Football

Champions League: Karl Lagerfeld vs. Uli Hoeneß

Friday, 24 May, 2013 0 Comments

The German fashion designer, artist and photographer Karl Lagerfeld is a man of many talents, and he doesn’t shun controversy. Unfashionably, he defends the use of fur in fashion. In a BBC interview in 2009 he claimed that hunters “make a living having learnt nothing else than hunting, killing those beasts who would kill us […]

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And then there were two

Thursday, 2 May, 2013 0 Comments

Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern München will contest the Champions League final on 25 May in Wembley Stadium in London. While Dortmund did just enough to edge past Real Madrid, it is the thrashing of Barcelona by Bayern that has sent the football world searching for words to explain, interpret and understand what we have seen.

“We’re witnessing the beginning of the end of an era for Barca, and the end of the beginning of an era for Bayern,” said Gary Lineker on the BBC last night. And then there were the tweets:

So does this mean that the Bundesliga is the model for European clubs? Not quite, argues economist David McWilliams: “Without free-spending, debt-financed, brash Spanish giants like Real Madrid and Barcelona, Bayern would have nobody to play with. There would be no Champions League. Put simply, without the huge spending of the likes of Real, the Germans would have no competition to play in or against.”


Spain becomes Argentina

Thursday, 25 April, 2013 0 Comments

First, Bayern Munich hammered Barcelona and then Borussia Dortmund routed Real Madrid. Now, comes news that Spain’s unemployment rate soared to a new record of 27.2 percent of the workforce in the first quarter of 2013. The jobless figure is the highest since at least 1976, the year after Francisco Franco’s death began Spain’s transition to democracy and, to add further woe, data released on Tuesday by the Bank of Spain showed the euro zone’s fourth-largest economy had shrunk by two percent in the first three months of 2013, compared with the year-earlier period.

What makes the economic crisis so shocking is that Spain was once Europe’s most vibrant and exciting country. Prosperity soared for two decades and Viva España became the slogan for a global leader in football, fashion, food and cinema. But where once there was optimism, there’s only rage now. It’s directed against the banks, the politicians, the royal family and, increasingly, the European Union. Initially, the EU seemed to offer a way out of an Iberian jungle of ignorance, poverty, isolation and authoritarianism. Indeed, in a moment of euphoria, the writer, José Ortega y Gasset, put it thus: “Spain is the problem and Europe is the solution.” But that was then.

The “European dream” that Spain bought into seemed to promise a middle-class lifestyle for all, from Andalusia to Zaragoza. But with no hope of jobs for the young, the welfare state under threat and the fabric of society rent, the worry now is that Spain will become more like Argentina than Munich or Dortmund. Those football results are portents.


Messi, Messi

Tuesday, 23 April, 2013 1 Comment

“The overwhelming sensation when you watch Messi is still this: He’s a child. The nerd with the flowerpot hairdo looks like a kid who has won a competition to spend a day with Barcelona. His physique seems to mock all the man monsters and fitness rooms and ‘food supplements’ of modern sport. When Messi receives […]

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The Special Ones: José Mourinho and Abel Rodríguez

Friday, 12 April, 2013 0 Comments

And then there were four: In today’s Champions League semi-final draw we have Barcelona, Bayern München, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund. Will it be Bundesliga vs. Bundesliga and Primera División vs. Primera División with the best of both meeting in Wembley Stadium on 25 May? Exciting.

While we’re counting down to the draw, let’s read about Abel Rodríguez from Mexico, who waxes floors for a living in Los Angeles and takes two weeks holiday every year to work for free for Real Madrid when the club does its summer training in Los Angeles. He had always dreamed of seeing Real playing their great rivals Barca in Madrid in El Clásico, as fans call the contest, so his family urged him to go. And he went. Without a match ticket or a hotel reservation. He arrived in the Spanish capital and sat outside the club’s training grounds for hours until manager José Mourinho spotted him as he was leaving. “Stop! It’s the guy from Los Angeles.” And that’s how the magical journey of Abel Rodríguez began. It’s documented beautifully by Grant Wahl in Sports Illustrated. Snippet:

“Mourinho called an assistant and arranged for Rodríguez to have his own room at the fancy hotel where Real Madrid was staying before the Barcelona game. Mourinho instructed him to get some rest at the hotel and meet him at the training site the next morning. That evening, the night before El Clásico, the two men caught up for 90 minutes together before sharing dinner with the Real Madrid coaching staff.”

It’s only a game, some say.

UPDATE: Bayern München vs. Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund vs. Real Madrid. The semi-final first legs will be on 23 and 24 April and the return legs on 30 April and 1 May.


Giovanni Trapattoni kicks off our Italian week

Monday, 18 February, 2013 0 Comments

Italy is very much in the news these days. For instance, there’s a critical general election next weekend and that will be followed by the papal conclave in Rome as a result of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. True to form, these major events have been preceded by the arrest of the former head of the country’s third largest bank for alleged fraud and bribery, and the arrest of the chairman of the air defense group Finmeccanica over his alleged involvement in a corruption scandal.

Life goes on, however, and that symbol of a kinder, gentler Italy, Giovanni Trapattoni, will today preside over the opening a new shopping mall in Munich. Trap, as fans call him, managed local team Bayern Munich for two seasons and he remains very popular in the Bavarian capital because of his style, charm and cryptic use of German. The expression “Ich habe fertig!” (“I’m done!”) is a legendary Trapattonism that owes its linguistic fame to his usage of the verb habe (have) instead of bin (am) during an emotional press conference and has since become part of spoken German.

Fertig!

Beneath the jolly exterior, beats a canny heart and Trapattoni struck a one of the century’s best deals in 2008 when he convinced the Football Association of Ireland to appoint him as manager of the national squad on a munificent salary of €2 million a year, plus €750,000 a year for his backroom team. It was this kind of profligacy that saw Ireland seek an EU bailout in 2010 and in a selfless gesture of burden-sharing a year later, Trapattoni agreed to have his pay cut to €1 million per annum. Odd jobs like opening a shopping mall in prosperous Munich helps Trap to cope with that sharp drop in income.

Whilst in Munich, the devout Catholic Giovanni Trapattoni will, no doubt, find time to pray for the Bavarian Pope, Benedetto, who is the subject of tomorrow’s post here.


Messi surprises, energizes, spiritualizes, messimerizes

Tuesday, 23 October, 2012 0 Comments

The remarkable Lionel Messi was a hat-trick-scorer as a 10-man Barcelona team outlasted Deportivo La Coruna in a wild 5-4 Primera Division game on Saturday night. Is there anything the Argentine genius cannot do? Apparently not, says the Irish rap poet John Cummins. “Messi messimerizes me. He constantly surprises me. His genius energizes me. In […]

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Big football fans

Sunday, 10 June, 2012

From Poland to Greece, from Ireland to Germany, from Italy to Russia, football fans across Europe are glued to the screens, public and private, as the Euro2012 tournament unfolds. Sure, much of the continent’s financial sub-structure is falling apart and banks are bankrupt, but now is not the time for distractions from the main event […]

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Poland vs. Greece vs. Germany vs. Spain vs. Europe

Friday, 8 June, 2012

Thank God for football. This evening in Warsaw, Euro2012 kicks off with Poland vs. Greece and we can forget about the weather and the world for a few weeks as we give ourselves over to the joys of the beautiful game. But wait, what’s this? “Spain’s Twitter Users Say ‘Stop Merkel‘”. It’s a story from […]

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In the field of (broken) dreams

Sunday, 20 May, 2012

There was a moment in last night’s enthralling Champions League Final when, after regular time and extra time had ended, Bayern Munich were leading Chelsea 3 — 1 on penalties. Everything about the history of shoot outs between Germans and Brits (as regards penalties, anyway), suggested that a resolute Bavarian hand was now on the […]

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So near, and yet so far

Sunday, 13 May, 2012

Last night, Borussia Dortmund thrashed Bayern Munich 5-2 in the German cup final in Berlin. Next Saturday night in Munich, the Champions League trophy will be up for grabs and, hoping for a less humiliating result, the thrashee of Berlin will host Chelsea FC in their home stadium, the Allianz Arena. Meanwhile, the “Grail” is […]

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