The Five Billion Person Party

Notes of a wandering American soccer fan

Archive for the ‘England’ Category

Life Imitates Dream Team, Scary Manchester edition

Posted by steigs on February 26, 2009

Police are investigating whether an armed gang of robbers is targeting the homes of top footballers after the fiancee and mother-in-law of the Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher had knives held to their throats by raiders who forced their way into the family home hours after he had left the country for a Champions League match.

Yikes!  Now if this were actually on Dream Team, the mastermind of the “armed gang” would eventually be revealed as a disgruntled ex-teammate or spurned lover of a WAG now with a team member.  Alas, in the real world, it’s likely to be just a bunch of thugs.  At least, this time there was no physical harm done.  Just this: The men escaped with jewellery and watches.


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Everton playing Championship Manager

Posted by steigs on November 17, 2008

When I’m playing Championship Manager, I always enjoy scouting — asking my scouts to go find interesting players, often in leagues I know nothing about.  Leaving aside the benefits to my virtual team of finding a cheap gem, I often later see semi-familiar names running about my t.v. screen a year or two later.  “Hey, wasn’t the Polish guy I scouted…”

So I shouldn’t be surprised if real football teams are tapping into the actual CM database:

On Friday, it was announced that Everton have signed an exclusive deal with Sports Interactive, the game’s developers, to give the club special access to the full database. At a stroke, David Moyes’s scouting team gained details of more than 370,000 players and staff at 20,000 teams in 50 countries. Why Everton, when other clubs had approached the makers about a similar tie-up? It helped, no doubt, that Paul and Oliver Collyer, those brothers, are diehard Evertonians.

As amusing as this is, what it really represents is the triumph of the open source model.  Every year, hundreds of people volunteer to offer ratings of players around the world, in the hopes of making the game more accurate.  (I’m currently playing a DC United game which accurately considers Luciano Emilio to be a pretty good striker — though how the raters thought Rod Dyachenko was useful on the field is beyond me.)  Everton is tapping into this “wisdom of the crowd” in a way that covers so much more ground than their traditional scouts, aided and abetted by tapes of games, can ever do. 

Given the global popularity of the game, this has particular potential — so many leagues, so many players, so many games.  The Five Billion Person Party gone virtual comes back to help the real world!

Posted in England, Games | Leave a Comment »

Beckham for Obama (after Hillary)

Posted by steigs on September 23, 2008

The latest Four Four Two has a cover feature on David Beckham and an interview with the man himself about life in America and the English national team etc.  There’s also a short q and a quiz for David on various American choices, such as “Kobe or LeBron.”  (Beckham goes for his LA home boy Kobe on that one.)

There’s also this:

Q: Barack Obama or John McCain?

A: What about Hillary?  Oh, I don’t know, I’m not great on politics…Obama.

So, there you have it, our wealthy soccer celebrity English import gives a half-hearted endorsement to Barack Obama.  Of course, it sounds like he preferred Hillary.  Hmmm.  Could it be nostalgia for the Clintonite ’90s, when life was good with Man U?  Or, given his wife, that he’s used to having things run by a strong woman?  In the meantime, if I were with the Obama campaign, I might try to get this out there — how better to reach the elusive swing “soccer moms” than Beckham?

Or maybe Becks and Obama could take in some of the 2010 World Cup together in South Africa, along the lines of an idea I had awhile back.

Posted in England, US | Leave a Comment »

The douche soccer fan, American style

Posted by steigs on September 15, 2008

Deadspin’s weekly EPL post today sparked an amusing “let me tell you about the douche fan at our soccer bar” binge in the comments.  Makes me feel better about the crowd at Summers, that’s for sure.  Deadspin:

I’ve got a theory about watching soccer in large groups (and what it lacks in nuance it more than makes up for in infallibility): The biggest douche in the crowd is always a Manchester United fan. Always. Saturday was no exception. It’s pretty easy to hold up when United is playing, but even in the crowded bar the grand prize winner stuck out like a hetero on Project Runway (what, don’t pretend like you don’t watch it).

Wannabe old school United jersey? Check. Popped Collar? Check. Gel-spiked hair? Check. Nothing with both self-respect and a y-chromosome should ever put effort into looking like that but again, local time, this was before 7 am on a Saturday. I was happy to have pants on at that hour. Who is giving up sleep to groom themselves? And to what end? It’s the world’s most useless gesture. Attendance rates by women for 7 am soccer starts are lower than those at NAMBLA meetings. Even before he opened his mouth, the guy was a tool.

Then he opened his mouth. Before kick he was singing “You’ll Never Win A League.” Three or four times. Nobody joined in. Then it was “When Johnny Goes Marching Down the Wing.” Also multiple times. Also without anyone jumping in. The latter is a song about Man U’s John O’Shea. He didn’t march down the wing. He never got off the fucking bench. Have I mentioned it’s early? Everyone who’s not drinking is hung over. Is it too much to ask if you’re going to be an annoying prick to at least sing something relevant?

Three minutes in United went up 1-0 and it could have been 2-0 as the ref might have missed a hand ball in the box. At this point it looked like the Red Devils might be in a walkover, 4-0 or maybe 5-0. Manchester McSingy breaks out the “You’re Not Singing” song. Leave it to the fucking English to sing a song about other people not singing. You really needed our help? You couldn’t have just irritated Hitler into submission?

From the Comments:

“Wannabe old school United jersey? Check. Popped Collar? Check. Gel-spiked hair? Check.”

It’s nice that Beckham supports his old team, but what the hell was he doing in Austin?

I, too, was at a Fado (in Philadelphia), and of course the most vocal/obnoxious person in attendance was an alleged United supporter. Only this glory-hunting frontrunner was an obese, bespectacled, bad-tattooed woman with a dodgy replica jersey (Who is “Gigs”?) and a never-ending supply of terrace songs. Once the final whistle blew, and we Liverpool fans started giving her and her cronies some shit, her argument was that, as Americans, we were all phonies and not real fans. A Man Utd supporter said this.

Gigs? Seriously? The worst we have at my bar is this woman who comes alone in a Rooney jersey, shouts in a Madonna-ish fake British accent cheering for United, and attempts to join our table on a weekly basis. We have to avoid eye contact or else she comes right over. Aggravating.

Yeah, we have a whole slew of fake-accent-adopting fans at my bar, as well. I guess some people really want to recreate a terrace environment, though it doesn’t really work when it’s 730am and no one else is singing. Perhaps when the dollar gets stronger, these idiots can just pony up the dough for a trip to Old Trafford.

The bar I was at for the CL final had no less than 10 United Douches. But the Chelsea douches made themselves more visible, including the one that got in a fight with the Sheva shirt that had the name and number taken off, I hear hes happy with his Robinho shirt though.

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When the talent flows the opposite way

Posted by steigs on August 20, 2008

Here in the US, we’re getting used to our best players being lured across the pond (‘bye, Jozy!  See you, Maurice!).  Prime-age US national team players rarely ply their trade here at home in MLS.  And when they do, we often wonder what is wrong with them.  (Yes, we’re looking at you, Landon.)

But as with much in women’s soccer, the situation is reversed.  As a revived women’s league prepares to launch, it’s the English teams who worry about their best players leaving:

The Premier League has entered what will almost certainly be the final season of its current format with an ominous warning from the Arsenal manager, Vic Akers, that American predators could rob the proposed new Super League of its top players.

The Football Association board is expected to rubber-stamp proposals for an eight-team summer league, projected to start in March 2010, at its meeting on Wednesday. But in the US the Women’s Professional Soccer League, the successor to the ill-fated Women’s United Soccer Association that folded in 2003, kicks off next summer and several England internationals are being headhunted with the carrot of professional contracts.

At the least, perhaps the pressure of US teams offering — oooh — “professional contracts” might give the English women players a bit more leverage to get EPL teams to spend a bit more on their women’s teams and give the sport a nudge there.  If they fail, well, we’ll get to enjoy their stars over here, for a change.

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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 »

Gerrard and the gangsters

Posted by steigs on April 18, 2008

Another edition of “Life Imitates Dream Team” …

This time the star is the otherwise fairly straight-shooting Steven Gerrard of Liverpool.  Liverpool, you see, is a town filled with rough elements, and when they do you a favor then, as we all know from the movies, you owe them.

When the name of the character witness was read out to the sleepy jury at Lincoln Crown Court this week, even the doziest of their number sprang to rapt attention.

Steven George Gerrard MBE – captain of Liverpool Football Club, occasional captain of England and role model to millions of impressionable youngsters – wished it to be known that he had “the utmost respect” for the man who stood in the dock.

Never mind that the defendant, John Kinsella, was a known gangster charged with tying up a security guard during a £41,000 robbery.

Wonder why Gerrard aborted that move to Chelsea a few years back?  The answer may be here:

With a big wage increase in the offing, he even text-messaged then Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho to say he was looking forward to working with him.

Days later, all that changed. Gerrard told a stunned press conference that he had changed his mind and would be staying in Liverpool.

Officially he was happy – but his ashen face and monosyllabic speech told a different story.

The truth, insiders say, is that on the eve of his transfer, Steven had a visit from his father.

Paul Gerrard, who had previously been supportive of his move to the capital, had a stark message for him: you can’t go.

“If you were to leave this city and this football club,” he said, “our lives would become intolerable.”

Steven, sources say, buckled under the pressure.

The precise reasons why this remarkable U-turn came about remain shrouded in mystery.

However, it is known that, at the time, a number of leading gangland figures in Liverpool were determined that their football club’s prize asset should not be lost to the city – at any cost.

Just the kind of story you so often see here in the US with our NBA stars — even the clean ones can find it hard to escape the tougher elements from the ‘hood.

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Great Expectations

Posted by steigs on April 16, 2008

So DC United’s season is off to a bumpy start.  A couple of shutout losses on the road in league play already, with the 4-0 loss to Real Salt Lake one of the worst games I’ve seen the team play in years, and eliminated from regional play by Pachuca.  The grumbling/worrying/complaining has begun.  Perhaps the off-season changes aren’t helping.  Perhaps it’s time for a new coachEtc.  That’s what fans do.

This comes down to expectations.  We United fans have high expectations, at least in MLS terms.  We’ve had a winning team for four years now, with the best regular season record in MLS the last two years.  It might be different if we were rooting for Real Salt Lake or Toronto where just getting to the play-offs would constitute a good year.

Other teams I root for have even higher expectations.  Look at Celtic.  Two consecutive league titles and back-to-back trips to the round of 16 in the Champions League.  Pretty good.  Oh, but they’re in second this season in Scotland and, perhaps more importantly, keep losing to Rangers.  Heck, they’re having trouble even getting a goal on their eternal rivals.  (I hope that changes today.)  Cue talk about coach Strachan moving on.  It’s like what happens to an Ohio State or Michigan football coach who can’t get a victory in that rivalry.

There’s Arsenal, now clearly bound for third in the EPL and knocked out of the Champions League by Liverpool.  Cue complaints about the failure of Wenger to bolster his young squad.  At the beginning of the year, most didn’t expect the young team could contend for the league title but a nice early run had the Gunners in first place for months.  They even managed to play with some style, like notable recent championship teams coached by Wenger.  This should be seen as a successful rebuilding year and now would be the time to talk about missing pieces to add — a world-class center defender, perhaps? — but now it doesn’t feel as successful.  Hopes were raised.  Expectations grew over the course of the year.  And, as students of revolution will tell you, it’s always when expectations are rising that rebellions are born, not when everyone is ground down and dispirited.  Still, no one thinks Wenger is going anywhere.

Finally, mighty Barcelona, stumbling to second (or third?) in La Liga but still in the Champions League.  Superstars on the wane, with talk that Ronaldinho, Deco, maybe even Henry to leave after the seasonNot to mention coach Frank Rikjaard.  One would think a run to the semi-finals of the Champions League would count for something.  But the expectations for Barca are so very high — win the league, contend for the Champions League, and do so with massive style.   It’s tough to meet them for very long.  Time to bring in a new manager, the old one’s running out of steam.

So, back to DC United.  My expectations are high — I want the team to win and I want to contend for the MLS Cup, plus continue to qualify for regional tourneys.  If MLS set up its competitions as they do in Europe, we’d actually be coming off of two league championships in a row — but both would have seen flops in European competition (as the counterpart to our play-offs).  We’d be looking at our team like fans of Inter Milan and Real Madrid do, with some frustration and disappointment. 

Ah, but of course, we don’t set up our competitions that way.  With the MLS regular season counting for so much less than a European season, we’re going to be happier if the team performs as Liverpool and AC Milan have in recent years — “good enough” in league without necessarily threatening to win it and then excelling in Champions League runs.  (Of course, I really want a “double” like Manchester United is going for this year — league and Champions League — but my expectations would be met with an AC Milan/Liverpool type of performance.)  I also want to keep playing in regional tourneys.  One of these days we’ll beat a team in Mexico and, in the meantime, maybe we’ll learn something and keep building our name with Latino fans in the US who have all too often looked down on MLS. 

Expectations matter.  The last two regular seasons have led to rising expectations — we seemed clearly best in the league, making the play-off crashes all the more frustrating.  Just as, I imagine, an Inter fan is getting ticked off by a team that cruises to the Serie A title yet can’t make a real run at the Champions League.  I’m trying to lower my expectations back to what really matters to me. 

Which is, in a roundabout way, why I’m not particularly upset yet.  If it takes Soehn and the DC United folks another month to get Gallardo and the rest of our attackers in synch, so be it.  If it takes another month of formation tinkering, so be it.  (Please don’t play three at the back again, though, unless they’re three regular defensive starters.)  If it takes a month to get Emilio putting balls in the net regularly, so be it.  Maybe it’s time to figure out if Quaranta is there to spell/learn from Moreno or sub for Olsen at right wing or a mixture of the two.  And so on. 

Because as we’ve learned the last two years, it’s not the first few months that determine whether our expectations are met — it’s the last few weeks of the season.


Posted in Celtic, DC United, England | Leave a Comment »

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…

Posted in England, Life imitates "Dream Team" | Leave a Comment »