The Five Billion Person Party

Notes of a wandering American soccer fan

Archive for March, 2008

When Life Really Imitates “Dream Team”

Posted by steigs on March 28, 2008

Courtesy of Pitch Invasion, why not just rename your team Harchester United?

 The man bidding to buy Mansfield Town wants to take this a step further and rename the club “Harchester United”, the fictional name of the team in Sky Television’s soccer soap opera, Dream Team.

I suppose it might be better than being named for a kids team in a Disney film…

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When Life Imitates Dream Team, part 4

Posted by steigs on March 28, 2008

As if Derby County weren’t in enough trouble, as they threaten to set a record for fewest points in an EPL season, their coach has been caught indulging in some hanky-panky… 

During the film, dad-of-two Jewell – wed for 21 years – ties a mystery woman in stockings to a bed with silk before they have sex.

In another clip the Rams chief and his lover – who is in her 30s and wearing a wedding ring – romp on the boot of his Mercedes.

Just like Harchester…

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When Life Imitates “Dream Team,” pt. 3

Posted by steigs on March 11, 2008

Apparently, Didier Drogba really wants his replica to be the most popular among Chelsea fans.  So much so that he’s taken to buying them himself to make the sales stats look better:

The £24 million striker, who was named Premier League top goal scorer for 2006-2007, has had less success in shirt sales compared to John Terry and Frank Lampard who reportedly taunt him about it on the training ground.

One Chelsea insider claimed Drogba visits the club shop up to 10 times a week and on one occasion walked out of the store with 40 shirts priced at approximately £45 each, setting him back £1,800.

The first-team regular could easily get shirts free of charge but the £70,000-a-week centre forward is paying like any other customer to improve his shirt sale statistics.

Maybe A-Rod should try the same thing with Yankees gear…

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Nacional Hero

Posted by steigs on March 11, 2008

One of the more ridiculous recent incidents in world soccer was the sending-off of Flamingo’s Toro in the Copa Libertadores for…pushing a dawdling ball boy to the ground in a game against Nacional of Uruguay.  Needless to say, the kid, one Nicolas Dominguez, aged thirteen, is now quite the hero in Uruguay for his services to the home team.

Uruguay used to be a power in soccer, winner of more World Cups than England, Holland, Spain and Portugal combined.  (Granted, the most recent came in 1950 but…)  Nacional is one of their two traditional powerhouse clubs, one that can be found playing on GolTV in Uruguyan league games now and then, and often in the Copa Libertadores.  I found myself in Montevideo, a charmingly sleepy capital, back in ’04 and saw Nacional take on Liverpool.  No, not that Liverpool…  To learn more about mate, steak and my hideout, should I ever need one, read on after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Uruguay | 1 Comment »

RFK, My Friend

Posted by steigs on March 9, 2008

It’s almost DC United opening day, with our first home game next week against Harbour View FC of Jamaica.  Time to head back to RFK and I’m looking forward to it.  While all the talk lately has been (rightly) about DC United’s next home, whatever it turns out to be, I’d like to go on record saying, you know, I like RFK.  I understand the economics dictating that United get its own home but there’s a part of me that wishes the team could somehow take ownership of RFK, maybe fix it up a little, and call it home for a few more decades.

Okay, sure, it’s run-down and has acquired some quirky seating and other features (thanks, Nationals!).  But it’s ours.  It’s got some atmosphere (thanks, Screaming Eagles, Barra Brava, and La Norte!).  It’s easy enough to get to.  And it’s got some history.  That’s a rare combo for American soccer.

There’s a bit of pop psychology that says male friendships are often built on shared experiences (while female friendships are supposedly bulit more on shared confidences).  In that case, me and RFK, we’re friends.  We’ve shared a lot of experiences….

Some are familiar to most DC United fans — the epic 2004 conference final victory over the Revolution, the 1997 MLS Cup win in the rain over the Rapids, the 1999 conference final destruction of the Crew.  (Not to mention some more painful experiences, like the more recent play-offs.)  Or US national team games, like the qualifier against Jamaica back in ’97 or friendlies against teams like Uruguay and South Africa.  The Women’s World Cup in ’03.  A Belgium-Saudi Arabia World Cup game in ’94 that featured one of the most remarkable goals in World Cup history, though I was too new to the sport to understand just what a fabulous play I’d just seen the Saudi player make, particularly because I was surrounded by unhappy Belgian fans.

Others are more personal.  My first date with my wife was that rainy April 2000 comeback victory over the Fire.  I first really got to know my future father-in-law when he came to town for that brutal World Cup Qualifying loss to Honduras in 2001.   Heck, the time I saw the late, great Ramones at the HFStival, watching the whole floor of the stadium pogo-ing along.  A couple of U2 shows, particularly that drizzly one on the ZooTV tour.

Then there are the more mundane aspects, the warming familiarity of the rituals.  For me, that’s taking the Metro to the game, feeling heartened by the others I see wearing DC United gear along the way, and that walk past the Armory, often amused by the scalpers just outside Stadium-Armory  stop.  (Hey!  We’ve arrived — there are guys who think our tickets are worth re-selling.)  Meeting up with friends who have seats nearby.  Discussing on the subway if it’s hot enough to drink the Sunset Wheat beer or whether we’re in the mood for fries or something else for dinner.  Assessing the game on the ride home.

I know there are plenty of different rituals other fans have, such as the extended, perhaps legendary, tailgating of our friends on the “loud side.”  Maybe kickarounds in the parking lots for the suburban types who drive in with the kids.  These rituals a part of being a fan.  After a tough week at work, it’s soothing to be able to relax and do the usual fun things before, at, and after the game.  I’ve seen it on my travels.  The Arsenal fans grabbing a pint at their usual pre-game pub.  (Wonder if they’ve found a new one, post-Highbury.)  The AC Milan fans snacking at the concession vans in the San Siro parking lot.  Lord of the Wing often speaks for the Celtic fans who take the charter bus into Glasgow for their games.  It’s part of what we love.

I’m sure I’ll like, probably even love, DC United’s new stadium, wherever it turns out to be.  Our management seems to understand that there are some mandatory requirements, like Metro access, and has development experience.  But I’m going to miss RFK when it’s gone.  Probably a lot.  That happens with friends sometimes.  I’ve moved cross-country from where I grew up and went to college and lost track of some friends in the process, people I may never see again.  I miss them but at least we’ve got good memories.  Leaving RFK may be a little like that.  We have to go our separate ways eventually but, you know, I’ll miss it too.   And so I’ll try to take the time to appreciate the next few seasons there, understanding that it’s just a temporary thing now, not the permanent part of my life it’s been for the last decade.

See you there next week!  Let’s have a few more memories before we part.

Posted in DC United, US | 2 Comments »

Forza Suwon! Korea Team Fighting!

Posted by steigs on March 6, 2008

The LA Galaxy has been on a tour of Asia, taking full advantage of the benefits of having David Beckham on the team.  (Well, maybe not full advantage — I imagine that the Chinese are buying knock-off Beckham jerseys, not official ones.)  They tied FC Seoul earlier this week, then lost on penalties.

South Korea’s K-League doesn’t have much of a profile over here.  To the extent we notice an Asian league — which isn’t much — it’s Japan’s J-League, which has more high-profile foreigners and has a highlight show FSC runs to help fill out its schedule.  Gamba Osaka of the J-League, for example, recently crushed the Dynamo to win the pre-season Pan-Pacific tourney in Hawaii. 

But as FC Seoul demonstrated, the K-League does have some decent teams and players.  Koreans can play, with South Korea being Asia’s most consistent World Cup performer, and the country is increasingly prosperous, which can help build a league.  I saw some of that myself on a trip to Korea in ’04, where I caught a Suwon game.  The Suwon Bluewings are one of Asia’s better club teams.  My notes on playing tourist in Seoul, Korean soccer in general, and the Suwon game are after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Korea, World Cup | 2 Comments »

Overkill, but that’s a good thing!

Posted by steigs on March 6, 2008

The US starts World Cup qualifying in June with a two-leg preliminary series against either Barbados (ranked #133) or Dominica (ranked #182).  Should be a formality before the semi-final round of regional qualifying later in the year. 

Still, we need to make sure our team is sharp and has some practice in advance of those games, given the tremendous costs of a hiccup in qualifying.  So the Federation is scheduling some friendlies to get the team warmed up.  What teams will we play?  It’s looking like:

England at Wembley on May 28th.  At Spain on June 4th.  And Argentina on June 8th, perhaps at the Meadowlands.  That would be three of the top 11 teams in FIFA’s rankings (such as they are).  That’s a string of three games — two on the road — with maybe one-third of the countries that can claim with a straight face to be contenders to win the World Cup.  Yeah, I know England just choked out of Euro 2008 qualifying and Spain routinely blows it once it makes it to an international tourney.  Still, that’s a murderer’s row of games.  That should quiet the bigsoccer types who complained about our weak friendlies in advance of the ’06 Cup, much as I enjoyed a second opportunity to see Latvia play in person.

Yeah, our team might be ready to play mighty Barbados after that trio of games.  If they survive.  I can’t imagine what the Federation will schedule as a warm-up for the final round of qualifying next year.  Maybe Brazil and road games in Italy, Germany, Holland AND an African tour to play Ivory Coast and Ghana?  Yowza.

Posted in Argentina, CONCACAF, England, Spain, US, World Cup | Leave a Comment »

Parma

Posted by steigs on March 4, 2008

As I consider what team next to take on in my “virtual managing” career, I’m inclined to take a run at Serie A with Parma.  Who?  Huh?  One of the also-rans these days, they had a pretty nice stretch in the 90s before their patron had some, well, Enron-like finanical issues.  I watched some of their loss to Roma this weekend.  Not what they used to be…

 But I really enjoyed my stop there back in 2000, a city that gave us Parmigiano cheese and, mmmm, prosciutto di Parma.  Maybe I’m the guy to turn them around.  At least in a virtual sense…

 For more on my stop in Parma, read on after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

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