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Referee Suspended for In-Game Phone Call

3 Apr

It’s never easy refereeing young kids playing sports – uncoordinated, sloppy, and that one overweight kid who makes a fool of himself tripping over his own calf. Not to mention the parents who often treat such outings as a hall pass to act like immature college students looking for fights. So maybe Fathellah Dabhi figured nobody was paying any attention to the only guy on the field dressed in black towering over every player…or maybe he’s just an idiot.

Last week in Catalunya while officiating a match between Linyola and Guissona, Dabhi received a phone call and felt the need to answer it. While it’s hard to imagine what compelled him to pick up the phone, one must also consider why that phone was in his pocket in the first place!

As a result, the Catalan Football Association levied an 8 match suspension yesterday citing an act of disrespect and “a complete and utter contempt for participants in the match and the tournament itself,” as well as the potential “risk posed by introducing an alien element to the game such as a mobile phone.”

A more suitable punishment would have been allowing each player involved to smack him across the face for being a complete and utter moron.

Photo courtesy of mundodeportivo.com

Mourinho Disgraces Spanish Football Once Again

18 Aug

Everything was going so well. Sure, a few harsh and untimely challenges from both clubs, but it will always be an element of this bitter rivalry. For ninety minutes (plus the ninety from the first leg on Sunday), Real Madrid and Barcelona wowed the masses with a display of football that puts both clubs light years ahead of the rest of the competition. Finesse, technique, ambition, and creativity all personified in an open, attacking Supercopa that saw plenty of goals from both sides and Messi’s brilliance to the rescue once again. And then Marcelo ruined it.

In an attempt to “close down” Fabregas on the touchline, the Brazilian launched into a two-footed scissor kick, scything the Catalan to the floor. It wasn’t cynical. It was criminal.  No more helpful was the fact that it occurred in front of both benches, bringing substitutes and coaches into the subsequent melee. Marcelo rightly saw red and luckily, Fabregas did not suffer any serious injury. And then Mourinho ruined it even more.

With a conniving shit-smirk on his face, after standing just feet away from the grotesque assault on Fabregas, Mourinho decided to have some fun. Not knowing whether Marcelo’s challenge had quite possibly shattered Fabregas’ ankle, he meandered into the fracas and plunged his finger into the right eye of Tito Vilanova (video below). Credit Barcelona’s assistant for not completely losing control after having his eye gauged – a show of composure that should be applauded. But what to make of Mourinho? Arsene Wenger now looks completely sane and rational compared to his former nemesis.

It all comes to a head now for the Portuguese manager. His antics over the past two seasons have resulted in an attempted stabbing, conspiracy theories, suspensions, and an overall disregard for the gentlemanly class of Spanish football. Last night trumped them all. The severity of attacking a fellow coach like that cannot be understated. No less after the horrific challenge by Marcelo, when Mourinho should have escorted his left-back straight to the dressing room. But he didn’t. His actions once again represent a tacit approval of the harsh, bullying physicality imposed by his own players on the pitch.

A line has been crossed and it is time for the LFP to show that they truly care about the image of their league and hand down severe punishment on Mourinho. He should be banned for at least five matches – perhaps more. Assault and inciting violence, because he sure as hell wasn’t a peacekeeper, are as reprehensible an offense any manager in any sport can commit. On the eve of a players’ strike which could shut down the opening two weeks of La Liga, an opportunity presents itself for the LFP to display a semblance of credibility. For the sake of Spanish football, let’s hope they do.

(On another note, I cannot allow my fellow Barcelona supporters to emerge unscathed. The monkey chants directed at Marcelo throughout the second half were disgusting and shameful. Racism continues to give Spanish football a black eye, while any sort of punishment from the LFP is as likely as humans inhabiting Mars tomorrow. The “say no to racism” campaign is a complete joke when the suits behind it are spineless, cowardly individuals unable and unwilling to punish the culprits.)

Spain U20 Forced to Train With Cows in Columbia

2 Aug

Manizales is the epicenter of Columbian coffee production and home to CD Once Caldas, two-time defending champions of the Columbian Primera A and winner of the 2004 Copa Libertadores. It is also one of eight host cities for the FIFA U20 World Cup, currently underway. So one would surmise that sufficient resources and infrastructure were in place for the four teams (Spain, Australia, Costa Rica, and Ecuador) to comfortably prepare for their group stage matches. Think again..

Unfortunately for Spain’s squad, they found that out the hard way. Taking to the ‘back country’ for training, the Spaniards found themselves surrounded by farms and a rather dense forest which snacked on errant balls.  An assistant coach succeeded in finding one of the balls amidst the barbed wire, knee high tick-infested grass, and the putrid smell of cow dung. However, not even the help of local security could reveal the hiding place of the other one lost in the thicket.

It was later revealed that the cows hid the ball for their own 5v5 scrimmage scheduled to take place after the Spaniards finished their training. The game lasted only five minutes after one of the steers mistimed his jump on a corner kick and thrust his horn through the ball. Their request to the Spanish delegation for a replacement was promptly rejected.

(Photos courtesy of Marca)

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.

Messi’s Win Spells Doom For Xavi

11 Jan

FIFA hosted the inaugural Ballon d’Or Gala on Monday evening (combining French Football’s Ballon d’Or and FIFA’s World Player of the Year for the very first time), handing out awards to the men and women who epitomized greatness in their respective positions. On the whole, there should be no complaints as to the winners of the awards (scroll to the bottom for those). But the biggest prize of all, for the very best player on the globe, went to the wrong person. And the man who should have been called to that podium, to join Luis Suárez as the only other Spanish-born player to ever win the award, probably watched his best chance of winning drift away.

First off, congratulations to Messi. Attempting to highlight his feats is like trying to count the stars in the sky. Of course, for me and most fans, his destruction of Arsenal stands out as one of the greatest single game performances in history. Not to mention the dizzying goal tally – 60 goals in 65 appearances for club and country in 2010. But to be fair, this was not his year. His year will be every year as long as he continues to play the way he does.

But for Xavi, I couldn’t think of a more perfect opportunity for him to win the award. For club, he is flawless. The cog in the Barcelona wheel. You are more likely to be struck by lighting in the same spot twice, than see him misplace a  pass. But the problem has always been the presence of the glamorous superstars, the goal scoring machines of Messi and Ronaldo, who have stolen the spotlight in recent years (and fully deserved every award they’ve won). Xavi’s expected vindication came in the form of the World Cup where he continued string-pulling in the midfield for mighty Spain, leading them to their first ever World Cup championship. Finally, a stage for the Barcelona man to set himself apart from the other candidates.

He completed over 85% of his passes. He was the only player to pass the ball more than 600 times, and complete more than 500 passes. He connected the two sitting midfielders in Alonso and Busquets,  with the forward thinking players in Iniesta, Pedro, and Villa. His vision, awareness, leadership, and hard work rallied Spain to difficult wins throughout the tournament. Without Xavi, Spain and Barcelona would be but a shadow of themselves.

Yet, he finished third in the voting. THIRD!! Behind an Andres Iniesta who, if you cancel out his World Cup winner, missed most of 2010 through injury. Xavi had history in his bag of tricks: Fabio Cannavaro won both awards in 2006, Fat Ronaldo won both in 2002, Zidane won both in 1998, Romario’s FIFA World Player of the Year in 1994, Lothar Matthäus’ Ballon d’Or in 1990, Paolo Rossi’s Ballon d’Or in 1982. Catch the trend? World Cup champions, and the stars of those teams, had won the coveted trophy every year dating back almost twenty years. But not 2010.

We are left scratching our heads, and sympathizing with Xavi who will finish his career as one of the most dynamic and creative midfielders the game has ever seen. Even Mourinho chimed in after the ceremony, “Messi is of a different world and the award is in good hands, but I feel sorry for Xavi more than anyone.”

To be outdone by the man who may become the greatest is no knock to Xavi at all. But this was his year where the voters finally had a chance to reward the pass-master. It was no longer just a product of Guardiola’s system, and the superstars surrounding him at Barcelona. It was the biggest footballing stage. It was the tournament that has seen Spain choke time and time again. It was a masterclass against the world’s best, vicious tackling, and smothering defenses never before seen. His immediate contenders, Iniesta and Messi, were not nearly as influential throughout the tournament.

Messi’s win this year means Xavi will probably never win the award (he will be 34 at the next World Cup). An incomprehensible injustice.

As for the rest of the awards…

Team of the Year – Julio Cesar (Inter Milan), Maicon (Inter Milan), Lucio (Inter Milan), Carles Puyol (Barcelona), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Xavi (Barcelona), Wesley Sneijder (Inter Milan), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), David Villa (Barcelona), Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Women’s World Player of the Year - Marta (Brazil)
World Coach of the Year for Men’s Football – Jose Mourinho
World Coach of the Year for Women’s Football – Silvia Neid (Germany)
Puskas Award: Goal of the Year – Hamit Altintop (Matthew Burrows got royally screwed. THIS was the goal of the year)
Fair Play Award – Haiti Under-17 women’s team
Presidential Award – Archbishop Desmond Tutu

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?


Sara Carbonero Doesn’t Like Bad Jokes

14 Dec

(fast forward to 2:13)

Somebody is taking shots at my girl, and he should mind his surroundings from now on.

José Ramón de la Morena Pozuelo is a popular and renowned sports journalist for Spanish radio station Cadena SER. He and Sara Carbonero were presenting at the Premios 40 Principales awards ceremony in Madrid (their version of the Grammys more or less) last weekend when it came time to present the award for Best Spanish Language Female Artist.

Rather than read the card in front of him with Shakira’s name on it, de la Morena announced, “and the winner is…Iker Casillas!” For some reason the crowd, clearly not paying any attention at all to the proceedings, began cheering as though a real winner was announced. They seemed almost completely aloof to the fact that the best goalkeeper in the country just “won” an award for a female artist.

More importantly though, look at poor Sara. Look at her face and that feeling of disgust. That feeling of wanting to find a hole to crawl into. How dare this guy embarrass her like that on national television! Is he upset that she wouldn’t touch him with a ten foot pole? Is he suffering from insecurity issues standing next to the most beautiful WAG/TV Babe on this planet?

As for the joke itself, it doesn’t make much sense anyway. Casillas never dated the Columbian, and Gerard Pique is the focus of most tabloids these days when it comes to Shakira. So he sounds like even more of an idiot.

Somebody should teach this guy some manners. Because he’s a radio guy, he has the luxury of sitting in a room in an undisclosed location, with the freedom to say whatever he wants to whomever he pleases. No threat of retaliation or physical harm. But when you are standing alongside true beauty, the girlfriend of La Roja’s captain, you conduct yourself like a gentleman. You act your age, not your shoe size.

Now that we settled that issue, Sara looks pretty damn good, no?

Ronaldo robbed of wonder goal

18 Nov

My personal feelings aside, you can’t argue with the ability of this guy. Cristiano Ronaldo, in the midst of his country’s utter shellacking of World Champion Spain, created one of the most jaw dropping “goals” you will ever see. The problem is, it didn’t count.

After stopping short on Pique, flicking the ball behind him to his stronger right foot, Ronaldo then dragged the ball ever so slightly and chipped a flat footed Casillas. Unfortunately, his teammate thought it important to make sure the goal-bound ball really crossed the line with some gusto and headed it home. Nani flagged for offsides and the goal waved off.

After watching about fifty replays, and you should too, watch the drag before the chip. Usually Ronaldo adds twinkle toe accessories to his moves for the sake of pissing people off. However, the drag is what kept Puyol and an onrushing Xabi Alonso on edge for that split second to prevent them from blocking the shot. It also occurred to me that if Nani was the shooter, Ronaldo probably would have done the exact same thing by heading the ball into the net.

But hey, Portugal still won 4-0 and Captain Ronaldo didn’t celebrate a single goal with his teammates. Why? Because he wasn’t the one who scored them….duh.

Anchorette Update

7 Oct

Karina Kvasniova is not only a beautiful sports journalist for La Sexta, she also happens to be born and raised in Lithuania – Spain’s upcoming opponent in their European qualifier. “It is a luxury to play against the world champion,” she explained in a recent interview.

She left for Spain to pursue a Masters degree in sports journalism and decided to re-settle upon completion.

Kvasniova claims basketball is Lithuania’s biggest contribution to the sports world. I think she’s just being modest…

(Photos courtesy of elmundodeportivo.es)

World Cup champs receive their weight…in beer

6 Oct

Trophies…keys to the city…medals…videos…photos -  the spoils of war for winning the World Cup. But let’s be honest, all these things will hang on the wall or sit in a case and remain untouched and unused for years to come. That is what winning the World Cup gets you? Nonsense!!

Thank heavens the Spaniards have other options. Cruzcampo, one la selección’s main sponsors, has decided to reward their champions with a different type of memento. Something that won’t collect dust and become obsolete in a year’s time. Something that will generate continued celebration and debauchery for months and months to come – BEER.

Yesterday, one by one, the squad stepped onto the “beer scale,” which measured their weight in kilos and converted that into liters. However much brawn you brought to the table determined the number of cases you walked out with.

In total, the team amassed 1,734 liters of beer. The most went to Basque striker Fernando Llorente, pictured above, weighing in at 94.6kg (approx 209 lbs). Poor little Jesús Navas who weighs all of 60kg (approx 132lbs) only went home with 180 beers…

Oktoberfest?! Pff. Looks like Novemberfest, Decemberfest, and maybe even Januaryfest are in order for the world champions. 

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