The Joy of Six: Great finishers

July 31, 2009

“Romario celebrates scoring for Brazil against Cameroon at the 1994 World Cup. It’s one of the disputed 1,000 or so that he has scored.” (Guardian)

Dark days up ahead for Serie A?

July 31, 2009

“Welcome to rock bottom. It couldn’t possibly get worse, could it? That question can’t help but escape fans of Serie A. It’s not just the fact that the Italian league lost arguably its two biggest stars this summer — Kaká, who went from AC Milan to Real Madrid, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who joined Barcelona from Inter Milan — it’s the general paucity of big transfers, particularly from abroad.” (SI)

Ticos keen to stay top

July 31, 2009

“As the upcoming Mexico-USA clash hogs the headlines, 12 August will offer football fans yet another classic in the much-anticipated Clasico Centroamericano between Costa Rica and Honduras. Rodrigo Kenton’s high-flying Ticos travel to San Pedro Sula hoping to keep hold of first-place in the hexagonal, as well as lay hands on bragging rights in the traditional meeting between Central America’s top two teams.” (FIFA)

£3.5m: Not Enough For Alvaro Arbeloa

July 31, 2009

“£3.5 million for Arvalro Arbeloa? That’s all? Seriously? I mean, I know that’s probably what his services are worth but that’s not the issue. When Real Madrid have their checkbook out and are licking the tip of their bottomless ballpoint pen there is no call to stop at £3.5 million. Real have made the market insane and now they want to go back to normal prices? I’m sorry. No. Why be reasonable?” (EPL Talk)

Sir Bobby Robson’s life in photos

July 31, 2009

“Bobby Robson’s playing career sees him make his debut for Fulham in 1950 before he moves to West Brom in the spring of 1956…” (BBC), “Ten moments from Sir Bobby’s football life” – (ESPN)

The World Games Stadium and Eco-friendly Stadia

July 31, 2009

“This month the city of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan hosted the eighth edition of the World Games, a summer sports festival for events not on the Olympic program. The center piece of the games were not the sports themselves, but the 55,000-seat main stadium named for the event. The World Games Stadium was designed by renowned Japanese architect Toyo Ito. The stadium, which has a legacy capacity of 40,000 and opened in May, is notable for the fact that it’s snaking roof — meant to invoke images of a dragon — is completely covered in solar panels that generate enough energy to not only power the stadium, but allow the stadium to sell excess power back to Kaohsiung.” (Pitch Invasion)

Tranmere Rovers: The Pitfalls Of Attracting Investment

July 31, 2009

“It has been a curious summer for the ‘club across the water’. Tranmere Rovers, just over the River Mersey from Liverpool and Everton, ended last season having just missed out on a play-off place in League One after dropping two points at home to Scunthorpe United on the final day season. They sacked manager Ronnie Moore at the start of June and replaced him with John Barnes, and one might have expected them to have had a quiet summer working on how they could improve on their league position this time around.” (twohundredpercent)

Gone Down Blinking

July 30, 2009

“At the risk of sounding naïve—actually, check that. Embracing naïveté with two magnificently clenched thighs, riding naïveté down through the upper atmosphere like the bomb in Dr. Strangelove, I can’t understand why I’m supposed to accept that “the point” of the Gold Cup was to audition players for South Africa. Why wasn’t the point of the Gold Cup to, you know, win the Gold Cup?” (The Run of Play)

Americans fall for soccer but can MLS cash in?

July 30, 2009

“The US national team beat European champions Spain in the Confederations Cup and give Brazil a scare in the final. In the NFL heartland of Baltimore, 71,000 turn out to watch Chelsea v AC Milan. In Pasadena, Chelsea v Inter Milan pulls in 81,000. David Beckham gets booed and jeered on his return for L.A Galaxy and the American sporting public laps it up – top sports talk shows, which usually ignore soccer other than to mock the game occasionally, lead their bulletins on the issue.” (Reuters)

South American transfers to watch

July 30, 2009

“If this summer’s transfer window is any indication, we can look forward to one of the most exciting European seasons in decades. With the three most expensive transfers in the history of the game recently made for amounts previously unimaginable, the stakes are higher than ever.” (SI)

Paulino Alcántara

July 30, 2009

“Paulino Alcántara Riestrá (October 7, 1896, Iloilo City, Philippines — February 13, 1964, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain) was a Filipino football player and manager who spent most of his playing career at FC Barcelona and was the first Filipino and Asian player to play for a European club.” Wikipedia, YouTube, What’s New Futball

Liverpool Stick Their Finger In The Dyke

July 30, 2009

“It was surely no coincidence that Share Liverpool FC chose their relaunch on the day that the club itself confirmed the details of a refinancing deal that was the financial equivalent of using a used sausage roll packet as a form of birth control. The vultures have been circling at Anfield for some time now, but while Gillett and Hicks have managed to defer the very worst that could happen for them, but serious questions remain over their medium to long term future.” (Twohundredpercent)

Pick Your Premiership Big Four

July 30, 2009

“This hot on the heals of City’s scoop of Kolo Toure from new rivals Arsenal. Now, as respected as Martin may be in the game, that might be taking things a tad far. However, it’s plain as day that without Europe to worry about (pesky bastard that it is), Citeh have a real chance to break up the Big Four hegemony this season. Or are they just another Tottenham – good on paper, mediocre at best everywhere else?” (The Offside)

Anfield Rap

July 29, 2009

“The ‘Anfield Rap’ was a song released by members of Liverpool F.C. before the 1988 FA Cup final against Wimbledon FC. The song reached #3 in the UK singles chart.” Wikipedia, YouTube, The Anfield Rap (Craig Johnston), Discogs

Out with the old, in with the new

July 29, 2009

“When a new manager joins a club it can sometimes take time for them to bed in and make the impact that they had envisioned when they first joined. However, in France, there is a clinically efficient process occurring at Marseille. Out with the old, in with the new. With Eric Gerets gone, new boss Didier Deschamps has wasted little time in making it quite clear which players he sees as having a future at the club. And those who don’t have been told in no uncertain terms that they should look for employment elsewhere for the 2009-10 season.” (ESPN)

Who Are The Early Title Favourites?

July 29, 2009

“The summer is far from over and we haven’t even got close to seeing the end to the transfers for the Premiership, but who are the early favourites for the league title next season?” (EPS Talk)

Hungry For The FA Cup

July 29, 2009

“I know it’s only July… I know the first round proper is months away… But I’ve decided to give some extra love to the FA Cup this season. Lately the top clubs have been treating the world’s oldest football competition like the red-headed step-child of trophy runs. Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, and United refuse to devote themselves as fully to a domestic cup with League and continental priorities weighing heavily on their minds and competitive well-being.” (EPL Talk)

Clough times at Derby

July 29, 2009

“Derby County manager Nigel Clough paused and momentarily collected his thoughts before commenting on the arrival of former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson as director of football at nearby Notts County. ‘I hope Ian McParland is happy with it because after all he is the manager,’ Clough eventually told me as we talked football in the comfortable surrounds of his office at his club’s Moor Farm training facility.” (BBC)

MLS in the UK

July 29, 2009

“My recent trip to England revealed a few interesting tidbits of info, c/o of some seasoned overseas football writers with whom I had a nice stout-soaked chat. Perhaps the most interesting was the revelation that it is near impossible to watch a full, live, 90 minute MLS match in the UK.” (A More Splendid Life)

No Toure Denial, Arshavin & Other Transfer Rumours

July 29, 2009

“This summer has been one of continued transfer speculation surrounding the top players at the club. One did find the sums of money on offer elsewhere too much to resist but so far, that is it. Nothing unusual in that, after all since the turn of this century we have witnessed an endless stream of media gossip about who is going where and when, for how much and 99% of it has turned out to be baseless. Rarely has the club commented. The Reyes debacle probably offers as good a reason why as any other.” (A Cultured Left Foot)

Are Americans Becoming Soccer Fans?

July 29, 2009

“When it comes to sports, one of the stubbornest examples of American exceptionalism is the use of the word ‘soccer.’ Some six billion people around the world have chosen to call it ‘football.’ We don’t care. But in recent months, this sport—the one with the ball and the net—has taken a few steps forward. As Major League Soccer, the leading American professional league, holds its All-Star game Wednesday at Rio Tinto Stadium in Utah, there is growing evidence that America’s parochial attitude toward this game is quickly fading.” (WSJ)

Chile blossoming under Bielsa

July 28, 2009

“There is no question as to which team has been the star of the 2010 World Cup qualifying tournament in South America. It’s not Brazil or Diego Maradona’s Argentina but Chile, whose national side is undergoing a revolution. The team are second in the table with four matches to go. They have won more games than anybody else (eight) and boast the second best attack and goal difference behind Brazil.” (WSC)

Looking back, looking forward (That’s On Point)
“Guess I missed the memo. Somewhere along the line, the summer was supposed to be the slow part of the year in terms of soccer, well, aside from MLS. Then something happened making this year absolutely crazy. The soccer slate in America was more jam-packed than James Gandolfini trying to squeeze his way into wardrobe in the final seasons of ‘The Sopranos.'”

Frugal Rangers having to face the hard facts (TimesOnline)
“It must be years since Rangers last found themselves in their current position, having not made a single summer signing with the new football season imminent. In times gone by three, four or five new recruits would have been wheeled into Ibrox by now, and some of those such as Brian Laudrup or Paul Gascoigne caused huge excitement across the Scottish game.”

Top 5 Premier League transfers so far (twofootedtackle)
“The pre-season programme is well underway and the 2009/10 Premier League campaign is fast approaching. In the era of the transfer window, of course, the summer becomes a whirlwind of transfer speculation: the ins, outs, maybes and sagas.”

Cork’s team sinking again (WSC)
“The voluntary stewards have been told to turn up as usual for Cork City’s next home game against Bray Wanderers, but they may yet have this, and every other Friday, off. At the High Court in Dublin yesterday, Judge Mary Laffoy ordered the winding-up of Cork City FC Investments Ltd, should an outstanding estimated debt of €360,000 (£310,900) not be paid to the Revenue by Friday. It is the latest in a long line of disappointments for supporters of the club; for older football fans in Ireland’s second-biggest city, it is the latest in a long line of clubs folding.”

Normal Rotation Could Put World Cup in United States in 2018 (Washington Post)
“The United States has a good chance of hosting the 2018 World Cup if soccer’s governing body adheres to its principle of rotating the massive sporting event continent to continent, FIFA President Sepp Blatter said Monday.”

Pro Vercelli: A Vine That Keeps Climbing (The Run of Play)
“My assistant manager quit. I have no idea why. He just stood there in the doorway, gingerly holding his resignation letter, muttering something about becoming the coach of Sorrento.”

Thomas Kahlenberg

July 28, 2009

“Thomas Kahlenberg (born March 20, 1983 in Hvidovre) is a Danish professional football player, who plays as a midfielder for German club VfL Wolfsburg. He has played more than 20 matches and scored two goals for the Denmark national football team, and was the youngest member of the Denmark squad for the 2004 European Championship.’ Wikipedia, YouTube, ESPN

The Growth of ‘European’ Soccer in the US

July 27, 2009

Fragment from the Ara Pacis (Altar of Peace)
“Ah, summer soccer in America. When we can finally kick back, crack an ice cold Miller Lite, and take in some of that industrious Major League Soccer all of these scallywags have been talking about … oh you’ve got Stella? Wait, Barca’s playing? Maybe next year….” (Foot Smoke)

Football For Breakfast (EPL Talk)
“On five hours of sleep, I pull myself from my bedroom, cross the hall to the living room and land on the couch. It’s a journey of maybe 20 feet, but it feels like Stage 20 of the Tour de France. I am a zombie on NyQuil dragging bags of concrete behind me. Liverpool FC face Singapore in a friendly 7am: Eastern. Standard. Time. No sane person would get up after so little sleep merely to catch a match where nothing was at stake. But I am not a sane person. I am a football supporter.”

7 Things We Learned About The World Football Challenge (EPL Talk)
“Chelsea’s squad returns to London today after an incredibly successful 10-day tour of the United States. While they were in the States, the club won the World Football Challenge, played in front of an average attendance of 68,687, demonstrated a renewed sense of enthusiasm and playing ability under new manager Carlo Ancelotti, and managed to wade off Manchester City’s advances toward captain John Terry.”

Szetela facing long road back for U.S.; Alvarez ready to switch sides (SI)
“From Olympic-team starter to Serie B bench-warmer in less than 12 months, Danny Szetela may be one of the few American players whose move to Europe actually set him back in the national-team pool. When Major League Soccer sold the former Columbus Crew starlet’s contract to Racing Santander of Spain’s La Liga in August 2007, Szetela was an up-and-coming player in the U.S. midfield rotation and already was a veteran of U.S. youth teams with loads of international experience.”

Spanning the South American age spectrum (BBC – Tim Vicker)
“It’s not often that Bolivian football makes headlines all over the world, but that’s what happened last week after a player made his first division debut a few days before his 13th birthday. Mauricio Baldivieso came off the bench for the last few minutes of Aurora’s match against La Paz. He had made a shrewd choice of father – Julio Cesar Baldivieso is not only one of the recent greats of the Bolivian game, he was also Aurora’s coach. But not any more.”

Roll on the footy! (BBC)
“I think I’ve had my fill of summer sport now, ta. By and large I enjoy a bit of football respite. But the pre-season friendlies have never done owt for my footy cravings. Vegetarian sausages, alcohol-free lager, silicone implants, football friendlies… all one and the same to me. I just want it to get under way and get a bit of order back into my life!”

Hicks & Gillett complete deal on Liverpool loans (ESPN)
“Liverpool’s American owners have concluded a deal to re-finance the bank loan they took out to buy the club in 2007. Co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett are not expected to issue a statement, but the deal is believed to be for another year and will involve them paying back £60m of the original debt.”

Top soccer official to invite Obama to World Cup (AP)
“FIFA president Sepp Blatter has specific ideas on upgrading the popularity of soccer in the United States. He hopes he has an eager listener in President Barack Obama. Blatter plans to extend a personal invitation to Obama to attend the 2010 World Cup in South Africa when the two meet at the White House on Monday.”

Zlatan Should Thank Perez For Barca Move

July 26, 2009

“If it wasn’t for Florentino Perez and his early transfer window ‘shock and awe’ superstar shopping spree, a shopping spree which has seen the triple trophy winning exploits of Joan Laporta’s men at the Camp Nou quickly forgotten by anyone not from Catalunya, then what must be regarded as the summer’s most ludicrous deal to date would surely never have come to fruition.” (Soccer Lens)

Local Boy Returns Home With Soccer Royalty (The Washington Post)
“Oguchi Onyewu began playing soccer with his boyhood buddies at St. Andrew Apostle Catholic School in Silver Spring. Weekends were consumed by MSI, the iconic youth program of Montgomery County, and the group remained largely unbroken through eighth grade.”

Cult of celebrity is destined to produce fallen idols (Guardian)
“The drinking-football season has kicked off in style again, with Steven Gerrard and David Beckham playing blinders in a couple of friendlies, and the rest of us left wondering if we do actually inhabit the same planet.”

When the Goal is Peace (allAfrica)
“Delivering his first state of the nation address in June 2009, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma described sport as ‘a unifying force’ that people must use to live together. A social soccer club in Cape Town’s informal settlement of Masiphumelele is taking his challenge seriously: Kanana Football Club has recruited foreigners as a gesture of goodwill and harmony.”

Kalou, Boots And Money Men Getting Antsy? (A Cullture Left Foot)
“Sunday morning brings the usual suspects as transfer targets and a new boy to boot. Wellington – a headline writers dream if ever there was one – is the latest Wunderkid to be linked with a move to The Emirates, seemingly ready to pick Arsenal ahead of Manchester United, Real Madrid and Chelsea. Until Manchester City come in and offer him £250k per week, that is.”

Sven a day late, £200 million short

July 25, 2009

“Sven-Göran Eriksson must be kicking himself for not surviving the sack at Manchester City. After being given a top-10 target after he took the job in July 2007, the former England manager steered the club to ninth place in the Premier League that season, his first in charge.” (SI)

Born Again: How the Deep-Lying Midfielder Position is Reviving Careers (Soccer Lens)
“In football, as it’s played today, central midfielders have become the most important players on the pitch. Due to the growing importance of the transition game, the roving role of a post-to-post player demands competence in both defense and attack.”

Why Brazil hate altitude (World Cup Blog)
“Brazil’s lone vendetta against teams being able to play matches in their own capital cities has its roots in the following…”

City’s first steps to world domination (ESPN)
“Manchester City’s stated aim of becoming the ‘darlings of world football’ still has a long way to go if the club’s popularity in South Africa is an effective yardstick. Having been restricted by an inability to field their biggest signings on this summer’s pre-season tour, such as Carlos Tevez, Roque Santa Cruz and Emmanuel Adebayor (who landed in South Africa on Tuesday), City have yet to win over the local public.”

Benitez urges Alonso to remain with Liverpool (ESPN)
“Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has urged Xabi Alonso to stay with the club as he continues to be linked with a move to Real Madrid. The Spain international has already suggested that he is flattered by the interest from the Bernabeu and would consider a move back to La Liga. But Benitez is desperate for the 27-year-old to remain at Anfield.”

News Update: Steven Gerrard Cleared Of Affray Charges (EPL Talk)
“Steven Gerrard was cleared of affray today when the jury at the Liverpool Crown Court delivered a verdict of not guilty. Gerrard insisted he had been acting in self-defense when he punched Marcus McGee at the Lounge Inn in Southport after an argument over the music in the club’s CD player.”

Holland v. Sweden, 1974

July 25, 2009

“This match hasn’t gone down in history as one of the great games of the World Cup (in fact, it is most remembered for one isolated flash of skill from Cruyff), but it did have its moments.” Wednesday 19th, June 1974, Telegraph, MySpace

An American Voice in the World’s Game

July 24, 2009

View of Haarlem with Bleaching Grounds, c. 1670- 1675. Jacob van Ruisdael
“In the United States, there are as many opinions about soccer announcers as there are cable outlets — and, in the view of many, nobody has a clue. For many, a British accent is a prerequisite for membership in the club and Americans simply need not apply. The Spanish-language practitioners make things sound exciting (Gooooooooooool!) for many monolingual folks, but most of their commentary is overwrought, bombastic and borderline unlistenable.” (NYT)

United pull an Arsenal, Gerrard case shines light on Liverpool fans and lots more (Soccer Lens)
“As we amble through the ‘most amazing transfer season ever’, drunk on the memories of the ‘closest title race ever’ from last season and looking forward to what surely must be ‘the most exciting Premier League season ever’, it’s easy to miss the trees for the forest – or the blinding neon light that is 24/7/365 football.”

ThreeMatchBan Top 10: Facial Hair (Three Match Ban)
“Players today are often well groomed with a pop-star fashion sense and a mahogany tan, with the possible exception of the heavily stubbled Roy Keane. However facial hair was a popular accessory not so long back and was sported with pride by some of the biggest names in the game and also some of the lesser names too.”

Those We Have Lost: Southbury Road, Enfield (twohundredpercent)
“This piece is the first of a series of articles intended as personal recollections of some of our lost football grounds. Should you wish to contribute to this series, please feel free to email us via the ‘Contact’ page, which is linked at the top of this page. The first piece in this series takes a fond look back at Southbury Road, the late, lamented home of Enfield Football Club.”

Offside Sound Off: Which Retired Player from the Last 10 Years Would You Like to See Make a Comeback? (The Offside)
“Colombian striker Antony de Ávila (aka El Pitufo or The Smurf, as he’s 5′3″ small) is coming out of retirement. Nothing so unusual about that… except that de Ávila retired a full 10 years ago at the already advanced age (for a footballer) of 36.”

Cover Your Ears! Vuvuzela World Record Attempt Tonight (World Cup Blog)
“The Confederations Cup is over. And the 2010 World Cup is still 11 months away. But the vuvuzela stories just keep on coming. First there was Austria banning the little plastic horns for some very unconvincing safety reasons, and now an army of vuvuzela blowers will be making a world record attempt.”

As Argentina keeps struggling, Maradona’s critics get louder

July 23, 2009

“As Brazil coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari’s most controversial decision was his refusal to pick Romário. Even at 36, Romário was still one of his country’s most prolific strikers at the time and “Big Phil” faced a Spanish inquisition at every media conference. TV stations and newspapers launched pro-Romário campaigns and even Fernando Henrique Cardoso, then the Brazilian President, joined in.” (SI)

Video Highlights of Preseason Matches for Bayern Munich, Man City, Arsenal, Schalke, and Hamburg (The 90th Minute)
“The preseason schedule for European clubs has begun with several playing in tournaments and various competitions around the globe. Here’s a list of the recent preseason matches for some of the big clubs including Bayern Munich and Arsenal.”

Man City begin to shed their skin (ESPN)
“The unofficial title of ‘World’s richest club’ sat uneasily with Manchester City last season. It provided opportunities for mockery from their detractors whenever Benjani or Darius Vassell found themselves the supposed spearhead of a blunt attack, when a creaking Dietmar Hamann or a labouring Gelson Fernandes was handed a pivotal role in an overpowered midfield or when Richard Dunne was at his blundering worst in an error-prone defence. Wealth provided City, no strangers to embarrassment, with new indignities.”

How Football Is Like Foreign Films (EPL Talk)
“With huge advances in cable, satellite and Internet technology, we can now watch practically any major football league on our TV screens or monitors in the comfort of our living room. Your favorite football team could be the one that’s in the city near you, or it could be a club that’s on the other side of the world.”

Individual video highlights: Ronaldinho, Nesta & Onyewu (AC Milan) vs Club America (101 Great Goals)
“Ronaldinho continues to sparkle during the pre-season. Against Club America on Wednesday night, the gap-toothed wonder was fielded in the hole behind the strikers, allowing the Brazilian to attempt some cute incisive passes as well as seeing the forward crash the bar with a long-range free-kick.”

John Terry snubs City to stay at the Bridge, the return of Sven & Arsenal swoop for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (101 Great Goal)
“[Mr. McGee] grabbed my menu off me and said ‘You are not fucking deciding what music goes on in here.’ When he grabbed it I said ‘What’s your problem, why can’t I change it?’ He basically said to me ‘I am not putting your music on.’ … – Steven Gerrard.”

Review of the week (BBC)
“We’ve all heard tales of Sven’s alleged antics down the years, but it still came as a surprise to learn he was tied up in Notts. I noted a couple of weeks back how this year’s close-season had turned into the silly season, but if Michael Owen’s move to Manchester United was a bit of a shock, Eriksson’s switch to Meadow Lane was a thunderbolt.”

Breakaway League: Serie A and the Crisis in Italian Football

July 22, 2009

“The Italian season opener, the Supercoppa Italiana (Italian Super Cup), between Serie A champions Internazionale and Italian Cup winners Lazio, is taking place abroad again at Beijing’s Olympic Stadium the Bird’s Nest. It’s a showy step in Italian football’s attempts to keep pace with the Premier League’s branded behemoths — and one that also includes a breakaway league reminiscent of England’s league transformation in the 1990s. Yet these flashy moves can’t hide the underlying crisis in Italian football.” (Pitch Invasion)

Why PL Will Still Reign Over Spain… (Football365)
“In terms of income and international profile, la Liga is quite literally decades behind the omnipotent, omnipresent Premier League. This has little to do with the quality of the product on offer – as marketing suits would put it – but the fact that the Spanish game is run by complete buffoons.”

Iraq united behind football stars (BBC)
“When is a one-nil defeat a victory? When Iraq play Spain. Spain beat Iraq in the qualifying round of the Confederations Cup in South Africa in June, scoring the only goal of the game. But the Iraqi fans were smiling.”

What is the state of soccer in U.S. (Wicked Local)
“When the United States national soccer team upset Spain in the Confederations Cup last month, it piqued the interest of a number of non-soccer fans here in the U.S. Granted the U.S. men didn’t win the World Cup or Olympic gold medal, but they pulled off an amazing feat, snapping Spain’s winning streak, the second longest unbeaten stretch up to that point.”

ESPN’s questionable competition (WSC)
“After Setanta’s slow motion decline into financial obscurity, the emergence of ESPN as a major provider of live televised football raises a number of questions. The key facts of the American broadcaster’s arrival are well known after it secured the rights to 46 Premier League matches next season and 23 for the next three seasons, alongside rights to SPL matches, secured jointly with Sky, through to the end of 2011-12.”

History Of Premier League On US TV (EPL Talk)
“Long before the Premier League debuted on August 15, 1992, top flight English football was available on US television. It was nothing compared to today’s offering where practically every weekend game is available to watch. But it’s been consistently available, in one form or another, to US viewers since the early 1990s.”

One Man’s Struggles with WPS Fandom (Foot Smoke)
“I love soccer. And I’m pretty sure I love women. So why don’t I love Women’s Professional Soccer? Or do I, secretly? These are questions I fear to answer because any serious soul-searching might uncover the misogynistic pig within. That, or I’ll end up stripping away a vestigial layer of macho-callous that has kept me straight and largely insensitive to the needs of women through the years. Oh well, here goes…”

Alberto Riera

July 21, 2009

“Alberto Riera Ortega (born 15 April 1982 in Manacor, Balearic Islands) is a Spanish footballer who currently plays for Premier League side Liverpool, as a left winger.” Wikipedia, YouTube

US v Panama

July 21, 2009

“Conceding a late first half Panamanian goal and losing veteran defender Jimmy Conrad to a concussion, caused concern for the U.S. Men’s National Team, heading into halftime. However, the USA seized control in the second half, asserting itself with dominant second-half play, which culminated with a Kyle Beckerman equalizer in the 50th minute. Kenny Cooper would seal the 2009 Central American Champion’s fate with a corner-deflected penalty conversion. And here are my five thought… ” (futfanatico)

U.S. team, an improved MLS fuel growing buzz for sport in America (SI)
“Last week, I got an e-mail from a friend who is part of the U.S. World Cup 2018/2022 bid committee. He had just attended a sold-out event at the Kicking & Screening Soccer Film Festival in New York (full disclosure: I am a co-organizer of the event) and he had a feeling he wanted to express.”

On top of the world (The Times)
“THE Confederations Cup has never been a big deal in the football world, but the tournament which ended at Ellis Park on Sunday certainly changed international perceptions. Even England took an interest.”

The Craig Bellamy Factor (EPL Talk)
“I am anticipating some serious Craig Bellamy antics in the upcoming season. It’s to the point where, if he stays at City, I’ll almost be dissapointed if we don’t see something on par with The Golf Club Incident (on par… sorry, couldn’t resist). I’m not saying I condone personal injury—but serious property damage from a swinging cricket bat or something could be on the horizon at least. Let me explain.”

Hadji: A great adventure (FIFA – Classic Football))
“Three years ago the South African Football Association announced the names of the four players it had chosen as ambassadors for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. Joining George Weah, Abedi Pele and Roger Milla in the esteemed quartet was Mustapha Hadji, the former Morocco playmaker and the scorer of one of the most memorable goals of the tournament at France 1998.”

Alonso rumour just won’t go away (EPL Talk)
“Real Madrid are determined to snap up as much of the top talent in world football as they can with Xabi Alonso being tipped to be the next big signing for the club. I know this has been getting put about for quite a while now with no concrete movement quite yet but I fear for Liverpool next season without Alonso and possibly Mascherano.”

Gerrard ‘struck with boxer speed’ (BBC)
“Liverpool footballer Steven Gerrard ‘totally lost it’ and hit a man ‘with the style and speed of a boxer’ during a row over music, a court has heard.”

Suspending Animosity: The Football Shirt Swap

July 20, 2009

River-bank with Cows, c. 1650. Aelbert Cuyp
“It’s the little things. I’ve been fully enamoured with the concept of the shirt swap since I first saw it in action. Mind you, I’m an American and a latecomer to world football, and we don’t have anything like this in American sports. I’ve never seen a baseball pitcher record the last strike of the last out of a playoff game and then trot to home plate, unbutton his shirt and give it to the batter.” (EPL Talk)

Seba Veron, an heir to Cerezo (BBC – Tim Vickery)
“A couple of decades ago when I worked in the West End of London, I used to frequent a little Italian café, sadly no longer in existence, so I could watch the Serie A on their satellite TV.”

The making of a Bayern great (ESPN)
“As the clock slowly winds down to the start of the German Bundesliga season on August 8, Bayern Munich’s Uli Hoeness must have prompted a few laughs among German football fans when he revealed he was going to keep a low profile in the upcoming season.”

The transfer window heats up – can Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham strengthen their squads in time? (SoccerLens)
“Another week, another set of additions to the Manchester City strikeforce. This week it was Carlos Tévez & Emmanuel Adebayor who made the move to Eastlands, swapping Big Four unhappiness for Big Four hopefulness for a combined fee of around £50.”

David Beckham gets some love, anyway (LA Times)
“Some Galaxy fans boo the star midfielder in his return to Home Depot Center, but AC Milan players, coach are happy to see him, and feeling is mutual at the end of teams’ 2-2 tie.”

In Defence of: David Beckham (The Offside)
“So, right now former England captain David Beckham is not exactly the most popular man in America. After his spell in Europe (at the behest of England manager Fabio Capello) he’s being seen as a bit of a traitor on the otherside of the water, in fact in the friendly against Milan, he looked as if he might do a Cantona, as he rushed over to where the Galaxy fans had been jeering him.”

Club America Downs Inter on Penalties to Kick Off the “World Football Challenge” (The Offside)
“Well, that was unexpected. Did anybody else look at the lineup for the World Football Challenge — AC Milan, Inter Milan, Chelsea, and Club América — and think, ‘This might not be pretty for Club América’? With particular worries about the first game last night against Serie A Champions Inter?”

Barca chief defends Zlatan deal (World Soccer)
“Barcelona president Joan Laporta insists that Barcelona’s big-money bid for Zlatan Ibrahimovic should not be compared to Real Madrid’s massive spending spree this summer.”

South Africa World Cup 2010… and the shooting’s already started

July 19, 2009

“Only 70 miles from a 2010 World Cup football stadium, a farmer’s wife and a boy aged 13 learn to defend themselves with lethal weapons. They say thousands of white landowners have been killed by Zimbabwe-style marauders; their black rulers accuse them of belligerence and right-wing tendencies. Aidan Hartley reports on the war of words you won’t read about in your World Cup holiday brochure.” (Daily Mail – June 15, 2009)

South Africa facing race against time for 2010 World Cup (Times)
“Some of us, having just returned from the Lions tour in South Africa, have been left slack-jawed by Fifa president Sepp Blatter’s suggestion that everything is fine and dandy with preparations for the 2010 World Cup, just as long as a few minor issues are sorted out before the tournament gets underway in 11 months’ time.”

David Beckham’s big move (WSC)
“David Beckham’s spell in the US has been a controversial one. He returned to the country this week but seems set on joining a Premier League club with the 2010 World Cup in mind. In WSC 198 (August 2003), Joyce Woolridge looked at press reaction to Beckham’s departure from Manchester United in 2003”

Italian teams have much to consider in transfer season (LA Times)
“Milan might be one of the world’s great cities, but there is something it lacks. What it needs is a really good soccer team. Oh, sure, there is AC Milan, but everyone knows the Rossoneri are nothing more than a bauble dangling from owner Silvio Berlusconi’s watch chain, a hobby for the Italian prime minister when he is not playing other, more exotic games on his Sardinian island retreat of Villa Certosa.”

Downing eyes England place (FIFA)
“Stewart Downing believes he can beat the likes of new Aston Villa team-mate Ashley Young to a regular place in Fabio Capello’s England side. The left winger’s £12m arrival from Middlesbrough yesterday does not, however, spell the end of the former Watford player’s spell with the midlands club, according to manager Martin O’Neill.”

Liverpool and Spurs battle it out (ESPN)
“It’s Sunday and therefore the News of the World rumour mill is in full swing. Let’s start with the news that Ashley Young could be on his way out of Aston Villa, with Tottenham and Liverpool both set to bid around £20m.”

Ade-os, Who’s In And Football Returns (A Cultured Left Foot)
“A day when football took the centre stage once more, was to a certain extent overshadowed by transfer news at the end. A protracted affair came to a close when Emmanuel Adebayor signed for Manchester City, amid the usual platitudes towards former and new fans alike.”

Pre-season football photos (BBC)

The Mo Johnston Signing: Sectarianism and the Business of the Old Firm

July 18, 2009

Lucas van Valckenborgh, 1533/1597. The Tower of Babel
“His house was petrol-bombed, his father was attacked, and he was called the ‘Salmon Rushdie of football’. It was twenty years ago this week that former Celtic star Mo Johnston became the first well-known Roman Catholic to sign for Rangers, and Glasgow erupted. One enraged Rangers fan said that, ‘My blood is boiling. Is Mo Johnston going to run about Ibrox with his crucifix?’” (Pitch Invasion)

Check Your Local Listings for U.S.-Mexico Qualifier (NYT)
“If you are expecting to crack a cold one, sit back, tune in to ESPN and watch the United States play Mexico in a World Cup qualifier from Mexico City in the late afternoon of Aug. 12 … you better check your channel guide first. That is because the game will not be shown on ESPN, Fox Soccer Channel or probably any other English-language channel that has carried a soccer match in the past.”

The Joy of Six: Great team goals (Guardian)
“That this is football’s apogee is not seriously in dispute by anyone with an anima. Yet it might legitimately be argued that this also represents the apex of all sport and, if you’re feeling particularly grandiloquent, all art.”

The first champions of Europe? (ESPN)
“‘A Dutch team will never win the Champions League again.’ This quote can be attributed to a number of leading people on the football scene in Holland and, although PSV did come close to the final in 2005, more than a few miracles during a season may be needed to see a club from the Eredivisie dancing around with the ‘The Cup with the Big Ears’ (Leo Beenhakker) in the future.”

When Bulgaria (almost) ruled the world (SoccerLens)
“The Parc des Princes, November 1993. France are seconds away from securing qualification for the 1994 World Cup, albeit nervously. Tied at 1-1 with Group rivals Bulgaria, they know a point is enough to send them to America the following summer.”

Gerrard yearning for more with Liverpool (uefa)
“Steven Gerrard discusses his ambitions with his hometown club Liverpool FC and we talk to Football Federation of Ukraine president Grigoriy Surkis in the Magazine.”

Sheffield United boost the brand (WSC)
“Few would have noticed Ferencvaros’s brief tour of the north this month. Only a few thousand in total witnessed the Hungarians’ 5-1 win against non-League Sheffield FC, their 0-0 draw with Lincoln and the 3-2 defeat to Barnsley – on appearance a curious set of pre-season fixtures for a once splendid side.”

1970 European Cup Final

July 18, 2009

“The 1970 European Cup Final was a football match held at the San Siro, Milan, on 6 May 1970, that saw Feyenoord Rotterdam of the Netherlands defeat Celtic F.C. of Scotland 2 – 1 after extra-time.” Wikipedia, Kerrydale Street, 1969/70: Feyernoord establish new order (uefa)

Capitalism in European soccer compared to American sports

July 17, 2009

“On June 26, Cristiano Ronaldo completed a $132 million transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid. In strict business terms, Real Madrid bought an asset from another business in hopes of improving its own product. No government, federation or league was going to stand in the way of what Real Madrid thought was a smart business decision.” (Intelligent Soccer)

The Greatest Brazilian Players of All Time – 50s and 60s (Soccer Lens)
“In this series I will be looking at some of the greatest Brazilian players to have graced the game of football over the last sixty years, using the 1950s, the decade in which Brazil marched to their first World Cup triumph, as a starting point.”

South Africa abuzz over talk of banning soccer fans’ favorite horn (Los Angeles Times)
” As South Africa gears up to host next year’s soccer World Cup, there are plenty of doomsayers predicting the worst. If transportation shortagesdon’t ruin the event, crime will. The beer will run out. Or the stadiums will be half empty. But no one expected an ugly plastic trumpet to dominate the controversy.”

Transfer Talk: Maxwell to Barca, Lucio to Inter, Bobo to Keep Playing (The Offside)
“Barcelona stood quietly by as Real Madrid raided the bottomless piggy bank in June, but have finally made their first move in the summer transfer market. Not for a splashy big name signing, but for Inter’s Brazilian left back Maxwell, who joins for €4.5m. Much to the surprise of Inter fans.”

Preseason test for four established powers (ESPN)
“The World Football Challenge is a four-team, six-game tournament that will be played in a half-dozen cities around the United States from July 19-26. Participating are Chelsea, Italian giants AC Milan and Inter and Club America.”

There’s only Juan Veron (ESPN)
“When he took a huge pay cut to leave Internazionale and return to his boyhood club in Argentina, Juan Sebastián Verón couldn’t have dreamed this.”

Looking forward to a new season (BBC – Steve Wilson)
“I got my first Match of the Day for season 2009/10 this week and I can almost taste the start of the season. Of course, for some of my fellow commentators the season has already started. I thoroughly enjoyed Rhyl v Partizan Belgrade on S4C on Tuesday night, even with every word in Welsh.”

Inter confirm Ibrahimovic talks with Barca (ESPN)
“Inter Milan have confirmed they are in talks with Spanish champions Barcelona over the potential transfer of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.”

Writers and Poets II: Ultimate XI

July 16, 2009

Günter Netzer
“Ralf Bönt has been the captain of the German writer’s national team. In his younger years, he played for Arminia Bielefeld. In addition to his books, he wrote the soccer story ‘Eating.’ He calls his Ultimate XI the ‘team of the great unfinished,’ a reference to terrific players who never realized all their dreams. Of his Ultimate XI, only two are from outside Germany.” (NYT)

Gomes sets sights on World Cup (BBC – Tim Vickery’s)
“Last week I was on a Brazilian TV programme that was covering the build up to the first leg of the Copa Libertadores final between Cruzeiro against Estudiantes of Argentina (which, incidentally, finished 0-0 – second leg on Wednesday). Also appearing on the show was Tottenham goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, who made his name with Cruzeiro earlier this decade. He was asked about his childhood idols – and named one of his predecessors in the club’s goal, Dida.”

Arsenal will not miss Adebayor (BBC – Phil McNulty )
“Michael Owen unveiling a brochure to attract buyers for himself is one thing – Arsenal fans doing likewise to attract a buyer for Emmanuel Adebayor is another. While Owen’s glossy pages spoke of ‘The Athlete, The Ambassador, The Icon’, a replica produced by a group of Arsenal fans made a series of claims on Adebayor’s behalf that were not altogether flattering.”

A starting XI of transfer questions (SI)
“It has been a weird summer of transfers. Most of Europe’s top leagues kick off next month and yet, with a few exceptions (Real Madrid and, to a lesser degree, Juventus and Bayern Munich), there hasn’t been too much going on. The window won’t close until Aug. 31.”

The Beckham Experiment Review: Showbusiness and Soccer (Pitch Invasion)
“Failure is almost always a more interesting subject for a book than success. Grant Wahl did not originally intend to spend 16 months following the dramatic disaster that was the David Beckham Experiment in America: but when Beckham’s celebrated arrival as the saviour of American soccer degenerated into a farce of injuries and infighting at the Galaxy, the juicy tale of how the biggest investment in American soccer history resulted in one of the worst team meltdowns ever in MLS became the story he had to follow all the way through.”

World Cup Construction Workers End Strike (NYT)
“Construction workers have agreed to end a weeklong strike that threatened to derail the completion of already tightly-scheduled projects for the World Cup, union officials and employers said Wednesday. Workers agreed on a pay increase of 12 percent, below the earlier demand of 13 percent, and work at sites across South Africa is to resume on Thursday.”

What Makes A Classic Football Match? Part 4: Manchester United 1-4 Liverpool (EPL Talk)
“Even after the mind-shattering come-from-behind win on 13 September (see Part 3), I couldn’t let myself feel too optimistic about the trip to Old Trafford. (Going into the biggest matches, I try to remain spiritually pragmatic.) 1-1 at O.T. would be a wonderful result.”

Good Grief, Is He Still Here? (A Cultured Left Foot)
“First of all, every thought should go to John Hartson and his family following the neurosurgery he underwent yesterday as a result of his cancer. By comparison the transfer news is trivial. It might not be in the minds of the individuals involved but in the greater scheme of things, it is. Adebayor is apparently stalling on the deal. The media, no doubt fed by the disgruntlement at Arsenal and hoping to pass it onto Manchester City fans.”

Where’s Willer? A Brazilian in the East

July 15, 2009

Brazil Forro, front
“Summer in the east. After a short break in June which felt almost as long as the frozen abyss of winter, football across eastern Europe is underway once more on green fields and under blue skies, half a continent and a whole world away from the frenzied din of a Bernabéu unveiling. And yet something is missing.” (SoccerLens)

Shaking Loose from the Soil (Foot Smoke)
“Alright, alright, fine. Blogging isn’t journalism. Lines divide the two fields. Professional journalists get paid, for example. Us amateur bloggers usually don’t. We toil in the nervous spaces between working on the internet and “working” on the internet, or between trips to Starbucks and withdrawing more trust-fund money.”

From Brisbane Road to the Bernabeu (BBC)
“Exactly 20 years ago, on 15 July 1989, one of the most remarkable careers in English football history came to a sudden and tragic end in a car crash on the outskirts of Madrid. Laurie Cunningham was only 33 when he died and spent most of the peak years of his career playing abroad.”

Ade Out, Whose In And Eddie’s Up For It (A Culture Left Foot)
“First off, it’s still rumbling on. Still no offer, Manchester City still wittering on about a deal to be done but now adding the word ‘possibly’ to sentences, hinting at either belated or utterly insincere diplomacy. Amazingly, the City way is exactly the same route that Chelsea followed when Abramovich came in: the basest way.”

Kuduzela Blows Its Horn for 2010 (allAfrica – Business Day)
“SANPARKS, with 2010 Soccer World Cup sponsor First National Bank and the 2010 local organising committee, has launched a new musical instrument to rival the vuvuzela at next year’s World Cup.”

Why the Stalemate on Samuel Eto’o (allAfrica – Cameroon)
“Is it a problem of discipline, personal conflict with the coach, some club officials or skin colour? These questions have been on the lips of most soccer lovers and media headline since the transfer saga between Samuel Eto’o and FC Barcelona was made public. Despite helping his club win the Kings Cup, the Spanish League title ‘La Liga’ and the Champions League, after scoring thirty-four goals, Samuel Eto’o has never been accepted by some FC Barcelonan club officials.”

Robson: Capello’s doing a great job (FIFA)
“Bryan Robson wants Fabio Capello to continue to ride his luck during his tenure at the England reins. The Italian has steered the side to the brink of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.”

The Paradise of Real Madrid

July 14, 2009

marie pieta 2
William Adolphe Bouguereau, 1876
“The Paradise I yearned for called to me like the chirps of a nightingale in spring. I had seen the flames and punishments of hell, and was excited by the promise of eternal bliss and delight. Was it odd Bernd Schuster would be my guide? Yes. Was it strange he could fly? Even more so. But I suspended disbelief and tightly grasped Bernd’s hand as we flew over the malebolgia, and we soon descended into a dense oak forest.” (The Run of Play)

Transfer Talk: Didn’t See That Coming (The Offside)
“Even kit number transfers can leave us perplexed. Perhaps the strangest rumor of the day involves, once again, Michael Owen and those blokes from Manchester United. Not only did he get the surprise contract, but he’ll also reportedly be given the hallowed No. 7 previously worn by that greasy chap now residing in Madrid (amongst others).”

Manchester City Set To Adopt 1-1-8 Formation (Three Match Ban)
“Manchester City’s insistence on signing strikers on top of strikers has given me an overwhelming sense of déjà vu and I think I know what it is. It’s the sort of managerial tactics I employ in the transfer market when I’m playing on Championship Manager. The capture of former United striker Carlos Tevez is the latest addition to a squad that already includes the following international strikers: Valeri Bojinov, Robinho, Felipe Caicedo, Ched Evans, Benjani, Craig Bellamy, Roque Santa Cruz and Jo who has been farmed out to on-loan to Everton for the rest of the season.”

Typical transfer tactics (WSC)
“There has been much deliberation about the “spirit of the game” over the past couple of days. The game in question being cricket, with England’s time-wasting tactics during their draw with Australia having prompted a barrage of criticism. There has also been some support for the rather desperate ploys carried out by Andrew Strauss’s team including the suggestion that Australians, the pioneers of sledging and not averse to slow play themselves, are not best placed to pose as upholders of the game’s ‘spirit'”.

Football Returns To Baghdad (World Cup Blog)
“It was but a mere friendly against a walkover opponent, but in terms of symbolism it was on par with a World Cup final. More than six years after its last international game in Baghdad – and with an Asian trophy in its cabinet since then – Iraq returned to Al-Shaab Stadium and thumped fellow recent home-returnees Palestine 4-0.”

Video: Norwegian player scores the easiest 40-yard free kick you are likely to see (Off the Post)
“Sometimes goals are scored from 40 yards and the keeper can do absolutely nothing about them. This is not one of those instances.”

Pro Vercelli: End of the Season, Pro Vercelli: The Battle of Milan (The Run of Play)
“There was no heroic surge. We set a punishing pace from the outset, and we kept it up to the end. For a time it looked as though Inter would keep it up with us, but they’d faltered by midseason, and when we finally won the scudetto—in a 4-1 home win against Genoa, with goals by Fábio (2), Michele Proietti, and Riccardo Caprioli; all players under 23, the latter two in their teens—we did it without much drama.”

Andrés Iniesta

July 14, 2009

“Andrés Iniesta Luján (born 11 May 1984 in Fuentealbilla, Albacete, Castile-La Mancha) is a Spanish football attacking midfielder who currently plays for Spanish La Liga club FC Barcelona. His willingness to play anywhere on the pitch, coupled with a natural humility, has earned him the sobriquet El Ilusionista, El Anti-Galáctico and most recently San Andrés, or Don Andrés from the Catalan press.” Wikipedia, Guardian, Times, YouTube, (1)

In Argentina, fans from the same team fight

July 13, 2009

“The English hooligan problem was at its worst outside Britain, when fans went to international matches abroad. Violence in Argentine football, by contrast, has reached a point in recent years where it is rarely even a confrontation between the hardcore fans of rival teams.” (Reuters)

To Unite Diverse Communities, a Soccer Tournament of Skill (NYT)
“An international summit meeting convened recently in Manhattan with delegates from countries including France, Jamaica and the United States. After a good start, the negotiations, as so often happens, soon got bogged down. The main sticking point was how to define national identity. Ireland and Greece formed an unlikely partnership, pushing for tight regulation, while the Ghanaian delegate advocated a more laissez-faire approach.”

Ground-sharing: Should it be a taboo? (Pitch Invasion)
“There is something of a buzz walking into your rival team’s stadium. Being in a small minority of a group of away supporters is surely part of it; you’re outnumbered, but you’re hungrier and louder as a response. Everywhere around you is enemy territory. It’s not home; it’s unfamiliar, it’s foreign, it doesn’t belong to your club.”

Wither Jozy? (That On Point)
“Maybe it’s just me, but hasn’t this been a rather quiet “silly season”? Aside from the Real Madrid money press snatching up stars and Manchester City linked with every single player alive, it’s been rather dull. (Not that I mind.) ”

Liverpool learns high cost of doing business in the Premier League (SI)
“Liverpool manager Rafael Benítez is not a happy man. In the past few seasons, he’s had his own way in the transfer market, happily signing 3-4 big-name players each summer, spending an average of $70 million across the last four.”

The 8 Second Red Card (The Offside)
“Ze Carlos set a highly dubious record this weekend in Brazil, getting sent off despite being only the third person to touch the ball after the opening kickoff – 8 seconds for the foul, 15 seconds for the card – for an errant elbow…or two.”


July 13, 2009

“Arthur Antunes Coimbra (… born 3 March 1953 in Rio de Janeiro), better known as Zico, is a former Brazilian footballer and coach. Often called the White Pelé, he is commonly considered one of the most skilled dribblers and finishers ever and possibly the world’s best player of the early 80’s.” Wikipedia, Planet World Cup, YouTube

10 reasons why soccer is better than football

July 12, 2009

“Soccer is known as the ‘beautiful sport.’ It takes a skill and finesse to play, and it requires just about every athletic trait, such as speed, endurance, and coordination. Some of the most athletic moves in sports come from soccer, such as the bicycle kick, and the spinning step over.” (examiner)

As Real Madrid Packs in Players, Some Must Go (NYT)
“Now may not be the best of times to be Dutch in the city of Madrid. As preseason training began this weekend at Real Madrid’s labyrinthine Valdebebas complex, the scene might have resembled Grand Central Terminal in New York City. There are so many new arrivals, and so many on the way out, destinations uncertain.”

Scotch Christians and the 1902 Ibrox Disaster (More Than Mind Games)
“Later, they blamed the rain for bringing the stand down. The eventual toll from the accident on 5 April was 25, but the deaths took time: the stand collapsed on a Saturday, and by the following Wednesday the count was still only 21.”

Switching On To Football: An American Supporter Awakes… Part 1, Switching On To English Football: An American Supporter Awakes… Part 2 (EPL Talk)
“After hearing from fellow Americans who follow the Premier League, I’ve been pondering the idea of coming to English football as an outsider. Here’s how my own love affair from distance got started…”

Inside Soccer: Hope for Heaps and a big Iraq win (Universal)
“For a brief time Wednesday, as the minutes flowed toward conclusion of the U.S. Men’s National Team’s 2-0 win over Honduras in a Gold Cup match in Washington, D.C., it appeared Jay Heaps just might achieve the dream of every American soccer player. For some 15 minutes, he had been warming up on a small patch of grass behind one of the goals with five other U.S. substitutes. No more than three players could be called.”

The Monday Miscellany (Footballing World)
“For most of the World Cup qualifying campaign so far, there has been a ‘big team in trouble’. Initially it was France, after their dire opening day defeat to Austria, 3-1 in Vienna. They, though, sorted themselves out, beating their main qualification rivals Serbia 2-1 at the Stade de France four days later and are now likely to finish in the play-offs at worst.”

A Kid’s Letter to Alexi Lalas (Foot Smoke)
“Dear Alexi, You seem like a pretty cool guy, for a ginger and a hippie. Actually, that’s why I like you – cause you’re a ginger but you make fun of yourself for being a ginger.”

Football: Europe’s top 40 summer transfer targets (Guardian)

The gods of football, and the mortals at Barça, would not have been impressed

July 11, 2009

“Those who believe that almost everything Real Madrid have come to stand for makes a travesty of sport as we have always known it and respected it and, yes, loved it, are unlikely to be too reassured. However, the fact is one of the leading guests at this week’s celebration of the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo represented not the power of money to buy any success, flatten any possibility of vaguely level competition, but, well, God.” (The Independent – James Lawton)

How Guardiola silenced his critics (World Soccer)
“Week three in La Liga and coach Pep Guardiola could have been forgiven for being worried. A debutant in the Barcelona dugout, alone but for the shadowy figures gathering behind him, knives at the ready, his status as a Barca legend, an icon of the Dream Team, had bought him the benefit of the doubt. But the critics were growing in number and his credit was running out fast.”

Toilet trouble, Michael Owen on Dragons’ Den and a Turkish laugh (Guardian)
“Featuring a golf fan with a sore bum, Darius Vassell’s arrival in Turkey and the night Nate Myles will never live down…”

Q.& A. With Grant Wahl, Author of ‘The Beckham Experiment’ (NYT)
“Beckham 3.0 will launch in the United States when the Los Angeles Galaxy plays the New York Red Bulls in a Major League Soccer match Thursday at Giants Stadium. Two days before, and not by coincidence, ‘The Beckham Experiment: How the World’s Most Famous Athlete Tried to Conquer America,’ by the Sports Illustrated senior writer Grant Wahl, will be available in bookstores.”

The Chimes they are a-changin’ (ESPN)
“No money, an owner desperate to sell, an exodus of players, no manager and an impending sense of doom. No, not Newcastle United but Portsmouth. While Mike Ashley tries valiantly to escape the north-east and return to London amid a blaze of publicity, Pompey find themselves in equal measures of limbo.”

The greatest U.S. transfer ever? (ESPN)
“This was the week in which Michael Owen had the last laugh following his transfer to Manchester United, Carlo Ancelotti revealed his plans for bionic engineering at Stamford Bridge and Oguchi Onyewu made a shock move to AC Milan in possibly the greatest U.S. transfer ever.”

Why Mo Johnston still stirs emotions across Glasgow (Guardian)
“The most striking aspect of any glance back towards the day Maurice Johnston first pulled on the blue of Rangers following his transfer in July 1989 is that some of the comments made by the club’s followers would have seemed more apt 200, not merely 20, years ago.”

Oguchi Onyewu

July 11, 2009

“Oguchialu Chijioke ‘Oguchi’ Onyewu (born May 13, 1982, in Washington, D.C.) is an American soccer center back who plays for the United States national team and professionally for Milan in Italy’s Serie A.” Wikipedia, US Soccer, Google

Manchester City set to pull out of bid to buy Samuel Eto’o from Barcelona

July 10, 2009

The Astronomer, c. 1668. Jan Vermeer.
“Manchester City’s difficulties in trying to capture the marquee signings they crave have brought them to the point of abandoning their pursuit of Samuel Eto’o. The club have set a deadline of close of business tonight to get a definitive answer from the Barcelona striker. Otherwise they plan to withdraw their £25.5m bid. (Guardian)

UEFA’s qualification quagmire (WSC)
“Shock news: UEFA rule change makes life harder for clubs and fans. Now there’s a sentence you haven’t read for at least – I don’t know – a week. The change is in the qualifying format for the Europa League. Where once it was simple and sensible, now it’s expensive and illogical. It’s bad enough when UEFA’s tinkering affects Manchester United, or Milan. These changes make life harder for Lisburn Distillery and Llanelli.”

Liverpool’s lessons in loyalty (WSC)
“Rafael Benítez’s attempt to keep his midfield pairing of Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano has turned personal. Speaking yesterday, the Liverpool manager appealed to the sense of loyalty the players should show to their club. Benítez thinks that, as Liverpool have developed the pair into the superstars they are today, they ought to stay with the club.”

Capello: Injuries concern me (FIFA)
“After taking on the role of England coach in January 2008, Fabio Capello’s record has been impressive, winning 12 of his 15 games in charge. Seven of those victories have come in their seven qualifiers for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, results which have left the Three Lions in with a chance of sealing their place as early as 9 September, when Croatia, their nemesis in the preliminaries for UEFA EURO 2008, travel to Wembley.”

World Leagues preview (FIFA)
“It is back to domestic action for Brazil’s finest this weekend, with two of the country’s clubs having been involved in continental finals in midweek. Over in the USA, fans will be enjoying a veritable footballing feast, given their nation’s hosting of the CONCACAF Gold Cup and a packed round of Major League Soccer fixtures. brings you the best of the forthcoming action from outside Europe.”

Latest News From ESPN, Setanta, GolTV and Others (EPL Talk)
“It’s been a few weeks since I’ve had a chance to update you on the latest news stories affecting English football fans from around the world. So even though some of these stories are stale, most of them have not been covered by the blogosphere and remain topical to us die-hard football fans. Enjoy.”

Are England players really that technically deficient? (Times)
“Why are so many people always so critical of English players’ technique? I read an article this week lamenting the technical ability of the country’s young talent and blaming the FA. But it’s wrong to suggest that English players have serious technical weaknesses and rubbish to blame the FA in any case.”

Muntari fights for favour of fans (BBC)
“Ghana midfielder Sulley Muntari has spoken out against accusations that he deliberately missed the Black Stars’ two World Cup qualifiers last month. Muntari returned home hoping to celebrate his league title with Inter Milan but ended up battling to rescue his image after some vitriolic player-bashing from fans.”

Transfers in the week up to July 10, 2009 (World Soccer)

World Cup in Africa Stumbles Over Strike

July 9, 2009

South Africa WCup Strike
“Thousands of South African construction workers walked off their jobs on Wednesday, beginning a nationwide strike that could threaten the biggest event in international soccer, the 2010 World Cup. However important the tournament may be to fans of the game, it represents nothing less than a defining moment for South Africa, the first country on the continent selected to host such a major sports competition.” (NYT)

Notes from South Africa: Final Thoughts (The Run of Play)
“The U.S. upset of Spain in the semifinal delighted everybody in South Africa. In addition to giving Bafana Bafana hope of an equally improbable victory against Brazil, the win by the U.S. erased the sour taste left by the previous crowd favorite, Egypt. The game was in Bloemfontein, on a bitterly cold night, and it started off slow. People were late in arriving to the gate, and expectations for the game were minimal. As everyone trudged to their seats, the mood seemed to convey a feeling of inevitability—how could Spain not win this game? At kickoff the stadium was only just over half full, with one contingent of fans making a bit of noise behind one of the goals.”

Soccer on Celluloid (NYT)
“Five soccer freestylers set off from England, destination Argentina and a meeting with their idol — Diego Maradona. Sounds like a far-fetched fantasy gambit, something out of the movies … which it is … “In the Hands of the Gods,” one of the films featured at the Kicking and Screening International Film Festival in New York July 14-18, as reported in the Times on June 30.”

John Terry & Roman Abramovich – Who’s In Charge? (twohundredpercent)
“It’s fairly safe to assume that John Terry has been operating under the assumption that his place at Chelsea was a job for life. There has been talk of him requesting a managing role at the club when he retires and his recent behaviour with regard to telling the club which players he thinks they should sign has been another indicator of a footballer that doesn’t particularly see his role as being, well, a footballer.”

FIFA Suspends Bradley the Younger … Sort Of (NYT)
“Bob Bradley is often characterized as cool, calm and collected as he directs his United States national team players during games and training sessions. Not quite dispassionate, but decidedly even-keeled, dare we say a bit boring.”

U.S. sowing the seeds of possibility (SI)
“In the context of the U.S. national team’s glittering performance at the Confederations Cup last month and Oguchi Onyewu’s lustrous move to AC Milan on Tuesday, the CONCACAF Gold Cup just doesn’t seem that shiny, does it? It’s more like a pewter mug: It obviously carries some heft — this is the continental championship, after all — but you won’t get much for it down at the Acme Pawn Shop.”

Copa Libertadores deserves golden final (BBC – Tim Vickery)
“The 50th Copa Libertadores has not been a vintage edition. South America’s premier club competition deserves better than some of the mediocre football that has been on show, especially in this anniversary year. Perhaps the final can come to the rescue. To be played over two legs on 8 and 15 July, there are grounds for hoping that Estudiantes versus Cruzeiro will live in the memory for positive reasons.”

Rafa rants at Man City as Johnson is unveiled

July 9, 2009

“Rafael Benitez used the unveiling of defender Glen Johnson to attack Manchester City’s “money, money, money” approach to transfers. The Liverpool boss splashed £17m on the England right-back, but paid substantially less than that to Portsmouth, who still owed money on the transfer of Peter Crouch. (ESPN)

Catch-22 for Rafa’s recruitment drive (ESPN)
“Clinical forwards tend to have an innate ability to identify opponents’ weaknesses. Yet while Fernando Torres stated the obvious recently when he declared that Manchester United will be weaker without Cristiano Ronaldo, it may represent the biggest boost to Liverpool’s title chances.”

Rafa’s 100 GREATEST PL GAMES: NO.43 (Liverpool FC)
“Crouch ended his much-publicised goal drought in style by bagging a brace as Liverpool turned on the style against Wigan at Anfield. The dubious goals committee even tried to take the opening goal off him when he found the net with a deflected strike from 20-yards out.”

Kop Star: Stephen Darby (This Is Anfield)
“Irrelevant of which side of the fence you chose to perch during the ‘flooding of the Reserves’ debate, there is no doubting, with the number of players fast-tracked to our reserve side, that it is tough times at Kirkby at the minute, if you are trying to break into the set-up at Melwood.”

Selfish; Inspirational; King of the Roost – Bob Paisley on Emlyn Hughes (Liverpool Kop)
“Emlyn ‘Crazy Horse’ spent 12 fantastic years at Liverpool FC and captained the club to consecutive European Cup victories in the 1970s. Here, in his own words, Bob Paisley provides an insight into how Hughes – never the most popular player at the club – fitted in at Anfield.”

Football Federations Around The Globe – A Look At The World Of Football

July 5, 2009

“The world of football is made up of 6 main football federations; UEFA, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL, AFC, CAF & OFC. These governing bodies look after different areas of world football, roughly along the lines of the geographical continents of the world.” (SoccerLens)

Estudiantes and Cruzeiro will meet in this year’s Libertadores final (World Soccer – Tim Vickery)
“The Final of the 50th Libertadores Cup will be between two sides in good form. Both Estudiantes of Argentina and Cruzeiro of Brazil go into the decider after having passed through the knock out rounds unbeaten – each had earlier inflicted a heavy defeat on the other when they were drawn together in the group phase.”

For Soccer to Flourish in the U.S., Its Doors Must Open (NYT)
“In the aftermath of a strong performance by the national team in the Confederations Cup, U.S. Soccer officials are confident that the sport’s time has arrived here. They are excited about the prospect of bringing young Hispanic and African-Americans into the mainstream. But any discussion about the future of soccer in the United States is like turning over a gigantic stone that has been in place for decades. Underneath is a colony of issues, involving race, ethnicity and economics.”

Player Profile: Steve Ogrizovic (Three Match Ban)
“Steve Ogrizovic is one of those players who I have no recollection of ever being young. In my mind he has always been old and was born in goal for Coventry City. Oggy as he was popularly known, enjoyed 16 years with Coventry and he holds the distinguished club record of 209 consecutive League appearances for a Coventry City player, from August 1984 to September 1989.”

Gre-nada (That’s On Point)
“Walking into my parent’s house with a tummy full of Fourth of July fried hot dogs and fried dough to give my father some company for the all-time epic grudge match between the U.S. and Grenada in the opening match of the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup Saturday night, my first impressive probably summed up the ensuing 90 minutes.”

Celtic Out – The Biggest Casualty Of The Summer (So Far) (twohundredpercent)
“It was as rapid as it was unexpected. Farsley Celtic thought that they had dodged the bullet of a High Court winding up order brought by HMRC. They were forced into administration by the Australian brewing giant Coors – another one of their creditors – earlier this week to prevent the winding up order from going through today, but the Football Conference threw a curve ball at them has thrown them into an – if anything – even more serious crisis than the one that they were already in.”

Czechs show promise at Grand Prix (Czechs show promise at Grand Prix)
“The Czech Republic showed useful form ahead of January’s 2010 UEFA European Futsal Championship by reaching the semi-finals at the prestigious Grand Prix in Brazil while Ukraine ended sixth, continental finals hosts Hungary came 12th and non-qualifiers Romania took an impressive bronze.”

Shamrock Rovers to take on galacticos (WSC)
“On July 20, a modest ground in the suburbs of Dublin will become the centre of the footballing universe. In the way that UFOs appear only in out-of-the-way areas, the galácticos MKII will touch down in south-west Dublin, when Real Madrid take on Shamrock Rovers in their long-awaited new home, Tallaght Stadium.”

What Football Shirts Are Hiding In Your Closet? (EPL Talk)
“There’s something beautiful about a football shirt. It’s not just the fabric, how it looks on you or what it represents. To me, it means so much more. It’s all about memories. When you wear a new one for the first time, such as any of the new football shirts for the 2009-2010 Premier League season, it’s all about the material and the identity of your club.”

Jamie Carragher

July 5, 2009

“James Lee Duncan ‘Jamie’ Carragher (born 28 January 1978) is an English footballer who plays as a defender for Premier League side Liverpool. He is the current vice-captain and is one of the club’s longest-serving players; he made his 500th appearance for Liverpool in all competitions in January 2008.” Wikipedia, ESPN, Dailymotion

Football transfer rumours: Peter Crouch to AC Milan?

July 4, 2009

“Cripes. The Mill was going to begin today with that Blackburn and Wolves are competing for the affection of Sol Campbell, but given the widespread gibbering about Michael Owen and Manchester United, we can’t rule out the creaking former England centreback being the subject of a gargantuan offer from Real Madrid.” (Guardian)

Give And Go Special: USA’s Landon Donovan (Goal)
“Los Angeles Galaxy captain – and occasional U.S. captain – Landon Donovan was one of the star players for the Americans in their unexpected run to the final in the Confederations Cup tournament. He scored the goal that temporarily put the USA up 2-0 on Brazil in that match, before the South Americans rallied for three goals and the title.”

Ivory Coast go top in Africa (BBC)
“Ivory Coast have overtaken Cameroon as the top team in Africa, matching their highest ever position in the Fifa world rankings. The Elephants are now 18th in the world, up 20 places on last month.”

Egypt skipper refuses to give up (BBC)
“Captain Ahmed Hassan insists Egypt can put their 2010 World Cup back on track with victory over Rwanda on Sunday. The Pharaohs lie bottom of Group C with just one point after drawing against Zambia and defeat to Algeria.”

On top of the world (Times)
“THE Confederations Cup has never been a big deal in the football world, but the tournament which ended at Ellis Park on Sunday certainly changed international perceptions. Even England took an interest. The chief reason was obvious: despite much evidence to the contrary, there is still some scepticism about South Africa’s ability to stage World Cup 2010. The foreign press corps came in their numbers to see whether we could successfully stage a dress- rehearsal for next year’s big thing.”

Top 10 English football exports to Turkey (Off The Post)
“As Darius Vassell mulls over a move to Turkey, we look at those who have blazed the trail for him.”

2010 World Cup Offers Continent Great Opportunity (allAfrica)
“THE Confederations Cup is the traditional dress rehearsal for the FIFA World Cup. And as far as dress rehearsals go, the 2009 Confederations Cup recently held in South Africa was a splendid advert for this Rainbow nation. On-pitch, the soccer tournament showcased the Beautiful Game in all its glorious unpredictability. Yet, it’s off-pitch that the showpiece had its most desirable impact.”

Chamakh-In The Ade Out With Laporta Bang To Rights (A Cultured Left Foot)
“Ready for your daily dose of high blood pressure? Insert your own rant here as Joan Laporta is accused of tapping up Cesc. It was of course entirely predictable since the, ahem, news that Cesc has apparently agreed to sign if Sandro Rosell wins the Presidential elections next summer. In fact, it would be of no surprise if a formal bid were made by the Catalans on political grounds even if they know that it will not be accepted since it will be easy for Laporta to run around chanting, “Liar, liar, pants on fire“, when Rosell makes his claim again next summer.”

TVGolo: Goals of the Week (101 Great Goals)

Owen set to have medical at Old Trafford

July 3, 2009

“Michael Owen could be a Manchester United player by the end of Friday after a day of medical checks in the city. The striker spent this morning at United’s training complex, Carrington, before heading to a south Manchester hospital for more tests. Owen left the hospital just after five o’clock and was understood to be returning to United’s Carrington training ground to complete the formalities of the move.” (ESPN)

Ten Top Shock Transfers (ESPN)
“With Michael Owen about to stun the football world and sign for Manchester United, we pick out 10 of the most interesting, and downright stupid, transfers of all time.”

Owen worth Man Utd gamble (BBC – Phil McNulty)
“Sir Alex Ferguson placed his faith in something he trusts far more than a glossy brochure when he picked up the phone and offered Michael Owen a new home at Manchester United. Owen’s management team produced the 32-page magazine advertising their client’s qualities – aspirational, cool, devoted and sincere to name but four – and delivered a slick reminder of why he was once one of football’s genuine superstars.”

Owen completes switch to Man Utd (BBC)
“Michael Owen has completed his surprise move to Manchester United after the free agent signed a two-year deal with the Premier League champions. The 29-year-old ex-Liverpool and Real Madrid striker’s contract with Newcastle ended earlier this week.”

On top of the world (Times)
“THE Confederations Cup has never been a big deal in the football world, but the tournament which ended at Ellis Park on Sunday certainly changed international perceptions. Even England took an interest. The chief reason was obvious: despite much evidence to the contrary, there is still some scepticism about South Africa’s ability to stage World Cup 2010. The foreign press corps came in their numbers to see whether we could successfully stage a dress- rehearsal for next year’s big thing.”

England’s summer of rejection (ESPN)
“Kaka chose Spain. Cristiano Ronaldo chose Spain. Franck Ribery, should he be granted a choice, appears likely to choose Spain. David Villa wants to remain there. So, despite the offer of becoming the best paid player in England, does Samuel Eto’o. Collectively, it amounts to a considerable snub.”

FC Barcelona: Samuel Eto ‘o & Signs of Bad Management III (Spanish Football & Sports)
“Does anyone remember that FC BARCELONA won “The Big 3” titles – Spanish League, Spanish Cup & Champions League – last year? To REAL MADRID presents their first new signing KAKÁ & there is no place on the World media for anything else, except the news conference that SAMUEL ETO ´O´s representative has given this morning to give their version of what some are already calling the first pre-season “Barça crisis”. How can FC Barcelona be in crisis after finishing their most successful season in their history?”

Referees empowered to act against racism

July 2, 2009

“UEFA’s Executive Committee has approved guidelines for match officials to deal with serious racist incidents in stadiums.” (uefa)

Six years on… (ESPN)
“After six years with Soccernet I am moving on to pastures new. Given my impending departure and an unhealthy, nay, nerdy interest in the business of football now seems an opportune moment to assess the health of the UK game and see what, if anything, has changed in my time covering the game for ESPN.”

Fernando Torres says that Rafael Benitez has made him a better player (Times)
“Fernando Torres, the Liverpool and Spain forward, believes that Rafael Benitez has made him a better player in the two seasons since he moved to Merseyside. Torres was known as a player of immense potential when he arrived at Anfield in the summer of 2007 from Atletico Madrid, but not as a prolific goalscorer.”

The top 10 stars of the Libertadores (SI)
“The 50th edition of South America’s Champions League, the Copa Libertadores, is set for a thrilling climax, with the return legs of both semifinals scheduled for this week. With Nacional of Uruguay taking on Argentina’s Estudiantes de La Plata and an all-Brazilian affair of Grêmio up against Cruzeiro, fans will be treated to two matches embroidered with history and still wide open after the first-leg results.”

ESPN planning World Cup blowout (SI)
“It’s been said before: John Skipper is that rare American who can equally negotiate the worlds of Craven Cottage and Ricky Craven. As ESPN’s executive vice president for content, Skipper has a major hand in the programming you see on the network and his fondness for soccer is no Beckham-come-lately act. He is a devoted supporter of Tottenham, the plucky London-based English Premier League team, and has spanned the globe with his two children visiting some of soccer’s most famous cathedrals.”

The Sands of Time: Doomsday for the Original Franchise FC? (Pitchinvasion)
“While a good majority of the negative attention surrounding relocation of football clubs is aimed at McDons (Milton Keynes Dons, the franchise that replaced Wimbledon F.C.), and with good reason, many tend to forget that they were not the first in Britain. In Scotland, what is now Livingston FC did the same thing in 1995 when they, then known as Meadowbank Thistle, abandoned Edinburgh in favor of a new stadium in the new town of Livingston, West Lothian.”

ThreeMatchBan Top 10: World Cup Finalists Who Chose Mid-Table Obscurity… Or Worse (Three Match Ban)

“The Premier League has witnessed many World Cup winners in its brief but illustrious history, but only 10 players have appeared for clubs other than Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal and witnessed the humdrum of mid-table obscurity. Those brave souls who have tasted the pinnacle of football success as champions of the world, but chose to play for a club whose existence is based around more than just winning trophies every season have finally been recognised in chronological order.”

Top 10 goals from the Confederations Cup (101 Great Goals)

The Evolution of Brazilian Football

July 1, 2009

“Brazilian football, unlike any other cultural interpretation of a particular sport, has the ability to conjure up in one’s mind an essence of mystery, of carnival, of rhythm, of unadulterated joy and freedom. Futebol is so deeply, so passionately interwoven into the fabric of Brazilian culture that the two entities are inextricably linked, they define each other and share an intrinsic identity, an instantly recognisable global image.” (SoccerLens)

Trouble blights Huracan’s renaissance

July 1, 2009

“There’s a famous South American film with a title that translates as ‘God and the Devil in the Land of the Sun.’ It’s Brazilian, set in the country’s arid northeast. But it is Argentina that has the sun in the middle of its flag, and the title could easily and appropriately apply to events in Buenos Aires. Good and evil are not hard to find in Argentine football, sometimes in the same place – such as the Huracan club at the moment.” (BBC – Tim Vickery)

Football is ‘vulnerable’ to money laundering, but no names named (Guardian)
“Today’s report by the Financial Action Task Force raises the spectre, in calm, plain language, that football is vulnerable to criminals, who might take over beloved local clubs or use the transfer system to launder dirty money or evade tax. Some of it is not mightily surprising, but still, there is something startling about reading these warnings, set out calmly in an official report by an inter-governmental body whose job is ‘to protect the global financial system against money laundering and terrorist financing.'”

North/South Divide in Western Hemisphere (NYT)
“In soccer in the Western Hemisphere, North is North and South is South and they shall rarely meet on the soccer field. That was the word Tuesday from Concacaf, the sport’s governing body for the North, Central American and Caribbean region, which said that its club teams would no longer take part in the Copa Sudaméricana — primarily because the competition will put a strain on its regional club teams and conflict with the Concacaf Champions League, which will begin its second tournament in late July.”

Peru’s players have acted in a bid to arrest a decline in standards, writes Brian Homewood (World Soccer)
“Peruvian players have threatened they will boycott the national team unless sweeping and deep-rooted changes are made to the way football is run in their country. The Peruvian Players Union have sent a document to the federation (FPF) setting out what it sees as the reforms which are needed to end the seemingly interminable decline.”

Cana Dig It? Yes, You Can & All White On The Night (A Cultured Left Foot)
“Oh dear Arsene, what are you going to do? Felipe Melo has signed a new contract extension, which explains the transfer buzz that was created around him, at Fiorentina to whom will you turn now that your primary target has probably got a hugely inflated escape clause surrounding him?”

Who will be market movers? (BBC – Phil McNulty)
“Manchester City’s “stratospheric” efforts to muscle in on the Premier League’s elite Gang of Four have set a searing pace in the summer transfer market. Gareth Barry has already been snared from Aston Villa, along with Blackburn Rovers striker Roque Santa Cruz – but they increasingly appear to be mere warm-up acts for the forthcoming main attractions.”

The fine tuning of pre-season (BBC – Paul Fletcher)
“June turns into July and the sanctuary of the beach gives way to the toil of the training ground in the scorching summer sun as players return for pre-season.”

Owen A Debt Of Gratitude To A Brochure? (Three Match Ban)
“Politeness costs nothing, so first of all, thank you Michael Owen for the brochure, but I will not be taking the opportunity to sign a ‘ruthlessly determined person who is desperate to be back in the England squad.’”

Defender leads from the front (FIFA)
“Australia’s successful qualification campaign for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa was built on a remarkably consistent and thrifty defensive line. Marshalling the back-four virtually throughout the 14-match campaign was captain Lucas Neill, whose consistency played a key role in helping his side achieve a national FIFA World Cup record of seven consecutive clean sheets.”