Saturday, July 11, 2009

Superclasico live thread: Becks reps our blog

So, the Haitans get a good result against the USMNT a team of Americans wearing Nike kit. Next up is tonight's Superclasico at the Home Depot Center between the Galaxy and Chivas USA. Still no Beckham, although he has returned to Southern California and spoken to the press about Landy's comments in the forthcoming Wahl book. ZOMG MLS controversy after the jump.

According to ESPN, Beckham said:

"It's unprofessional in my eyes. In every soccer player's eyes throughout the world it would be unprofessional to speak out about a teammate especially in the press and not to your face," Beckham said.

"But I'm going to turn it on a positive spin because that's what this needs. But in 17 years, I have played with the biggest teams in the world and the biggest players and not once have I been criticized for my professionalism. It's important to get this cleared up and I will be speaking to Landon either this evening or over the next couple of days."

Hopefully they can settle their differences over some Pinot Grigio and lamb pizza. Meanwhile, comment away on the match.

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Jermaine Pennant gets what he doesn't deserve

Remember those crazy days last season when Jermaine Pennant was apparently receiving offers and overtures from AC Milan?

Well, things are a little less crazy now, but the former Liverpool winger failure and Pompey paycheck-casher has somehow engineered a move to La Liga and Real Zaragoza, where he'll surely do his best to refute Cristiano Ronaldo's theory that Spain is the new power seat.

It's a wonderful, sunny new place for Pennant to underachieve, and the worst of it is that thanks to Spain's lazy tax laws, the son-of-a-bitch will be rolling in the money.

I didn't know if it was possible to hate him more, but learning this showed me otherwise!

To break it down for a second:

It is the detail of Pennant's deal at Zaragoza with regard to taxes that will have some English players and agents salivating. His three-year contract is worth £6.24m net, with the Spanish club effectively paying his taxes. They have been helped to do this by top-bracket tax perks or what has become informally known in Spain as the "Beckham law".

In an attempt to encourage overseas businesses to place their leading executives in Spain, the government introduced legislation to cut taxes in the top bracket to 23% for the first five years. Real Madrid, a club synonymous with galáctico signings such as Beckham, then argued successfully that leading overseas footballers ought to enjoy the same privilege.
As the article goes on to explain, not only will Zaragoza be paying the taxes on his paycheck every week (somewhere in the region of 10,000 pounds), but he'll take home a minimum of 40 grand a week with no strings, AND Zaragoza even threw in a car and a villa to his deal, meaning that the awful, horrendous, absolutely painfully useless right-winger is sitting prettier than most.

Quoth the inept bastard: "I wanted to come to Spain and I had offers from important teams in Europe but I joined Real Zaragoza. I really want to get started and do well in the league."

I'm sure you do, Jermaine. I mean, three goals in three-and-a-half seasons at Anfield shows just how firmly you believe in "getting started".

Perhaps more troubling for the EPL is this tax situation outlined above, something that could potentially see a ton of superstars leaving England in order to keep more of their money (England currently imposes a 50% tax rate for those people earning more than 150k per year), and a country like Spain, already far advanced in the Totty, Weather and Cuisine stakes, would make for quite a soft, sexy landing should others decide to defect.

Most galling of all is that it's Jermaine Pennant being the one to expose this glorious, totally unfair loophole. If Jermaine Pennant can do it, why not Crouchaldinho, or Darren Bent, or Kenwyne Jones, or Joey Barton, or Florent Malouda, or David Bentley?

(pause for thought)

.... actually, it would be kinda nice to get rid of all that EPL deadweight. And if Spain theoretically took 'em all, C-Ron would be eating his words about which league is best.

Until that happens, focus your hate rays on Pennant, and all that filthy lucre, and the free sports car, and the luxury villa.

May he get immediately sold to FC Twente, or Brann Bergen, or some club in the Faroe Islands.

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Friday Backpasses: Zero Effect

Tonight's Guest Backpasser: LB

One of my favourite movies of recent times, and I cannot understand why it seemed to fail so completely and utterly. Pullman and Stiller work surprisingly well together as a idiosyncratic Sherlock Holmes & Watson, the script is fresh, the characters compelling and funny, and you can't go wrong with a soundtrack by the Greyboy Allstars, no sir. As I lie awake with LB jr taking a late-night nap on my belly, I'm reminded of its excellence Plus Bill Pullman drinks Tab! That's just insane!

Anyways, around this time in the early hours of Saturday, July 25, a bunch of us will be stumbling around Baltimore's Inner Harbor. I cannot wait!

Ronaldinho's is in danger of becoming fat, like orca fat. Meelan are scared [Wales Online]
Nike's been juicing with their new soccer balls. At least the next John Terry PK miss will occur with a sexier ball [Gizmodo]
Citeh allow Jo to spend more time at Everton on loan [Guardian Sport]

Manchester United miss out on yet another player, as Huntelaar agrees to shift to Stuttgart [Sky Sports]
Tranny involved in Originaldo scandal last year dies of AIDS [Brisbane Times]
Diadora goes belly-up; Scotland need new shirt maker [BBC Sport]
American coach to take over the reins at beleaguered Scottish First Division club []
Aberdeen decide to sue Elton John for pitch damage that happened 5+ years ago [Evening Express]
Some info on the NYC soccer movie festival [NY Times]

And finally:
Sad news about former Blackburn/Scotland legend Colin Hendry. His wife died following complications from botched cosmetic surgery []


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Friday, July 10, 2009

UF Quick Throw: Eto'o No Go.

Samuel Eto'o has missed the opportunity to become the richest player in the Premier League. Manchester Arabia set a deadline and that has passed. It was reported that Eto'o was to earn 250k a week! Arabia top dog Garry Cook tonight announced "The circumstances surrounding him were such that a deal couldn't be completed."

It looks as if Eto'o has joined Kaka in the "I have some credibility" camp. Who will Manchester Arabia sling their cash at next? David Villa? I'm sure we won't have to wait long to find out.

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It Was Ten Years Ago Today...

"Making all five penalty kicks in a pressure cooker is not easy"

...the U.S. Women's National Team defeated China to win the World Cup before a delirius crowd of 90,185 at the Rose Bowl. The shot of Brandi Chastain de-shirting after nailing the PK winner is the takeaway image, but there was so much more. What's best, the way I remember it, was not that it was Women who were playing, or that Footy was getting so much love... it was that We Won.

It was a great game and we f%^kin' won it.

For a ride down memory lane, hop aboard the UF Delorean... cranking it up to 88!


"This crowd was unbelievable"

It all began on a June Saturday at Giants Stadium in New Jersey. A then-record 78,972 people turned out for the opener, USA vs. Denmark, and a first look at the team that would dominate the sporting headlines for a sparkling summer fortnight.

The US team won the opener 3-0, with Mia Hamm-- probably the only player we'd heard of to that point-- scoring her first and team's first goal in the 17th minute. She would assist on the second, then lead Sportscenter that night. I remember, I was there.

The American team skipped through the group stage, outscoring their overmatched opponents 10-1. Hamm held the spotlight, but she shared the goals. Tiffeny Milbrett, Kristine Lilly, Tricia Venturini, Michelle Akers, Shannon McMillan, Julie Foudy, and Cindy Parlow all struck at least once.

And manager Tony DiCicco's moustache roared!


"A little bit dangerous at times"

The team didn't need to travel far, having played all three first round matches on the East Coast, for their quarterfinal with Germany at Washington's Jack Kent Cooke Stadium (now FedEx Field.) Another raucous crowd-- only 54,642 this time-- turned out, but were shocked silent by a 5th minute own goal off eventual cover girl Brandi Chastain. Tiffeny Milbrett would level ten minutes later and the plot was back in place... until it wasn't. The Germans struck again, this time moments before the half.

DiCicco made no changes during the break and was rewarded for his resolve when Chastain brought the women level just five minutes into the second half. Julie Foudy-- for a broadcaster, she was an excellent footballer-- would come off in the 65th minute, the score still even, and not a moment too soon. Less than a minute later, her replacement, Shannon McMillan, put a right side cross in to Joy Fawcett, who headed home for her only goal of the tournament. Well-timed it was, and the U.S. were on to a semi-final date with Brazil.

July 4, 1999, was the five-year anniversary of Brazil's 1-0 second round defeat of the USMNT at the American World Cup. There would be no repeat of that day's unfortunate result (or violent play), instead a Stanford Satdium crowd of more than 79,000 would watch the US take an early 1-0 lead, then hold on as goalkeeper Brianna Scurry battened down the hatches. A late penalty from captain Michelle Akers sealed it. Next stop, Pasadena and the Women's World Cup final.

The build-up...


"A Moment of Insanity"

"Kristine was there like she always has been"

Ten years ago today. They played the first 90 minutes in front of 90,185 at the Rose Bowl. As the game moved scoreless into (golden goal) extra time the number would be rising. Millions now in front of their televisions. The cream of the national sporting press, for better or worse, had now trained their focus on the sparkling Angelino grass. The heat and a losing battle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome knocked out Michelle Akers a minute into the first extra period. Chinese thrasher Sun Wen, who would end tied as the tournament's top scorer, threatened at every turn. The Chinese earn a corner...

In the 100th minute, China midfielder Liu Ying sent a left-side corner past the far post to Zhang Outing. Seven yards from the endline, Zhang beat Scurry with a looping header back toward the left corner.

Gary Davidson, Soccer Times

Scurry was indeed caught going the wrong way. The ball easily sailed on by her outstretched arms. And then, just as quickly, there it went... out into the box... hoofed into the midfield.
Lilly! She had headed clear, her heels glued to the goal line.

"Basically 'Oh, damn' was going through my mind because I knew it was by me and I knew it was low enough to be in the goal and all of a sudden, it comes flying over my head. Kristine was there like she always has been."

Brianna Scurry, GK, Team USA

Now it was down to penalties. Save one, you're a hero, DiCicco told his keeper. She did. The third. Scurry went left, the shooter did too, and without much conviction. The rest kept their nerve. It was down to Chastain.

This was fun!

Ahhh, the 90s...

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Rafa Rants (again)

Make no mistake, I'm a homer.

As a Liverpool fan, I see the world through red-tinted shades. I regularly sip the cherry Kool-Aid. Without many exceptions, my rear end can be found parked squarely behind LFC whenever an issue that requires side-taking is raised.

That isn't to say, however, that I possess an utterly blind faith, lack reason or operate within a reality-distortion sphere. I enjoy thinking for myself and am rather capable of it, thank you very much.

Now, I genuinely like Rafa Benitez. I fully trust in his ability to lead Liverpool and shape its future for the better. I also believe he can and will lead us to the Premier League title. Yet, when Rafa Benitez starts sounding off, I have to take whatever words come out of his mouth with a sizable pinch of salt.

His out-of-the-blue (but ultimately, dead-on) attack on Sir Alex Ferguson this past winter is well documented. There have also been more than a few dust-ups with Gillett and Hicks. If you've ever listened to a Rafa Benitez press conference, its obvious he's not afraid to make his feelings known, although often in a passive-aggressive manner.

Like an uncle you know is going to get drunk and take his pants off at any given family event, I've come to expect this petulant behavior from Rafa. While I won't make excuses for it, I'm not embarrassed -- it's just part and parcel, a small price to pay for the greater good.

One of my favorite Rafa Benetiz press conference 'moves' comes when a reporter asks a question Rafa doesn't want to answer; He'll just answer with a non-sequitar.

"Rafa, what do have you say about Manager X's comments about your possible pursuit of Player Y?"

"Yes, I am very happy with the way the team is training. We look forward to the opportunity to get three points tomorrow."

So, it's not shocking that Rafa has struck out once again, this time focusing on a former transfer target, Gareth Barry. (seriously, we all thought that story was done and buried.... please?)

Like a lover still scorned, Rafa hit out at the England international for choosing Man City over Liverpool this summer:

At this level everyone earns big money. The question is do you make the right decisions and do what is best for your career? If it's just for money sometimes you will make mistakes and I've been surprised by some decisions this summer – like Barry. I won't say too much but it was clearly 100% for money. The most important thing for me, though, is the passion of the players.


Then, in practically the same breath, Rafa does his best Clint Eastwood Squint of Warning towards the summer's most coveted central midfield pair, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano:

Don't forget we signed Alonso from Real Sociedad when nobody knew about him and we renewed his contract two years ago, so he was happy then, and you know what happened with Mascherano at West Ham before we brought him here. Both players owe a lot to Liverpool. They owe Liverpool some loyalty and they both know that.

Sounds a lot like "I took you into this world, I sure as hell can take you out!" Thanks, Mom.

There are those who will say Rafa's propensity for foaming at the mouth hurts his team, but I'm not buying. While the recent spat with SAF coincided nicely with Liverpool's surrender at the summit, the mental make-up of a top-notch professional squad has to be stronger than that. Especially when they should be used to hearing this song & dance by now.

Quite honestly, I'd like to see Rafa press conferences expanded to include topics completely unrelated to the footballing world.

"Rafa, do you think about the global attention devoted to the death of Michael Jackson?"

"For me, the most important thing is having a well-rounded breakfast. You cannot find success throughout the day if you do not start that day off correctly, no?"

"Rafa, your thoughts on the recent elections and unrest in Iran?

"In my home, we have the satelitte television. I am very happy with the package we have subscribed to. It gives us options, which is good. Maybe too many options?"

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One Step Closer to MLS in Portland

Portland has taken one more step towards actually fielding an MLS team in 2011. The Mayor and Merritt Paulson, owner of the USL Timbers and AAA Portland Beavers, reached a tenative stadium renovation agreement yesterday.

This MLS to Portland ordeal is being drawn out longer than an American Idol results show. MLS initially awarded a club to the city in March and the principals (the city and club owner Merritt Paulson) have been squabling about stadium renovation financing ever since. First, there was an advisory committee that recommended a two stadium proposal (renovation for PGE Park and a new stadium for the soon-to-be displaced Triple-A baseball team), then the City did not approve that recommendation, then they decoupled the two stadiums from each other, and now it is just a PGE Park renovation proposal.

No vote has been scheduled has been scheduled but that appears a mere formality as the required three votes seem secure.. The renovations will be several million dollars less than originally proposed (but who knows if there will be overruns) at $31M. Paulson chips in $8M of his own money for the repairs and will prepay $11M of rent for the facility, leaving the city to finance another $11M, which the City will pay off with revenue from ticket sales and rent. Of note, Paulson gets out of this one without putting up a personal guaranty, which had been a part of the initial proposal.

It is not a done deal yet because there has been no vote on it and only an outline of the proposal has been made public. There is plenty of time to find holes in the plan and surely the vocal opponents will be looking very hard for any mistakes.

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Know Thy Enemy!

It was 2am this morning. I suddenly woke with a feeling that something was wrong. A weight heavy on my shoulders. What was it? I couldn't get back to sleep. I got up, poured a glass of water and stared through the kitchen window. What's bothering me? I moved to the porch, sat in a chair and closed my eyes. No good, still couldn't sleep. A nagging anxious feeling filled my body from head to toe. I started to sweat. I got up and paced the porch, wracking my brain for a clue as to why I was an early hour mess, standing outside in a sweat, worrying. Then like a bolt of lightning, it hit me. I spotted a frisbee in the middle of my lawn and boom...The horror ripped through my body in an instance and I started to shake. One month from the start of the season in League one and I know absolutely nothing about...Milton Keynes!

Why 'Know thy enemy?' Click. Know already? Move along, nothing to see here...

The bastard love child of Peter Winkelman and Wimbledon. A town that will ruin your tires. Concrete cows and bad commercials, trying to attract visitors and prospective residents. It can only be Milton Keynes and the MK Dons.

Roundabouts. I lost count watching this.

So once Winkelmen broke the hearts of Wimbledon fans in 2004 (the few there were) and forced them to abandon ship and start their own team, the MK Dons appeared, not far from a roundabout, at the National Hockey Stadium.

The Dons started life with -10 points, the punishment for taking Wimbledon into administration. Stuart Murdoch was fired as manger and replaced by Danny Wilson. A trip to League Two followed and Wilson was replaced by the eccentric Martin Allen. Allen took his new team to the play-off finals in 06/07 but failed to get to the final. He was offered the mangers job at Leicester and took it.

2007/08 saw Paul Ince take the reigns. He won the League Two title and the Football League Trophy with a Wembley win over Grimsby Town. Ince's work didn't go unnoticed and he was poached by Premier League side Blackburn Rovers. MK Dons appointed ex Chelsea legend Roberto Di Matteo to replace Ince. Last season the new man took his side to 3rd after competing for the top spot for much of the season. The Dons lost in a play-off semi final for the second time in 3 years. Di Matteo followed Ince and Allen in heading to a bigger club. West Brom came knocking this summer.

Two days ago Paul Ince was re-appointed as manger after a spell out of the game.

Paul Ince. Now in charge for the second time.

Stadium MK opened in 2007 and holds 22,000 punters, although the average gate for the Dons last season was just 10,550.

The new town of Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire was officially designated as a 'town' in 1967. Many new towns had appeared after World War 2. Places such as Stevenage, Harlow and Hemel Hempstead. New towns were built near London, designed to deal with the over flow of people left without housing at the end of the war. Milton Keynes lack of history is evident from the 60's and 70's style buildings. A concrete and glass center, surrounded by countryside.

A population of 184,000 inhabit the town and wear down their tires on a myriad of circular lumps in the road called roundabouts. Designed to keep traffic flowing, the roundabout serves a purpose. Milton Keynes has more than anywhere else, leading to nickname 'roundabout city'.

In the 80's Milton Keynes wanted to attract people to move there and used a very well remembered and wide spread advertising campaign to do so. The ad's educated the country to a place they really knew nothing about. The roundabouts and concrete cows of Milton Keynes are now well known.

So there you have it. The new town of Milton Keynes and the MK Dons.

Nice balloon kid.

Come shopping to Milton Keynes!

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UF Quick Throw: No-one wants to go watch Newcastle?

Apparently, NUFC season ticket sales are at a 20-year low. The club hasn't specified what kind of renewal stats they're facing, but it's not good.

So 600 pounds is too expensive for their season of Colaship in 2009/10. Who knew?

[Tribal Football] via The Sun

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Central American soccer is Crazy, too

Yes, I know that Mexico is considered North America. Just go with it, OK?

Last night, Mexico and Panama played to a 1-1 draw in the Gold Cup. If you were to judge from the ESPN Deportes (?) highlights below, you'd say this was a pretty run of the mill draw, with one little blowup on the sidelines.

But, as you will see below, you would be dead wrong.

First of all, the first half ended with a double red card. Giovanni Dos Santos was tackled by Armando Gun. Play went on as Gun clambered over Dos Santos. Dos Santos seemed to grab Gun's leg and Gun took exception and pushed the former Brazilian. At this point Luis Noriega comes in to play bouncer for Mexico. Both get red cards.

The real fun started around the 78th minute when Ricardo Phillips makes the mistake of dribbling along the touchline by Mexico's bench. Phillips, who had just come on in the 76th, took offense at Mexican manager Javier Aguirre kicking at the ball while it was still in play and shoved the sideline general.

As you can see, there was an immediate reaction from the Mexican bench, as well as the field players, against Phillips. The referee, Joel Aguilar of El Salvador, shows none of the uncertainty he displayed in handling the first half red cards and sends both Phillips and Aguirre off quickly. Well, at least Aguirre left quickly.

Don't have 10 minutes? Let me run that down for you. Phillips refused to leave the pitch. Panamanian team officials tried to get him off. No dice. Security tried to get him to leave. Phillips starts to go off, then comes back on the pitch. The referee looks like he is going to abandon the match, only for the CONCACAF match commisioner (and other men and women in suits) to come on the pitch and seem to force Aguilar to restart things. Finally, after almost 10 minutes, Phillips goes off the pitch. His reward--a shower of bottles, trash and who knows what else from the largely pro-Mexico crowd in Houston.

That wasn't the end of the fun, though. About four minutes into added time, Perez, the Panamanian goal scorer, is stretchered off with a time-wasting injury. Once on the sideline, he also gets the full trash shower treatment from the crowd. This time Aguilar truly looked to just abandon the match only to have the CONCACAF suits march out on to the pitch again and tell him to finish things.

Finally, after 10 and a half minutes of added time, Aguilar mercifully gets to blow for full time. His reward? Immediately being surrounded by Mexican players and coaches, seemingly arguing that he did not give enough injury time.

Surely there will be some blowback from all of the drama in this game, but no announcements have been made at this time. Fingers crossed for Mexico being thrown out of the tournament and the country, yes?

One last thing. Initially, I thought Aguirre was simply trying to stop a ball that was out of bounds so his team could get the quick throw in. After watching this video, I'm no longer sure.

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More Shares to Kroenke

The savvy Colorado sports magnate (I mean, he owns the Nuggets, Rapids, and some of the St. Louis Rams) Enos Stanley Kroenke got his hands on 160 more shares of Arsenal, bringing his total stake to 28.58% and surely preparing for some future ownership battles with the fatty Ulisher Usmanov.

At $8,500 a piece, the shares weren't cheap, but Kroenke is loaded (and being married to a Wal-Mart heiress doesn't hurt either) and is cementing his position in charge at the Emirates.

For Kroenke, he's been on the record in the past about not wanting to hit the 30% ownership threshold that would require him to make a formal offer for the remaining shares, but his quest for control is evident. Usmanov is still very much on the periphery, popping up here and there to offer spending money to the EPL's most frugal club, but with Kroenke still lurking underneath that 30% ceiling, anything is still possible.

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Timbers Army In Sports Illustrated

The most recent Sports Illustrated arrived in the mail today. I opened up to the Leading Off section and was surprised to see the Timbers Army front and center from the US Open Cup match against Seattle Sounders last week.

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Are Madrid 12-round Prize Fighters Or Just King Of The 4-Rounders?

Real Madrid unveiled French striker Karim Benzema yesterday as its third big money signing of summer transfer season. The former Lyon man cost a mere $57M for Los Blancos pushing Madrid’s summer spending over the $300M mark. All this spending makes for great headlines and underlines Perez’s stated goal to do in one year what took three years last time around with the original Galacticos, but does Perez have enough juice to finish the job?

Perez came out of the corner in his second term throwing many haymakers, landing most, signing the long sought after Cristiano Ronaldo, the 2007 Ballon d’Or winner Kaka, and now Benzema, but seemingly missing out Franck Ribery, David Villa, and perhaps Xabi Alonso. The question now is whether Perez is more Iron Mike Tyson or post-prison Mike Tyson. The difference being the latter was not disciplined enough for a 12-round fight any longer often punching himself out of a bout.

All the other clubs were stunned initially with Madrid’s explosion (except maybe Manchester City), but they seem to have righted themselves knowing they can make headway by grabbing the gems Madrid now considers flawed. Perez has already stated that he must offload at least 10 players this summer. Yet, he has only sold one, Javier Saviola.

The selloff rationale is two-fold. First, he cannot have a squad that large and pay the amount of money to the players who may only see the pitch every couple matches because the costs are ridiculous and the players will not be happy. Second, Perez believes he can make up a considerable amount of his outlays in increased shirt sales, but he must be counting on selling players to defray his outlays.

The Dutch contingent he has thrown out into the yard sale has not moved yet. There is good reason for this. All the other clubs see the staggering heavyweight who may have punched himself out of the fight. The longer the wait, the better the deals they may find on a Robben, Sneijder, Van der Vaart or Huntelaar. Come August as the transfer window begins to close, the bargain bin shoppers will have considerably more leverage and Perez may not get the funds he needs to finance his enormous outlays. This is Perez’s first mistake this summer.

His second has been his timing. This splurge would make so much more sense and yield more revenue for Madrid had there been an upcoming TV contract to negotiate. There is not. Madrid just started in 2008 a new five-year contract. Those broadcasters have a great deal now, just like many of Madrid’s other sponsors, which might explain the rumors that Perez is trying to strong-arm adidas into doubling its current deal that runs until 2012. Adidas should be laughing all the way to the bank at Perez’s offer.

Perez and Madrid are certainly gunning for the top. It just is not clear whether they have the endurance to make it all the way there. Chinks in the armor are already showing and the rest of this summer will go a long way to determining their success.

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thurday Backpasses: Big Days Coming

Two weeks until Baltimore. Other changes in the works as well.

Pies loves hair lists. I'll own up. I had a mullet [PIES]
Atletico Madrid player tries to upstage new cross-town rival by getting into a huge car crash. Let's see C-Ron try this [The Spoiler]
Davies to Sochaux? [SBI]
Mexico-USA to take place in the middle of the f--king day [Match Fit USA]
Originaldo to be greeted by trannies when Corinthians go to Flamengo [Dirty Tackle]

UEFA's rule changes screwing over the fans [WSC]
EPL faces uphill battle in Youtube lawsuit since they have no copyright in US [EPL Talk]
2009 MLS All-Ugly Team [NYT Goal]
Hull's Geovanni working as a part-time pastor in the offseason [The Sun]

You and me both, lady [Guardian]

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UF Quick Throw: Lula gets cheeky with Obama

Yuk it up, fat boy. You'll be drinking your next cachaça with Allende after this stunt...

Developing nation Brazil refuses to sign on to any real climate control agreement, but that doesn't mean President Lula didn't crash the G8 bearing gifts. The globular Union leader turned populist political hero greeted President Obama today with his country's signature strip... signed by all the members of the Confederations Cup team. Get it? Time to get the CIA into Brasilia. If this isn't grounds for a coup, I don't what is.

Obama reportedly guaranteed the USMNT would never again blow a 2-0 halftime lead to the Brazilians. Well!

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Saints Alive!

They're alive...ALIVE. Ring the bells, sound the horns. Southampton Football Club are saved. They were close to death, breathing was slow, the pulse was weak, but now they have received the kiss of life. From a BILLIONAIRE. Lucky, lucky bastards!

I would have brought you this news yesterday but we had a massive failure similar to the one experienced in Newcastle in 1996. But we are alive and so are the Saints! The administration still means that the Saints start League One life on -10 points but the future is bright for saints fans today. Who is their saviour? The toast of the south coast? The King of Saint Mary's? All will be revealed....

"I believe we have a superb opportunity to rebuild this great club. This will require resources, planning, hard work and patience." -Southampton's new top man.

The Swiss are coming, the Swiss are coming! The Saints new owner is Mr. Markus Liebherr. He of Liebherr holdings. They of a wide array of products from cranes and excavators to the fridge in your kitchen (Well not mine, I'm more of a LG kinda guy but in many). Well good for him and good for Southampton fans. I know I'd be beside myself if Norwich found themselves with the situation that faced Saints fans this summer.

One man who was relieved yesterday was Dutch manager Mark Wotte...

"I think it looks very good, and it's about time. It's been extremely difficult, there has been lots of worrying about the future of this great club but, hopefully, we can look to a better future." -Wotte.

No more worrying about the future for Wotte! Oh wait. Southampton's new messiah sacked Wotte earlier today! Wotte way to go!

A new manager coming in and the money of a billionaire. I am truly jealous. One thing I ain't jealous of is those 10 points, the points that will see the south coast club start at the bottom of league 1 next term. But I'm sure if they can get off to a good start, they can finish in a reasonable position.

In honor of Southampton's windfall, survival and rosy future, lets all enjoy a rousing rendition of the song that only Saints fans should be singing. Suck it Spurs...

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Zizou Surprises, Embarrasses Children

Zizou doing some campaigning?

So, you know that whole to-do about the "Zidane and Friends" charity matches lacking in any real "friends" star power? No? It was only a few posts back, dammit! Don't you read this thing? Well, it seems that the legend showed up unannounced on Tuesday to the adidas Elite Sports Program camp currently being held at the Colorado Rapids Practice Field in Denver.

It must have been a huge thrill for these kids to compete against Zizou even though he wound up embarrassing them while moving at half-speed. His treatment of the GK near the end of this video is particularly amusing:

That video was sent to us by an adidas PR flack - damage control for bad press from the Canadian tour? Who cares? Did you see Zizou make that GK look silly? That's gold, Jerry! Gold!

Full disclosure: As a rec league GK I would obviously be able to stop Zinedine Zidane in any 1-on-1 situation. I would also probably scream like a 12 year-old girl at a Jonas Brothers concert if I ever got within 200 yards of Zizou.

The video also convinces me that, as Spectator said, "Zidane could sign for an MLS team tomorrow and immediately be the best player in MLS"

Read more on "Zizou Surprises, Embarrasses Children"...

Good Thing He Didn't Molest A Little Boy

Apparently Michael Jackson has died.

This can only mean one thing: Tributes from athletes.

At his presser being intro'ed as a Laker, Ron Artest said he's taking the number 37 jersey in a tribute to Jackson ('Thriller" was the #1 album for 37 weeks in a row). That seems like a bit of a long term commitment to a temporal emotional reaction. That is until you learn that Ron Artest will only live one more year. No really, listen to his tribute song here. Artest says he'll see Mike next year in heaven.

He also calls Michael Jackson his 'nigga'.

Anyway, we're not Free Darko. So we give a much more ephemeral tribute. This one from Kei Kamara of the Houston Dynamo.

It's about a 7 on a 10 scale. The header was pretty good, too. Although that might be deceptive from the camera angle, but it looks like he makes a good launch late to get to the ball and bury it.

Seems someone gave Kamara the same advice my father gave me: "Son keep a glove in your pants when playing sports, in case you ever score."

Read more on "Good Thing He Didn't Molest A Little Boy"...

UF Quick Throw: Barca Prez tells Madrid to get their shinebox

Real Madrid may be off-season, paper champs, but Barcelona are the treble-winners... Kings of Europe. And lest ye forget it, Blaugrana president Joan Laporta has brought out his inner Lloyd Bentsen.

Said Sr. Laporta:

We make Ballon d'Or winners and others have to buy them. It's fine by me that Real have bought Cristiano Ronaldo but at present Barcelona are the point of reference for everyone."

Wow. Get some, Florentino Perez. Get some. And by the way... Can we please start the season NOW?!?

Read more on "UF Quick Throw: Barca Prez tells Madrid to get their shinebox"...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wednesday Backpasses: Where'd you go?

If you're reading this, you are doing better than any of us. Apologies for the extended outage. Best we can tell, it was on Blogger's end. We will be switching away soon. Suggestions on migration welcome.

Not even going to bother with a jump tonight. Shit sucks.

Liverpool and Arsenal preseason picspam [ONTD_FB]
Michael Owen will not bring in lost shirt revenue to Man U. Maybe Red Devils fans are smarter than we thought? [Dirty Tackle]
Nando's baby came. Only a matter of time until they have the same haircut [Kickette]
Five pretty good bargains available for transfer [Premiership Talk]
Arseblog made a Adebayor promotional booklet. Watch out for the PDF [Arseblog]
Greg Lalas explains how the US can get a WC seed, plus he hates on blogs [SI]
This haircut was all the rage. Fess up if you had one [PIES]

We hope to see you tomorrow, but who knows?

Read more on "Wednesday Backpasses: Where'd you go?"...

The Good, The Bad, The WTF

[Ed.: Yes we know our blog was down this afternoon, no we have no idea why, but we suspect it was the North Koreans]

Wow. After ignoring the country for a while, France has come back with a new level of crazy in their shirts. First it was this rugby-looking pink one, and this week we see a four way tie for worst from FC Lorient. Good times!

FC Lorient unveiled their new range of shirts recently and man, are they awesome. The collection includes the ultra-rare fourth shirt, which is useful when Lorient find themselves up against competition that feature white, orange and black in an equally confusing form.

((*Gotta put First Things First*))

But before we get to that fourth shirt, let's look at the home, away and third shirts in order.

Anyone who has been paying attention to this recurring post for any time knows that I hate cookie-cutter kits, like how Nike recycled their old Mexico look for the new Man U shirt. But this is . . . different. First of all, it's not a standard design (at least I hope it isn't). At least the bottom part where the ocean's waves become seagulls shouldn't be. That check mark that separates the shoulder color from the beer belly seems to be a Duarig corporate emblem worked into the shirt design. Better than sublimation, but only just.

Speaking of the emblem (which really looks like it belongs on old Pony shoes), it shows up on the shirt's sleeves as well as well as covering the kidneys. A bit of overkill there. Think of it like a warning to German shirt makers not to attack on the sides, but instead to go up the back.

This is the lovely fourth shirt. Clearly inspired by your bathroom's old tile floors, this brown and aqua mix will make Lorient the envy of the French footballing world. Can't say much else, other than BLEH.

Another thing to note on these shirts is the amount of ads. Obviously, La Trinitaine Biscuits are the primary sponsor, but there are three other sponsors on here as well. The actual club crest is the small thing centered on the breast bone with the fish and soccer ball. My favorite sponsor is the one on the back. Using both the Euro symbol and a globe (featuring the Americas oddly), I can only guess that this is a call for the New World Order.

The one thing I can say I truly like about these shirts is the inclusion of the flag of Bretagne, or Brittany, the home region of Lorient. I wish that more teams would adopt this type of regionalism into their kits, though this is by no means the lone team that does so. The downside here is that the Brittany flag is so, well, boring. Black and white don't really pop together. Perhaps the team can petition the government of Brittany to change their coloration. I'm sure it has only been in use for a couple of centuries, so that should be no problem.

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

You Are Part of a Criminal Enterprise!

I love the smell of freshly-laundered $$$.

Have you ever bought a kit directly from your favorite club's website? Have you ever purchased tickets to a match? Have you ever donated money to the supporters' club? I have bad news for you - welcome to a RICO trial!

A report released last week by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has some strong words for football:

"[F]football is at risk from criminals buying clubs, transferring players, and betting on the sport [and] tax evasion...human trafficking, corruption, [and] drug trafficking..."

Well, that certainly seems like it could be a problem. Apparently one of the more common methods currently is for a player to sell his image rights to a 3rd party, and then have the club pay the latter for those image rights as an indirect salary to the player. Since it is not a direct compensation to the player, he does not pay taxes on that sum and the 3rd party funnels the money back to him discreetly. Even more damaging is the increasing dollar (Euro; pounds; etc) amount of international transfers and the often obscure machinations they entail.

However, the most insidious version of criminal activity comes when shady investors put money into a club, either as shareholders or as outright owners:

"The report cites several examples of clubs in financial difficulties whose deficits were funded by suspected criminals. Investors may get their 'laundered' funds back by selling the club's equipment and services at inflated prices, or via sales of media rights, tickets, players and merchandise."

Investigators claim to have already prevented the takeover of one Italian club by a criminal enterprise, although Berlusconi seems to have avoided their attention. The appeal of football clubs to large-scale criminal organizations is high when money gained from drug trafficking or gun-running needs to be laundered. We've already discussed the case of Mexican club Mapaches, who acted as a front for the Gulf Cartel.

In the world of competitive sport, moving money into and out of businesses worth hundreds of millions of dollars is surprisingly easy, and incredibly lucrative for criminals. The key is simply to have individuals or other businesses (essentially "shell" corporations) act as a go-between. When a business is used, there are typically so many layers of obfuscation that no one is aware of who is really behind the purchase of a football club (when asked for comment, Roman Abramovich simply replied "In Russia, money launders you!"). When individuals are used, they are typically making transactions that are smaller so as not to trigger automatic FINCEN (or similar agency) monitoring in a process known as "smurfing."

So really, whenever you spend money on your favorite club you may be doing an international criminal a favor. Why do you hate America?

Read more on "You Are Part of a Criminal Enterprise!"...

Zidane's 'Friends' Are Not Welcome In Canada.

'Zinedine Zidane and Friends'. Wow that sounds cool. ZZ must know some of the best players/ex-players around and if he was to arrange a tour to raise money for Unicef, call it 'ZZ and Friends', surely some of those top players would be included.

Especially when those friends are listed on the offical website as Alessandro Costacurta, Franco Baresi, Gennaro Gattuso, Croatian international Dado Prso and one Samuel Eto'o! Wow, those are some pretty good football friends. So ZZ and his friends Vs 'Canadian All stars'. Who wouldn't want to go to that?

Sounds like the superb Showdown In Chinatown doesn't it? Except it didn't quite turn out as awesome!

Let me set the scene. You are a ZZ nutbox like our very own NY Kid, or maybe you just love football. Eto'o is your favorite player? Well anyway, you buy tickets for 'ZZ and friends' along with 7,000 other folks. What a line up! What a spectacle! Baresi to Gattuso, he turns his marker and flips the ball to ZZ who skins 3 players and floats a ball across the pitch to Samuel Eto'o, who hits a shot on the volley first time, and rips a hole in the net. You just can't wait. The cheapest tickets are 50 bucks but that's ok, you've saved up.

Maybe you decide to treat your employees and spend 1600 bucks on VIP tickets. There you are, beer in hand at BMO field, home of Toronto FC, anytime now ZZ and friends will take to the field and show off their skills.

It's time, here they come...Woooooooo. There's ZZ, there's Baresi...No, thats not Baresi, is that Gattuso? Nope, maybe he'll be out in a minute. Where's Eto'o? You don't recognise any of Zidanes friends. WTF, who is that lining up with ZZ? Why it's Rohan Ricketts and Martin Palermo! Who? Rohan f*ckin Ricketts? Martin who?

Rohan Ricketts currently plays for...No one! He was expected to be a good player when he was a youngster at Spurs but instead turned out to be a dud. Loans to Wolves, QPR and Barnsley amounted to nothing and Ricketts signed for Toronto FC where after 39 appearances he was let go at the ripe old age of 26. Palermo is currently playing for Boca Juniors and is now 35.

Not Zidane wearing number 10, but football mega-star Rohan Ricketts.

Now punters who attended the game are demanding their money back. They have even started a facebook group called 'ZIDANE AND FRIENDS GAME WAS A SCAM! - JOIN THE CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT!'

"You've got Zinedine Zidane, with a bunch of guys all in their 40s or 50s, playing against some 17-year-olds from Vaughan. Some of them looked like they were going to keel over and have a heart attack. Nobody had shin pads and they were all playing at half pace. It was like watching your father's house league with the boys on a Sunday. To pay $200 a ticket to see that, it's not worth it." - Jamil Frig paid 1600 bucks to treat his staff to 'ZZ and friends'.

The promoter of 'ZZ and friends', Ahcene Adlani, denies that he is in the wrong and simply blames a lack of help in organizing the events. He also says that the lack of stars is ok because it's for charity. That's ok then!

These 'ZZ and friends' games are still going on in Canada, but the website no longer lists Gennaro Gattuso or Samuel Eto'o. In fact it apologizes for a game on July 4th that Zidane himself could not attend due to a 'freak injury' and invites people to purchase tickets for the rescheduled event this coming weekend, when ZZ and his 'friends' will take on local allstars who have "trained extensively for this opportunity'. Vancouver all-stars? Shut the f*ck up! Where can I get tickets? They trained for this! AND were selected by no other than Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Crank Fucca, I mean Frank Cucca. That's it. When does the plane leave, I am IN.

Before you open your mouth and nationally advertise and promote a soccer game, do your research. Don't say you're going to bring these players over and then find out that you can't once everybody has paid for it," -Jamal Frig, angry fan.

I think Mr Frig and his angry facebook posse have a case don't you?

Read more on "Zidane's 'Friends' Are Not Welcome In Canada."...

Footballers and Sexual Violence

Fair warning to our readers - this is a serious post, and it's fairly long-form. I won't be offended if you don't read it, but I think it's worth your time.

Micah Richards. Jonny Evans. Robin van Persie. Fredy Montero. Nate Jaqua. Eric Frimpong.

All footballers, all accused of rape or sexual assault, although only the last is in prison. In 2007, the last year for which data is available, there were 90,427 forcible rapes in the United States which translates to a rate of 30 per 100,000 people. Although there is some research which suggests that athletes are more predisposed to commit violent crimes, the truth is that we take far more notice when the accusation is made against a well-known footballer.

The problem isn't confined to football, of course, as amply demonstrated by Kobe Bryant and Jerramy Stevens among others, although it appears that footballers seem to enjoy "roasting" more than other athletes. However, the issue of sexual assault also appears to be more fraught with the potential for abuse by accusers when professional athletes are involved.

In a 2006 meta-analysis of numerous studies on false allegations of rape, Rumney found (PDF warning) that the rate of false allegations varied between 1.5% and 90% depending on the study. More importantly, the study found that the statistics for rape, both in confirmed and false allegations, are woefully inadequate for determining the true nature of the crime.

So we have a situation where: (1) during a trial for sexual assault the defense often uses the tactic of questioning the character/integrity of the victim; (2) the statistics for false allegations are essentially useless, leaving us with no idea of how prevalent the problem is; and (3) the subculture of the professional athlete ensures almost constant access to women who are willing to engage in a short-term sexual relationship. This leaves us with 2 incredibly poor outcomes. Either a professional athlete has taken advantage of his access and committed a rape, in which case the victim is likely to be dragged through the mud, or a woman (most likely) has made a false allegation of rape in an attempt to extort/get revenge upon a professional athlete.

For those who cast a skeptical eye on every allegation, the "jersey-chaser" mentality of certain women makes it easier to accept the trashing of their character during court proceedings. Time and time again it has been made abundantly clear that there are women willing to sleep with someone simply due to the fact that they are an athlete. The phenomenon probably begins in high school (hopefully at the very earliest), extends to college where it is rampant given the hypersexual nature of college students, and continues well into adulthood for a good proportion of women.

So when we hear about an allegation involving a footballer, our thoughts tend to turn to that group of women who are known for their efforts in sleeping with professional athletes. Even moreso than a serial wag (seriously, Danielle Lloyd, you look foolish) these women aim to meet footballers simply for the benefit of being able to say "yes, I shagged him." Knowing that these women exist, that they willingly submit to group sex or multiple sexual partners within the same night as long as all of the participants are professional footballers, it is difficult to distinguish a real allegation of rape as compared to the variety of motives that may lead to a false accusation (e.g. money/extortion, regret/second thoughts).

At the very least we would hope that the justice system would, in due time, lead to the correct outcome. Clearly, however, that is a utopian vision of the system which is far from the reality of backlogged dockets, high-profile (and typically rich) suspects, and the adversarial nature of sleazy defense attorneys and overzealous prosecutors.

Consider the stories of the following individuals, and ask yourself whether or not you could make an informed decision on their fate as a member of a jury (while my own feelings inevitably cloud the issue):

Dominic Jones (U. of Minnesota football (American) player) - In July of 2007 Jones was charged with rape after a 37-second video of him masturbating over an inebriated woman was discovered. Jones stated that he believed that the sex was consensual, and it was confirmed that the woman had engaged in sexual acts with 3 other individuals before Jones. He was eventually acquitted of rape, but convicted of 4th-degree criminal sexual conduct due to the fact that the inebriated woman was unable to consent to sexual contact with Jones. However, none of the other 3 individuals who had sex with the victim that same night were charged with any crimes. Jones served 1 year in the Hennepin County Workhouse, where he was released between 7:15AM and 6PM every day to work, and then spent every night in his cell. When asked about the situation, Jones responded:

"He is familiar with the term 'jersey chaser,' for women who offer themselves sexually to star athletes. 'But who is it really on?' he said. 'It's on us.'"

Today, a court upheld his original conviction on appeal, and he remains on 5 years probation (with a stayed prison sentence).

Jerramy Stevens (U. of Washington football (American) player) - In July of 2000 Stevens was arrested for rape during a warrant executed by Seattle detectives accompanied by a SWAT team (Stevens was 6'7 and 255 lbs). Despite substantial physical evidence and eyewitness testimony, including allegations by the victim that she had been drugged, the King County prosecutor's office declined to pursue the case amidst significant pressure from the U. of Washington athletics department, enraging the police department and local activists alike. Despite numerous run-ins with the law, most of which involved alcohol, Stevens has only spent a total of 12 days in jail and been suspended by the NFL for 2 games. He eventually settled a civil claim with his rape victim out of court for what is believed to be $300,000.

Robin van Persie (Arsenal) - In June of 2005 van Persie was accused of rape by a young woman in Holland while he was there for a World Cup qualifier. After being held for 14 days, he was released and allowed to return to England. Claiming that the sex was consensual, van Persie eventually had the case dismissed.

Eric Frimpong (UC Santa Barbara/Kansas City Wizards) - In February of 2007 Frimpong was arrested for rape just days after returning to Santa Barbara from a 10-day tryout with the Kansas City Wizards (a tryout based on his strong performance in leading the UCSB Gauchos to a national championship). He had met a female UCSB freshman a few nights earlier, invited her to a party where they played beer pong, and then walked down to the beach with her. Several hours later she checked herself into the hospital and told police officers that Frimpong had raped her. The next day police officers spotted Frimpong and asked him to come back to the station and answer some questions. He went voluntarily, despite not having been told anything about the allegations. He also willingly gave up the clothes he had been wearing the night before, again even before being told of the accusation. Despite an overwhelming lack of physical evidence (DNA was found on Frimpong's genitals, which he claimed was due to the fact that she had put her hand down his pants in spite of his protestations) implicating Frimpong, including the lack of any signs of sexual activity, the district attorney vigorously pursued the case with Frimpong as the only suspect. After being bailed out, he was sent back to jail when a second UCSB student claimed that Frimpong had sexually assaulted her a few weeks before the rape, a charge for which he was eventually acquitted. In January of 2008, after just 2 days of deliberation, an all-white jury convicted Frimpong of rape and he was sentenced to 6 years in prison. He currently resides in the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi, not far from where his dreams of professional football were shattered.

Two American football players and two footballers accused of sexual assault or rape. Two who spent significant time in prison after convictions for sexual assault or rape, and two who had the charges dismissed. Three African-American, and one white. Three amateurs, and one professional (although the argument could certainly be made that U. of Washington football acted as a professional franchise under coach Neuheisel's tenure).

Dominic Jones was an African-American football (American) player from a school where football was considered unimportant. He admits to sexual assault and was sentenced to prison, although there are questions about whether others should have also been charged and about the state/character of the victim.

Jerramy Stevens was an African-American football (American) player from a school where football was considered all-important. Overwhelming physical evidence suggests that he probably committed rape, but the prosecutor's office, under pressure from the university, declined to press charges. There remain significant questions about Stevens' character, as his continued wanton attitude towards the law demonstrates that he has no regard for anyone other than himself.

Robin van Perise was a white footballer in a football-mad country, who had played for two of the world's biggest football clubs. There was virtually no evidence to suggest that he had committed rape, and the charges were dismissed. There were questions about the character of the victim (an exotic dancer in Holland), but there have never been any further questions regarding van Persie's subsequent behavior.

Eric Frimpong was an African-American footballer from a school that had just won a national championship, but in a country where most people would be hard-pressed to tell you when or where that championship had even taken place. There was virtually no evidence to suggest that he had committed rape, but the prosecutor's office pursued him as a suspect to the exclusion of all others and he was sentenced to six years in prison. There remain significant questions about the actions of the victim that night, but there had never been any concerns regarding Frimpong's behavior up until that point.

African-American? Strike 1.
Play for a school/club/country that doesn't care about your sport? Strike 2.
Evidence of guilt? Strike 3.

Dominic Jones? 3 strikes.
Jerramy Stevens? 2 strikes.
Eric Frimpong? 2 strikes.
Robin van Persie? 0 strikes.

So why is Eric Frimpong in prison? And if you are Micah Richards or Jonny Evans or Fredy Montero or Nate Jaqua, how do you respond the next time a cute girl in a club comes up to you and whispers in your ear:

"Do you want to have sex with me?"

Read more on "Footballers and Sexual Violence"...

Terry On the Move? Maybe, If His Feelings Are Hurt.

Apparently Manchester Arabia are keen on making another bid for England's brave John Terry. Two bids have already been turned down by Carlo Ancelotti for the Chelsea man, but that won't stop Manchester Arabia (MA) trying again.

They believe that John Terry wants to move to the Mancunian desert. I wonder what gave them that impression? Maybe a certain ex-Chelsea left back? Or maybe a chance meeting over a sea breeze?

Now, I like John Terry. He is a no nonsense center half who always gives his all for his country, but some reports in today's papers are suggesting that EBJT is a little upset and feeling 'unwanted' by Chelsea.

Surely this can't be true?

The Independent is suggesting that Wayne Bridge is well, the bridge between the Russian sector of Saaaaaath London and the Mancunian desert. Surely if Terry wasn't interested in a move he would have said so by now? But he hasn't!

The Sun say that Terry is up for a move also, but they are suggesting that's because he feels 'unwanted'. But why? Chelsea have turned down TWO mega offers for their captain and handed him a 5 year deal in 2007, worth a whopping 130k a week! That deal made Terry the third highest earner at the club after Lampard and Ballack. If that's a sign that the club doesn't want you, then you need to get your sign-sensors checked. 'An insider' (i.e his agent) says that John has heard nothing from Chelsea and feels "betrayed and unwanted". Obviously turning down more than 30 million smackers and paying you 130k a week is a right good kick in the knackers. If that's the case, kick away, my legs are parted.

I said NO. What more do you want?

But this is where the Sun's theory plays on the common theme of footballers as mercenaries. They say that Terry's unhappiness is because he hasn't been offered a new contract, putting him on a par with Lampard. That MA's offer should have sparked his club to throw money at him, making him feel 'wanted'. If this turns out to be the case then Terry will lose any respect he may have earned with football fans outside of the Stamford Bridge walls, making the England captain just another greedy footballer, out for another Ferrari.

Personally I think there is something to the Sun's musings. Not that he feels "betrayed and unwanted" but that he wants whatever will make him happier, which translated in football land means 'richer'. Last week, right before Manchester Arabia made their bids, MA manager Mark Hughes and John Terry stayed in the same hotel in Dubai. Now what are the chances that they didn't have a little chat on the beach or over dinner?

"We met John Terry in one of the restaurants and saw him around the hotel gardens. We also had breakfast at the next table to Mark Hughes." - Holiday maker Jason Dyer.

Jumeirah Beach, Dubai. The perfect place for Arabia manager Hughes to hang with his new captain?

Whatever happens over John Terry's future, he will need to say something soon, not to could drag this on and spoil Chelsea's pre-season preparations. To lose their captain a few weeks from the new season would be a real blow, money in the bank for a replacement or not. New center halves do not just slide into place a week before the first game.

If Terry is sold to Manchester Arabia, he will need to be honest or risk losing any integrity or respect he has earned over the years as a nations captain. Because a move won't be for the Champions League football and it won't be for the new City his wife will get to party and shop in. It will be for the reported 300k a week that Manchester Arabia will put in his pocket.

Read more on "Terry On the Move? Maybe, If His Feelings Are Hurt."...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tuesday Backpasses: Who the hell are these guys?

Arsenal back at training today. Almunia forgot his shorts (they'll just photoshop those in later), Senderos is back and Rosicky was not just a fevered dream.

Some back story on new Everton signing Anton Peterlin [PIES]
The madness of the USMNT [When Saturday Comes]
How accurate are your favourite newspaper's transfer predictions? [The Offside]
Some iconic stands of the EPL [EPL Talk]

Wayne Rooney tried to look even more like a rugby player [Mirror]
Underperforming national teams [Avoiding the Drop]
Will NYRB even reach 20 points this season? [WV Hooligan]

Stuart Holden blogs, with a baaaaaaaaaaaad title [Houston Chronicle]

Read more on "Tuesday Backpasses: Who the hell are these guys?"...

Southampton Goes Neutral

In what one would hope will eventually mark a turn of the tide for Saints fans, it would appear the takeover of Southampton Football club is nearly done.

Freshly relegated to League One and starting its new life amongst the muck & mire with a ten point administrative-induced deduction, news of the club moving to financially-secure hands has to be reassuring... If not just for its employees, who would very much like to be paid on a regular basis.

Going against the recent trend, the new owners-to-be (jinxed!) aren't cash-flushed Arabs, but rather some "member of the family behind the Swiss-based Liebherr Holdings group". The BBC is adament to point out, however, that that family member is not Isolde or Willi Leibherr. And thank goodness for THAT! I think we can all imagine what life with Isolde and/or Willi would be like. What, with Isolde's perpetual drinking (hide the schnapps!) and Willi's obsession with the Jonas Brothers.*

Liebherr Holdings, which besides being quite fun to say in a poor German accent, is "a multi-national company, which has been at the forefront of the construction industry worldwide for more than 50 years." Luckily enough, the Saints have a rather nice home ground in St. Mary's (opened in 2001), so their construction services won't be needed -- just the cash, thanks. Interestingly enough, parts of the stadium are slated to be closed off this season as part of cost-cutting measures.

Unfortunately for Saints fans, this means club legend Matt Le Tissier, who was fronting another takeover consortium, won't be returning to their rescue.

*I have no idea who these people are and those representations of their character are completely false.

Read more on "Southampton Goes Neutral"...

Michael Bradley is a hot head, but you knew that

You remember this, don't you?

Quite possibly the softest of the three red cards the US earned in its five match stay in South Africa, this tackle has led to a four game suspension for young Mr. Bradley. His daddy must be so proud.

Of course, his daddy is the coach, so this transgression will probably be forgotten as soon as the suspension is over.

The full weight of the four games was brought down on Bradley, not solely because of the tackle itself, but because Bradley allegedly had words with referee Jorge Larrionda in the tunnel after the match. Spanish paper AS (possibly making shit up because the US team vanquished their unbeatable heroes) even went so far as to claim Bradley physically assaulted Larrionda, though FIFA found no merit in that particular claim. FIFA did rule that Bradley violated article 49 of their Disciplinary Code, which means that he showed unsporting conduct toward a match official. Considering the reaction above probably did not merit such a censure, the idea that there was a post-match face-to-face between the two seems to be the ebst available answer. Occam's Razor and all that.

Here's the good-ish news--Bradley's suspension will effectively be over at about 11PM EDT on Wednesday. Even though he is not on the Gold Cup roster, Bradley will get credit for the Brazil final, the walkover against Grenada and Wednesday's upcoming match against Honduras. The fourth match will itself be suspended, provided that Bradley keeps his nose clean for six months. Here at UF, we put the odds at about 75-25 that Bradley will eventually have to serve his fourth match of the suspension. I mean, it's almost a given that he picks up a red at the Azteca on August 12th, right?

Read more on "Michael Bradley is a hot head, but you knew that"...