The Five Billion Person Party

Notes of a wandering American soccer fan

Archive for May, 2008

The Euro 2008 team bus slogans!

Posted by steigs on May 22, 2008

They ran a contest for fans of the various teams at EURO 2008 to pick a slogan to paint on their team’s bus, in their native language and in English.  (Something similar happened at the 2006 World Cup.)  The results are here.  And the buses themselves, in full team color glory, are here.  (Lot of red and white teams at the tourney, it appears.)

Some slogans are pretty obvious.  The Swiss went with: Final destination: Vienna.  (That’s where the championship game will be held.)  The Germans have: Germany – one team – one purpose.

Others seem more revealing.  The French appear interested in making friends: Live together, celebrate together.  Same with the Poles: …because only sport and good fun matter.  Turkey plays the passion card: Can this bus contain the passion of Turkey?

The Italians sound a bit surreal to me:  The sky is always bluer.

But my favorite is the slogan for Spain.  It’s tinged with resignation — unlike ESPN’s ad campaign, they expect their team to disappoint them:  Whatever happens, SPAIN FOREVER.  Now that’s true fandom — whatever happens, we’re for our team. 

Posted in Euros, Germany, Italy, Spain | Leave a Comment »

ESPN’s Euro 2008 Ad campaign

Posted by steigs on May 21, 2008

I was a huge fan of ESPN’s World Cup 2006 ad campaign, perhaps in part because they used U2 for the soundtrack.  With “Worldwide Leader” taking a run at showing Euro 2008, I was curious to see how they’d try to sell it to Americans, given that the tourney not only lacks a US team (duh) but also the English. 

EPL Talk has collected the first five ads and the answer is…national stereotypes!  Some are complaining about this.  (I’m looking at you, Italy World Cup blog.)  Me, I think it’s a good idea.  After all, the average American sports fan would be hard-pressed to recognize 99 percent of these players.  But they know these countries.  So make it about the Italians, not Luca Toni.  Or the Portuguese, not Ronaldo.  Heck, I’m not sure most European fans know much about the defending champion Greeks anyway, aside from that magical run of 1-0 victories in Portugal four summers back. 

My favorite is the Italian ad.  Let’s face it, they do complain a lot.  The Portugal ad has the best highlights.  (Thank you, Ronaldo.)  And the one for Spain just seems wrong — the tagline is “All Surrender to Spain’s Red Fury”  WTF?  They choke in every tourney.  The main red fury I’m aware of is that directed at the team by Spanish fans every two years.

Still, I’ll give’em a B+.  Give me a great Dutch ad or a funny French ad and I might go to A-.  (Seriously, where are they?  I’d think they’d be more promot-able than Spain.)  And I’d think a Russia ad would be easy enough.

But I think we all would agree.  The latest Nike ad, the first person “Take It to the Next Level” commercial, is the best currently running.  Seriously, it flat out rocks.  Go watch it now!  That’ll get you more in the mood for Euro 2008 than anything ESPN is running.

Posted in Euros, Television, US | Leave a Comment »

When Life Imitates Dream Team: the Barton edition

Posted by steigs on May 21, 2008

It’s the summer, transfer season in the English Premiership.  Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton is looking at a relatively novel loan — six months in the penal league:

England international footballer Joey Barton was jailed for six months yesterday for a “violent and cowardly attack” outside a branch of McDonald’s after he became embroiled in a street fight at the end of a drunken night out in Liverpool.

The Premier League player, who signed for Newcastle in a £5.8m deal from Manchester City last summer, had drunk 10 pints of lager and five more bottles of lager before launching a sustained attack on a stranger and punching a 16-year-old boy in the face.

Now 15 (!) beers might be enough to make anyone stupid, if they’re able to be upright.  But Barton has a long history of thuggish behavior:

The incident took place as the player was awaiting trial for two other offences, which he denies; alleged assault and criminal damage of a taxi – for which he will appear before Liverpool magistrates on May 30 – and the alleged assault of a former Manchester City teammate, Ousmane Dabo, 31, to be heard in Manchester next month.

But wait, there’s more!  Courtesy of Wikipedia:

Although he signed a new contract on 22 September 2004, which would keep him at City until 2007, the club considered sacking Barton in December 2004 after an incident at their Christmas party. He stubbed out a lit cigar in youth player Jamie Tandy’s eye, after he had caught Tandy attempting to set fire to his shirt.  Barton subsequently apologised for his actions and was fined six weeks’ wages (£60,000).

The following summer, Barton was sent home from a pre-season tournament in Thailand after assaulting a 15-year-old Everton supporter who had provoked Barton by verbally abusing him and kicking his shin.Barton had to be restrained from attacking the boy further by teammate Richard Dunne.  Barton underwent anger management therapy at the order of City manager Stuart Pearce and paid £120,000 in club fines. 

While I find it puzzling that so many people appear to want provoke an obvious psycho — seriously, attempting to set his jersey on fire? — it seems there’s ample evidence that Barton is a bad, bad boy.  Just the kind who you’d expect to turn up at Harchester United.  Though I’d imagine that they’d upscale the details of his brawl.  A McDonald’s?  Really, Joey, the Arches?  Make that a high-end nightclub…and then have him score a crucial goal when he returns from jail.

Posted in England, Life imitates "Dream Team" | 16 Comments »

Up the Forest!

Posted by steigs on May 20, 2008

One of the more intriguing elements of international soccer to an American is the concept of relegation/promotion.  A whole new element of drama for those at the lower end of the standings, much more life and death than our habit of letting losers go first in a draft for young talent.  Then there’s the excitement of getting promoted to a higher level — as if a whole team could be called up to “the Show.”  The novelty is entertaining, at least if it’s not happening to your adopted team.

So I need to mark the promotion of the lower division English team I’ve adopted, Nottingham Forest.  Here’s the good folks at Through the Seasons Before Us celebrating Forest’s return to the Championship:

There was the inevitable pitch invasion, which can be frustrating when you’re in the upper tier, but after attempting to prevent it, the police and stewards gave up and allowed the pitch to fill with dancing Forest fans, who caught hold of numerous players including Junior Agogo and Chris Cohen.  After it had died down and everyone was off the team re-emerged for a deserved lap of honour, taking applause from all the Forest fans as well as the numerous Yeovil fans who had remained to take in the celebrations.

After attempting a hand-holding length-of-the-pitch run and Klinsmann-type dive, the excitement got the better of the fans again who encroached and almost collided with the players; but what a day, the like of which it seems so long since we’ve witnessed!  I found myself almost numb and disbelieving after the dancing and the singing had died down, I don’t think it’s going to sink in properly until some time in the middle of next week.  So I’ll write it down.  We finished second, we’re definitely promoted to the Championship, we don’t have to play in the playoffs, and we’re playing Derby next year!

I became fond of Forest after making a visit to the City Ground in Nottingham.  For that story, with a cameo by Nottingham Castle and unavoidable Robin Hood references, along with some musings on the relegation concept, read on! Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in England | 3 Comments »

River = Vida

Posted by steigs on May 19, 2008

A highlight of the FSC schedule for me is the weekly game from Argentina.  It’s late in the Clausura and this past weekend Estudiantes moved past River Plate into first place.  Things sound a little tense on the River side:

With few second-half scoring chances, the match ground down uneventfully with River fans insulting their players and River coach Diego Simeone expelled in the 86th minute for shouting at the referee.

That’s too bad — I was lucky enough to catch River’s fans on a better day, when I saw a game at Estadio Monumental back in ’04.  It was a wild affair in front of a huge and passionate audience.  I even got a preview of Marcelo Gallardo, now with DC United, back in his days with Los Millonarios.  Read on after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Argentina, DC United | 1 Comment »

The Famous Dynamo — Defending the Honor of Kiev

Posted by steigs on May 12, 2008

The MLS has a mixed, at best, history of team names.  (San Jose Clash?  Really?)  One that’s good, I think, is the Houston Dynamo.  Granted, it was after taking a mulligan (remember Houston 1836?) but it’s got some connection to the energy industry in the region and has some international flair.  Plus, I like the orange.  Reminds me of the Dutch.

In my travels, I managed to see a but of the most famous Dynamo team in the five billion person party, Dynamo Kiev.  These days, they’re one of the two powers of the Ukrainian league, presently waging their usual battle to the wire with Shaktar Donetsk for the championship.  (One point back with a game to go.) 

Want to hear more about Dynamo, their mad genius of a coach, and the legendary “death match?”  Read on after the jump!

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Ukraine | 4 Comments »

The Monday Update — High and Low

Posted by steigs on May 12, 2008

Slavia do toho, indeed!  On the verge of winning the Czech league!  Just got to beat thirteenth place Jablonic next weekend. 

Alas, poor Parma.  On the verge of relegation from Serie A.  Time to sack the coach!  Heck, I managed to finish 14th with my virtual Parma in Championship Manager.  I’m sure I’ll do better next season — I signed Jozy Altidore.  Still, they’ve fallen from when I saw them.

Posted in Czech, Games, Italy | Leave a Comment »

Watching Italy Fail

Posted by steigs on May 2, 2008

Euro 2008 is around the corner.  (Woo-hoo!  Can’t wait!)  As we assess who might be ready to win the tourney, it’s worth remembering that things can change fast in the world of top-level international soccer, where national teams are all-star collections that don’t play together nearly as regularly as club side. 

As World Cup champions, Italy are an obvious Euro 2008 favorite.  But two years can be a long time in international soccer.  In fact, I was at the Euro 2004 game where Italy was eliminated — at the group stage!  It’s a thin line between triumph and tragedy in these tourneys.  What’s it like to watch Italy fail?  In the rain?  With Bulgarians?  Read on after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Euros, Italy | 1 Comment »

“Critically Acclaimed” DC United 2006-2007?

Posted by steigs on May 1, 2008

ESPN’s Sports Guy today gives an obituary for the run-and-gun Phoenix Suns.

I made my friend Chris Connelly appear on this week’s “B.S. Report” to discuss “critically acclaimed sports teams,” following up on a discussion we had right after Game 2 of the Suns-Spurs series, when things were looking bleak for Phoenix and the end of Mike D’Antoni’s reign seemed imminent.

“Well, that’s OK that they didn’t win the title,” Connelly cheerfully said at the time. “At least they were critically acclaimed!”

From there, Connelly unleashed his theory of “critically acclaimed” sports teams (check the podcast for the full details) and how these Suns teams would be cheerfully remembered some day like we remember Coryell’s Chargers and the Fab Five. In other words, it didn’t really matter that they never won a championship, just like it didn’t matter that “Pulp Fiction” didn’t win an Oscar, “The Wire” never won an Emmy and “Arrested Development” bombed in the ratings. We would always remember them fondly and feel like they were more successful than they actually were.

You know, I think I’ve seen that movie.  In fact, I watched it at RFK over the last two seasons.  They didn’t win a championship but they were a lot of fun to watch.  DC United had a sheen of class and sophistication, at least by MLS standards.  They passed the ball around, they had lots of possession.  They sometimes gave off a sense that they’d rather make the extra pass to score a brilliant goal than shoot in the first place.  (I suppose that was one difference from the Suns, who were supposed to look for a shot in “seven seconds or less.”)  We felt good watching them play.  We felt good when experts approved of their play.

Simmons suggests that in the long run people will remember the Suns fondly.  I hope that’s true for DC United, 2006-2007.  I’m less sure of it — for one, the two-time champion Dynamo were an appealing team as well, perhaps more than the other Texas champions, the San Antonio Spurs.  The other is DCU has a stronger profile in MLS than the Suns in the NBA — we’re more disliked for our past successes and, sometimes, our attitude/confidence/arrogance. 

Earlier this week, Manchester United eliminated Barcelona from the Champions League and word in the press continues to be that the team will come in for an overhaul.  ‘Bye Ronaldinho, maybe Henry, maybe Marquez etc.  They’ve also been a team that’s been “critically acclaimed” for style and creativity.  (In fact, watching them pass the ball around and around and around against Man U I was reminded of some of the more frustrating times with DCU in recent years — take a shot, will you!)  But they have higher expectations.  They think they should win La Liga and the Champions League.  So being “critically acclaimed” is more frustrating, like DCU has been for us. 

And that will be a factor in how they are remembered.  Their fans will be more disappointed and neutrals will be less willing to sympathize. 

Sigh.  I just hope this classic Simmons pop culture reference isn’t entirely applicable to DC United, because I fear that the Gomez for Gallardo move may risk looking like bringing Shaq to Phoenix, the last phase of the old team, not the first phase of the new one:

Meanwhile, the Suns were like the John Belushi of basketball teams — thrilling, creative, inventive and loved by all, but ultimately, they couldn’t sustain what they were doing for more than a couple of years, and by the time it came to a screeching halt, we were already wishing that things could return to the way they were three years before. Like Belushi, the Suns were critically acclaimed. Like Belushi (drugs), the Suns had an Achilles’ heel (Robert Sarver). Like Belushi, the Suns tried to change their style near the end and it didn’t work out. Like Belushi, we will remember the Suns fondly, and every time we see one of their old classic moments popping up on TV, we’ll probably watch.

Posted in Barca, DC United | 1 Comment »