Archive | January, 2011

A Lesson in Showmanship

31 Jan

In one of my favorite episodes of Seinfeld, George Costanza, a pathetic loser who lies and cheats his way through life, learns to cut his losses my immediately leaving the scene after a humorous remark – “leaving on a high note.” Why risk reverting back to your questionable and often problematic behavior, when you can escape leaving everyone else with a fond memory? Showmanship, the ultimate getaway.

In Turkey this past weekend, we were treated to such behavior by the manager of Ankaragucu, Ümit Özat. His club currently lie 13th in the league table, just seven points off the drop zone and fourteen points from a European place. Despite some impressive results, the fans have become restless with the manager and the stagnant form of the club, repeatedly calling for his resignation.

Facing Manisaspor on Sunday, Özat’s club desperately needed three points to silence the critics, and they conceded the first goal. However, a 42nd minute equalizer from Metin Akan gave the home side a breath of fresh air, and a chance for the manager to lash out. In complete ecstasy and rage, Özat threw his clipboard to the ground and punched the air in the direction of the ultras, which didn’t exactly go over too well. One maniac ran onto the pitch to attack the manager only to be met by a shuddering right hook. As if that wasn’t enough, Özat proceeded to river dance on the young man’s head connecting with two thunderous blows of the foot. Both men were ejected.

As for the game itself, Manisaspor scored twice in the 90th and won 3-1. Immediately following the match, Özat resigned as manager and left a love note for the supporters: “These dogs got what they want.”

And just like that, he rode off into the sunset with a 1st round KO under his belt and a claim to glory as the best departure by a manager on a high note. Nobody will remember the declining form of the club and the bad results. Only the animal inside him and his lasting mark on the ultras, a show of force and pride. Showmanship.

Look Alikes

28 Jan

Julian Draxler (Schalke) vs Michael Cera

Random guy on facebook vs Nicolas Anelka

 

Weekend Couch Guide

28 Jan

Friday, January 28
2:30pm Bayer Leverkusen vs Hannover (ESPN Deportes)

Saturday, January 29
7:30am Everton vs Chelsea – FA Cup (FSC)
9:30am Werder Bremen vs Bayern Munich (GolTV)
10:00am Birmingham vs Coventry City – FA Cup (FSC)
12:00pm Southhampton vs Manchester United – FA Cup (FSC)
12:00pm Real Sociedad vs Almeria (GolTV)
12:00pm Lazio vs Fiorentina (Fox Soccer Plus)
2:00pm Hercules vs Barcelona (ESPN Deportes)
2:00pm Kaiserlautern vs Mainz 05 – tape delay (GolTV)
2:30pm Catania vs AC Milan (FSC)
4:00pm Deportivo La Coruña vs Sevilla (ESPN Deportes)

Sunday, January 30
6:30am Brescia vs Chievo (Fox Soccer Plus)
7:00am Arsenal vs Huddersfield Town – FA Cup (FSC)
9:00am Notts County vs Manchester City – FA Cup (Fox Soccer Plus)
11:00am PSV Eindhoven vs Willem II (ESPN Deportes)
11:00am Atletico Madrid vs Athletic Bilbao (GolTV)
11:30am Fulham vs Tottenham (FSC)
1:00pm Osasuna vs Real Madrid (GolTV)
2:30pm Juventus vs Udinese (FSC)
3:00pm Espanyol vs Villarreal (ESPN Deportes)
3:00pm AS Monaco vs Olympique de Marseille (Fox Soccer Plus)
5:00pm Inter Milan vs Palermo – tape delay (FSC)

Andres Iniesta in 360

27 Jan

Nike’s newest creation features none other than little Andres Iniesta, whose technical skill up close is baffling. Just another great shoe commercial to unveil the CTR 360 Maestri II (got all that?).

If you suffer from motion sickness, take dramamine or don’t watch.

WAG Wednesday Part 20 – Alessia Ventura

26 Jan

This Italian beauty stole the heart of one of Europe’s greatest ageless wonders, Pippo Inzaghi. The 37-year-old Milan striker has spent the last ten years of his career chasing down the finest tail northern Italy has to offer. However, the time has come for him to settle down, and it took nothing less than this stunning model to corral him.

Ventura has spent her entire life modeling, and now is the face of a sports talk show on Sunday evening called Controcampo. Excellent career move.

More pics after the jump: Continue reading

How To Train Riot Horses

26 Jan

Cue the Magnificent Seven theme song. Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, James Coburn, Eli Wallach, Brad Dexter – a menacing force riding into town to protect the locals and eliminate a marauding group of vandals. A typical American western flick, and arguably the greatest of all time. Fast forward fifty years and the image of the law atop the four-legged animal is as prominent as it was then.

This time, the intentions are not heroism but duty. Not an assertion of force, but a prevention of chaos. Not cowboys and indians, but riot police and hooligans.

In preparation of tonight’s Copa Del Rey semifinal first leg in Andalusia featuring Seville and Real Madrid, the mounted police have been practicing extensively for any potential crowd trouble. No less than 160 cavalry will be deployed in the surrounding streets outside the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium no ensure that nothing gets out of hand. The above video, shows the preparation for the horses in an obstacle course that mimics real life situations – vuvuzelas, live ammunition, drums, flags, tear gas, and men banging the lids of garbage cans. There’s even a western soundtrack towards the end.

These horses look like something out of Lord of the Rings adorned in armor, padding, and shields!! Word to the wise – don’t pick a fight with these guys.

Ronaldinho Training Session Tricks

25 Jan

It may take a minute or so for your eyes to divert from Ronaldinho’s round figure, but once you do, sit back and enjoy. Standing behind the goal, Dinho effortlessly chips balls into the box with backspin, taking them into the net.

There are very few people for whom I would pay to watch train. This guy is one of them.

Rivaldo Joins the Brazilian Retirement Community

25 Jan

The great Rivaldo, World Cup and Champions League winner, European and World Player of the Year, has just signed for Sao Paolo…and he’s 38!!

It brought to mind the two most prominent retirement communities in the world, both conveniently located in the Western Hemisphere. Both Major League Soccer and Brazil have become a haven for the aging talents of European football who wish to continue playing on some level – a level that caters more to their diminishing abilities. Enter America and Brazil, which can provide such an enclave for these players, although the latter has far more history and success than the 17-year-old MLS. So how do they compare?

Looking at Major League Soccer first, their “designated player” status limits the amount of superstars who can join the various clubs, although an increased quota has enabled many more to reach our shores. At the moment there are 14 such players, 9 of whom make an annual salary of over $1 million.  The league average was $138,169 in 2010, a drop of 6.6%. Of the 14, only 4 are under 30 and 3 are over 35. Average age = 31. For many, like Beckham, Henry, Marquez, Angel, Nkufo, and Mista, this is the end of the road.

Over in Brazil, a similar pattern has emerged in recent years as one generation nears its conclusion. The Brazilian Campeonato operates like every other league with no limits on wages or transfer fees. Nor on age, which makes the Brazilian retirement community far more dependent on social security than its counterpart up north. Fat Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Deco, and Belletti are but a few who have all moved home to finish their careers. They boast an average age of 34 years old, yet command average yearly salaries of $6.1 million. In fact, 2009 saw a return of 707 Brazilian players to their home soil, more than double the number in 2006.

The question is, which retirement community benefits its domestic league more? And which one is simply a place to rot? In Brazil, revenue of the 20 top-tier teams rose 12% to $1.13 billion in 2009 on more television rights income, a result of the clubs’ ability to sell their product with a big name player. MLS only began selling TV rights for profit in 2007, and will receive a much smaller sum than the above. However, total attendance in 2010 was the highest since 2007 and third highest in league history. 5 of the top 8 clubs in 2010 attendance contained a designated player. Clearly, the old farts have made a difference.

In terms of scale, it’s unfair to compare the two leagues. And while some complain that MLS is nothing more than a place for superstars to put their feet up and relax, you cannot ignore the significant impact it has made. Like it or not, these guys still fill the stadiums whether in Toronto or Sao Paolo or Salt Lake City or Rio. They just need walkers and wheelchairs to get there.

Juarez Mexico Football Massacre

25 Jan

The irony could not be more stark. Sitting above the lifeless body of one of the murdered players reads a sign, “Live Better.”

Yesterday in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, at a community center opened just four months ago as part of a program to decrease drug violence, two local clubs faced one another only to be interrupted by gunman. 180 rounds sprayed the grounds, resulting in the death of three people at the scene and another four en route to the hospital. Players and fans alike fell victim to this new round of violence, which leaves no one to spare.

The violence, just another chapter in one of the bloodiest cities in the world at the mercy of drug cartels, has unfortunately touched a part of society that for so long was a unifier. Yes, football has always taken the form of political advertising as the more violent factions of supporters carry out the ethnic and social prerogatives of politicians. However, at the same time and perhaps more so, football has been a peacemaker.

Years of American bombing, occupation, and diplomacy in Iraq couldn’t quell the sectarian violence and bring everyone willingly to the bargaining table. But Iraq’s win in the 2007 AFC Asian Cup did just that – Kurd, Sunni, and Shiite sitting side by side and embracing one another.  Civil wars throughout Africa have usually taken short breaks for big football matches. And of course, the famous story of Christmas 1914 in the trenches of WWI.

What about drug cartels? They, in fact, have a very long history of funding football teams in South America. With meager wealth of local businessmen, drug lords seized the opportunity to spend their abundant piles of cash by investing in certain clubs. Columbia and Pablo Escobar are the prime example. As for terrorists? I can bet you my life savings that Osama Bin Laden is a bigger football supporter than most of you. And unless a Western power is participating in match, he would probably enjoy watching the action more than blowing it up.

Perhaps I’m too optimistic about the power and influence of this game. Although my gut tells me I’m not. History has proven all too often that football can bring people together, and serve as the only light in the darkest of places. Yet it appears that Juarez is too dark for any light. Marred in bloodshed and heartbreak.

Live better? I’m afraid not.

(Photo courtesy of CNN.com)

Brazilian Medic Drops Stretcher

24 Jan

On Sunday, Desportivo Brazil and Flamengo faced off in the first semifinal of the Copa São Paulo junior tournament. A boring 0-0 draw resulted in penalty kicks, during which Flamengo blanked their opponents 3-0 to reach the final.

However, the real highlight of the match came in the second half when Brazil’s Gladestony went down injured. Unable to remove himself from the pitch, the medics and stretcher were called for assistance, yet only provided more discomfort to the player. One of the individuals gave a rather dubious effort at lifting Gladestony, and continually dropped the stretcher. He also dropped his ass on Gladestony’s face twice. Finally, the referee intervened and offered advice to the hapless young man, although a straight red card and ejection from the facilities would have been more appropriate.

This brings to mind some famous altercations between players and ball boys, during which the visiting players found themselves on the wrong end of a young lad’s “playful” charade. Home field advantage? We always hear of crowd noise and size of the pitch, but perhaps little kids running along the sideline and incompetent medics are the true measure of home field advantage.

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