Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Great FIFA Swindle

Karl Marx once wrote "The extent of the power of money is the extent of my power."

For Liverpool and other big clubs, that means they can get their way. Case in point: Javier Mascherano.

FIFA's rules mandate that no player can play for more than two different clubs between 1 July and 30 June the following year. Yet Mascherano had ALREADY played for Corinthians and West Ham.

FIFA, in their true racket fashion, allowed the deal to go through. He would eventually play in the Champions League Final.

This January Fulham attempted the same. They placed a bid for Rangers striker Daniel Cousin, and the two clubs agreed on it. Yet Cousin has already played for Lens and Rangers. Surely FIFA would let this slide too, right? I mean, it's only fair...

Yet FIFA, in their true racket fashion, said "No" to the smaller clubs. Now Fulham doesn't have a quality striker and Cousin probably doesn't even have a locker space at the Ibrox anymore.

Yes, Fulham probably shouldn't have gone through all the hassle and known the rules. But it doesn't matter -- FIFA CANT HAVE THINGS BOTH WAYS.

With (outrageous) instances like this and the Tevez saga...

...remind me again why I'm supposed to like this sport?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Two Eulogies

In the span of twelve hours one character was suddenly lost forever, while another declared his future departure.

The two are wholly different. One is fictional, the other real. One is a Swedish footballer, the other is a Black man born and raised in East Baltimore. One took up a life of sport and prestige, the other a life of drugs and notoriety.

Proposition Joe was killed in last night’s episode of The Wire, set up by his Nephew and rival-turned-protégé Marlo Stanfield. He emerged in the first season as kingpin of the East side, an adversary of the Barksdale organization but not a rival. Operating the New Day Co-Op, Prop Joe was the liaison between The Greek and the Docks – where the drugs came in – and the rest of the drug barons in the city.

His constant scheming was his ultimate downfall. But it was also what distinguished Prop Joe from every other mogul. One can view his formation of the New Day Co-Op as a political move to solidify power for himself. But such an organization is too unique. Most people think drug dealers are vigilantes, but the Co-Op was a cabal that was similar to the political rackets in City Hall.

Prop Joe grew on me and although I foresaw his eventual power struggle, I did not expect it so soon. His co-op is now all but over. To use a (lame) StarWars allusion, Marlo is Emperor Palpatine and has dissolved the Imperial Senate.

Olof Mellberg first came on my radar when I was fleetingly into soccer. I saw the highlights of an Aston Villa match at a pub while in Copenhagen (although I cant fully recall). A cross between Dolph Lundgren and a lumberjack, his intense style, large stature, and burly beard immediately caught my attention. When Fulham played Aston Villa in August, Zat Knight was rumored to transfer to Villa. But that didn’t stop Mellberg, who at one point was in Zat’s face chewing him out.

Whenever I start a new manager campaign in FIFA, Mellberg is one of the first players I try to acquire. Silly, yes. But to date he is one of my favorite Premier League players. But sadly, he is choosing to play for (despicable) Juventus in Italy. I can't really blame him, as Turin is much more pleasant than Birmingham (or so I am told). Although he will be around until May, it will be a drawn out swan song.

Losing these two fellas has been tough, but there's still McNulty and Linvoy Primus out there.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

HatterDon's Thinking Cap

[By HatterDon, 'terrace contributor and FUSA maestro]
Time for a little perspective?

It’s Tuesday morning here in South Texas and we’ve finally got a little rain to wash out our winter terrorist – Mountain Cedar Fever. It’s typical, I suppose, that the spoors that give me the use of about 1/10th of a single nostril at the best of times don’t really come from a cedar tree at all, but that’s neither here nor there. The fact is that I’m breathing a bit now, and my brain is actually functioning. Time to concentrate on my depression now.


I expect to spend some of this afternoon watching my first love on Fox Soccer Channel while trying to keep track of my greatest love through match tracker. Luton are on to a great Merseyside payday that might keep the old club alive for the rest of the season. Fulham are off to pirate country to play a bunch of boot boys in a bowl of chili. I don’t really care whether Luton win or not, because the fact that they are there is all that matters. As for the Whites, if they win tonight they have a tie with a non-league side, and that means a real chance of getting into the 5th round. A couple of away wins are on the cards if all goes well. What does this mean in terms of staying up? Will the momentum stand us in good stead for the rest of the campaign? Will it be the distraction that dooms us. Or, like Derby, are we already doomed and the Cup is all we have?

And that brings me to my peerless insight for the rest of the season. Here's what I'm seeing as I swirl round the drain with the rest of us.

1. Derby is a lock. When their new signings, their coach, and their assistant coach all agree that it's CCC for them next year, that's pretty much dead.

2. Wigan are staying up. It seemed impossible based on what they had, but the Birmingham City board's incredibly stupid decision to go with the "new owner" and pitch out Steve Bruce has been a windfall for the 'latics. They're not any more talented, but they're playing well, and they'll stay up. Fortunately, this means ...

3. That Birmingham City are underperforming. Ignore their point at Arsenal; they're on their way down.

4. Sunderland's high point of the season is over; they're one of the three for the drop.

5. Middlesboro are only a couple bad matches away from joining us at the bottom, and they're capable of sucking at a moment's notice.

6. Bolton's revival is over. Anelka has gone to Blue Hades, and Arc of a Diver Cisse is in Africa for a few weeks. They're heading down also.

7. We need to average 6 points a month for January/May, February, March, and April to have a shout of staying up. That'd be 39 points -- not enough to keep teams up in some years, but maybe enough for us.

8. The free-fall team -- Newcastle -- is high enough above the drop zone to be safe for the year. But for those 3 or 4 matches a year when Michael Owen is fully fit, they really play sucky football.

9. We need to beat Birmingham, Derby, Sunderland, for certain, as well as slamming a couple of top-10 sides. And maybe two wins on the road.

10. Here's your bottom 6: Derby [duh], Bolton, Birmingham, Fulham, Sunderland, Middlesboro. How they line up eventually is anyone's guess. The only cert is Derby going down. Unless we reassemble our feces, they won't be the only side wearing black and white to drop down.


Monday, January 14, 2008

This the Premiership or the Circus?

So many stories, so many sideshows.

I've always been told Footy contains drama, but I didn't figure the General Hospital sort. Big Sam leaving Newkie Brown, Jewell signing Savage AND Ghaly, HicksGillete Inc. flirting with Klinsmann, DIC possibly buying out HicksGillete.

And we here thought eloping with Jessica Simpson to Cabo was bad.

Newcastle may be relegated after Ashley's ill-timed firing. As I wrote here a few weeks ago, what would firing Big Sam prove? The size of your penis? They weren’t going anywhere upwards, but more importantly they weren’t going anywhere downwards. Like West Ham, they were going to be stuck in mediocrity.

But no, Ashley had to meddle with the (crappy) brew and now he’s totally skunked it. As seen in that pathetic second half, which now makes Roma’s performance there last spring look spirited, the team has given up. A motley crew of has-beens, and never weres – not to mention felons – the only path for Toon Nation is “down, down, down, in a burning ring of fire.” The dysfunction is great news for everyone else in the relegation hunt.

In other relegation news, Paul Jewell figured he’ll either injure every other team in order to survive, or provide the tabloids with plenty of fodder as his team drops back down to the Championship. Everyone thought Bowyer and Dyer’s reunion would be volatile. But Savage and Ghaly together?!? My god! One’s a thug, another is a nutcase who throws temper tantrums and insults his new club. I know I’ll be watching every Derby match from now on.

I wont comment on the Liverpool silliness, as numerous other blogs have. I will however briefly voice my disgust at MLS for rejecting Preston North End’s bid for Zack Morris – er, I mean Taylor Twellman. MLS yet again takes itself way too seriously, and proves (again) that it is also a bad business partner. In order for your league to grow in stature, you gotta let your birdies out of the coup and fly on their own.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Return from the Holidaze

Apologies for the lack of updates, but the logic board in my trusty old Powerbook G4 finally went. So instead I am running off an old G3 that (somehow) still works until I either repair the old fossil, or shell out $1300-plus on a new model.

Although its currently fifty degrees and thunderstorming here in Massachusetts, it is in fact winter – particularly mid-January. And that means that most (important) leagues -- sans Bundesliga -- return from their holiday furlough. As a dilettante toward these other leagues, here’s some things I would like to see.

Ligue 1: Can anyone other than Lyon win this, please? No other club has been able to in six years, and the previous one besides got relegated last season…so we’re all counting on you Caen.

La Liga: It’s back already? Who knew? Hopefully Real Madrid lay an egg ala last season’s Barca, otherwise the only (superficial) form of entertainment is watching Valencia free fall. And if you needed another reason to enjoy footy, Sevilla have a +12 goal differential -- with eight losses.

BWINLIGA: Seeing as how Porto essentially has this in the bag, I hope Freddy Adu fully emerges at Benfica. The national squad could use his attacking prowess.

Eredivisie: Perhaps Feyenoord can win their first title in nine seasons. Or Twente or Gronigen their first ever. Anybody but PSV and Ajax? Lets hope so. And what the hell happened to AZ?

Serie A: Results are already on Wikipedia.

Whenever I decide what to do about my computer, expect some new posts about the similarities in parity between the NFL and Coca Cola Championship, as with an in depth analysis of the various managerial celebrations – particularly the fist-pump. Until then expect sporadic updates, and enjoy this video in light of all the election hoopla. And this classic.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Out with the old, in with new (year)

After an exciting festive period, I guess its only natural that epoch’s finale was rather forgettable. Only Wigan’s draw with Liverpool was mildly surprising, and Tottenham’s gift to Aston Villa was actually entertaining. One could notice the exhaustion of the players, and it showed in the score lines: no team scoring more than three goals, seven teams not scoring any.

Nevertheless, with 2007 over and 2008 to look – dare I say forward? – to, here are some events that I hereby predict will occur (or come rather close):

Berbatov is Bulgarian, and Anelka is French, for ‘Nothing Less than 15-million”.
Perhaps this prediction is a bit obvious, but there’s no way either will be in their respected squads come February. Putting aside the tactless and untimely admission by Berb’s agent, Berbatov simply isn’t enjoying playing footy for Spurs. And one needs to look no further than his body language whenever one of his teammates can’t handle a pass of his, or screws up another way – he openly sulks on the field. He is scoring a multitude of goals and is one of the BPL’s best strikers, but he behavior has to be killing the chemistry on the pitch. Ramos is telling the papers he wants him, but he is surely surreptitiously shopping around for a replacement. And Anelka, well that’s obvious. Someone of his class doesn’t deserve Megson’s dour Wanderers.

Speaking of Bolton...
The (impending) loss of Anelka may seem disastrous but their home record will see them to safety. Of their 11 games at the Reebok they’ve only lost three times at home, conceding just nine goals. Victories over Manchester United and those around them (e.g. Brum, Reading, Derby, Wigan) have proven quite beneficial. They do need to slowly improve their horrible Away form by April, as they play three matches that month as visitors.

The only ones preventing Manchester United from winning the title is…Manchester United.
The same also applies for Arsenal, but ManYoo are just a better side and should surpass the Gooners anytime now. Collapses a la Upton Park probably wont happen again, but even draws equal dropped points that always prove costly. Just recall Chelsea’s run of average form against Newcastle and Bolton at the end of last season.

Big Sam isn’t going anywhere.
His reign has been very disappointing, but who are they viably going to replace him with? And do opponents actually think that Newcastle will compete for any silverware or European tournaments if some messiah takes over anyway? Unless one of the big four don’t win either the Carling or FA Cup(s), Everton, Villa, or ManCity/ Liverpool have the UEFA Cup spots all wrapped up. And Pompey will probably attempt the Intertoto, so just enjoy not being relegation fodder and see how the rest of the season pans out. If you’re lower than you are now, then go look for a replacement.

Liverpool need to win the Champions League, because they ain’t qualifying for it otherwise.
In addition to obtaining Castillo, Sven is going to spend big on key acquisitions that should see ManCity into the Champions League Qualifiers. ManCity do need to improve their away form, but the only big road test is the Manchester Derby and a visit to Anfield on May 3 (which is going to be a HUGE match). Liverpool displayed lack of killer instinct, and tactical cohesion, against Wigan. And although Rafa may ask for more players, nothing is going to really change. The Reds have to travel to Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester United, and Rafa’s poor record against those is quite foreboding.

The Wire will conclude as the #1 TV show. Ever.
Totally unfooty-related, but with its fifth (and final) season airing this coming Sunday, January 6th, expect the kitchen sink. Its not just a simple narrative or television program, but it transcends its digital images to become a historical social document and its going to have a big impact in the coming decades. The realness portrayed through the images and characters is unparallel. Even shows of its guild – Law & Order and CSI – are silly fluff in comparison. Will Marlo’s reign of terror finally conclude? Will McNulty go off the deep end (again)? Will Carcetti actually change the city? Is the focus on the media going to add another level to the story, or just be Simon’s tangential polemic against his former occupation? I can’t wait to see!