Saturday, October 18, 2008

English Footy Comes to Michigan



Back in January of this year, Andrew Appleby, chairman of Rochester Hills-based General Sports and Entertainment (GSE), bought a majority stake in Derby County FC for £50 million. Although GSE owns minor-league basketball and hockey teams (and represents Astroturf), this is their first foray into footy (cue Derby County are a minor league team jokes). Derby had been in the English Premier League (suck it Barclay's) every year from 1996-2001, were relegated, and regained their promotion through a playoff spot in 2006. Therefore in January 2008 (the middle of the 2007-2008 season), Derby were back in the EPL after 5 years away. With the club sitting at only 7 points at the bottom of the table, Appleby bought Derby on the cheap and then watched them finish 20th and be relegated yet again.


Having owned the club for 9 months, GSE has watched Derby County start slowly in the Championship as they sit 15th in the table with 13 points from 10 matches. Suffering through this poor form, Appleby decided to brighten his own backyard and formed a strategic partnership between Derby County FC and the youth teams playing under the name Michigan Wolves (boys) and Michigan Hawks (girls). In particular, the boys U-16 and U-18 teams playing in the US Development Academy will receive a significant amount of money from the club, and will play under the name Derby County Wolves going forward (no word on whether the girls' teams in that age group, who have produced USWNT players Lindsay Tarpley and Kate Sobrero, will also receive financial assistance).

Roger Faulkner, the Vice-President of Soccer for GSE, has noted that the state of Michigan has a rich soccer history, and the Wolves-Hawks have been well-represented within that history. The club has produced seven overall US Youth Soccer National Championships (1989, 1991, 1992, 2001, 2003, 2004, and 2007), and has been ranked as high as #7 nationally, with a current national ranking of #16.

So, Derby County FC increase their presence internationally and develop a pipeline into a legitimate national power in the United States. That is good news for a team like Derby, who has had to endure matches like this.

Even better, with some of the talent on the Wolves squad, maybe they should make some call-ups sooner, rather than later.




Read more on "English Footy Comes to Michigan"...

Weekend Open Thread


Eek. Games have started.

Anyway, post here while I figure out which games to highlight.

Chelsea have already demolished 'Boro 5-0 away. Ouch.

Other games:
10.00 EDT starts
Arsenal-Everton (FSC)
Villa-Portsmouth
Bolton-Blackburn
Fulham-Sunderland
Liverpool-Wigan
Bristol City-Norwich
Falkirk-Aberdeen

12.30
Manchester United-West Brom

2.00
Atletico-Real Madrid

Read more on "Weekend Open Thread"...

Friday, October 17, 2008

The UF Score Predictions Generator went fishin'


The international break can be a real pain for the poor, hard-working UFSPG: EPL Model, so much so that he went on a fishing trip to Alaska. Man, it's beautiful up there, apart from its politicians.

But I digress. 2 weeks is a long time to go without being completely wrong about EPL scores, isn't it? Plus all those annoying, irritating injuries during internationals week (the worst idea this side of a Kath & Kim US remake), and the thought of Emile Heskey returning to Anfield. It's almost enough to make me pine for the days of rugby. But I digress.

Which way will the wheel spin this time? Magic 8-ball on PCP, do your worst.

2-1
0-0
0-0
0-1
1-0
3-2
1-2
0-2
1-1
5-1

There, that should do it. At least you know which scenarios to avoid when setting up your betting.

Read more on "The UF Score Predictions Generator went fishin'"...

This week in "'kids these days"


Artist's rendition

When I was 14, I liked to cause trouble. Very typical trouble too, the flirting with girls who were just (ahem) blossoming, playing pranks on teachers, experimenting with drugs and never getting punished.

It seems that this generation of youth soccer players exist on a very different plane.

From the news report:
"A teen soccer player allegedly punched a volunteer referee after a call during an AYSO game in the Oak Park section of Ventura County."
Simply brilliant.

At this point, I think Joey Barton Wallbangers must be more popular in the US than those of Beckham or C-Ron.


Running the risk of literally cutting-and-pasting the entire article, I'll do the work and paraphrase it myself: during a game, the 54-year-old referee issued a yellow card and warning for dangerous play, at which point the disciplined player allegedly began beating up the referee. It's no Peruvian melee or Polish fan fight, but still, it's another signpost on the road to ruin. So sad, really.

The referee suffered "extensive injuries" and required hospital treatment. No word yet on whether the lad will be offered an apprenticeship at Newcastle United. Ba-dum-chingggg.

Read more on "This week in "'kids these days""...

BREAKING! **DOUBLE-UPDATED** This "Fix" Needs a-Fixin'


[Ed. Note: hit the jump for the update to the update]

There's a stink around Carrow Road this evening and it's not just the usual daft draft blowing up from Delia's kitchen. No, this odor's been brewing since an October 4 match between Championship sides Norwich City and Derby County. The game is now under informal investigation by the FA over concerns about betting irregularities in Asia and a bizarre foul by Derby's resident twelve-stepper, goalkeeper Roy Carroll.

FA Chief Lord Triesman has, per the BBC, said that match-fixing suspicions are being "taken seriously." The spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport wrote that there will be "no hiding place for cheats." And notorious Tokyo-based crime boss Fuzi "The Fist" Fuzigama is reported to have put out a 90m Yen bounty on the head of striker Nathan Ellington, who potted the winner for Derby, and if the allegations are true, cost a lot of folks a lot of money. (Two of those sentences are entirely true.)

For his part, Derby manager Paul Jewell isn't impressed. He's called the story "nonsense." But as Joe the Plumber would say, -- no wait, Fuck Joe the Plumber. The details, circumstantial evidence, conspiracy theories, and character assassination after the jump.

***NORWICH STATEMENT***
**NO IRREGULAR BETTING**

Norwich City released a statement this afternoon, citing a report from the European Sports Security Commission and the Association of British Bookmakers, saying that there is NO REASON to suspect any illegal actions surrounding the October 4th match.

per Bigus: It looks like a couple Asian bookies decided have some fun with the punters and tip them off to a fix that never existed, making a pretty penny in the process.

Oh well. Good news I'd say. Still, feel free to enjoy my fanciful conspiracy theory as spelled out below.


(from 10.16.08)


Unprofessional Foul launched its own investigation into the matter and came up with the following. All credit to Bigus Dickus, whose beloved Canaries could end up looking pretty bad if this all bears itself out. He's played the Hoffman to my Redford all afternoon.

The worst case looks like this:

Derby's former West Ham and Northern Ireland keeper Roy Carroll, who checked himself into rehab for booze and gambling (he owed a teammate £30,000) in November 2006, got stuck into another tight spot, only this time with a group of unforgiving Asian types. In an effort to redress his debts, and fast, he agreed to take a dive in an early October match at Carrow Road.

There was nothing untoward in the run-up and the first half played out as one might expect, with Derby taking an early 1-0 lead off a blistering header from Rob Hulse.

Into halftime we went when, according to a newspaper report delivered to the FA, there was a "massive movement" in bets across Asia. Those wagers, we're told, mostly picked Norwich to win.


Cheat? Maybe. Flexible? You betcha.

The teams came out for the second half and not six minutes later Carroll was off with a red card. And not just any red card. See above, the Derby keeper takes a boot to an onrushing Leroy Lita's face, causing the striker to hit the deck and earning Norwich an, ahem, timely spot-kick. Sammy Clingan would take his chance and with a tick under 40 minutes to play, Norwich were level and a man up for the remainder.

Carroll, if you're to believe this dreck, had done his job. The score was even and Norwich now had an eternity-- and the man advantage-- to find a winner. At home.

Alas, there would be no second score for the 21st place team from Norfolk. The game would stay tied until the 85th minute, when Canary keeper David Marshall did some stepping of his own, an unfortunate stroll off his line, and allowed the aforementioned Ellington to roll home the winner for Derby.

Time expired and despite the best efforts of the Asian match-fixers, the degenerate keeper, and the referee (possibly-- there's been some question about Darren Dreadman's handling of the match), Norwich had failed win. The fix was broken.


***

This is the theory, even if no one in the press or among the investigators has taken the risk of spelling it out. If for no other reason than to save Norwich the embarrassment, I'd have to say it's an unlikely tale. No one with the power to shift a noticeable amount of money across Asia would be stupid enough to pin their small fortune on one apparently delinquent Roy Carroll. There's also the issue of betting customs, as Derby chairman Adam Pearson notes, "large bets go on in the Far East all the time and that's their culture, it's not something you come across in UK football, certainly not at this club."

Pearson in his indignation slammed local MPs for making a meal of the allegations, affecting umbrage at his club's being caught up in what he's deemed a provincial kerfuffle. Still, his "they should be looking at events closer to home and maybe looking at crime on their own doorstep, people getting murdered in their city centres and the financial turmoil" comment sounds a bit like a certain 18-year-old's protests against a liquor fine.

The investigation then, by all accounts, is ongoing. And there's nothing for us news types like an ongoing investigation. Our ongoing surveillance of the situation will too remain... ongoing.

Read more on "BREAKING! **DOUBLE-UPDATED** This "Fix" Needs a-Fixin'"...

Monday's News Today


Check back after the weekend, we might likely have a story along the lines of "Unruly Fans Riot at Bolton."

"But Bolton doesn't have any fans" you say. Right, but officials have figured out how to bribe Boltonians to turn out to see the Wanderers take on Blackburn anyway.

Free Beer. Ah, pandering, you never fail, do you?

It's only for the first 1000 people, and it's only one pint. That's why people are likely to riot; not because they'll be drunk and unruly, but because they'll be sober and realize they've been duped to watching Stupid Fucking Bolton play soccer.

Read more on "Monday's News Today"...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thursday Backpasses: Oh, that bright, bright yellow

Becks' boys are Chelsea fans [Daily Mail]
Video of the Rosario boss threatening to kill his players. For some reason, it's in Spanish [The Offside]
UEFA reverses self, says Atletico can host Liverpool in Madrid after all [Soccernet]

Old man Fabregas blames the kids for Arsenal's dropped points [Soccer 365]
Kevin Keegan prepares to sue Newcastle [Belfast Telegraph]
Bundesliga continues to say no to foreign owners [Sporting Life]
10 worst WAG moments [Mirror]

And, finally:
Girls coach in Maryland gets arrested for third time in two months in sexual-related charges with a minor. Great policing there, fellas [Gazette]


Read more on "Thursday Backpasses: Oh, that bright, bright yellow"...

MLS Expansion

Not only have I been somewhat absent from these here parts (have you missed me?), but we at UF will readily admit that MLS is down there with the Hyundai A-League on our priority list. So, this is a two-fer-one post: my personal return to blogdome and our contractually obligated MLS post! Actually, we have had a fair number of MLS posts lately, which I believe far exceeds our quota.

You might recall that bids were due yesterday evening on two additional MLS expansion slots, with the Seattle Drew Careys set for next season and Philly the following year. In the end, seven cities put in proposals. As we covered earlier, the big news is Barcelona FC's proposal in Miami. However, the full list -- which was copied and pasted from Ives' post -- is fairly interesting and should make for a tough decision by that MLS dude Mark Abbott up there.

Atlanta (Arthur Blank)
Miami (FC Barcelona, Marcelo Claure)
Montreal (Saputo and Gillett families)
Ottawa (Eugene Melnyk)
Portland (Paulson family)
St. Louis (Jeff Cooper group)
Vancouver (Greg Kerfoot, Steve Nash, Jeff Mallett)


Get UF's thoughts on which should be the lucky cities to struggle to fill their 12,000 seat brand-new stadiums after the jump.

First off, notably absent from the list was a proposal from the NY Mets, who have talked about landing a team in Queens. Much to the New York contingent here on UF's dismay, the Wilpons decided to postpone putting in a bid so they can concentrate on more late-season collapses by the Mets. Also absent was a proposal from Las Vegas, although the idea of playing footy in 110 degree summer heat would be, well, insane (although Precious Roy would like to point out that it's a dry heat).

Right, so, which two teams should get the nod? Here's our votes:

Lingering Bursitis:

Miami -- any time you're faced with the words "Barcelona" and "investment", you have to say yes. Warm weather, huge latino population and a wealth of Blaugrana infusion. It can't fail! We'll see Barca's next superstars before Spain does!

Montreal -- a vogue pick, and one that could work tremendously well. Montreal is the epicenter of cooler-than-thou music, but the high French population will give them a leg-up when their citizenry grows tired of hockey. Toronto's working well, right guys?


Autoglass:

This one is obvious. Montreal and Miami -- two of all too few remaining North American cities that are actually unique and cool. (I mean, really, are Seattle and Atlanta, for example, all that different?). Plus the latino and
quebecois angle is cool. And Montreal-Toronto will make for INSANE
derbies with Toronto.


Ian:

St Louis -- Huge grassroots support for the game, would create natural rivalries with the other Midwest teams, not as much sports competition in the city from other teams.

Portland -- Rabid fanbase, natural rivalry with Seattle, large hipster population, only one other pro sports team in town. Potential for serious Nike funding....


u75:

Portland -- There is a hunger for pro soccer in the Northwest. Bringing
a team to Portland will set up a natural rivalry with longtime
opponents Seattle. Would be best if they agree to a soccer-specific
stadium, though PGE park is ready for them now.

St. Louis -- The home of American soccer, and still a hotbed for the
sport. Their inclusion could be a boost for KC, who need a boost to
jumpstart a flagging soccer-specific stadium drive of their own.


Fan's Attic:

Portland -- Obvious homer reasons aside, great fanbase with long history supporting soccer, no competing sports franchises on top tier, great weather for soccer, natural Seattle rivalry, proposed stadium in heart of city, and given the current economic climate may be a bit more feasible to retrofit an existing stadium to be soccer specific for less cost.

Montreal -- Canada will get another team, might as well be Montreal. Has Toronto as a natural rival, larger fanbase. Montreal has a better ownership group than Vancouver and Ottawa is smallest city being considered.


Spectator:

Miami -- As others have noted, Barcelona FC plus a city with large Latino population seems like a total no-brainer

St. Louis -- Growing up in the Lou, I distinctly remember the Steamers having a decent following at the old Checkerdome back in the 80s. Not sure why St. Louis has always been such a soccer hotbed, maybe all those Catholic and parochial schools, but I think the city could definitely support a team. Plus, no way that Montreal should get it with Gillette as one of the major stakeholders -- if he fucks up an MLS team half as much as he's fucking up Liverpool then, well, that would be pretty fucked.


Precious Roy

St. Louis -- It was the epicenter of soccer in America before there was such a thing. Weren't a number of the guys on the US team that beat England in 1950 from St. Louis? Like Scorsese with The Departed or Clapton with Unplugged, it just seems like St. Louis is due to be rewarded for a lifetime achievement award, even if they don't have the best plan on paper (and a caveat, none of us has seen any of the plans, so we're not really evaluating these along economic lines). Plus it probably helps stoke a rivalry with Kansas City.

Portland -- Similarly, this would make for a great geographic rival for the new Seattle franchise. Portland has already shown it has a strong fan base and putting another team on the left coast would make travel easier for some Western Conference clubs.


And, last but definitely not least, Sven:

Atlanta -- Despite what anybody says, an utterly crap sports town. So, why MLS continues to water down its product with meaningless expansion, why not put a team in Hotlanta for the locals to ignore so it can wither up and die? Granted, the Silverbacks (is that what they're called? the something-Backs) have themselves a decent thing going, but even all that Home Depot money doesn't make this a good idea.

Ottawa -- Are the NHL's Senators still in business? Or have they been moved to a much warmer American climate? While I can locate remote foreign countries that are enduring atrocities you only hear about on NPR, I can't even pick Ottawa out on a map. I can't help but think of 'Wayne's World 2' when Wayne and Garth are playing with the Chroma-key screen -- "Oh, Look! I'm in... Delaware." Ottawa -- Canada's Delaware? Then again, if Columbus can have a successful team, why not Ottawa (or Dover)?


Photo credit: thee MLS

Read more on "MLS Expansion"...

Capello, the Simple Fellow.



Belarus 1 England 3
-----
4 games, 14 goals, 12 points. Job done.

England's 3-1 win in Minsk last night filled old Bigus with confidence. Not just another 3 points, but the reassurance that Fabio Capello knows what he is doing.

And just what is it that England's super Italian is doing? Keeping it simple!


Sven favored a defensive approach and that arse clown McClaren scratched his bonce routinely, searching for an idea, but Fabio Capello has plenty of those and they have led to winning ways.

For starters, Capello has found a line-up he likes and has given them time to gel. While Sven was successful in qualifying, he tinkered with the line-up and found it hard to find a front two he bellieved in. McClaren was so inept in his selection, he would change formations from one game to the next, whereas Capello has been the complete opposite: stoic and determined in his ways. It's a breath of fresh air. No Owen? How dare he! Crouch on the bench? Tough. "I am Capello and I like Heskey!"

Whilst Fabio still struggles to accomodate Gerrard and Lampard, he has found security in the rest of his improving 4-4-2. Rooney and Heskey understand each other up front and the back four have been consistent. The back line has become inter-changeable and deep under Capello. No Terry? No Cole? NO PROBLEM. Upson and Bridge were the latest pieces to the party and both looked comfortable in Minsk.

Where Capello's simplicity has paid off has been in Englands substitutions. He does not tinker with the shape of the team during a game. Walcott off? Shaun Wright Phillips on. Heskey off? Crouch on. Like-for-like changes that have helped England stay consistent in their endeavours and top of their qualification group, a group that looked fairly trecherous when it was drawn. Ukraine and Croatia are no pushovers!

The midfield conundrum is an entirely different matter for Capello. Who would not want to partner the best two central midfielders in the country? It's a poser that will continue to haunt this current England squad all the way to the World Cup. Gerrard was excellent last night but it's clear that he and Lampard find it extremelly difficult to connect with one another.

But as Fabio wrangles with his midfield, he can find comfort in the rest of his side. Heskey and Rooney look comfortable together as do their back-ups, Crouch and Defoe, and the back four look set with plenty of positional depth on the bench.

Belarus's only goal last night came from a defensive lapse as Brown was caught napping at the back post, but such a lapse can be tolerated when your side looks comfortable every time they move forward. And England did, especially in the second half. Even with the odd couple sharing space in the midfield, England looked comfortable. Walcott struggled at times but the youngster's treble in Zagreb has given him a HUGE reputation to live up to, and England fans MUST be patient.

The opening goal of last night's match came early after the exceptional Rooney turned his marker and moved into space only to spot Gerrard rushing to the ball. He backed off and the resulting shot from 30 yards was unstoppable, finding its way into the bottom-right corner of the net.

20 minutes later England fell asleep briefly and paid the price as Belarus found a way into the box and a cheeky Igor Stasevich cross found Pavel Sitko unmarked as Wes Brown watched on.

After that, it was all England. Heskey worked the ball wide on 50 minutes and crossed low for Rooney to finish to make it 2-1 and England continued to press.

Rooney capped an outstanding outing with a brilliant solo effort with 15 or so minutes remaining, taking on two players before wrong-footing the keeper and sticking the ball in at the near post.



Rooney has 5 goals in the last 3 games and has been nothing short of a revelation for England of late. He is still 22! Hard to believe, eh? He seems to have been around forever! He has found a true partner in Emile Heskey and he is making the most of it.

England should have scored a fourth towards the end of last night's game but Gerrard refused to acknowledge his left foot as he was put through to an empty goal. The outside of his right boot found the post. A simple left-footed swipe would have found the net with ease.

Overall Capello has to be pleased. He doesn't have an obvious answer to the great midfield question that graces every breakfast table debate in England, but at this point, who cares?

Croatia away? Done. Belarus away? Done. Kazakhstan? Done. As my mate Garry 'Hoops' would say, "job's a good 'un!"

England sit at the top of the heap today, 5 points clear of Croatia with a confidence they have been lacking in recent times.

I for one have been impressed with Capello's attitude and team selection. The players seem happy and the goals are flowing. There is finally a consitency to the line up and bench.

The simple truth is, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. It's that simple. It's Capello simple.

- Bigus.

Read more on "Capello, the Simple Fellow."...

Theo? Hurry home from Minsk



Young Mr. Walcott is doing rather well for himself at the moment. Lauded as the next great England star (although Rooney better still be included in that discussion after his goals last night) following his hat-trick in Croatia, he's getting some confidence and getting regular playing time at the Emirates.

He's also got a lovely lady at home, one that defies the vapid spirit of the WAG lifestyle. She passed her A-Levels with ease and is figuring out her university options, as well as climbing Kilimanjaro in six weeks with Justin Hoyte's girlfriend to raise money for a children's charity.

In short, she's everything the WAGs aren't. However, she still looks good in a bikini, as recent modelling shots show. Is it wrong to post these? I say no. I just hope she keeps up with school and doesn't cave in to the inanity of most footballer's WAGs.

A couple of pics after the jump. Best of luck to Theo and Melanie moving forward.


You won't find love like this in Southampton


I think mauve is my new favourite colour

Read more on "Theo? Hurry home from Minsk"...

Sexy fun in Zimbabwe keeps team from qualifying for World Cup

Henrietta Rushwaya is an anomaly. She is the CEO of the Zimbabwe Football Association. Pretty cool, huh? She is also a cougar of the highest level. So much so that she has been cited as the main reason that Zimbabwe did not make it out of the first round of African qualifying. It seems that she tired out certain stars before they even took the pitch.

Rushwaya, it is reported, forced coach Jose Claudinei Valinhos to release a few players from camp after curfew so that they could pleasure each other. One of those players should be familiar to most UF readers. It seems that Ms. Rushwaya has a special place in her heart (at the very least) for Manchester City striker Benjani. From the article:

Rushwaya and the player have left the senior team in a state of shock. When he comes home especially on a siesta from his overseas club, he camps at Rushwaya’s residence where they live literary like husband and wife…
Nice.

Diving a little bit deeper into the article, one can find this gem as well:
Rushwaya herself is known for being generous with her body and numerous scribes have had a go. She is a very kind boss whose generosity has won her friends especially in the media as most of her scandals are deliberately swept under the carpet
According to an anonymous source. Nice reporting standards there, Zimbabwe media.

Finally, there is one more piece of information that just cannot be ignored. It seems that Rushwaya trysts take place in one of Harare's swankiest hotels, a Holiday Inn. Now, I'm no tastemaker when it comes to which hotels to use for sex, but I've always been more of a Red Roof Inn man myself. Perhaps Ms. Rushwaya is just reaching a little too high in expecting the front desk manager at a Holiday Inn to keep her secrets for her.

Read more on "Sexy fun in Zimbabwe keeps team from qualifying for World Cup"...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wednesday Backpasses: Thank you, Mr. Thompson

Well, it looks like the soft launch of UF After Dark was a hit. Seems people on the internet like their sports mixed with sex. Good to know.

The FA tells Joe Kinnear he can't have any more press conferences like the one from two weeks ago [Eurosport]
NY Times' Goal blog looks at past foreign investment in the MLS and what that means for the San Jose-Tottenham link [NY Times]


Since he is not bagging goals, Berbatov decides to find a different line of work [The Sun]
Icky back story to this--teen arrested after he takes off his monitoring device to play soccer [Palm Beach Post]

And, finally:
The SPL lost a true leader today. Dundee United chairman Eddie Thompson has succumbed to cancer. He will be missed [The Scotsman]

Read more on "Wednesday Backpasses: Thank you, Mr. Thompson"...

USA vs. Trinidad and Tobago Liveblog


Welcome to UF's liveblog of the USA vs. Trinidad and Tobago from Port of Spain. Your hosts tonight will be myself and Lingering Bursitis. I suggest a Dark and Stormy if you are looking for something liquid to accompany the game, which kicks at 8 pm EST.

Fresh off the 6-1 demolition of Cuba at RFK on Saturday which put the USA into the next round of qualifying, Bob Bradley sent home most of his European based veterans. So tonight should be a good look at the likes of Adu and Altidore, with some MLS-based filler youth as well.

Trinidad and Tobago, meanwhile, are coming off a clutch draw against Guatemala on the road on Saturday. Both teams are tied for second place, and a point tonight for T&T would be huge as they host Cuba at home in November, while Guatemala travel to the Isla de Fidel tonight, then finish up against the USA at the Dick in Denver.

Lineups and more after the jump.






Our UF spies are in the locker room and will get us the teamsheets shortly.

7:14- US Starters:

----------------Guzan----------------
Hejduk---Califf---Orozco---Pearce
---------Edu--------Torres-----------
Kljestan-------Adu------Beasley (c)
--------------Altidore-----------------

Looks like a 4-5-1 with Adu pulling the strings. Also we get to see the 5' 5" Torres in some sort of defensive role.

7:33- Wayne Rooney gives an unintelligible interview on Sky Sports. Perhaps LB can translate.

7:57- Still searching for team sheets. Anyone have a link?

8:00 -Allright, we are live. Time to settle in for the JP and John Harkes show. Over/under on mentions of the shot heard round the world tonight?

8:05 - Ok, found a T&T teamsheet:
GK- Ince
D-Edwards, Lawrence, Thomas
MF - Birchall, Daniel, Latapy, Edwards, Spann, Yorke
F - Scotland

So a 3-6-1? Or something...should be a crowded midfield tonight.

8:06 - Stadium announcer sounds like a dude I would like to toke with.

8:07 - Anthems. A live band busts an awesome calypso version of the Stars and Stripes. Muffed snickers from Brad Guzan.

8:08 - T&T striker Jason Scotland plays for Swansea. Lawrence plays for the Welsh side as well. Yorke and Edwards play for Roy Keane.

8:08 - Holy Cow. The T&T anthem is mind blowing. A nice waltzing march.

0 Minutes - Kickoff. Bradley looking cool in the t shirt. Will never be confused for Mourinho on the touch line.

2nd minute - Beasley almost gets a chance on the right side after some decent play from Sasha.

4th minute - T&T win a free kick just outside the box. Ball is whipped in, Guzan makes a nice save, ball rebounds around and then is cleared out of danger. Meanwhile the US counters but Adu loses the ball at the top of the box.

5th minute - On the ensuing corner, Altidore is free at the back post but falls over. The stadium looks more or less full, and the supporters are enjoying themselves.

7th minute - the Pierce/Beasley combo on the left side looks like it could do some damage tonight. Beas still rocking ridiculous orange boots.

9th minute - Scotland wins a corner. Ball is served into the back post, and Guzan is no where to be seen, but the it ends out for a goal kick. Meanwhile, Harkes tells us that Latapy is 40 and plays in Scotland.

10th minute - Cluttered play in the midfield, which is to be expected given the 25 midfielders on the pitch. Ball springs to a T&T player who puts a long range shot on Guzan, which he deals with, eventually.

12th minute - Sasha doesn't do much with a freekick from the left side of the box. Meanwhile, PR asks if its ok to root for T&T. Don't tell Sara Palin, but I think you are safe. Might want to avoid leaving an electronic record, though.

14th minute - Altidore almost gets on the end of the throughball on the left side of the box, where he has been hanging out most of the match.

16th minute- Latapy chucks a ball down to Scotland, who bundles over Cherundulo Pierce for a corner kick. Ensuing corner leads to chaos in the box, but the shot is over the bar. The US have not been sharp on set pieces so far.

19th minute - So far the US midfield has had trouble keeping possession. Just as I write that, Adu leads a move, passes wide to Altidore, who crosses the ball into the box where no one can get on the end.

21st minute - I'm not sure Torres is suited for the Bob Bradley "destroyer" role in front of the defense. Also, why the hell do we need two defense midfielders against T&T? Give me a 4-4-2!

23rd minute - Scotland is actually on loan to Wolves, and he almost gets through the US defense there.

25th minute - Edu turns over the ball in the midfield, leading to another Scotland chance on the left side.

27th minute - I'm not sure the Califf-Orozco pairing in the middle is really something we need to see going forward in the future. T&T now really dominating possession now.

28th minute - to be fair, Califf does have cool sideburns tonight. Torres and Adu both turning the ball over at every opportunity. T&T going for some Colaship level muck and grind chippiness now.

33rd minute - US midfield is totally out of sync right now. T&T playing very physically against the smaller US players.

35th minute - The game has ground to a halt, thanks to a T&T injury. They are forced to sub in Hislop. USA corner goes to nothing. Latapy brought down by Adu on the counter, although he avoids going into the ref's book.

38th minute - Adu just cannot play central midfield, at least not against bigger players. Meanwhile, Torres puts a shot in row ZZ.

40the minute - I'm openly rooting for the Soca Warriors at this point, I think. The US midfield is in shambles. A decent run by Beasley on the left leads to a terrible ball from Adu right at the keeper.

42th minute - The US needs to take advantage of their speed out wide instead of mucking around in the middle. Beasley almost gets on a ball deep in the left corner.

45th minute - Into stoppage time and this half has been pathetic. Bradley needs to move to a 4-4-2 at halftime, methinks. The bench is a bit thin, but it would be nice to see Wynne and Szetela.

47th minute - Scotland almost puts one past Guzan at the death, but it goes just wide. He should have buried that. And there's the whistle. Are you ready for smug ESPN announcer to mispronounce Rooney?

Halftime - US have been poor in the first half, but perhaps Bradley is figuring out that Torres cannot play as a defensive midfielder. Edu has been mediocre as well, and Adu looks like shit. Beasley needs to get more touches, he has been the most dangerous player on the field. I'm out to drink more and plan my vacation to T&T, and LB will be taking over for the second half. Stay safe, folks.

-----
Hello folks, LB here to add a touch of English disdain at this lackluster match. When the best chance of the match has been squandered by a lad playing for Swansea City, we're in trouble.

I know we're all expecting a lot here, but we should have known it'd be this cautious and dour thus far. Bradley brings in 8 new faces from the lineup against Cuba, and of course it's going to be rough going. As Ian pointed out, the most troubling part is that Califf/Orozco partnership. Scotland and Birchill The Colaship Lad are having far too much time and space to waste chances.

Meanwhile, Edu and Torres are not defensive midfielders, nor do they appear to be particularly proficient at distributing the ball. Hejduk sprints his lungs out to get down the wing, and has no juice left to provide a decent cross.

At least for the US, Trinidad & Tobago aren't doing much with all their possession.

46 mins: And we're off again. So much news hidden within the reporting of the MLS bids announced today. The Gillett family is launching a bid for a franchise in Montreal... might that augur the beginning of the end for them in Liverpool? That'd be nice, even with recent injury scares surrounding Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel tonight.

No subs for either side at the interval. Will Bradley get anything from this awful formation?

48 mins: Does Harkes get how offside works? USMNT have their first decent-looking move of the match as Kljestan finds Torres who finds Altidore through the middle, but the linesman flags it. Touch-and-go as far as I could see. Harkes is adamant.

A much brighter start from the US after the break.

49 mins: A sharp move from T&T as Edwards and Birchill exchange passes at the edge of the USMNT box, but the move breaks down.

50 mins: Fun fact from Harkes that 7 of the Starting XI for T&T are playing in England. He then goes on to mention Latapy in Scotland... I think he meant they're playing in Great Britain but the thought was there. Poor lad, he tries so hard.

Steady calypso beats and a long ball down the right for Altidore to obediently chase as Hejduk overcooks the pass a bit and Lawrence ushers it out of play for a goal kick. Frankie had the right idea, but Jozy read it late and another attack dissolves to nothing.

SCORE UPDATE:
Guatemala 0, Cuba 1

That'd put T&T through, right?

53 mins: Scotland holds the ball up at the edge of the box and earns a T&T corner. Daniel slings it in and it's only half-cleared. It then comes back into Yorke in the box as Birchill lobs it in, but he can't shoot, and then Scotland has a half-chance on the left side but the ball skidded off the turf and he couldn't pull the trigger.

Not a bad chance for T&T, as the US clearly look awful from the set-piece. Guzan isn't happy at all. I for one don't blame him.

55 mins: Can I get a Stern John appearance? The camera show him feigning enjoyment of the bench. It's almost at the hour mark, and it's time for us to see another T&T player who can't shoot accurately.

SCORE UPDATE:
Honduras 0, Jamaica 1
Mexico 0, Canada 1

The world's gone mad, I tell ya.

58 mins: Carlos Edwards is simply a Trinidadian facsimile of Jermaine Pennant. There, I've pegged it. His breezy run down the right flank unhindered yields a cross to no-one, despite having all the time in the world to get his foot around it and provide something of menace. Then again, it's the drawback of your team playing a 4-5-1 and having a lone striker who's positionally-retarded and doesn't know where to make his runs.

59 mins: Scotland gets free down the left, but does nothing with it. Anyone else seeing the pattern emerging here?

60 mins: ESPN takes a break from the snooze to inform us on the MLB playoffs. Wish my fuckin' Cubs were still involved. Sadly, not. I'd also kill for a goal right now. BRING ON STERN JOHN! STERN JOHN! STERN JOHN!

Ping-pong football in the midfield as neither side is really good at keeping possession.

61 mins: GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL SOCA WARRIORS! Nice move from Latapy to release Edwards down the right, who remarkably sheds his new Pennant comparison to outfox Pearce on the wing. Edwards chips it over everyone and finds Latapy in space, and his first-time volley hits the post and bounces in off Guzan's back.

The crowd goes mad, and I express relief at not having to murder someone.
Soca Warriors 1, US Young'ins 0

How will the US respond? Nuclear aggression? An angry wag of the finger?

63 mins: "Someone remind Latapy he's 40," cries Harkes as the aging Scottish League player narrowly misses a second. Scotland beats the rather slow USMNT offside trap and feeds to Latapy in the middle whose first-time shot skids wide of the left-hand post.

Please Harkes, enough with the age references.

65 mins: T&T are attacking brightly now, and I can't remember the last time the USMNT held possession for more than 20 seconds. Adu has been quiet, but he silences me temporarily by creating a shot for himself 30 yards out that blazes wide and high.

Sub for Soca: Scotland off, Stern John on.

Still no subs from the US, and you get the impression Bradley doesn't really care. If we're honest, he doesn't need to. With qualification secured ages ago, this was always going to be a petri dish for his new playthings and exciting, bold formations. He does prepare a sub, albeit slowly; Charlie Davies is warming up, apparently to replace Adu.

Yep, Adu is off and Davies is on.

69 mins: The ball breaks for Kljestan on the right, but he can't do anything with it. Pretty uninspired from the US toni-HEY, HARKES AND JP! Stop mentioning Latapy's age! Age is but a number, and his goal was also a number to make it 1-0. Or something. But seriously, the age comments are irritating. Did you know Dwight Yorke is old as shit as well? It's true.

71 mins: Corner whipped in from the right for US but there's a foul in the box on 'keeper Ince and the danger disappears. This win puts T&T safely though. C'mon, Soca. You've deserved the points tonight.

73 mins: Maurice Edu tries to release Hejduk down the right but his pass is a million miles ahead of poor Frankie and he slides in vain to keep the ball in play. D'oh. Edu's about as good at passing as I am at liveblogging effectively (that is to say, not at all).

75 mins: Ah crap, there goes my big mouth again. GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL USMNT, and they didn't deserve that. What a cockamamie scramble, but Bradley (and the traveling US fans) will take it! A melee of legs and missed tackles on the edge of the T&T box breaks nicely for Jozy, who keeps his composure, slides it under the sprawling Ince across the edge of the 6-yard-box, and Charlie Davies slots it into the empty net under pressure.
Soca Warriors 1, US Young'ins 1

77 mins: Hey look, Russell Latapy is old as shit, and he's just been subbed off. Inland is on to replace him. T&T push forward looking for another goal.

Oh snap, there it almost was. Great release to set sub Hyland free down the left, his long cross sails over everyone to Carlos Edwards, who controls nicely and volleys goalward to see his shot deflected over.

OH SHIT. Penalty Soca Warriors! The ensuing corner is deep into the box and Altidore buries Hislop down in the box as he tries to leap forward and head the ball clear. Silly that, but the ref isn't having it. PK T&T...

.... AND THEY SCORE. GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL SOCA WARRIORS. Yorke steps up and wrong-foots Guzan, sending him right and slotting it low left.
Soca Warriors 2, US Young'ins 1

80 mins: US answer down the left, winning a free-kick right in the corner. Beasley takes and sends it in sharply across the box. A US player flicks it on (I couldn't make out who) but it ends up cleared from danger.

Guatemala have tied it up against Cuba, but Soca is through if things hold. Huge results tonight, and it appears that Precious Roy's wish for more T&T calypso interpretations of national anthems might hold up!

Oh, and Cuba just scored again.

Meanwhile, free kick for US a long way out. Beasley lofts it in, Kljestan heads it across goal, Davies flicks it on and Altidore couldn't bury it at the back post. Ince slams the post but Soca survive.

Sub for USMNT: Torres off, Danny Szetela on. Disappointing show by Jose Francisco tonight.

85 mins: Talk of MLS playoffs invades the commentary box. Are the poor ESPN onlookers giving up? Will the US forage forward again?

US attack through Altidore but he can't find space. Birchill was injured in the play, but slowly recovers, and meanwhile, the US prep their final sub. Catch the excitement!

US sub: Pearce off, Rolfe on? Looks like they'll make the bold shift to a 3-man backline in search of an equalizer, which is smart considering how solid and reliable Califf and Orozco have looked tonight. Yep, that's sarcasm there, folks.

Also: is anyone out there? Are you all watching the debate instead?

88 mins: A ball right across the edge of the box tees up for Hejduk, and he whips it in. Deflected away from danger, and the substitution is made. Here comes Rolfe.

89 mins: Another US attack amounts to nothing, and the Soca Warriors settle inside the US half to finish things off. Califf looks shaken up. Being elbowed by Stern John will do that to you.

90 mins: Szetela finds space on the right, and whips in a low, fast cross through the box, but it doesn't find anyone or anything. No touches, and it ends up rather harmlessly way out on the other wing. US knocking it around at the back as we edge into stoppage time. The wolf-whistling begins from the Soca crowd. 3 minutes of added tiempo!

90 mins + 1: T&T simply hoofing it forward at this point, and we're informed there will only be 2 mins added instead of 3. Does it really matter at this point? A midfield tussle results in a T&T free-kick, and that'll surely be one of the last actions of the match. US need to hurry forward with urgency, that is if they can get the ball back. Cuba's 2-1 win is final, and I don't think sub Chris Rolfe has touched the ball yet.

The game is down in the US end as they're unable to get ahead, and me thinks this is about done.

Yep, I was right.

FULL TIME:
Trinidad & Tobago 2, USA 1


Deserved result for the Warriors. Honestly, a US side with this many changes was never going to magically gel in 90 minutes, and for all the energy displayed by the US, it was the ancient Soca veterans who got the job done. First T&T win over the USA since 1994, and 3 valuable points in qualification.

Let the dancing continue well into tomorrow. 2-1 here, and I'm off to catch up on that debate.

Read more on "USA vs. Trinidad and Tobago Liveblog"...

Oh, and tonight?

If you're about, we'll be doing a nice little liveblog of the USA/Trinidad & Tobago match, hosted by Ian and myself.

Surely the USMNT will do better than England (currently 1-1 in Minsk as the second half begins), Israel (88th minute equalizer for Latvia means they drop 3 valuable points away from home), Norway (1-0 losers at home to the Netherlands, and Finland (3-0 losers in Russia).

Surely.

In the meantime, keep following along the open thread below.

Read more on "Oh, and tonight?"...

In Argentina, if you don't win, YOU DIE


Trivia Question of the Day: has an owner ever threatened to kill his own team before?

Until late last week, I believe the answer to be no (at least any such events that we outside the dressing room might have heard about). But then, just when it appeared that no-one had ever done so, we get this late entry from South America.

It happened, as most of these wild and crazy footballing stories do, in Argentina.

Rosario Central is a proud, mid-table side in the Primera Division, one that's almost a decade removed from its last league title. Since 1889, they've been plying their wares, and lately, things have taken a turn for the worse, and after a rather crap start to the season, they're sitting in 19th, second-from-last, with just 8 points from 9 games.

Owner and politician (such a wonderful, volatile mix of jobs) Horacio Usandizaga isn't taking this downturn very well, and during a recent "off-the-record" discussion with club supporters, he tipped his hand: "Central are going to get out of this situation, we are going to move forward. We are going to kill the players, coaching staff and anyone else."

Not much room for misinterpretation, is there?

Unsurprisingly, the soundbite has provoked a hefty response, especially in light of recent football-related violence around the country.

Rosario's captain, Kily Gonzalez, a Spanish La Liga champ with Valencia and Serie A winner with Inter Milan, issued a hasty statement on behalf of the team, who obviously don't wish to die for their poor football:

"We want to express our pain and our sentiments over this situation. We are as interested and as committed as anyone in trying to make sure that Rosario Central regain their historical place, which we have lost for various reasons."
The Argentine FA is investigating the story, which was reportedly caught on tape. To anyone who may have seen it (unlikely): put the thing on YouTube already and email it to us, alright?

Read more on "In Argentina, if you don't win, YOU DIE"...

Government bailouts abound!

Yeah, not so much.

On the surface, though, it would appear that the Scottish FA Cup has been taken over by the government. What with the governmental sloganeering and the government controlling the branding and naming rights of the Scottish Cup for the next two years. In reality, it seems the cup and the government got a bailout on the matter from a certain businessman.

A former Celtic director ponied up the cash himself for the naming rights to the cup for the next two years. He then passed passed along those rights to the Scottish Government. They will use the rights to promote the 250th birthday of Robert Burns, a poet so bad, he never even learned to write English correctly (I kid).

There are two other things to take out of this article. One, Homecoming Scottish Cup is better, if only slightly, than City Refrigeration Scottish Cup. City Refrigeration is the business that Willie Haughey, the man who put up the cash, owns. Secondly, get used to those colors on the trophy for the next two years. I mean, a former director of Celtic doesn't just cede the rights to what he paid for without some guarantees, right?


Read more on "Government bailouts abound!"...

The Good, The Bad, The WTF

Eintracht Braunschweig, or Brunswick as we English speakers call it, currently resides in the newly professional 3rd Liga in Germany. Currently, they sit 11th in the 20 team table, equidistant on points from promotion or relegation. Once upon a time, this was a team that won the Bundesliga. But that's not what this column is about. It's about the time they changed their badge, and changed how we look at soccer shirts in general.

I don't know about you, but when I buy a shirt, I usually like the sponsor logo, because I like it to be as "authentic" as possible. (Side note-today I am wearing a knockoff blackcurrant Arsenal shirt with "Fly Emirates" as the sponsor. Since O2 was the sponsor the last year at Highbury, you can draw your own conclusion as how far authenticity goes with me.) The shirt sponsor, as we know it today, goes back to the '70s. Heck, until Mike Georger forwarded over this article, I thought Kettering Town was the first team to have advertising on their kit. Turns out Eintracht Braunschweig had them beat by a few years. But, boy did they have to jump through some hoops to get there.

Eintracht Braunschweig was still high up in the Bundesliga in 1973, but were reeling from a bizarre scandal involving unscheduled, off-the-book, payments to its players. It seems the players were not getting paid to underperform, but instead to try harder than ever to win. This was a scandal, and players were suspended by the DFB and the club was hit with fines as well.

This hurt the team a lot. They were a smaller club fighting it out amongst the big ones. The loss of form from missing players kept the fans away,and when that loss was coupled with the above fines, it meant the club was hemorrhaging money. They needed cash, and fast. In stepped local boy Gunter Mast, the man who owned Jagermeister.

German rules at the time permitted only one logo on the shirt--the badge of the club. Eintracht Braunschweig's attempts to get the rule changed were rebuffed. The club then took the unusual step of changing their badge, from this

to this.

The above-linked article goes into pretty hilarious detail of how the DFB tried to keep the new shirts from seeing the light of day, and I would recommend reading it.

Anyway, when it came time to debut the shirts, this is how they looked:

The yellow one is the field shirt, while the blue one is the keeper's shirt.

Seven months after Eintracht Braunschweig debuted their new shirts, the DFB backed down and allowed clubs to sign shirt sponsorship deals. They flourished, of course, and now the only clubs that seem to be without sponsor all have "West" in their name.

Aa far as the shirts themselves, I think I would wear it. I wouldn't get near as big a kick out of it as I would have about 10 years ago when I could actually drink the stuff, but it is rather well done. It should be noted that the above shirt was the first attempt at putting the deer head logo on the shirt. Later, when the rules relaxed and the club could place an advertisement on the shirt, they did. This is the result:

Sneaky, huh? The badge itself did not change back until the '80s, so this is not really an extra large sponsor, it's the club logo with the sponsor's name underneath. Pretty tricky there, Germans.

One last, late addition here. I got the old photos of the shirts from this gallery. Click through to see some awesome sponsors, 'staches and hair.

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

Bernd Stange has had a crazier life than you


Stange thinking about possible ghostwriters during a break in the action


As the hours tick down before England's clash with Belarus in Minsk tonight, much is being made in the press about Belarus coach Bernd Stange and his wild and crazy life. Whereas most footballers fill their lives with sex, porn, alcoholism and debauchery, Stange's career has featured the complete opposite: spying, firings, sultans, and Saddam Hussein.



It was reported a few weeks ago in my favourite footballing periodical (one that's well worth the extra Euros for a subscription in the US), but it bears playing out the highlights, all of which can be found just about anywhere today.

I get it, he managed the Iraqi team, he was a Stasi informant for many years, and now he's plying his trade in Belarus, a place the US State Department singled out as "Europe’s only remaining outpost of tyranny," which, as a student of political rhetoric, has a charming oratorial ring to it.

Despite all the drama and personal background that'd be perfect for another Jason Bourne movie, Stange is all about the results:
I have worked for communist regimes, a dictator, capitalists and for a sultanate. But my work is always the same. It’s only ever about one thing – putting the ball in the net.
It sure is, Bernd, it sure is. Arsenal might need you soon.

But all joking aside, is it impossible that he could eventually land a managerial job somewhere a little more high-profile?

He's managed several teams to league titles (FC Carl Zeiss Jena, Perth Glory, Apollon Limassol in Cyprus) as well as boosting Belarus to their highest FIFA Ranking ever, bumping them up 35 spots to 59th in just 15 months on the job.

Looking at the EPL, for example, there are several teams that could use his unique blend of fear, surveillance, dictatorial leadership and thirst for goals*. After all, if he can grind out results with Apollon Limassol, a side that just about avoided relegation the year Stange took over, only to win the League and Super Cup double the next season, how much harm could he do with the ineptitude being cultivated at White Hart Lane?

Stange has even commented on the subject, given his obvious love for a challenge: "I do like challenges but Liverpool, Manchester United and Bayern Munich didn't call me to take their clubs."

Considering the rumors that Juventus are targeting Rafa Benitez, I'll be the first to make the completely dumb proposition that Stange could end up at Anfield, although let's be honest -- the only way he ends up there is if his plane to New York stops at John Lennon International Airport to refuel.

And anyway, we all know he'd be much better off back in the Bundesliga.



* My first ludicrous, Bleacher Report-esque assertion in UF history

Read more on "Bernd Stange has had a crazier life than you"...

World Cup Qualifying Open Thread

Asia is in the books because it's already tomorrow over there. So if you're in Asia, please don't spoil the outcomes of the European matches for us.

Anyway, UEFA gets underway in mere minutes with Russia v. Finland. Apparently there is something of a national obsession in Finland with the Tango. This isn't really relevant to soccer but it's interesting nonetheless.

If you've got access to this technology known as 'television', there's a decent match up on FSC at noon between the Dutch and Norway. And we wouldn't be good Americans if we didn't mention England.

Fifty-ninth ranked Belarus are sitting at 4th position in Group 6 on three points, but they have only played two matches and, with an upset of England could instantly make this group far more interesting as well as destroy the confidence built up by Fabio Capello. It would also give Engerland fodder for its national pastime of second guessing.

Anyway, fun as that might be to think about, the English are shoe-ins to win at Belarus. Why do I know this? First, because as I type this sentence my iTunes just shuffled up "Rock 'n' Roll Party in the Streets" by Axe. Nothing could be a greater harbinger of victory for all English speaking people (yeah, I just want to let as many people know that scattered throughout my hipster indie rock library is some truly shitty metal). Second, and more importantly, the English players aren't screwing their WAG's.

That's why they failed so miserably in Germany, at least according to El Capitan Rio:

People were worrying more about what people were wearing and where they were going out, rather than the England football team. That then transposed itself into the team. That's said in hindsight. At the time, we were caught up in the bubble ourselves. Being somewhere like Baden-Baden, walking around the town, there were paparazzi everywhere, our families were there. When you step back and look back at that, it was like a circus.


Yeah, blame the chicks and the press.

Tempting to call him a stupid twit, but maybe there is something to it.

In Zimbabwe the head of the FA is fucking the players, and they failed to make it to the Third Round of CAF qualifying, having finished with just 1 win in their 4 team group (and if you only click on one hyperlink this month, make it this one).

Anyway, feel free to play along in the comments because once the party gets started we're all here to stay.

Selected European fixtures: (kickoffs in ET)
Belarus v England, 2.30
Belgium v Spain, 2:45
Croatia v Andorra, 2:15
Germany v Wales, 2:45
Italy v Montenegro, 2:50
Latvia v Israel, 12:00
Northern Ireland v San Marino, 2:45
Norway v Holland, 1:00
Portugal v Albania, 3:45
Rep of Ireland v Cyprus, 2:45
Russia v Finland, 11:00am

Read more on "World Cup Qualifying Open Thread"...

Silence, Bande de Cretins!



La Marseillaise is one of the most recognizable songs in the world, and is generally considered to be the greatest national anthem ever written. The lyrics recount the struggle during the French Revolution, and are filled with vivid imagery such "May a tainted blood irrigate our furrows."

Now, we French take the sanctity of the French language very seriously, even enacting a law (Loi Toubon) to protect against the infiltration of non-French words into French society. This goes back as far as 1635, when Cardinal Richelieu established L'Academie Francaise to act as the official authority on all matters concerning the French language. So what does all this mean?

Like I said, we take the French language very seriously.



Yesterday (Tuesday, October 14th), France played against Tunisia in a friendly. Although the match was played in Paris at the Stade de France, many of the 60,000 spectators were Tunisian. Given the history of French colonialism, this is not surprising. However, given the context of that history, it should not have come as a shock that many of the Tunisian supporters whistled during the playing of La Marseillaise.

In France, as in much of Europe, whistling is extremely derogatory and is considered even more offensive than booing. This has happened before, against Algeria in October 2001 and against Morocco in November 2007 (both friendlies, and both against former French colonies).



This time, the opposing supporters took things even further, whistling at Hatem ben Arfa as he was announced. Ben Arfa was born in France to Tunisian parents, and the Tunisian Football Association spent a great deal of time trying to convince him to play for that national team, which was obviously unsuccessful. While Domenech stated that he was "moved" by the beautiful singing of both national anthems by several franco-tunisian women, he claimed that he simply ignored the negative energy from the crowd.

The rest of France, however, did not. Prime Minister François Fillon called the whistling "insulting for France and the French players", while Bernard Laporte, the ministerial secretary of state for sport, was quoted as saying that France should no longer play friendly matches against their North African former colonies. After meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy, French Sports Minister Roslyne Bachelot stated that in the future any matches at which La Marseillaise was interrupted by poor sportsmanship would be stopped immediately. She went on to state:

"Government members will immediately leave the arena where our national anthem has been whistled. When whistling of our antional anthem happens, all friendly games with the country concerned will be suspended for a period yet to be determined by the federation president."
Unfortunately, Jean-Marie Le Pen also felt the need to open up his yap. The far-right (way far right) mouthpiece declared that the whistling of La Marseillaise was a sign that the multicultural experiment of France is not working.

I've discussed before the appelation of the national team as "Les Blacks, Blancs, et Beurs", a concept of which Le Pen is not fond. Incidents such as those of yesterday simply give this asinine man even more ammunition for his National Front party ramblings.

Certainly, the history of French colonialism in North Africa is a painful one (on both sides), and it is understandable that resentment against racism (both state-supported and individual) is present.

But really, how can you boo the greatest national anthem ever written?

To recap:

If you are English and boo Cashley Cole, that is acceptable.

If you are anyone and you disrespect La Marseillaise, we will hunt you down and beat you with a baguette. Or maybe we'll just take our ball and go home.

Read more on "Silence, Bande de Cretins!"...

Liverpool FC: Catch the Fragrance of 4th Place


If you've ever been to my hometown, you'll notice that the smells there aren't particularly brilliant. Liverpool, being a dock town, isn't exactly known for its pleasing aromas, but there might still be hope yet with the news that LFC is launching a fragrance for men. And right in time for Christmas, too!

I believe the hope is that the smell will last longer into the New Year than Liverpool's title aspirations.



The Mirror had some delightful, witty riffs on what this fragrance, and those of other EPL teams, might smell like, but we feel that we can all do an awful lot better.

What would Liverpool's fragrance smell like?

Other fragrances of interest:
- Newcastle United
- Tottenham Hotspur
- Hull
- Portsmouth (nachos, perhaps?)
- Everton
- Manchester City
- Arsenal
- Chelsea


Give us some fragrance notes. I'd imagine the Spurs one to be a heady blend of money, paella, and despair.

Comment on!

Read more on "Liverpool FC: Catch the Fragrance of 4th Place"...

German Footballer Goes Against the Run of Play

Eva Roob brings new definition to a two-way player on the soccer field.

Roob is a former professional women's soccer player in Germany who is now starring in the adult industry (NSFW Slideshow in link). Samira Summer, her stage name, started out as a defensive midfielder keeping players out of the box, and now she lets them into the box all the time.

I'd like to take this opportunity to let you, the loyal UF reader, know that we strive to bring the readers and fellow footy fans the best stories we can find be it serious, humorous, technical, or ribald, especially the ribald. I take great pride in researching the stories I post and I did a ton of research (NSFW) for this one.

Now, back to the regularly scheduled programming.

Let me warn you: all of these links are NSFW as is the video after the jump and the one photo could be deemed so, although none of the good parts are revealed. Don't go blaming us if you get fired after clicking through the links.

Also, please note this story has only appeared on websites not written in English, so the information I bring you is based on my declining German language proficiency.

Ms. Roob played for FC Nuremberg in 2nd Women's Bundesliga beginning in 2001. She played two years, but the pay wasn't the greatest so she had to "augment" (NSFW) her income. Naturally, she thought of Roob's boobs (NSFW) as a source of income dancing at corporate parties and doing photoshoots.



Unfortunately, the hours of second job clashed with her first job. Summer was coming in at five in the morning and going back to the pitch at ten o'clock. Even her teammates knew two demanding professions such as hers could not succeed. No word if there was some jealousy from the teammates about a lack of lap dances.

The choice for Roob was easy...football was fun but taking her clothes off was much more thrilling. This last statement is much better in German:

"Fußball hat mir Spaß gemacht. Aber mein neuer Job ist einfach noch viel, viel prickelnder."
Noch viel prickelnder, indeed.

On Thursday, Samira Summer will appear at Germany's largest erotic fair, "Venus," in Berlin. Any Berlin UF readers maybe take a long lunch and get to know Ms. Summer.

And, for your enjoyment, a NSFW slide show of Eva Roob.

Read more on "German Footballer Goes Against the Run of Play"...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tuesday Backpasses: The first of two stars

Answers on why the away US qualifiers look so poor on TV [NY Times]
West Ham rumored to be inking new shirt sponsor [Daily Mail]
Ljungberg to Seattle? [Examiner]

Should Podolski move to the EPL? [Kornheiser's Cartel]
Ruud Gullit seems to be a bit peeved over his time in the USA [Goal.com]
WPS (why no L?) signs a TV deal with FSC [Biz Journals]
Brazil had a shitty trip back from Venezuela [Soccernet]
Pro Evo meets The Sims? [Tech Radar]

And, finally:
The Offside has a new Aberdeen page. Your author is happy [The Offside]

Read more on "Tuesday Backpasses: The first of two stars"...

Coming Soon: Blaugrana West?

If reports are to be believed, FC Barcelona will be tossing its proverbial hat into the ring for the chance to land an MLS expansion team. There had been rumors of this previously, but it appears legit now as The Miami Herald is now reporting that they will indeed buy an MLS lotto ticket.

From the Herald:

Barcelona announced on its website that it would partner with Miami resident Marcelo Claure, a Bolivian cellphone magnate and owner of FC Bolivar, to launch a team in Miami. Claure is the CEO of Brightstar Communications, a multibillion-dollar company that is one of the largest Hispanic-owned businesses in the United States. Joan Laporta, president of Barcelona, and Joan Oliver, the club's general director, plan to be in Miami Wednesday to present their plans.

First, are they many phrases more intrinsically entertaining than "Bolivian cellphone magnate"? Second, a Spanish team with global appeal opening up a subsidiary in a market full of latinamericanousness, this seems like a no-brainer, right?

Not so fast, mi amigo.

Remember Miami already had an MLS team, the Fusion. They closed up shop in 2001, along with their Floridian brethren the Tampa Bay Mutiny, as MLS contracted from 12 to 10 teams. And even though the league is seemingly on better financial footing, attendance levels are only now back up to what they were during the league's inaugural season. Plus, if Miami does get a team, it will be in 2011, after 2 other cities (in Seattle 2009, and Philadelphia 2010) have jumped in to dilute the talent pool. That's a problem for whoever gets bids, though, as a two team expansion in 2011 is happening.

But maybe South Florida just ain't the sports hotbed that people want it to be. Of the 10 Sports Franchises Most Likely to Move as ranked by Forbes, two of them, the Rays and the Marlins, are in the region.

The Marlins were drawing crowds in the hundreds despite being on the fringe of the playoff race into September. And the Rays made the playoffs and still can't sell out. Even of the area teams that didn't make the Forbes list, the gate ain't great. The Florida Panthers draw 28th out of 30 in the NHL and the FBI is starting to relocate witnesses to Heat games.

So whether the jackpot is really worth winning for Miami remains to be seen.

TFA UPDATE: The Offside Rules had a post recently regarding the potential situs of Miami's stadium. It's a neat little stadium with retractable seating to fit soccer fields better. Although, it is not soccer specific as MLS desires, but given the current economic climate, probably isn't a bad deal to begin with.

Read more on "Coming Soon: Blaugrana West?"...

This week in political footballers



Roman Pavlyuchenko has been rather complainy since joining Spurs. The training sessions were too rough and too long, and obviously, his team is currently in the shitter and waiting to be flushed.

And yet, amid all the madness in North London, he still found time to get into politics, as he was elected deputy for Putin's United Russia party on the regional council in his hometown of Stavropol.

Does this mean Darren Bent will soon be lobbying for a spot in Gordon Brown's cabinet reshuffle?



The entire thing is rather hilarious, and, like most things Russian of late, rather shady and suspicious. Pavs was born in Stavropol and attended his first soccer academy there, although detractors are questioning him and his real interest in politics:

"He's not from Moscow. He's a village guy," Anton Lisin, a football commentator with Sovietsky Sport noted. "The only reason Pavlyuchenko might be interested in politics is if the international financial crisis affected his wages," he added.
Either way, he's got a seat in power now, besting his former Zenit strike partner Andrei Arshavin, who stood for United Russia in '07 but walked away empty-handed.

So now the big question remains: how the heck is he going to balance football and filibustering? Will Frazier Campbell be his shadow striker when he's busy voting da or nyet on matters of grave regional concern?

I'm assured by my intelligent Russia-savvy friend that Pavs doesn't have much to worry about in terms of policy-making or voting, because he's essentially a figurehead; in Russian politics, the party enters these elections, and should they win, or at least be in danger of losing, they'll dump a regional celebrity in their nominee chair in order to get the results their way.

In Roman's case, once United Russia won the region, Putin (or someone close to him) can fill the position with whoever they see fit, and this time around for Stavropol, they went with the jetsetting young striker who's very much beloved in Russia for his goals against England that secured their spot in Euro '08.

Hilarious, when you think about it. Poor Pavs the puppet! And the extra pocket money will be nice too, at least until these crony techniques are phased out in the motherland.

Pavlyuchenko might need to sign regional legislation every now and then that someone else has written, but either way, his sister seems certain that he'll be able to balance both and not suffer from distraction:"He's obviously still adjusting. And it's difficult for him because he's injured. But he'll get used to it. He comes back to Stavropol whenever he has a holiday."

Fulfilling his political duties before enjoying a holiday? A bit like Dubya, innit?

Read more on "This week in political footballers"...

Spanish racists ruin Liverpudlian jaunt to the mainland



Liverpool's travel agents are under duress today, with the news that the Reds' Champions League date at Atletico Madrid next week is moving to a neutral venue thanks to the Spanish club's racist fans.

UEFA is ordering that their next two matches take place at a neutral venue "at least 200 miles from Madrid" after their pathetic performance when hosting Marseille: chants of "monkey" were aimed at Marseille's African players, and then Atletico fans decided to gild their own lily and attack the French side's bus as it left the stadium.

Of course, the game's next Wednesday, but UEFA still hasn't sorted out a venue. Wouldn't it be nice if they could figure out this stuff more than 10 days beforehand, and maybe sort out the neutral venue before making such an announcement?



Here at UF, we poke a lot of fun at UEFA and FIFA. They're run by two rather astounding idiots whose thoughts, soundbites and actions suggest that they should be living the rest of their days in padded rooms rather than running the big governing machines of our favourite sport.

However, they're absolutely right to punish the Spanish club for its loutish fans, perhaps a bit more expediency would have been nice? The match happened two weeks ago!

LFC chief executive Rick Parry spearheads the mass disgruntlement:

"To say the decision is a bit late in the day, is to put it mildly. We are extremely concerned for our supporters, the vast majority of whom have already made travel arrangements. If the match is played at least 300 kilometres from Madrid, it will cause major disruption, inconvenience and large additional expense for our fans. Uefa have to take their needs into account when making a final decision on the game."
And he's quite right, too! After all, as if stealing and forging one round trip plane ticket wasn't hard enough, several Scousers might need to repeat the process.

Chairman of the LFC Supporters' Club, Richie Pedder, also chimed in:
"It is an utterly ridiculous decision so late in the day. We probably have three to four thousand fans going out to Madrid for the match. The flights will have been booked, the hotels will have been arranged, and now it's in tatters. What are they supposed to do now? I guess we're left with two options - change the destination of where the fans are flying in to, or to arrange coaches or some other form of transport from Madrid to wherever the new venue will be. But who does that? Uefa? The club? The fans themselves through the travel agents? It's a mess."
It also robs the fixture of the obvious Disney-esque storyline of Fernando Torres returning to his old club, where he'd surely score a brace before half-time and end up being resoundingly booed off under a volley of offensive epithets. Pepe Reina's dad also played for Atletico back in the 70s, and he too is robbed of his different sort of homecoming, one that almost certainly no Atletico fan is aware of.

To recap: UEFA makes a good decision in the heavy fine and punishment of Atletico, which wasn't limited to two CL games at a neutral site:
- a fine of 150,000 euros
- a two-match ban for coach Javier Aguirre, who also joined in the "monkey" comments after the Marseille game. Aguirre is "banned from the sidelines, the tunnel, and the dressing room, and is forbidden from communicating with his team" for the LFC match and the PSV Eindhoven CL match on November 4th.

If it were me, I'd punish them more. The seething hatred between football fans from different teams seems to be spilling over a lot more as of late, as evidenced recently by the Croat fans on Heskey and the Dynamo fans on Louis Crayton -- not to mention that we've been here before with Spanish football fans in general -- and it has to stop somewhere. I'm glad UEFA is putting their foot down and punishing these clubs heavily for their fanbase. I hope Serie A is their next target (damn Lazio).

However, as with most things UEFA, they royally fuck up the implementation of their plan. After all, these matches need to be played at venues big enough in size or equal to Atletico's current stadium capacity, don't they? (Their home, Vicente Calderon Stadium, holds 54,000) Otherwise we face the hilarity of an LFC/Atletico tie at a 2nd Division Portuguese stadium, although I don't think there's anywhere in Portugal that's more than 200 miles from Madrid.

I hope LFC's fans are able to sort out their travel mess. You know Atletico's racism will make the trip, which begs the question: maybe the Liverpool fans can sort out that mess too?



Read more on "Spanish racists ruin Liverpudlian jaunt to the mainland"...