30 April 2010

Defending Judas

By Dr3

"You would use a kiss to betray me?"

I never knew empathy until I started reading the posthumous Barca finger-pointing; all together now, “It’s Ibra’s fault!!!” Zlatan is the “big-game” (Europe) flop we all love to scorn with either chagrin, or derisive bliss. Melodramatic fans and fickle journalists feed each other in some sort of sordid intelligence-eroding orgy ending in faulty conclusions and unimaginative analyses (this is in no way meant to invalidate this article).

But here’s where Judas should be justly judged with what I believe to be the right perspective. Had I spoken to Ibrahimovic in December and told him that: “by May 1st 2010 you will be the subject of disdain”, he would have correctly laughed himself into a coma. Back then there was nobody more sublime and wonderful than “BigIbra”, ask Ray Hudson. He couldn’t do any wrong, and Barca fans started jibing that this is the type of class that their club breathed into players. His chips, flicks, and even assists, started making life post-Sammy, a not-so-tumultuous task. I even heard once that “Eto’o was too selfish, while Ibra brings his teammates into games”. Ibracadabra was stealing hearts at the Nou Camp, while Eto’o was quickly losing the faith of the Nerazzurri faithful. He went so far as to start dismantling the frequently coined “big game choker” label, with his importance in even the CL.

Four months later, Barcelona sit trophy-less and in the hunt for ‘only’ one trophy. While Zlatan faltered after the break, his pint sized wizard-friend hit peak form, and the messiah was truly anointed (Greatest Of All Time). Messi can do no wrong. Instead, “what if’s”, and “why’s”, emerged about Zlatan being responsible for any of their failures; after all he’s supposed to be Eto’o + more. Admittedly the sentiment that Zlatan should provide ‘more’ than Eto’o is justifiable, and a strong case can be made for reversing the swap.

...........What of the greatest player on earth though?

It’s amazing to me that not much is being made of just how pint-sized, the pint-sized man really was against Inter. Maybe it was because he was so invisible people seemed to glare right past him and instead take shots at the 6 foot + Swede.

Make no mistake this is not about slighting Messi as being horrible or overrated or anything of that nature. But (huge BUT), it’s in times of need/desperation, that the classiest, and most gifted player on a team (much less in the world) is supposed to stand up and be counted. Simply put Messi did not even do half-enough, for his team in either of the games against Inter, yet Zlatan is being fingered. When Manchester were outclassed by the little man and his brigade in 2009’s final, no one pointed to Tevez, Rooney, Berbatov or any such supporting cast “big names”. The verdict was unanimous; Cristiano didn’t deliver. Now again I’m not saying that “Zlatan is not working” or “Zlatan flopped against Inter” isn’t valid, but certainly it was Messi who didn’t deliver and NOT “BigIbra”.

Now even further, Judas has a strong case to make that he was in fact the victim of circumstances and not the causative ingredient. Barcelona were afforded neither the time nor space they needed through the center of Inter’s defense. Inter’s back four played deep so as to prevent the space behind for through passes, while the defensive midfielders blanketed the space in front of them; allowing play only just after the half-line, as well as on the flanks. Barca’s crosses were putrid to say the very least, and as mentioned the wizard was incredibly ordinary. Is it any wonder then that the big man received no service? For people looking at Pique’s (marginally offside) goal, as some sort of proof and solace in your resolve that Zlatan was ineffective, let’s keep perspective; Inter finally had a lapse in the 84th minute. Zlatan’s replacement also found a chance which was again due to a lapse at the END OF A GAME.

In me keeping some perspective even in his defense, I can admit to one thing. After being the subject of a high profile exchange and replacing a vital part of a sextuple winning squad, with any loss of ‘gloss’ there was only ever going to be one verdict.

In Zlatan remaining the truest enigma, he has managed to be both the perpetrator and victim in Barcelona’s dwindling season.

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29 April 2010

Something like love

By Dr3

Talking about Jose Mourinho is like talking about love. Everybody thinks they have a grasp of it, everyone can articulate its essence, everyone can postulate as to why it does or doesn’t exist, and everyone knows what the ‘real’ version is. Like love though, Jose can be the source of great adoration, and simultaneously the source of unwavering disgust. Unsurprisingly then, the love that people have for Mourinho and their struggles with coping with the undulating landscape of that relationship (first we bash him, then we canonize him), repeats its redundant self from achievement to achievement in a career that continues to grow.

When Inter were outfoxed by AS Bari (by drawing), Ventura was hailed as the ‘real’ Special One. When Inter were held by Napoli, Mazzarri was re-anointed as the ‘real’ “Special One”. We fast-forward the clock and Inter defeat Chelsea, and suddenly he is no longer the inept novice that we were growing tired of reading about. No longer is he just a good “communicator” (Moggi’s heavenly perspective), nor was he just a coach fortunate at having huge financial backing. Suddenly the lovers reconcile, and the once seemingly haphazard dimwit, is a footballing genius, and the masterful lover we never had.

It will always amaze me how much I’m forced to use the word fickle when listening to and/or reading the latest ramblings of supposed ‘expert’ analysts. How can a man you believe to be very calculated in creating a siege mentality for ALL of his teams, be the same man that you believe to be some tyrannical madman infuriating opponents and babbling incoherently in attempt to simply inflate his ego?

In the latest twist of the Jose romance, he again proved that his stroke was in fact the Casanova stroke. From the triumph at San Siro against the “orgasmic”, “never seen before”, “invincible” Barcelona, to the defensive displays at the “Catalunian War” (04/2010 - 04/2010), there was a distinct mundane feeling of the said redundancy. Jose having recently been told by one of his lovers that his teams display against Roma was proof positive that he/they, would be totally outclassed by the arriving Catalan diving team football club, was victorious and the hymns re-emerged; it felt like the very first time.

Grande Inter: - Nobody is bigger than the club; sorry Jose

Beyond the tactician though, a lot of praise must be given to the Inter players. Despite being reduced to ten men for the lion share of the match against the expansive world champions, Inter were able to restrict and contain them with sometimes consummate ease. The verve, courage and impact of the new additions to the Mancini-era Nerazzurri was self evident, and the players themselves represent footballing enigmas. On the one hand they were not good enough and were all unceremoniously (except Milito/Motta) shown the exit from their respective clubs, yet they represent for this team the very essence of the cliché ‘playing with your heart on your sleeve’. Just how Bayern could allow Lucio to leave, or why anyone would sell Sneijder should be Monk’s next investigation. Unlike most hymnists I won’t pretend to be versed in every tactical nuance (insert ZonalMarking, I’m absolutely certain that there is not a single coaching badge in his repertoire, belief is NOT knowledge), and every minute detail, I will simply say well done to Inter for a victory for the Serie A, for the “other way of playing football”, and a victory for respecting your opponents.

Classless Catalans/fans:

Now even though I will be gracious enough in "defeat" not to ‘gloat’, I definitely will share a thought for the classless ‘champions’ and their followers. Not to be too sardonic but after galvanizing a victim complex from their followers due to Milito’s goal that was 95,000 yards offside, as well as Sneijder’s Van Damme impression on Dani Alves (which left him cripple and toothless for life by the way), there was a muted environment regarding their very own offside goal, as well as Messi’s second attempt at Maicon’s life, not to mention Sergi “peek-a- boo” Busquets. I will stop myself getting carried away with the supposed divine integrity an organization and its players should have, but don’t go crying travesty if you’re not even willing to admit when the breeze blew your way (hair fluttering and all, something that Inter are accused of; wrongfully in my opinion, doing in the Serie A). Did I mention, Victor Valdez trying to manhandle Jose Mourinho for going to celebrate with Inter fans?Or the sprinklers being turned on ONLY on the half that Inter were celebrating on? Or the failure of the police in removing fans and their scare tactics (firecrackers until 3:30a.m)? Let’s leave the classlessness to those of a winning culture based on something that isn’t football at all; please?

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28 April 2010

Ingratitude: Wuss dan Obeah.

By Bourbon

For persons not too familiar with Trinidadian parlance, it simply says “Ingratitude is worse than necromancy (witchcraft)”. And it certainly is. Gratitude is essential in all spheres of life. Even in football, where many times the prevailing thought often is : “But what have you done for me lately?”. But to me, no greater ingratitude was ever displayed than that meted out to Samuel Eto’o Fils by FC Barcelona. Some try to spin it, burnish it, gloss it over. Fact is, it was ingratitude. Of the highest order. And I hold Senor Joan La Porta and to some extent Mr. Josep Guardiola primarily responsible.

I certainly don’t expect a player to stay at one team forever, but i certainly don’t expect a club to treat one of its faithful servants in the manner they did. Not after 107 goals in 145 games. Not after scoring in two champion league finals. Not after spending half a season injured and attending to national duty and STILL returning to be one of Barcelona’s top scorers. Not after scoring in several classicos. Not after running hard for every game he has played willing to do anything to help his team. No. And to make the matter even more obscene, using him as a deal sweetener to get an inconsistent phenom who is yet to justify his record transfer.

Let me also take this opportunity to point out that any vitriol here is not aimed at Mr. Ibrahimovic. In fact, i mentioned several times that I feel sorry for him. Sorry because the pressure is on him to perform to justify his total transfer of 65 Million euros, and he historically has not been renowned for his facing up to pressure. I feel sorry for him because he wasn’t able to be part of Barca’s rigorous preseason training, where after intense workouts, you forced to run back to the hotel. Most of all, i feel sorry for him because after a team achieves the heights of greatness as that Barcelona team did, the only direction that is likely is down, and he would be the likely target of blame. Aside from the two point blank chances that he missed that resulted in Barca being knocked out of Copa del Rey...or the disjointed nature of Barcelona’s fluidity that often occurred when he was on the pitch, Zlatan isn’t to blame.

So who is? I would blame La Porta, who never seemed to appreciate Samuel Eto’o. The striker’s outspoken nature didn’t seem to help matters, even when he spoke out about the lack of appreciation that he felt. Instead he was vilified in gossip circles as a potential disruptive influence in the dressing room who needed to be ejected. Contrasting that caricature of Eto’o with the player on the field, one would observe some discrepancy. Eto’o who was often the initiator in team huddles? Eto’o who ran selflessly to open up space for others to work? Eto’o who did everything within his power when on the pitch to win? Something doesn’t add up. Not to mention that all the pivotal Barcelona players (iniesta, xavi, messi) were all offered extensions on their contracts, earning them millions a year, contracts up to 2014 and 2016, with buyout clauses on average about 200 million euro, while Eto’o had to wait until his contract entered its final year, only to be told the increase and 1 year extension he requested would not be possible, and either he accept the deal with Inter or let his deal expire. Hmmm. Is it due to his age? Don’t think thats valid, xavi is older than he is, yet is contracted up to 2014. Is it due to the money? Well, everybody got monumental increases, even Zlatan’s final contract earns him more annually than etoo was making. Interesting.La Porta has often cast blame on the player when he has spoken out about the lack of appreciation he feels. When Ronaldinho was being lackadaisical, castigation was slow in coming. Yet, any indiscretion by Eto’o was met with immediate censure. In fact, no voices of protest were raised when the terms of the transfer came through: Zlatan = 65 Million + Eto’o + Hleb on loan ( which later became a total deal worth approximately 69 million.) No, very few were heard. Fans were busy creaming themselves in excitement salivating over the prospects of Zlatan in balungra colours. Persons even attempted to justify the amount and the disrespect to Etoo that occurred by using such fallacies in reasoning as “Zlatan plays in a better defensive league, so obviously he wouldn’t score as much as etoo does. In fact, Etoo benifits from the best service in the world from Barca, hence his figures are so high.” Really now? Up to this point in the season Zlatan’s figures are 16 goals in 26 games. ( 1 goal every 1.6 games.) Eto’o’s figures are 12 from 29 ( 1 goal every 2.4 games.) Interestingly, Zlatan lacks eto’o’s versatility, which allows him to play anywhere along the front line ( a tactic which was an overwhelming success in the champions league final), a versatility which the “Special One” has used to great effect. Also, Barca seemed to suffer from the absence of this versatility in quite a few games. But, why bench a player that you spent so much to acquire? So Zlatan was played, often with less than expected results.

There are lies, damn lies and statistics. Figures can be viewed in any way to hinder or help one’s argument. .To me, the bottom line of the figures can lead one to infer that eto’o is simply 4 goals behind, in a better defensive league, with lower quality service and playing out of position mostly, and having played more games due to the fact that zlatan was injured for quite a few spells. Interesting. However, what the history speaks to me is the brazen fact that Barcelona treated one of the most prolific strikers in the game very poorly despite his great service to the club. Ingratitude wuss dan obeah....and Barca was DAMN ungrateful.

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21 April 2010


By Dr3

I haven’t written, nor have I felt like writing anything about football ever since Luciano “OJ Simpson” Moggi’s defense attorneys started presenting “evidence” to create the reasonable doubt necessary to clear their client. Let me stop here and clear all pretense; I don’t like Calciopoli-talk, I don’t support partiality on any level of the game, but most of all I cringe at the thought of my team being involved in any of “it”.

Disinformation: false information deliberately and often covertly spread (as by the planting of rumors) in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth.

Moggi apparently also hired both Carlo Garganese and Salvatore Landolina as part of his defense team. In a segment called “Calciopoli Watch” on Goal.com, these attorneys present most of the information as sourced from the Holy Grail that is “Tuttosport” (Juventus’ newspaper syndicate etc). In a broadsided attempt to further propagate the notion that ‘OJ’ in fact did nothing at all, these two highly irresponsible ‘editors’ have managed to purposefully exclude from their reporting certain facts that have emerged during the trial (purposeful half truths are still whole lies);

• Moggi’s defense team presented an erroneous transcript of a conversation between then Inter president Facchetti, and mob correspondent referee designator Bergamo, in which they alleged that Facchetti had in fact asked for a specific referee. Had this been factual, it would have represented a major major twist and “curtains for Inter” in the Calciopoli trial. In Italy this evidence was given the moniker “la madre di tutte le intercettazioni”; THE MOTHER OF ALL INTERCEPTIONS. Both of the said Goal.com editors Moggi lawyers presented the run up to, and then somehow managed to skip the result. The tape of the conversation was played in court and on all of the newspapers the following day in Italy there was one unison hymn:

"the audio doesn't match"

The Tuttosport website then managed to remove the audio from the archives.

The point I’m trying to make is very simple; if you are not part of OJ’s defense why present one-sided information? That to me is not only irresponsible, but criminally misleading. Because I don’t speak Italian doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be privy to the truth; the whole truth.

My final thoughts on Moggi:

• They talk about why these 75 calls involving “other clubs” were dropped from the investigation, while negating the fact that there were 170,000 calls in total, the lion share of which belonged to Luciano (is that fair communication? Grande Juve?).

• We’ve all seen the mob movies, we’ve all read the mob books, we all know what a made mobster is. "The Untouchables" is a good reference as to how guys can ‘get off’ even in light of substantial evidence. Credit to Moggi’s lawyers for presenting the reasonable doubt necessary to cast grey areas into the law books; that’s the job. But let’s not be naïve; if he gets off then we’ve all been Punk’d.

Juventinos thinking this is my tirade here are some handy links (get your google translator ready):

Audio, you can listen for yourself at the 0:39 even though it’s in Italian.

"a three year old can tell there’s a difference in the voices"

more general reading.

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09 April 2010

Why am I so fickle?

By Dr3

Every day I find a new love. Every day I hail a new performance as the “greatest of all time”. Yet every day I act as if yesterday never happened. I talk about yesterday as if it were ten years ago, and as if things were so different back then that they really don’t mean anything now. The euphoria of the present always makes me forget about the weight of my words, and the sentiments that live only through memory. Strangely enough though, I hold on to some ‘martyrs’ of up to over 50 years ago as if they were in fact the dream of last night, so instead of counting sheep I say “PELE” and “Maradona” as I doze off.

I forgot that my ‘fat-pork’ was capable of 47 goal blitzes of seasons. I forgot that he seemed to burst through players making them stumble at his presence as if it were some glitch in Winning Eleven (or Fifa ) on my ps2. I forgot that he went to the ‘Theatre of dreams’ and woke everyone 'to' hell up. I forgot that he made even the ‘Sir-Bobby-Robsons’ of coaches hold their head in astonishment, as if they had never seen football before. Fat-pork was unplayable. He couldn’t be man-marked, and he couldn’t be zone-marked. He never disappeared when needed most, and was the personification of what being genuinely AWE-some meant, but I forgot. I forgot his world cup exploits. I forgot how both-footed he was. I forgot how he made even legends-of-their time defenders look like golfers caught on a football field (insert Nesta, Maldini, ‘any-damn-defender’ here___). Yet as soon as another Messiah who coincidentally ‘plays with Jesus’, started showing us ‘the light’, my memory was rousted. I’ve been here before.

One day while watching my TV the color went bad. All of a sudden what I thought were clips of ‘Pele’, were clips of a white man, playing for what appeared to be Manchester United. It turned out I was disillusioned. There was no problem with my TV, I had in fact stumbled upon the ‘white Pele’. Now as the euphoria flooded in from the world around me, again my memory was rousted. I started remembering a long-haired, buck-toothed guy. He was an oxymoron. He was the epitome of beauty, yet he wasn’t very handsome. He did things that cast aside all other sports as rudimentary. He had devastating shooting and skill, yet his vision was akin to nothing I had ever seen. Too many times he single-handedly brought out moments of genius that made opponents laugh/smile (to hide their tears of dejection), and made opposing fans applaud at money well spent. But I forgot about him. I forgot, that he was the one that introduced or ushered in the Messiah. I forgot that he was the essence of loving football. I forgot that he was unplayable. I forgot that he made his teammates aspire to be better. I forgot his moments of genius. I forgot that he was solely responsible for a new era for football. I forgot and cast him aside as soon as I saw something new.

In the weeks and years that passed since first seeing and learning about the “white Pele”, the “Messiah” and the “metro-sexual Portuguese”, I frequently had colored flashbacks of left-footed bicyclists, and balding Frenchmen. I even had daydreams about the original incarnation of the Portuguese winger. I felt a genuine shame for myself. I had acted like a child. I threw away my favorite toy, because the new one was just that; new. I couldn’t believe that I had been so callous in using words like “greatest”, and phrases like “of all time”.

I was guilty of acting as if nostalgia is reserved for people who I didn’t actually see play, and who live through the hieroglyphs that are black and white and sometimes slightly colored. In being as fickle as a child, I forgot that ‘YouTubes’, and compilations and word-of-mouth all serve the same purpose as tourism brochures. I had forgotten that I was fickle.

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04 April 2010

American Beauty

By Dr3

I am not prophetic. I can’t predict games, and I can’t predict tomorrow’s headlines, gaffs, etc. I can though, marvel at the way football sometimes places ‘things’ in the mouth of the ‘experts’ and self appointed Nostradamus protégés. Just how big of a gulf exists between Barcelona and Arsenal is no longer a mystery hidden in supposed prose and adjectives and other ‘abstract’ comparisons. Make no mistake, even if they are to be considered the mirror of each other in philosophy, that’s where it ends.

Pre-game analysis compared Ibrahimovic and Bendtner (a comparison which on any level should cause vomiting), and suggested that of course, Arsenal could fight fire with fire against Barcelona. To spare anyone the task of reading again how much better Barcelona were and other such new-born clichés, let’s just say all the pre-game talk was a bunch of “malarkey” (Dave Chappelle reference ppl). Again though, it’s the post match that intrigues me.

I’m not one for all the faith and hope clichés, but whichever is the one talking about "springs eternal", must be a campaign or motto of English pundits, journalists and sympathizers. The more I write is the more it seems as if I have some personal vendetta against the English media, born perhaps out of the fact that I am English-speaking. “Earning” a 2-2 draw at home in the UCL is hardly anything to be happy about. Besides the fact that it was “earned” via a cloudy incident, apparently many other facts were lost after the game due to the 'result':

• The Messi-ah had one of those occasional quiet nights.
• The “big-nosed flop” as slow and lazy as he is, sent Vermaleen to the shop for some cookies for all of 60 minutes
• The game was played at the EMIRATES
• Arsenal will be without Gallas, Arsharvin, and Fabregas (enter ‘So old’ Campbell)
• Barca will be without the said flop, Pique and Puyol, while welcoming Abidal
• The game will be at the Nou Camp
• I almost forgot; Barcelona do not have to win the game, Arsenal do.

So like Chelsea in the previous round, and like Manchester in the current round, apparently no mountain is too high for an English club. Regardless of being behind on aggregate, missing key players, and facing strong opponents, the odds of advancing are always good, right? Even if the mountain turns out to be insurmountable it would be because of faulty gear and not the sheer size of the mountain, right?

Never underestimate the power of denial - American Beauty.
(finally the title reference)

Don’t get me wrong on two things. Firstly it’s foolhardy to not give yourself a fighting chance going into any battle no matter how difficult it outwardly seems. So the whole “hope springs eternal” motif is a good battling quality to have. There is though a difference between hope and grandiosity. Secondly, there should definitely be a sense of satisfaction going into the second leg 2-2 as opposed to 0-2. Again though, hope or optimism is not the same as being deluded.

Me being “prophetic”:

Arsenal fans:
Be hopeful, “even a dog’s ass gets sunshine sometimes”, you CAN win. But don’t be duped into thinking you are in with anything more than a “fighting” chance.

Manchester fans:
Please see Chelsea result in the previous round. Don’t forget that Bayern do not need to win. They also should be welcoming the returning Robben, while you have to play without ‘god-sent’ Wayne.

Good luck with all that hope stuff though.

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