The Best Soccer Narratives I Could Possibly Fathom Not Hearing Ever Again

Yesterday, Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United played Liverpool in Liverpool. The game ended in a 0-0 draw. Of course, some nil nil draws can be exciting games, pulsating affairs that draw deserved “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowd. This was not one of them. Over 90 minutes, Liverpool created two chances: a quick snapshot that David DeGea palmed away to the right, and speculative curler from distance that DeGea palmed away to his left.

In between, a lot of nothing happened. Continue reading “The Best Soccer Narratives I Could Possibly Fathom Not Hearing Ever Again” »

On Any of Shay Given’s Sundays

We at Futfanatico are beyond delighted to give you exclusive coverage of the newest Olivier Stone film, “On Any of Shay Given’s Sundays.” This epic sports drama revolves around an aging coach and goalkeeper tandem that battle the rabid fans, fervent media, meddling female owners, and their own self doubt. It is based on the English Premiere League, but was not officially sanctioned.

I. “THE” Inspirational Speech Monologue

[Old white man paces around locker room full of young soccer players in various states of dress and undress.] I’m not quite sure what to say really. We are mere minutes from the biggest thermonuclear world war of our lives, and it all comes down to today. [Pauses to soak in brilliance of own words. Says a few of them silently to self. Nods in agreement.] We either uncrumble as a team, we mend like two pieces of jello that are left side by side over a period of 30 minutes – or we unmend. We crumble. Like two pieces of jello left in separate containers. [Shots of players in locker room.] In the fridge. O-v-e-r-n-i-g-h-t. [Pauses to glance around room] We gotta mend guys – inch for inch, kick for kick, tackle for tackle. Or we are done. [Pulls hands out of pocket to gesture. Puts hands back in pocket]. We are in Hell; and we can stick around, get our asses handed to us, or…we can fight our way to the upper place, the not Hell. [Player has towel draped over head]. We can jump out of Hell, but we have to do it together. Inch for inch. Jump for jump. [Pulls right hand out of pocket. Gestures. Puts hand back in pocket] I’d love to do it for you, but it’s not going to happen. I’m too young in the tooth. [Pulls left hand out of pocket. Opens mouth. Feels upper palate with index and forefinger. Puts hand back in pocket] I look around; I see these young guys on thousand pound a week wages, driving fancy cars, and I think – do they get it? [Pulls hands out of pockets. Unbuttons the top two buttons of dress shirt.] I…I can’t be in your shoes. And you don’t want to be in mine. I’m a mess. I’m old. I’m middle aged and have ran off everybody who ever loved me. [Star winger gently toys with skull cap] I burned through cash after getting addicted to online poker. I Believe it or not [Pulls hands out of pockets. Clasps hands. Unclasps hands. Puts hands back in pocket] As of late…I can’t…I can’t stand to see my own face in the mirror. The widow’s peak. The gray hairs. The untrimmed nose hairs. The gray hairs in the widow’s peak. The grayer hairs coming out of my nostrils. I…I’ve hit rock bottom. [Pulls hands out of pockets. Puts face in hands. Puts hands back in pockets] I… I still play Pokemon Go. [Central defender opens mouth in shock] When you get a bit older in life, like, say, 29, you start to lose things. [Pauses. Looks down. Takes right hand out of pocket. Scratches back of head. Looks at fingers. Thinks "white snow."] That’s…it’s just a part of life. [Star winger in skull cap slowly nods head "no"] You have to get old to realize that. [Other central defender chews on gum, possibly Bubbalicious] You realize…life is a game of inches, and kicks, but also brotherhood. In the game of football, or life, the margin for error is tiny. Like, really small. [Star winger in skull cap slowly nods "yes" for a few seconds, then starts to nod "no" again. Licks lips] A half second slow to shoot, and it’s blocked. The chance goes begging. [Holding midfielder in tight white under shirt looks down at own chest; notices nipples are erect] You forget to pay child support for a decade in another country, and suddenly you find yourself in jail without a passport. Inches. Kicks. Mistakes. Brotherhood. [Coughs and then clears throat] But I’m still here. I’m here because I’m willing to fight, to kick, to push on for that inch. [Shouts of support] Because that inch is more than inch. That inch is the first inch in a series of inches, with inches all around us. Think about that. You. Me. Inches. [Slow hand clap starts; star winger in skull cap refuses to join] Now. Gentlemen. What we you gonna do? [Assistant coach picks nose] I mean, what are we gonna do? [Shouts] ARE WE GONNA KICK FOR THOSE INCHES??? Continue reading “On Any of Shay Given’s Sundays” »

Bradley’s Journey has Begun

Less than a week after my “Guide to Getting that European Coaching Gig” post, and Bob Bradley has been hired by Swansea City of the EPL. Mere coincidence? No clue. Honestly, Bob’s brother Steve, who is now doing PR for Toronto FC, followed me on Twitter and we had some pretty awesome, candid, and foul-mouthed exchanges.

Basically, more people read you than you think. If you are penning a profile that will shit on a coach or player, odds are likely they will read it. It’s a small world, after all. Continue reading “Bradley’s Journey has Begun” »

The Key to Successfully Coaching in Europe

Quite a few American players have enjoyed modest success in Europe. However, no American coach has yet to coach a first division team in one of Europe’s top leagues. Serie A? No. Bundesliga? Nein. La Liga? Nunca. Thus, we have to ask: what do American coaches lack? Mastery of tactics? Man-management? Opportunity?

All the above may be true. But, after years of careful study, I’ve found another explanation. Continue reading “The Key to Successfully Coaching in Europe” »

Mow – Ring – Yo?!?!?!

Jose has hit his first soft patch as coach at United. Of course, this means he’s incompetent and should be sacked tomorrow. Or, at least, he feels that’s what we the media are suggesting. Thus far, his pressers have been tame by Jose standards, but, as per usual, he has blamed his players (though reservedly so), the referee(s), and the prior coach. Basically, everybody but himself.

And yet this is what you get when Mou comes to town. As a Real Madrid fan, I know this too well. Continue reading “Mow – Ring – Yo?!?!?!” »

The Best Last Names in the EPL

What’s in a name? Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet, as Shakespeare asked? Maybe. But maybe not. Names and words and language are important. They give structure to our thoughts, dreams, hopes, and values. When you learn to speak a second language and start to dream in it, you can float about and feel emancipated. A whole new world opens up for you.

Which is why I wrote this post about last names. Because they matter. And there are some amazing ones in the EPL. Continue reading “The Best Last Names in the EPL” »

The Re-Education or Miseducation of Pep Guardiola?

Pizza. Pizza was the key. For all the smart and well thought-out words about Leicester City’s run to an unlikely EPL title, only one fact was undeniable: Italian manager Claudio Ranieri treated his players to pizza parties. If the team got a clean sheet, then Ranieri would take his players to Peter Pizzeria – and he obliged them to make their own pizza.

The EPL is a cruel, intense dog-eat-dog world, and a place where only player-eats-pizza tactics can work. The strong devour the weak, along with some pasta and plenty of Olive oil.

So how come nobody told Pep Guardiola? Continue reading “The Re-Education or Miseducation of Pep Guardiola?” »

In the News and What Not…

I remind you that I am technically on a “blogger break“, but spoiled you with some cutting and amusing blog posts as an early summer treat.Thus, this is a link post when I usually hate link posts, but, hey, gotta spread that PageRank love before Facebook trending renders all this hard “work” obsolete.

To that end, VICE Sports published my reported feature that looked up close at the Olympic Stadium deal in London. Basically, it was bad (the deal, not my reporting), and, after a thorough examination, may be worse than reported. What’s funny for me is the fact-checking brigade: as someone who sent FOI requests to lots of places in London, I am well aware of the complex web of legal entities behind the stadium. I also aware that “London” can mean many different things because I hounded police departments all over that town/area/region/metropolis.

Basically, writing a reported feature for a savvy and sophisticated audience in London (the metropolitan area) and also general interest Americans is tough because we speak a similar language with nuanced differences. When I reported on the stadium scandal in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, I faced the same deal: lots of sub-municipalities and local governments were also involved, but I said “Monterrey” because the layreader will get it and I wanted my cousins to slide into my DMs and send me angry emails. Which they did. Continue reading “In the News and What Not…” »

What if Donald Trump Bought Your Soccer Club?

Lots of people hate Americans. As an American, I always like to think that, like, Americans are a diverse group of people with different tastes, political beliefs, and values (to an extent). Thus, you can hate some of us, but not all of us. Still, people hate Americans. And I can kinda understand why.

Look at what Hicks & Gillett did to Liverpool. Or the Glazers to United. Sadly, the American businessmen who go abroad and look to personally profit off a nice, juicy, large business with big revenue streams are precisely the last person you would ever want anywhere near anything you care about in anyway. I would not let the Glazers dogsit my dog for two hours. A lot of bad things can happen in 120 minutes, after all.

And then I thought of an absolute nightmare. Continue reading “What if Donald Trump Bought Your Soccer Club?” »

The Champions League Final and the Boy Who Would Be King

Many years ago, I wrote this piece on Dirk Kuyt for this odd thing called a “soccer blog” and that many people named “the Run of Play.” The premise was simple: Dirk Kuyt, then at Liverpool, was really slow, but worked really hard, and scored ugly goals from time to time. This was back in 2009. Kuyt was a stark contrast to Liverpool’s other striker at the time, Fernando “El Nino” Torres, who ran like the wind and scored goals with the same ease as you and I blink.

Yet seven years later, things have flipped. Continue reading “The Champions League Final and the Boy Who Would Be King” »