Anyone that knows me will tell you that I’m all for goal celebrations; usually the wackier the better. I don’t really buy into the whole “act like you’ve done it before” routine where a player barely acknowledged that anything of note has occurred. In fact, I find that more than a bit pretentious.
I don’t care who you are, scoring a goal is a rarity in football and NOT celebrating it is simply unnatural. I mean, it’s a wonderful moment; and suppressing your happiness and passion during that moment is odd to me.
Obviously there are always exceptions. For instance, if your team is down by 5 when you score, you probably shouldn’t get too excited.
Also some minimum level of class should be observed. Something that was decidedly lacking from one of the matches I watched last weekend.
After scoring his team’s second goal against Tecos this Saturday, Chivas forward Marco Fabian decided to celebrate by acting out the execution of a teammate.
Given the challenges Mexico is presently suffering through regarding drug cartel-related violence, this was not a particularly wise choice. Gun control and murders are very real problems in that part of the world, so making such a display (on a stage that many Mexicans must view as an escape from their troubles) is both sad and insensitive.
Fabian is an incredibly talented footballer (he went on to score a hat-trick in Saturday’s game) with a considerable following; many of whom are young, impressionable footballers that would love to follow in his footsteps. While watching this farce, I couldn’t help but think what kind of message it was sending to them.
I’m sure Fabian didn’t mean to be cruel (he has made a formal apology since the incident) but it’s sad to see a player of such quality demeaning himself this way.
Be passionate. Be happy. Express yourself. CELEBRATE…But be smart about it.
For those too lazy to read, the writer briefly describes not only the role typically associated with players that wear the number 10 jersey but also the mystique behind it.
He then asks why England as a nation has struggled to produce this type of footballer over the years. (Keep in mind this is a BBC article.)
While I did enjoy the article and believe the author brings up valid points and poses valid questions there are some things I don’t totally agree with.
In my (not-so-humble) opinion, the key ingredient of a true #10 is not creativity but intelligence. Creativity, vision, and all the other attributes that are normally associated with #10s are merely a function of intelligence.
For me, the #10 is synonymous with Maradona, Garrincha, Messi, Cruyff, Pele, Zidane, Platini, Baggio, Riquelme, Pirlo, and Ronaldinho to name a few. Players that astound you with the choices they make on the field.
When it comes to English football, I think the author has over looked the likes of Paul Gascoigne and Paul Scholes; both of whom I idolized as a boy and still consider quality #10s. Even today, Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere are bright young players that fit the playmaker mold.
To answer the author’s question, there is no question that England produces fewer #10s than other major footballing nations. I chalk it down to the style of play encouraged in English football.
In this style of play, speed is king. The ball moves from goalkeeper to striker almost directly and at a break-neck pace. It also emphasizes wing players who are relied on to provide service for the team’s forwards. The process completely bypasses the #10 who traditionally plays in a central position.
As eluded to before, Arsenal seems to be the only team producing English #10s because they’re the only team that doesn’t play in the English fashion.
It’s a shame because these players have become the key to success in football today. Look at the top three nations in football: Holland, Germany, and Spain. These sides are built around the likes of Sneijder, Fabregas, Gotze, van der Vaart, Iniesta, Xavi, Ozil, Kroos, the list goes on.
A good #10 is (and will always be) the key to unlocking the pragmatic defenses that have become so popular in modern football.
All the questions, interviews, arguments, debates, accusations, and speculation can finally come to an end.
Cesc Fabregas has finally come home!
And it ends years of tedium in the process. This transfer saga was reminiscent of an episode from a corny soap opera that we were all forced to watch repeatedly. There were broken promises, vows of innocence, wild finger-pointing, backstabbing, and enough drama to make you sick. Worst of all, just when you thought it was over it would start back up again.
Now that I think about it, it’s a bit like football’s version of Ronnie and Sam’s relationship on Jersey Shore. Only more intelligent. And less orange.
Now that the dust has (somewhat) settled, I find it easier to look at the bigger picture of the whole ordeal.
I can easily see the cases for Arsenal and for Barcelona. Cesc is a world-class player so obviously Arsenal would hate to lose him. On top of that he was the team’s captain and a champion of the fans. The team was structured around him and mimicked his playing style. One only has to watch Arsenal’s performances without their talisman to realize he is the essence of their football.
Allowing him to leave also sets a terrible precedent for current and prospective Arsenal players. It is a show of weakness that Arsenal can simply be pushed into a sale by another club. In the long term this is extremely damaging.
I can also see why Arsenal’s staff and supporters were less than pleased with Barcelona’s conduct during this ordeal. In my opinion, Joan Laporta made a shambles of it two years ago. He was either too confident or too desperate and ended up watching Arsenal walk away from negotiations.
However, I do think there is a fair bit of misunderstanding when it comes to this subject. Many Arsenal fans believe that Barca’s staff and players went out of their way to fuel speculations and destabilize Cesc. I agree that players like Xavi, Puyol, and Pique could have used more discretion; but it was reporters that questioned them day in and day out then made it seem like they were making a statement rather than answering a question. Not enough has been said about this.
Now that it’s finished, I’m happy for all the parties involved.
I’m happy that Arsenal can finally move on in a positive direction without these constant distractions. Arsene Wenger has been especially impressive throughout. All his players sing his praises and are happy to follow him. Without knowing anything else about the man, I’d safely say he is a great coach and leader.
I’m happy for Barcelona. For me, Cesc (and Alexis Sanchez) adds depth, quality and longevity to a team in sore need of all three. His return allows the club to evolve (as they’ve done every year under Pep) into the next version of Barcelona.
And most of all I’m happy for Cesc. He is finally where he wants to be and where he’s meant to be. No player has had to endure more over the last few years. Finally he can focus simply on football rather than the media circus that shadowed him wherever he went.
Finally we can get back to watching one of the best in the business on the biggest stage possible.
Young players are a prominent feature of football’s landscape. It is, as the saying goes, a young man’s game. Generally speaking, footballers tend to establish themselves, hit their prime, and retire at a younger age than their counterparts in comparable sports such as baseball or even basketball.
That being said, football is also a sport of trends and this has become clear in the way youth players have been handled over the last few years.
Seeing an 18 or 19-year old break into the first team is becoming a rarity in football today. This is especially true when it comes to the elite European teams competing in tough domestic leagues and the Champions League.
This stands in stark contrast to just a few years ago when it seemed that every major European power had at least one teenage starlet fully established in the first team squad and worth astronomical amounts of money. On top of that, the transfer market became a feeding frenzy for top teams trying to snap up the newest ‘flavor of the week’ starlet. At the time, the acquisition of a 17-year old prospect received more fanfare, media attention, and was often more expensive than the signing of a 26-year old veteran with national team experience.
So what happened?
It seems that most teams have come to the realization that most young players lack the maturity and composure to play at the elite level even if they display more than competent skill sets or physical gifts.
In my opinion, the lack of maturity in a young player is magnified off the pitch. Andy Carroll and Mario Balotelli come to mind.
Put yourself in their shoes for a moment. All of a sudden you’re hearing your name on TV screens and radio stations. YouTube videos featuring your highlights are accumulating hits faster than Sly Stallone in Rocky. Money is no longer something to worry about. Given your maturity level can you really be blamed for feeling untouchable or entitled; like the king of the world?
Obviously there are exceptions to this theory but the fact is this: for every Alex Pato there are 10 Keirrisons; for every Cristiano Ronaldo there are 50 Ricardo Quaresmas; and for every Lionel Messi there are 100 Mauro Zarates.
To a degree, exceptions such as Fabregas or Rooney ruin it for the other young players because they make it seem acceptable for teams, fans, and the media to burden these kids with incredible expectations. The resulting pressure is the greatest destroyer of unrefined talent.
Seeing this, clubs and national sides are now less willing to place their trust in teenage players. On the contrary, teams appear to go to great lengths to ensure that their starlets have as little responsibility, and therefore pressure, placed on their developing shoulders as possible. The tag ‘one for the future’ is an increasingly popular term used to imply that nothing is expected of this player right now.
Today’s young players are left to marinate in a club or country’s youth team for longer periods of time where they will gain a bit more experience and a lot more confidence. Today 21 is the new 17 and this is a positive change.
The best example of this change in policy can be seen at Barcelona. A few years ago, the club promoted Gio Dos Santos and Bojan Krkic to the first team and proclaimed them the future superstars of world football. Neither play for Barca anymore. This season, Barca is promoting Andreu Fontas and Thiago Alcantara to the first team. Even though both possess talents that would rival Gio and Bojan, the club is stressing that they are just ‘part of the squad’ and that they still have a lot of developing to do before being considered anything special.
Like allowing a fine wine to settle and mature in a cellar for a few more years before enjoying it at the perfect time.
As a die hard madridista I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate your last post. Even though you are a fan of Barcelona you have respect and your post was very well said.
Thanks for your comment madridistacasillas. Your feedback is greatly appreciated.
Mutual respect and class is what El Clasico is all about. Unlike a lot of rivalries I can think of, the goal has never been to out-muscle the other team, or out-fight the other fans, or out-talk the other manager. Ours is a civilized rivalry.
Barcelona vs Madrid is - and has always been - primarily about who can play the best football.
I hope it remains this way and, judging from your comment, I think you do as well.
I’m a Cule. A Barcelonista. Meaning I detest Real Madrid. I despise them. And I usually go out of my way to make this abundantly clear. It has gotten to the point where if I encounter a person wearing that pearly white jersey while walking down the street, I judge them. Harshly and openly.
Now if you’re expecting an article that bashes Real and sings Barca’s praises, you’re way off the mark. And if you’re expecting to read some kind of “holier then thou” piece, you might as well stop right now.
This is just one fan’s (biased) opinion of an eternal foe.
Regardless of what I’ve already said, I’m not under the illusion that the world would be a happier place if Real simply ceased to exist. On the contrary, I would find that tragic.
You see, unlike some of my fellow Cules, I’m fully aware that Barca would not be Barca without Madrid (and vice versa). It’s this rivalry that has pushed both clubs to the very peak of footballing excellence. It’s this rivalry that draws new fans to both clubs while keeping old fans coming back for more.
There’s a healthy level of envy (if that is possible) that exists between Barca and Real. Barca (and indeed the world) envies Madrid’s trophy case, which contains enough silverware to outshine any counterpart. Real envies Barca’s history of achieving comparable success while relying largely on locally ‘grown’ footballers.
Last season’s series of Barca vs. Real showdowns were somewhat of a revelation for me.
Firstly, I came to realize that while many would consider this to be the best team Barca has produced, the case may be same for Real as well. Statistically speaking, this Madrid side is far and away the best ever seen. They’ve scored more goals and accumulated more points than any Madrid side that’s come before. I believe that if it weren’t for Barca’s recent dominance, this vintage of Real Madrid would have been spoken of in the same breath as the great Madrid squads of years gone by. This speaks volumes about the level at which Barca is playing right now.
Secondly, I also realized that Xavi and Ronaldo represent perfect microcosms of Barca and Madrid respectively.
I’ve gushed about Xavi on this blog before so I’ll try to keep this to the point. Like Barcelona, he’s a Catalan, trained at Barca’s youth academy and bled patiently into the first team. He’s not been blessed with great physical gifts but plays football the Barca way - always passing, always moving, always thinking. In his role, there is no one better. Off the field, he’s relatively quiet but tends to cause a stir when he does air his opinion.
On the other hand, Cristiano Ronaldo mirrors the same values that are important to Real Madrid. He’s considered by many to be the best player in the world. He plays with electrifying pace and brilliant skill. An experienced journeyman. And he’s undoubtedly the ‘sexiest’ player around. Foreign, handsome, and charismatic - Ronaldo is an instant boost to jersey sales. A media darling, Ronaldo is followed everywhere by paparazzi looking for a juicy shot of him and the latest model or Hollywood starlet he’s dating.
Lastly, I’ve realized that the rivalry between these two great teams has probably never been more intense or competitive. I just hope that football remains the focal point, and not off-field spats and accusations in the press.
If I could pick one facet of football that causes the most arguments and controversy I’d pick the issue of diving. I think now would be an appropriate time to ‘tackle’ this topic. (pun intended)
I’d like to first say that diving ruins good football and has no place in the game. Unfortunately it is very difficult to judge what is a dive and what is not because everyone has a different definition of it.
For me, a footballer has taken a dive if he/she has: a) fallen over under NO CONTACT to insinuate a foul. b) faked an injury to waste time or to get an opponent carded.
Here’s where things get a bit complicated.
I see nothing wrong with drawing a foul from a defender. In fact, I consider the ability to coax a defender into making illegal contact a subtle but invaluable skill in football.
Admittedly, this contact may not be enough to knock a player off his/her feet; but if it is enough to put the player off balance it should be called a foul because the attacking advantage is lost and it is nearly impossible to recover effectively.
This idea has been the source of many arguments over the years. If you disagree with me, perhaps you should consider a few questions.
Why should an attacker be punished for a defender’s inability to tackle?
If an attacking player is skilled enough to force a defender into a vulnerable position, why shouldn’t he/she be rewarded for it?
Why should a referee protect an incapable defender and not a skilled attacker?
Given the way a modern football swerves and dips, why shouldn’t you try to win as many freekicks as possible? (thank you, technology)
Drawing contact and fouls are accepted in other sports such as basketball and hockey. In fact it is considered smart and savvy to do so.
It should be accepted in football as well. I’m convinced that football’s propensity for flair, drama, and flamboyance are the reason people are so quick to condemn any attacker that is fouled and to label it a dive.
Drawing a foul is not diving. And for the zillionth time, it’s part of the game!
Just four years ago, if you had told me that by 2011 Barcelona would be signing Pedro Rodriguez to a long term deal while unceremoniously showing Bojan Krkic the door, I would have thought that you’d gotten your parties mixed. In fact, I would have been quite impressed that Pedrito had lasted at the club till 2011.
Four years ago the situation was this: At just 16, Bojan was a phenomenon. He had the football world and especially Barca fans gushing about his unmistakable talent. He wasn’t just the next big star produced by Barcelona; he was the next world-beater. The kid that scored a thousand goals through Barca’s youth ranks. A record-breaker.
The next king of football.
I was one of these voices. To me Bojan was the right-footed version of Leo Messi; and I would dream of the trophies the two of them would bring home to Camp Nou.
On the other hand, Pedrito was a nobody. At just 19, most at the club had given up on him. He was a bench-warmer for Barca’s B team and was about to be released from his contract and shipped off to another club for free.
Enter Pep Guardiola. Pep is Pedrito’s biggest fan. He saw the potential in this kid when he took over the coaching reigns of the B team and blocked Pedrito’s release.
The rest is history.
Today Pedrito’s contract has a release clause of 150 million euros. Since his promotion to the first team, he has helped Barca and Spain win a bevy of trophies. He is admired for his incredible work rate and knack for scoring goals in big games.
Meanwhile, Bojan is being shipped off to Roma for a cut price. He has been tormented by poor form, injuries, and the incredible pressure that comes with being dubbed “the next…”.
The difference between Pedro and Bojan is development. One continued to improve and one simply stood still. You can see this in their play. Pedrito plays with the abandon of a man that is just happy to be playing while, lately, Bojan plays not to screw up. You can almost see the weight of expectation pressing on his shoulders, slowing him down and stunting his creativity.
The Copa America - one of my favorite tournaments - kicks off tonight with hosts, Argentina, taking on Bolivia.
What’s so special about it?
This competition is unique as far as international tournaments go because it has the character of a club tournament. South American teams play against each other in meaningful matches more than their European or North American counterparts. The manner in which they must qualify for World Cups means that South American teams are very familiar with each other, making for far more rivalries.
Obviously the Copa gives us a venue to see some of the world’s most popular teams: Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, and especially Brazil.
The Copa is also considered a showcase for the sport’s top young talent. This year is no different with the likes of Chile’s Alexis Sanchez, Venezuela’s Yohandry Orozco, Brazil’s Neymar, and Argentina’s Javier Pastore.
Most importantly, this is perhaps the only international tournament left that places an emphasis on playing beautiful football. Unfortunately, a lot of the other major tourneys have become completely pragmatic and pessimistic. The brand of football played is what I like to call Attrition Football. In a way, the Copa is the last competition to retain its innocence and it is a joy to behold.
At long last (thank you North Vancouver construction/playoff hockey), Comrades FC finally kicked off our summer league season today!
It’s well worth mentioning that this is a brand new summer league set up and operated by our very own Randy, Lee, and Will. The story is we were tired of our old league, who asked us to drive all the way over town every week just to get torched by some team we had no business being on the same field with.
Thanks for putting this together, guys. I think I can speak for the rest of the team in saying we really appreciate the shorter commutes; competitive matches; and comparatively lower league fees!
Tonight, our match pitted us against NVFC (educated guess: North Vancouver Football Club?); a young and talented team that had just moved over from the U-19 ranks.
Unfortunately for them, I’m pretty sure they were instantly intimidated at the sight of some of the playoff beards our team’s been sporting lately. Amaan and Derek are wearing exceptionally scary ones. I’ll make a point to take pictures at our next game because it’s really quite impressive.
Put it this way: At the moment, Derek looks like he’s been living with wolves for the last six months and I guarantee that Amaan would have every cavity thoroughly searched if he made the mistake of going to the airport.
Once those two had them running scared, the game itself was pretty straight forward. Some nice, composed defending; some tidy passing through the midfield; and the odd ball over the top of the defense and there you have it…Comrades walk away with a fine win; our first of the summer. Congrats, boys!
Some performances of note include Amaan (who bagged yet another hat-trick), Tay (with some lovely through passing), Sammy (who was full of running), and Jonas (Some great saves for his shutout).
Also of note: Derek Wong made his long awaited (and triumphant, as it turned out) return from injury, and Kevin ‘Lambo’ Lam made his Comrades debut (along with some guy named Grant, I believe. Nice fellow).
Personally, I’m pretty sure I didn’t set a single foot right all night. A frustrating performance that culminated in me sharing one too many thoughts with the ref (as is my way. Thanks for the card, Tommy!). At least I got that game out of my system.
All in all, it was great to be back on the park in a Comrades jersey again. It’s always nice to start the season off with a win and hopefully we can string a few more together this summer.
The final match of the European football season is upon us. Tomorrow, FC Barcelona and Manchester United will contest the Champions League Final in London’s renowned Wembley Stadium.
Most will agree that these have been the two best teams of the tournament this year, so in many ways this is the ‘ideal’ final (just don’t ask a Real Madrid fan).
As usual, there is no shortage of intriguing story lines. What is most striking is the commonalities shared by both clubs.
Both teams enter the confrontation as champions of their respective nations; overcoming their own uniques set of challenges along the way.
Both clubs are also competing in their third final of the last five years (in this era, an outrageous achievement regardless of tomorrow’s result).
Both teams will be pleased to be playing at Wembley. United will be close to home and should have the support of a vast majority of the crowd. For Barca, a return to Wembley means a return to the ground where they won their first Champions League trophy against Sampdoria in 1992.
Barcelona appear to be the stronger of the two sides and are the bookmakers’ favorite to take the title. However, Man United are undoubtedly the form team of the moment and seem to be peaking at just the right time.
Both team sheets could be mistaken for a list of the best players in the game today. There truly is no apparent weak link on either team. Viewers will be treated to battles like Rooney vs. Pique; Messi vs. Vidic; and Xavi vs. Carrick.
The match may also be the swan song for two legends of modern football: United’s Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes. I consider both of them among the greatest exponents of British football and have admired them since I first started watching sports.
Even the managers have snagged some headlines. Sir Alex Ferguson is a Man United icon and a wily veteran at the height of his abilities. Pep Guardiola is very much the golden boy of football managers who brings a fresh take to the tried and true philosophy of Barca.
Finally, Both clubs have something to prove.
United seek validity. All season, they’ve been called atypical and even weak. Granted, this may not be a traditional Man U side; but they have performed in the clutch and will seek to silence their critics by winning a competition in which they have historically been underachievers. United will also be looking to gain a measure of revenge on Barca, who beat them comfortably in the 2009 final in Rome.
Barca seek their place in history. This is the best football team of our generation. Maybe the best version of Barca ever seen. Many even believe them to be the best of all-time. A victory tomorrow may not settle this debate, but it will 'add fuel to the fire' so to speak.
Personally, I don’t care much for this argument. This is an incredibly entertaining team to watch and they play the game the way it’s meant to be played (just don’t ask a Real Madrid fan). That’s really all I care about.
What I’m most looking forward to is the clash of styles between both clubs.
Everyone knows how Barca will line up and how they will want to play. At their best, they play a slow brand of football that is based on control, movement, short passing in combination, and allowing the ball to do the work. For better or worse, this is the only way they know how to play and they will live and die by it.
United play their best football on the counter-attack. This is where they can bring their searing pace to bear on the opposing defense. This team can rob the ball and have it at the other end of the field in 2 or 3 passes; leaving the opponent hopelessly stretched. It is exciting to watch and intimidating to play against.
I’d like to see an entertaining final, tomorrow, determined by the PLAYERS rather than some kind of controversy. Obviously I’d also like to see Barca add a fourth Champions League crown to their resume and bring another title home to Catalunya!
If you haven’t already guessed, I’m a big fan of the clean, escapist fun-house that is the Jersey Shore.
Is there a better way to unwind on a Thursday night than by watching orange-tinted people drink themselves into a stupor before having one-night-stands with a wide selection of ‘grenades’ and/or ‘land mines’? Didn’t think so.
Sadly we’ve all been robbed of Jers-days as the show is out of season. Needless to say, this has left a big hole in my weekly entertainment and caused some withdrawal.
In an effort to cope, I decided to cook an old Jersey favorite the other day: Sausage and Peppers. If you haven’t yet tried it, I fully recommend it. It’s delicious!
I went grocery shopping with a mission today: Come up with a simple, home-cooked meal at the cheapest price possible. Here’s what I came up with.
I bought a little rice, a bell pepper, a tomato, and the chunks of beef meant to go in stews. All in all, it came out to just shy of $4!
I seasoned the meat and marinated it in some olive oil, chipotle, and cilantro. Threw it in a pot and added a little onion, some butter (of course), half the pepper, and half the tomato. Threw it all together on top of the rice and there you have it. (The pic came out sideways for some reason. My apologies, but you get the idea)
I haven’t named it yet but it was brilliant and I’m definitely adding it to the regular menu here.
Cheap, quick (15 minutes total), and most importantly…bloody delicious. What more can you ask for?