That’s Entertainment

For those anti-international football types who didn’t notice, there was a final played yesterday. The Confederations Cup is nothing but a show that FIFA likes to put on. It does serve two purposes though – the host nation gets to show the rest of the world that they are ready to welcome them and of course FIFA makes even more money.

If you wanted something to do on a Sunday, watching the U.S.A. nearly stage what would have been a tremendous upset victory over Brazil was probably as good an option as any. The game started with Brazil pinning the U.S. back in its own half. I lost count of how many crosses Maicon sent into the box. The North Americans looked shaky at the back.

And then unexpectedly if not fortunately, Clint Dempsey scored against the run of play. It looked like he barely made contact with the ball but it counted nonetheless.

Brazil 0 – U.S.A. 1!

The goal sent shockwaves and anxiety through fans of the Seleção. Not to be outdone by his teammate, in the 26th minute Landon Donovan finished a superbly executed counter-attack.

Brazil 0 – U.S.A. 2!

So the first half finished with the most unlikely of score lines. Brazil had it all to do. The U.S. only had to hold their lead for just 45 minutes.

I’ve liked Luis Fabiano since his days at Sao Paulo. Excellent first touch! Good finisher! I like the player. I felt it was just a matter of time until he made his mark on the match. Quickly after the second half started, he did just that. Kaka scored, but it was not allowed. Luis Fabiano then scored the equalizer to set up a dramatic winner by captain Lúcio.

My only gripe about the game is how the debacle we’d just witnessed was less important in the eyes of the American presenters than the wow effect of having had ‘a two-goal lead over Brazil for the first time ever’. OK! Brazil represents the pinnacle of international football. Losing to them is never a cause for shame or embarrassment. But to be up two goals and then give up four unanswered (Kaka’s was clearly a legitimate goal) is unacceptable. I felt as though it had been the U.S. U19s who’d been beaten by the full Brazilian team.

I’m not sure if I agree with the loss being a moral victory. Not even Coach Bradley (at least not in the interviews I saw) said anything about surrendering a two-goal lead. I expected more analysis of how and why the lead was conceded. Homage to Brazil’s prowess and playing up the fact that the U.S. had done well just to get to the final wasn’t enough for me.

That is minor though in the grand scheme. More importantly, the match was exciting, played at high tempo, and in a good spirit. You could see that the North Americans were determined to give Coach Bradley selection options if not headaches when time comes to finalize his World Cup roster, especially after the poor displays in the earlier matches. You could see that the Brazilians were playing with the pride that anyone who wears the famous yellow jersey is expected to do.

The Confederations Cup is a show. Let’s be clear about that. Arsenal fans could be forgiven for having mild interest in Gilberto’s participation and serious concern that the additional matches only increase Cesc’s risk for injury. But for the football fan who just wants to be entertained, yesterday’s final was not the match to use as criticism of FIFA.

I along with many millions watching were entertained.

Mike Riley

This man is now the Premier League’s referees chief.

The negative is that this man is not a good referee and a Manchester United supporting stiff.

The positive is that at least he won’t ref our matches anymore.

Manchester United fans always claim they’re being screwed by the authorities. Sir Alex Ferguson does much the same. But when David Gill is on the board of the FA, how can this really be possible?

Will Riley have a similar influence? I doubt it.

And even if he did, we just have to persevere through it. That’s what Champions do.

Once we win one trophy, we’ll be on our way.

Michael Jackson RIP

Whatever negative press Michael Jackson has received over the years – most notably his child sex abuse allegations – there is no doubt that as a performer he was the best. Jackson’s best years were 1978-1986 where he produced three great albums: Off The Wall, Thriller and Bad.

Thriller is when Michael Jackson’s status as being cool among youth peaked. I lost count of the amount of red leather jackets that were worn by young men in London during 1983. Such was the impact of his video Thriller.

His music during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s were a big influence on me as a kid.

It’s rare that someone famous has had an impact on my life. When I was 11 years old, Thriller did, it directed my music tastes and got me through the 1983-84 season, which was one of Arsenal’s worst.

Bad was released the same year that George Graham was appointed Arsenal’s new manager. Graham brought the glory days back to Arsenal, something which I never thought could happen. But Graham has something in common with Michael Jackson. I held both in high esteem.

Then in 1993, Jackson was accused of child abuse and settled out of court. His aura was never the same and his music suffered.

In 1995, George Graham was fired by Arsenal for stealing 250,000 pounds from the club. His teams had become predictable, boring, and finished mid-table. Then in 1998 he became the manager of Spurs. I suddenly found myself hating a man that I once viewed as a legend.

I have never hated Michael Jackson. If anything I pitied him, especially after he was cleared of another child abuse allegation in June 2005. The man, who was once an idol for so many, was now a laughing stock.

It’s a shame when that happens, but people should never forget that Michael Jackson was a genius when it came to music.

RIP

Jose Antoino Reyes

Before the arrival of Andrey Arshavin, Jose Antonio Reyes was the record transfer signing for Arsenal Football Club. While the fee was never as high as the press consistently quotes (neither is Arshavin’s), he never achieved the heights that I’m sure Wenger once thought he might be able to reach.

When he arrived, he was immediately in the mix for playing time, even amongst the vaunted Invincibles squad. On the Arsenal Season Review dvd for that year, you can hear Reyes detailing a lengthy answer while the voiceover answer merely says “I love English football.” With his contributions to the squad, including a rocket shot goal against Chelsea, most were completely convinced that the fee would eventually end up being fully justified.

Everyone must now know that Wenger scouts players extensively. At the time, when he made that bid, he had to be sure Reyes would be worth the gamble. He had almost singlehandedly destroyed Real Madrid and had become an icon at a rising Sevilla team. Wenger thought he had signed a future star, and to be fair, that’s what he appeared to be for his first 12 months at Arsenal. Wenger stated:

“He has played for Sevilla up front on his own, as a supporting striker and he has played on the left recently. He can be adaptable; he can even play on the right. This player is an investment. He is 20 years old and he’s already an international.”

What exactly happened to a player that Wenger was so excited to get?

The facts have been recounted by many. The lack of protection from the refs, the constant hounding by Thierry Henry, his naive demeanor, and a brutal match against Manchester United are a few reasons.

Let’s look closer at some of these facts.

Reyes was the most fouled player in the Premier League. He was constantly hacked to bits, and considering that he had such a blazing start to his career, when a dip came, he struggled. I think this is one of the hardest things for a player to get used to when arriving in England. Quite simply, the idea of letting things slide in order to emphasize the English spirit is absolute crap. While people in England laugh over players getting injured and using defenses like “he got the ball,” the rest of the world shakes their head. Reyes was systematically taken apart by the Neville brothers, and not enough was done to protect him.

He was homesick. He had to take an interpreter to the video store in order to rent DVD’s. This indicates that he wasn’t ready to live by himself and maybe he never will be. It may contribute to the unhappiness of the player, and it may affect form drastically.

Last, people honestly believe that Thierry Henry played a great role in the demise of Jose Antonio Reyes. They believe that his constant sour attitude made Reyes wilt instead of blossom. After recently witnessing Kobe Bryant lead his team to the NBA Championship, it’s hard to put any sort of merit to this line of criticism.

As we stand today, Benfica refuses to pay 8 million euros to make the transfer from Atletico Madrid final. Reyes has helped Real Madrid win La Liga in dramatic fashion, and they didn’t want him.

The bottom line is, Reyes was not good enough. Paying large amounts of money never guarantees anything, even when scouted by a man as great as Wenger.

All of the reasons I’ve detailed for Reyes’ failure could have been overcome by a better player. There are hundreds of talented streetball players who could never make it in the NBA.

In our team, we need strong individuals. Reyes was never that.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

I played against a guy named Ron when I was younger. Ron was the classic goal poacher. His was the lone goal in a championship final which my team lost as I watched from the bench with an ankle injury. I got sweet revenge the following year though as we returned the favor with a deserved 2-1 victory to dethrone the title holders. Ron and I eventually became good friends.

During his playing days, he dedicated himself to scoring goals when he was on the pitch but did very little to further that uncanny ability to do so with such ease and remarkable regularity when he was off it. To this day, I still ask myself what prevents people like Ron from doing more with their football abilities.

There have been many, many Rons throughout the world. Over the course of my lifetime alone there have probably been more than I can imagine. I suppose it’s like anything else – right place, right time and your life takes an entirely different turn. Ron could have been a fantastic player if he’d been from another time and place.

There have been exceptions however, when a player is spotted and ultimately reaches heights he’d otherwise not have done. There have been success stories that Ron could have starred in but for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There have been super successful players who, like Ron, didn’t possess the best technique but were practically peerless in front of goal.

Mario Jardel was one such player.

Were it not for Kevin Phillips – yes, THAT Kevin Phillips – Jardel would have been a three-time European Golden Boot winner. In three seasons, he led Europe’s top goal scorers list (1998-99, 1999-00, 2001-02). Despite being the continent’s top scorer on three separate occasions Jardel won the prize only twice. Phillips (then of Sunderland) won the coveted prize in 1999-00 because of the coefficients applied by the governing bodies. That simply means if Jardel scored 38 goals for Porto while Kevin Phillips scored 30 in the EPL, Phillips’s feat is deemed more impressive because of the “standard” of play.

Jardel’s prolific periods in the middle late ’90s were as impressive as his disappearance from prominence was sudden and irreversible. While he seemed to always be where he needed to be when he needed to be there, on the pitch – a very underrated quality in football – Jardel never convinced the right people that he was much more than a free scoring player in the lesser leagues. He never played for Milan or Real Madrid or Bayern Munich. He’s only ever been picked for the Selecao seven times with just one goal. That’s hardly being taken seriously by either the big clubs in Europe or by any of the Brazilian national team’s managers.

Jardel’s decline even included a spell on the books at Bolton in 2003-04 as Walrus Face attempted to get a top scorer on the cheap. Ha! Not happenin’ you big lard chewing bastid. Jardel appeared seven times for the shit kickers without a goal.

It was quite ironic to see a once prolific goal scorer – one who’s timing had been so precise – at such a shambolic point of his career, playing in the wrong place at the wrong time and certainly for the wrong club.

ESPN Buys Setanta’s Live Premiership Games

I’m not a fan of ESPN. It’s the McDonald’s of sports coverage. The analysis they give of games lasts 2 minutes and is interspersed with too many Heineken adverts. It’s full of suited men talking too fast and not making much sense. In a nutshell, ESPN provides quickly digested, commercialized tosh.

And then there’s Tommy Smyth, the Manchester United loving Irishman and his catch phrase:

“Put it in the onion bag.”

I am an educated football fan who pays a cable company every month to get quality sports coverage from so called experts. Tommy Smyth is not an expert – he is a clown. It’s because of this bald, bifocal wearing, leprechaun that I watch ESPN Champions League coverage with the sound off. Thank God ESPN will no longer have the rights to screen Champions League football.

Tommy Smyth’s knowledge of the game was put to shame last summer by Judy Foudy. Who you might ask – and there lies my point. Isn’t it time that this man was fired?

Comments like “Put it in the onion bag” belittles my intelligence and makes me question the quality of service that ESPN claims to provide. ESPN have anchor men who don’t try and hide their ignorance and contempt towards “soccer”. They would rather be working on college football, NASCAR or golf. Their ignorance and contempt for the game shows through while their voices sound dumber than a fraternity boy with a Pabst Blue Ribbon hangover.

To say that I am disappointed that ESPN has won rights to show live Premiership games is an understatement.

I thought that when Fox Soccer Channel won the rights to show next seasons Champions League games that that was the end of Tommy Smyth and ESPN with regards to “soccer.” I obviously celebrated too soon.

Arsenal

Myles Palmer is a Fraud

About three years ago, I contacted the blogger Myles Palmer. I’d reached a point when I could no longer resist asking the guy what his deal is.

I’d grown tired of reading about how his inside sources told him this or told him that. I’d grown tired of his predictions. I’d grown tired of the piles of horse shit he tries to pass as analysis of The World’s Greatest Team.

“Arsenal need Maxi Lopez,” he once said. Maxi Lopez!

MAXI LOPEZ!

How can I take someone who says that seriously? The final straw was his assertion that one has to live in London in order to be a Gooner.

His response to my email provided some insights on what he is about but nothing can change my view. The guy pretends to know more about Arsenal and certainly more about football than he really does.

A great man recently wrote about global brands. He noted how Arsenal has placed anchors in Asia and and other parts of the world as the club develops worldwide recruitment and commercial bases. The same great man is an ex-pat who was born and raised in London. He is an Arsenal fan.

Myles Palmer is not.

The same great man, according to Myles Palmer’s mode of thinking, is no Longer eligible to be a Gooner as he has left London.

(I am not eligible to call myself a Gooner for I do not live in London, and I certainly wasn’t born in London.)

Fortunately it doesn’t matter where the great man lives, he has always been, will always be, and is a Gooner.

Myles Palmer is not.

The best way to avoid being irritated by the pompous know-it-all is simply to not read his blog. I just wish being rid of his type were as easy. Arsenal don’t need Myles Palmer. My friend, the great man I’ve spoken about, and the millions of proper Gooners like him are who Arsenal need for their passion and unadulterated love for the club.

Myles Palmer is not.