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Football

USA 2 – England 1

Tuesday, 2 July, 2019

Football, innit? Sport. Life. Joy. Heartbreak. Great game.


Maradona was before Messi

Saturday, 4 May, 2019

It’s Lionel Messi’s world now. His talent seems infinite and he hammered that point home against Liverpool on Wednesday night. And all the while, this mostly modest man remains a mystery. How very different he is to his over-the-top countryman Diego Maradona. The differences will be on display presently at the Cannes Film Festival where Asif Kapadia, the director of the excellent Senna and Amy documentaries, will present his latest work: Diego Maradona.

Blurb: “Having never won a major tournament, ailing football giant SSC Napoli had criminally underachieved. Their fanatical support was unequalled in both passion and size. None was more feared. But how they ached for success… On 5th July 1984, Diego Maradona arrived in Naples for a world-record fee and for seven years all hell broke loose. The world’s most celebrated football genius and the most dysfunctional city in Europe were a perfect match for each other.

Maradona was blessed on the field but cursed off it; the charismatic Argentine, quickly led Naples to their first-ever title. It was the stuff of dreams.

But there was a price… In a city where the devil would have needed bodyguards, Maradona became bigger than God himself. This is the wild and unforgettable story of God-given talent, glory, despair and betrayal, of corruption and ultimately redemption.”

By the way, on 1 May, when Messi was deploying his genius against Liverpool, HBO announced that it had bought the TV and streaming rights to Diego Maradona.


Sliteseier for Solskjær at Old Trafford

Saturday, 30 March, 2019

There’s nothing like the glamour of the Premier League to brighten up the day for those who toil far from the green and pleasant fields of England. Millions of Egyptians, living in squalor and under repression, have been inspired by the deeds of Mo Salah at Liverpool FC since 2017, for example. And, in a very different climatic region, up in Kristiansund, where heavy snow showers are forecast for tonight, the 20,000 Norwegians who call it their home are warmed by the fact that a local lad has made good and is now the new manager of Manchester United. Ole Gunnar Solskjær had his official managerial debut today at Old Trafford and Verdens Gang (“The way of the world”) was keeping a close eye on the game.

Overall, the Manchester United vs. Watford match was a pedestrian affair, declared the tabloid. The Norwegian word Sliteseier can be translated as “abrasion” and, depending on circumstances, an English synonym — tedious, characterless, monotonous, unimaginative, prosaic — might be better at putting the ball in the back of the net. That said, Manchester United vs. Barcelona on 10 April in the Champions League should produce a very different headline word. Nervepirrende, perhaps.

SLITESEIER FOR SOLSKJÆRS UNITED


RIP: The Banks of England

Tuesday, 12 February, 2019

The great Gordon Banks, a World Cup winner with England in 1966 whose plunging, swiveling save to deny Brazil’s Pelé in the 1970 World Cup is remembered as one of the greatest moments of goalkeeping, has died aged 81. RIP.

“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” — William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night


The sixth post of pre-Christmas 2018: June

Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Football didn’t quite “come home” after this year’s World Cup but England did reach the semi-finals and lost, valiantly, to Croatia, who were beaten in the final by a superior French side. Our review of the year has reached the month of June.

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Back in June 2015, the former German Federal Minister for Finance Wolfgang Schäuble lost patience with the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. “Isch over,” he said. The context were the interminable talks about talks about talks to keep Athens funded and within the Eurozone.

Three years later, somethings have changed and more remain the same: “Tsipras Vows to Stick With Greece’s Euro Deal” is today’s Bloomberg headline. One thing has changed dramatically since 2015, however. Germany has lost its nimbus as a football power. Yesterday’s humiliating defeat by South Korea and the terrible performances against Mexico and Sweden mean “Isch over.” Over and out of the World Cup.

Apropos, in the Guardian, the former German midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger says, “This was not the Germany we are used to – I feel completely empty.” He also places a finger in a fatal self-inflicted wound by team manager Joachim Löw:

“I’m aware there has been a lot of talk in England about Leroy Sané’s exclusion from the squad following his excellent season with Manchester City and, for me, he is a player who should be reintroduced immediately. He is exactly the calibre of player Germany needs, someone who is young and has raw, dangerous pace.”

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Since June, Löw has sobered up and Sané is now a regular fixture in the German team, where his ability and agility are beginning to add sparkle. Tomorrow, here, the seventh post of pre-Christmas 2018 dwells upon the new Empire of Evil: China.


Dier and football’s nominative determinism

Wednesday, 5 December, 2018

Following Arsenal’s spectacular 4-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, one expected Arseblog to react euphorically, and that’s exactly what happened on Monday. Intro snippet: “I think the fact that I’ve tried — and failed — with about six different opening lines to this blog is the best illustration of how I’m feeling this morning. As I said in yesterday’s preview, some games are more than just three points and yesterday’s 4-2 win over Sp*rs was 100% one of those. Yes, we won. Yes, we took three points. Yes, we went ahead of them in the table. But it felt like all of that and more, as a quite extraordinary afternoon played out at the Emirates.”

Apart from the euphoria, there’s vitriol and much of it is directed at the Spurs defender and England midfielder, Eric Dier. This is good:

“Dier, football’s greatest example of nominative determinism since Alf Crap, shushed the Arsenal fans, and you knew something was stirring within the Arsenal camp when the celebrations sparked a bit of handbags. Stephan Lichtsteiner was there (of course) and Matteo Guendouzi ran down the line to get hold of Dele Alli. Lovely stuff really, because it was different, it spoke to an attitude within this squad that hasn’t always been present — even in this particular fixture. Dier apparently told Aaron Ramsey, also involved, to ‘sit back down’, which he did … temporarily.

… We might have been punished after a Bellerin mistake, but Leno saved from Son who was probably thinking about how to dive before he shot and thus didn’t find the accuracy he needed, and then Ramsey won the ball in their half and fed Lacacazette. He still had a bit to do, but cut inside and his left-footed shot deflected off Dier and into the bottom corner off the post. Shhhhh that you balloon-headed wankpot. YOU sit down, eh?!”

Football. It’s all about passion. Innit?


World-class World Cup trolling by @qatar

Thursday, 14 June, 2018

Background: Saudi Arabia claims Qatar is a sponsor of extremist political movements in the Middle East, including Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. Qatar denies the charges and accuses the Saudis of attempting to curtail its sovereignty. It’s a nasty feud and the pot is simmering, as they say.

Today’s World Cup opener between Russia and Saudi Arabia offered Qatar Airways a golden opportunity to indulge in some world-class trolling of the neighbors and the state-owned carrier didn’t miss the open goal in Moscow.

World Cup


The video game: England vs. Germany

Tuesday, 22 May, 2018

Just 23 days now until the World Cup kicks off in Russia. The deluxe match of the first round will be Portugal vs. Spain on 15 June, but Germany vs. Mexico on 17 June should be tasty because if it’s not a draw, the pressure will be on the losing side. Talking of Germany, no World Cup is complete without the prospect of a 1966 Final revenge rematch with England and it could happen, earlier rather than later. Here’s how:

If England finish second in Group G, they will face the winner of Group H which, according to FIFA rankings, should be Poland. Success in that game would take England into a quarter final meeting with Germany, the likely winners of Group F. Might happen. Might not. Until then, though, we have the videos of the selected squads.

First up, Die Mannschaft, with 28K+ views. The emphasis is on skills.

Next, The Three Lions, with 220K+ views. Here, it’s all about multi-cultural fun.

Result: England wins on YouTube. The World Cup, however, will be played in Russia.


Inspirational No. 10s

Tuesday, 19 September, 2017 0 Comments

Our new century began with the most open, exciting tournament in modern football: Euro 2000. The four semi-finalists all played classic No. 10s in the space between midfield and the opposition defence. France, Italy, Portugal and Holland had Zinedine Zidane, Francesco Totti, Manuel Rui Costa and Dennis Bergkamp respectively. Today? In a sign of the changing times, the No. 10 jersey is being assigned to inspirational players — Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr. — rather than designated playmakers.

No. 10s


Christian Schreiber: 1965 – 2016

Thursday, 7 July, 2016 0 Comments

The death on Monday morning of Dr Christian Schreiber was a tragedy with many facets. Tania lost a loving husband, Ella and Alma a caring father and his colleagues at the German Heart Centre in Munich a brilliant cardiac surgeon who was doing ground-breaking work in the fields of paediatric and congenital heart surgery.

But that’s not the end of this list of tragedies. Christian was the victim of a truly terrifying disease: ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. This progressive neurodegenerative illness affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord and those who are afflicted suffer unbearable physical and psychological pain. The suffering extends to family and friends, who are forced to witness its degradation of a person they love. All of this was amplified in Christian’s case because he was so young, so gifted, so multilingually charming and had so much to offer to those who needed his life-saving skills.

In the coming weeks, many personal and professional tributes will be paid to this wonderful man, but on the day when Germany play France in the semi-final of the Euro2016 tournament, it should be mentioned that football for Christian Schreiber was more than a game — each match was a morality play and the fans were his tribe. After completing an intricate operation in Kiev, or delivering a paper in London or attending a conference in Beijing, he would dash back to Munich to make the best use of his season ticket at the Allianz Arena, the stadium of his beloved FC Bayern. It was my good fortune to be his companion on some of these occasions and each one featured a non-stop assortment of scandalous stories, informed commentary, hilarious observations and a never-ending stream of questions that sprang from a curious mind insatiable for knowledge. One of the most memorable of these get-togethers was on Wednesday, 6 December 2006 when Bayern played a hard-fought 1-1 Champions League draw with Inter Milan. It was a bitterly cold night, but we were well insulated and had excellent seats near the half-way line. While the TV cameras followed the ball, we spent the evening watching the mighty defender Lúcio and the great striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic “get it on” in a terrific mixed martial arts battle. And all was well with our world.

For those who believe in such things, Christian will be looking down on tonight’s Germany-France game, enjoying every moment. For those who are broken-hearted by the loss, the memories of the moments are what we are left with now. The old Gaelic expression, Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann (“There shall not be his like again.”), sums up this unique, loving, loved, very much missed man. RIP

Christian Schreiber and his daughter Alma at the Allianz Arena, Munich

Dr Christian Schreiber and his daughter Alma at the Allianz Arena, Munich


Hooooo! A Toast to Iceland

Sunday, 3 July, 2016 1 Comment

France vs. Iceland tonight in Paris, with the winner meeting Germany in the semi-final of Euro2016. During the game, most non-French people will be clapping their hands and chanting “Hooooo,” the Icelanders’ version of the New Zealand rugby haka.

The poet Jónas Hallgrímsson was born in Eyjafjörður on the northern part of Iceland. He studied Latin and Greek at secondary school in Bessastaor and then attended the University of Copenhagen. He coined many Icelandic words, including reikistjarna, meaning planet, from the verb að reika (to wander) and the noun stjarna (star).

A Toast to Iceland

Our land of lakes forever fair
below blue mountain summits,
of swans, of salmon leaping where
the silver water plummets,
of glaciers swelling broad and bare
above earth’s fiery sinews —
the Lord pour out his largess there
as long as earth continues!

Jónas Hallgrímsson (1807 – 1845)