the more adventurous of you out there who are armed with a magnifying glass, there is this probable photoshop. Enjoy!

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U.F. Footy Felons Top Trumps - Card One.

Here at Unprofessional Foul we like to think up fun ways for our readers to waste hours and hours consumed in useless pursuits and THAT kind of dedication led me to the creation of the (drum roll) Unprofessional Foul Footy Felons Top Trump game! Get In Bigus!

If you grew up with Top Trumps then you know exactly where this is going. If you didn't? Then click here to see exactly where this is going!

Each week I will issue a UFFFTT card featuring a footballer who has had a brush with the law. Each card will feature stats and once you have collected them all you will have a fabulous new game to play with yer mates, yer mum or good old uncle Frank.

Our Top Trumps are much like the ones you collected as a kid BUT one of our categories is Crime. To beat your opponent with this category, you will need to refer to our Crime Hierarchy Card.

To play UFFFTT, you and your chosen adversary split the pack of cards. To win you call a category. Your value is highest? You win the your opponent's card. The winner continues to select the category until losing a card. Collect all the cards and you are the winner!

To keep the cards just save them and print! Print or mount them on card for the best results. Or use plain old paper and laminate them.

So start collecting here and NOW. Card one is naughty U.S. footballer Roy Lassiter!




U.S footy star Roy Lassiter was arrested in 1995 for Breaking and entering, larceny and fraud. He was issued with a 10-year suspended sentence and served 1 month in jail for his crimes.



Card 2 will be posted next week!


-Bigus

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FA Cup of British Rock - Quarterfinals - Match #1

These are the ground rules: 16 8 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 closes this Sunday, July 27.

Round 2 of the FA Cup of Rock kicks off with a bit of a different look. In one match we're going to the bench, and in the other, well, simply using history as our guide will give the opponent a bit of a new threat up top. Who will prevail? That's for you to decide and for us to overturn if you decide incorrectly. Hey, we're trying to get into an African spirit here at UF in preparation for the next World Cup.




The Clash and Queens Park Rangers

~versus~



Black Sabbath and Aston Villa



With apologies to Pete Doherty, were going to use our managerial powers for this match. And why not? The whole point of making a sub is to try to gain an advantage in a match where the outcome is still in question. But as we look down the QPR bench, we'll take a pass on Robert Smith and Andrew Ridgely and instead start warming up Mick Jones. And when your choice is between an increasingly pudgy gother and the other gay guy in Wham! it's not even a tough decision. Strummer is gone. Topper is now like a chiropractor or something. But Jones is still making music. Okay, nothing Carbon/Silicon does will ever touch what Mick Jones accomplished with The Clash, but lightning never strikes twice. Just be thankful that lightning made five albums (sorry, not going to count Cut the Crap, especially here considering that it didn't even include Jones). Where punk was always a self-defeating proposition—eventually, you're going to become somewhat skilled with your instruments—the Clash moved beyond both being angry simply for the sake of being angry and being shitty simply for the sake of being shitty. And they made London Calling.

There is no such relief coming from the bench for Black Sabbath and Aston Villa. And why would they need it? They are working on 40 years of ear-bleddingly big, if gloriously dumb, riffage. So what's a couple of more rounds in a made up tournament (hey, at least we're not asking you which band is more "Now")? But should progression through the FA Cup of Rock rounds mirror progressions through the band's career? If so, then we're into Sabbath's Dio years. And before you slam the Man on the Silver Mountain, remember it was Heaven and Hell, Dio's debut album with Black Sabbath, that helped bring the band back from increasing irrelevance. Don't believe it? Everyone with a copy of Never Say Die! raise your hand. Thought so. Sure, Dio's maybe 5'1" (5'6" with the hair) and also American (shhh... don't tell the people in charge), but, like the cosmic white dwarf material itself, there's a lot of heavy rock crammed into that small package.

So does Sabbath see the next round and a chance to return to the glory of their latter Ozzfest years? Or does sanity, reason, and taste prevail so that Clash City is rocking a semi-final?

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Kolo Toure: bringing malaria to Emirates


There are many obstacles for footballers looking to stay healthy and help their team. Torn ligaments, hamstring pulls, dead legs, and of course, the dreaded metatarsal injury.

However, there's a new one to be on the look out for, especially if you're an Arsenal player: malaria.

From the wonderfully unrefined pages of The Sun:

Toure, 27, picked up the disease at home in the Ivory Coast and is now a doubt for the start of the new Premier League campaign.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has already lost Alex Hleb to Barcelona, Mathieu Flamini to Milan and Gilberto Silva to Panathanaikos.

And his plans to bring in new faces has been interrupted with the news of Toure’s illness.

It's a sad story, one that saw Toure taken to hospital while the club was touring Austria and Hungary. I imagine that spending several days and nights in a Austrian hospital could not have helped his discomfort in any way.

Still, he should recover smartly, as others have in the past: the same article mentions Celestine Babayaro, Yakubu and Lomana LuaLua as players who've all returned to football successfully following a run-in with the deadly virus. Such a silver lining to the malarial cloud doesn't help Wenger much, considering they've done nothing but sell so far this off-season.

After the jump, some videos about malaria, because I know you're all dying to learn more. Also, a song and a video about Toure, which for us non-Gooners might be as painful as malaria itself.

[Ed. Note: The Guardian confirms the story, although after that mess with Kaka, I still eye them suspiciously]








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Will Ferrell: Gentleman, Comedian, Chelsea-ite

Whilst celebrity sports fandom is no new thing, as soccer in America continues to garner more exposure, Hollywood is now falling in line with the rest of the world... Take for instance, Drew Carey having gone ga-ga for the Galaxy (and fucking Landycakes).

Now, so often Hollywood stars do overseas press to pimp their latest productions and show up a match, treating us to an odd pairing like Sly Stallone at Everton last year. (Funny, because nobody would willingly pay good money to see either one of them)

But, on last night's Daily Show, I was blind-sided by a demonstration of celebrity 'fandom' I did not see coming...


Will Ferrell is a Chelsea fan.

[Ed. Note: credit to the incomparable Chaim Witz of TMS for the screen grab]


Witness the footage in full:



And, there's even more evidence... Skip to 55 seconds in... and I'm willing to bet that's the same fucking shirt. (and boo to ArtisanNewsService for disabling the embed function)

At first glance, it could be that the funnyman could just be sporting a jersey because he lost a bet or spilled something on his shirt backstage, but the fact that it was an out-of-date kit (2003-ish I believe... old sponsor & before their badge redesign) suggests otherwise.

It suggests Will Ferrell might be douchier than I'd ever suspected. Or best case scenario, a bandwagoneer.

As it turns out, the man who brought us Neil Diamond 'Storytellers' (crocking Frank Lampard might give me an erection) is on THE LIST.

That's right... Chelsea's official website maintains a list of its 'Celebrity Fans'. Much like John Terry's reverse-sideburn haircut -- incredibly laaaaaame.

Other head-scratchers (or jock-sniffers) to make The List are:

- Tara Reid
(likely only because of this)

- Bryan Adams
(who was at my local WalMart today... shockingly, not as an employee)

- Owen Wilson
(a real fan would have saved the suicide attempt until after the Moscow final)

- Bill Clinton
(come to think of it, Monica's stained dress was a familiar shade of blue)

Since there exists a Chelsea fan-board called 'The Shed', one might now wonder if the 'GET OFF THE DAMN SHED' skit was actually a veiled reference.

Will, how you've disappointed me. Then again, maybe you can rehash the slacker athlete characters we've seen in 'Talladega Nights' and 'Semi-Pro' (and when I say "we've seen", I'm assuming somebody saw 'Semi-Pro') for a soccer-related movie.

Oh, that's right. I'd forgotten about the abortion that was 'Kicking and Screaming'.

[Ed. Note: it's not the first time for Ferrell, not even recently! I wonder if his press junket coordinator is a Gooner, else I'm all out of explanations. Credit to ABC News Now for the pic]


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How Bad Is Too Bad?

The UF teletype machine was busy yesterday with a vigorous discussion about the watching soccer. The question is: What is the lowest level of soccer you can stomach watching?


Will you watch MLS? How about USL? Do you support your local team by watching like Greg Lalas declares you must? Are you a soccer junkie who watches whatever (USL-2, South African soccer) and whenever on Sopcast? Or are you a soccer snob only watching EPL, La Liga, Bundesliga or Serie A?




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Luca Toni Is Just The Endorser You Want


Sometimes companies choose the right endorser for a product and sometimes they don't. Italian shoe company Lotto was one of the ones who made a very bad decision.
In April 2008, Lotto had Luca Toni endorse a new shoe to be used by Toni in Euro 2008--the Twist 'n Go. Regardless of the merits of a soccer boot with one stud that rotates, Luca Toni did not turn out to be the ideal endorser. Toni and Italia had a tournament to forget. He had 16 shots but no goals (one was called back), played 403 minutes in 4 games and was obviously highly ineffectual.

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Maybe We Should Rethink This Abstinence Only Education Policy

Sub-Saharan Africa has an AIDS problem. A really big problem. An estimated 24.5 million people are infected with HIV with approximately 20% of South African adults aged 18 to 49 infected. But, no worries, the US is helping out the problem by promoting abstinence only programs. Which is a god-send to those impoverished soccer players in South Africa because all those condoms that could be wasted on the sexually active South African can now serve a higher purpose...


holding up aspiring soccer stars socks.

As part of their pre-match kitting up, some Cape Town soccer players are slipping on condoms on their feet, so that their socks can stay up longer during matches.

These creative sportsmen have discovered an innovative way of using condoms to secure and keep up their football socks, in the absence of expensive soccer socks, elastic or rubber bands.

Condoms strewn on sportsfields in informal settlements have, of late, become a common sight.

What can you say, when you want ribbed socks, you want ribbed socks.

Read more on "Maybe We Should Rethink This Abstinence Only Education Policy"...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tuesday Backpasses: WAGs to pass the time

Someone else is spicing up the summer dead time. Go vote on Euro vs. USA WAGs [The Spoiler]
US Open Cup update on the Blanco incident [US Open Cup]
Top 50 English "Wish you'd been there" moments [Times Online]

Other shenanigans after the jump.

Everton having new stadium issues with their fans [Soccernet]
Englishman buying Mallorca. To promote his pipe-fitting business interests [BBC]
Someone agrees with Pele that Rooney is too hot-headed [442 Football Blog]
Germany's Third Division goes pro [Pitch Invasion]

And, finally:
Turkish keeper beaten from 70 meters, with video goodness [The Offside]

Read more on "Tuesday Backpasses: WAGs to pass the time"...

The Footballing Fate of Samir Nasri

With Arsenal's signing of Samir Nasri recently completed, Gunner fans have wondered how he will fare in the EPL after plying his trade in Le Championnat.

Are any other Arsenal fans concerned that he

looks like Ronaldo in this picture?



Sure, he has the talent to have played (although somewhat sparingly) for both l'OM and Les Bleus. But how will he respond to the WAG-centric world of the EPL?


For those who are unaware (and this is probably most of you), Nasri's WAG is Tatiana Golovin, a French tennis star from a Russian family. She is most famous for this moment:

Red knickers at Wimbledon! Scandalous!



Unfortunately for Samir, his WAG has been spotted out and about with another famous Frenchman - Joakim Noah (better known in France as the son of Yannick Noah). While Nasri and Golovin were a confirmed item only on May 3 (apologies for the link in French, but the comments on that article are hilarious - my favorite is comment #3 who is stunned at the coupling since he feels that Nasri's face looks like an ass), she was then seen kissing Noah in Paris in the June issue of Cover magazine. Then, just days later, she was at Euro 2008 cheering on Les Bleus. That little harlot!

Obviously this situation needs to be resolved before Samir steps onto the pitch at the Emirates. It is virtually impossible to concentrate on football whilst your WAG is out and about with ugly quasi-famous countrymen of yours. Just ask Ronaldo.

Read more on "The Footballing Fate of Samir Nasri"...