Archive | December, 2010

Christmas 1914 – Football and WWI

23 Dec

With Christmas just two days away, perhaps a stroll back in time is appropriate to honor some fallen heroes and the game of football itself. WWI, also referred to as the Great War or the War to End All Wars, was one of the bloodiest and catastrophic engagements in human history. All told, almost 10 million people lost their lives.

But amid this chaos, on Christmas on the Western Front, both sides laid down their arms for one day. They met in no man’s land and fraternized, sang carols, and played football – a lot of football. It is truly one of the most fascinating stories ever told and I implore all of you to pick up a book and read about it.

In the meantime, I refer you to Tom Adams’ article on ESPN Soccernet for a deeper look at this truly historical event.

(Photo courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

Ronaldinho To Return Home

23 Dec

When Ronaldo de Assis Moreira arrived at Gremio at the ripe old age of 7, Porto Alegre and the rest of Brazil anticipated the arrival of Brazil’s future. Meanwhile, up the road in Belo Horizonte, Brazil’s present was crafting his skills at Cruzeiro before setting off on a rampaging, goal scoring career. The latter was of course the Ronaldo, and Porto Alegre needed to distinguish their young prodigy to make him their own. And so, Ronaldinho was born.

After 11 seasons in the youth ranks, Ronaldinho finally broke into the first team in 1998 and remained for 3 years, scoring 21 goals in 44 appearances, before moving to Europe. Now, 9 years after leaving Brazil, Ronaldinho is set to return home having come to an agreement with Gremio. All that’s left is for his agent to negotiate the release from AC Milan, who made a statement of Ronaldinho’s tenure at the club having acquired Antonio Cassano earlier in the week. For Europe, it is the end of one of the most memorable and spectacular campaigns ever witnessed. Something tells me the hometown fans in Porto Allegre have no sympathy for their pals across the pond.

Although he only played 3 seasons for Gremio, he made sure everyone knew his name after completely embarrassing Dunga twice with artistic strokes of brilliance (below). Dunga – Brazil’s 1994 World Cup winning captain. The rest as they say is history.

I first saw him in the flesh back in the spring of 2006 during a semester in Barcelona, perhaps the height of his club career. Every time I went to the Camp Nou, I expected the unexpected, and Ronaldinho never let me down with his mesmerizing dribbles and no-look passes. He just made everything look so effortless, and he always did it with a smile. That gaping horse mouth, the utmost illustration of his happiness on the pitch, will always endear him to me. And while I’m sad to see him go, it is simply another chapter of his illustrious career and I will surely be rooting for him to succeed (and remain out of the clubs and favelas in the wee hours of the morning).

Thanks ‘dinho. You’re weekly appearances on our televisions will be sorely missed. Enjoy your company.

WAG Wednesday Part 18 – Nina Senicar

22 Dec

BREAKING NEWS for this edition of WAG Wednesday. Novella 2000, a popular Italian gossip site, broke the news on Sunday that the brother of Roma forward Marco Borriello, Fabio Borriello, was spotted with Nina Senicar. It’s clearly hearsay at the moment and neither party has admitted the dating rumors or true, but this photo is more than enough proof for me!

Fabio won a professional contract to play football on a reality TV show back in 2005, and his career has been anything but successful. A few stints in the second division saw minimal playing time, and forced the 24-year-old into free agency. Clearly, his older brother possesses the better football genes, but WAG poaching seems to be a Borriello family trade. Marco recently dated the insatiable Belen Rodriguez, and now Fabio has one-upped him with the Serbian-born beauty.

Highlights of Fabio’s playing don’t exist. Highlights of his new squeeze right this way… Continue reading

Madrid Official Shoved to the Ground

20 Dec

Sunday’s encounter between Real Madrid and Sevilla was anything but a visually appealing spectacle – 40 fouls, 9 yellow cards, and 2 red cards. However, a delightful piece of magic from Angel Di Maria in the 76th minute proved to be the only goal, denying Sevilla a point and allowing the Madridistas to keep pace with Barcelona.

While the referee was busy overseeing the boxing match on the pitch, he could do nothing to prevent the confrontation on the sideline between members of both teams’ coaching staffs. At halftime as both teams headed for the locker rooms, Real Madrid’s goalie coach Silvino Louro got into a spat with Gonzalo Hurtado, one of the Sevilla assistants. After some yelling, Louro went after the Sevilla coach and inadvertently shoved Agustín Herrerín to the ground, a Bernabeu official. The older looking gentleman hit the ground rather hard, but was able to get up immediately.

There’s always something troubling about seeing an old man thrown to the ground, although that concern does not seem to affect the Sevilla players, who look more preoccupied with getting inside than intervening in the altercation.

Ultras “Light Up” A U-12 Match

17 Dec

Tottenham’s reserve team traveled to Poland to face Lech Poznan in an under-12 third place playoff, and one would have expected attendance to be sparse, consisting mostly of parents, friends, and scouts. Think again.

Over 1,000 ultras showed up to the match in full voice – jumping, singing, waving flags, and lighting a number of flares. On the one hand, you must be wondering why they had nothing else better to do? On the other hand, it is very cool (for lack of a better word) that they showed up as they did to support the kids and future of their club.

Unfortunately, their plan backfired as the north London youngsters fed off the rapturous atmosphere and thrashed their opponents 6-1.

The video itself is truly surreal to watch. An incredibly intimidating setting engulfing a group of young boys, and for them to have the mental toughness and wherewithal to block it out and compete on a high level. Arsenal could learn a lot from these kids.

Must See Matches of the Weekend

17 Dec

Big, big matches this weekend across the continent. And to add to the build-up, numbers of attacks from players and fans (luckily only verbal) have stained the covers of many of the local newspapers making the weekend clashes that much more combustible. A lovely holiday treat as mainland Europe heads into the winter break until after the New Year.

Espanyol vs Barcelona – Espanyol’s ultras, known as La Curva, released a video in preparation for this weekend’s derby, and made the following declaration regarding their crosstown foes, “they are not a rival. they are the enemy.” Barcelona’s outlawed ultras known as Boixos Nois then announced on their website that they will travel to Cornellá with or without tickets. Combine that with Espanyol’s seven wins in seven at home, and Barcelona’s seven wins in seven away, and you can expect an extremely volatile confrontation both on and off the pitch.

Chelsea vs Manchester United – SAF has blamed Chelsea’s lack of transfer activity and over reliance on youth as the reason for their decline. Meanwhile, his club is arguably the worst it’s been in years, they have not spent much money on new players, and the youth in his side are not that convincing either. But when your team is top of the league, you look like a genius and nobody complains.  Manchester United’s last victory at Stamford Bridge came way back in 2002, a statistic that should not be taken lightly. As for Chelsea, a loss here coupled with United’s game in hand make this a nine pointer.

AC Milan vs Roma - Roma, now ten points behind the league leaders, will like their chances with a superhero forward in their midst. Unfortunately, he won’t be playing in defense to push back Ibra and his minions. Good luck.

Marseilles vs Lyon - Only four points separate 1st and 6th place in Ligue 1. Lyon sit two points and two places ahead of Marseilles in third place, so there is much on the line for two of Frances juggernauts. Lyon have not lost in the league since October 2, vaulting them from 18th to 3rd in the league in just a few months, while Marseilles have slid off the peak since starting brightly back in August and September. Lyon are in good form and both teams desperately need the win for their own reasons.

Weekend Couch Guide

17 Dec

Saturday, December 18
7:30am Sunderland vs Bolton (ESPN2)
9:30am Frankfurt vs Borussia Dortmund (GolTV)
10:00am Arsenal vs Stoke City (FSC)
10:00am Birmingham City vs Newcastle (Fox Soccer Plus)
12:00pm Villarreal vs Mallorca (GolTV)
12:00pm Cesena vs Cagliari (Fox Soccer Plus)
12:00pm Deportivo La Coruña vs Sporting Gijón (ESPN Deportes)
12:30pm Liverpool vs Fulham (FSC)
2:00pm Espanyol vs Barcelona (GolTV)
2:00pm Blackburn vs West Ham – tape delay (Fox Soccer Plus)
2:30pm AC Milan vs Roma (FSC)
4:00pm Real Sociedad vs Valencia (ESPN Deportes)
5:00pm Wigan vs Aston Villa – Tape Delay (FSC)

Sunday, December 19
6:30am Lazio vs Udinese (Fox Soccer Plus)
6:30am Ajax vs Feyenoord (ESPN Deportes)
8:30am Blackpool vs Tottenham (Fox Soccer Plus)
10:30am West Brom vs Wolverhampton (Fox Soccer Plus)
10:30am Bayer Leverkusen vs Freiburg (GolTV)
11:00am Chelsea vs Manchester United (FSC)
11:30am Stuttgart vs Bayern Munich (ESPN Deportes)
1:00pm Malaga vs Atletico Madrid (GolTV)
2:30pm Sampdoria vs Genoa (FSC)
3:00pm Real Madrid vs Sevilla (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes)
3:00pm Marseille vs Lyon (Fox Soccer Plus)

Monday, December 20
3:00pm Manchester City vs Everton (ESPN2)

Champions League Round of 16 Draw

17 Dec

The dreadful group stages are finally over, and we can now look ahead to the round of 16, two-legged knockout round. These days, it seems almost a foregone conclusion that certain match-ups will emerge, that there is a conspiracy to force two clubs upon each other at the most inopportune time, or opportune depending on who you ask. This year is no different as a repeat of May’s final, Wenger’s now correct premonition, revenge, and snooze-fests were drawn in Nyon earlier today. UEFA, in all their glory, will continue the expanded schedule of the round of 16 to maximize viewership and TV revenue. The first legs will be played February 15/16 and 22/23, followed by the second legs on March 8/9 and 15/16.

Undoubtedly, all eyes will turn to the premiere match-up of this round as Arsenal face off against Barcelona. Of course, it may only prove premiere in the sense that both clubs play the most aesthetically pleasing football on the planet. Although as was evident in the first 45 minutes at the Emirates, and Messi’s dismantling of the Gunners in the return leg, this is and most likely will be anything but a competitive confrontation. Barcelona almost seem better than they were last year coming off a near-perfect demolition of Real Madrid 5-0. Meanwhile in North London, Arsenal have only themselves to blame for finishing second in the group and consistently lacking the big-game gusto both in Europe and domestically.

Elsewhere, Bayern will relish the opportunity for revenge against a Mourinho-less Inter Milan, after losing in the 2010 Champions League final 2-0. Benitez has this club in a tailspin as they distance themselves ever more from league leading Milan each week. Bayern should expect a “healthy” Arjen Robben by that time and will like their chances this year.

Real Madrid and the round of 16 are a poisoned union, having been eliminated at this stage of the tournament six times running. Earlier this year, it was a familiar foe in Lyon who knocked out the Spaniards convincingly over both legs. With Mourinho at the helm this year, chances are quite minimal that Lyon will repeat their feat. Although you never know with Madrid.

As for the other English clubs, United and Chelsea emerged relatively pleased with draws against Marseille and Copenhagen respectively. Tottenham’s group topping performance, however, conveniently landed them Serie A leading AC Milan. Redknapp surely must be wondering how his porous defense will deflect the attacks of Ibrahimovic, Robinho, and Pato. However, Milan’s aging squad will only get older by next year and Tottenham have shown everyone their ruthless speed and attacking prowess throughout this tournament. Can Zambrotta really corral Gareth Bale?

The full draw is below:

AS Roma v Shakhtar Donetsk
AC Milan v Tottenham Hotspur
Valenca v FC Schalke
Inter Milan v Bayern Munich
Lyon v Real Madrid
Arsenal v Barcelona
Marseille v Manchester United
Copenhagen v Chelsea

A Dream Come True For 4 Year Old

16 Dec

On July 12, the bus rolled down La Gran Via de Madrid carrying the conquering heroes of the World Cup. Watching roughly 30 meters away was Alleke, the daughter of American parents living in Madrid, who desperately wanted to meet her personal hero Xavi more than anything. The fact that she couldn’t, and that the bus kept moving farther and farther away, brought her to tears.

This past week her dream came true, as she finally got to meet Xavi who signed a personalized Barcelona jersey for her.

Doesn’t this just seem a bit more realistic and emblematic of the holiday spirit, as opposed to a stupid Lexus waiting in your driveway with a big bow on it?


Meet The Terrys – The Most Morally Corrupt Family in England

16 Dec

Drugs, cheating, national ridicule, international ridicule, and now suicide – the consequences heaped upon society by the embarrassing and immature behavior of the Terry family over the past two years. For a time, there was an argument to be made that the actions of Captain England’s family were by no means a measuring stick of his own moral capacity. He bought his divorced parents homes or anything they wanted, and whatever they chose to do on their own was of no reflection of John. Well, that ridiculous tale of innocence soon blew up in all our faces, after the disclosure of the Wayne Bridge affair before the World Cup.

It can now be stated, with utmost certainty, that the limitations in rational decision making exhibited by the parents were passed down to their children. So without further ado, I am proud to introduce you to the most morally corrupt family in England, who now have blood on their hands:

Sue Terry, Mother – Accused last year of shoplifting almost £1,450 pounds of merchandise from a Tesco store in London with a friend. She and her accomplice were arrested and subsequently cautioned by the authorities. At least her upstanding and morally conscious son pulled the plug on plans to host his family in a box at Wembley for an England friendly.

Ted Terry, Father – A few months after his divorced wife forgot to pay at the check-out counter, Ted was taped selling cocaine to an undercover News of the World reporter in a wine bar bathroom. He agreed to sell three grams for £120 – provided he received an additional £40 to buy a gram for himself (not the brightest of drug dealers). Don’t worry, he met the wrath of the police bar owner who banned Terry from his establishment.

John Terry, Captain England - Mr. Terry had an affair with his teammate and very good friend Wayne Bridge’s girlfriend, subsequently getting her pregnant. The story became public just months before England set off to South Africa, and resulted in Bridge excusing himself from the side (not that his presence on the pitch would have made any difference). The scandal led to one of the most anticipated and watched pre-match handshakes in history, as Bridge walked right by his old friend. The affair ultimately ruined Bridge’s career with the national team.

Paul Terry, Brother - Following in his brother’s footsteps and taking it one step further, Paul had an affair with his teammate’s girlfriend, Lindsey Cowan. Dale Roberts, 24, was devastated after the story broke in January, but recently moved back in with his girlfriend to try and re-start their relationship. However, John Terry’s actions cast Roberts as “the other Wayne Bridge” and he began taking anti-depressants.  On Tuesday, Cowan returned home to find her boyfriend hanging in their flat of an apparent suicide. Well done, Paul.

Other than the now vanquished Mansons and Husseins, I’m not sure another family could compete with the Terrys when it comes to breaking the law and completely disregarding the foundations and standards, which allow society to function humanely.

But nobody’s perfect, right?

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