Messi’s Brilliance Transcends His Numbers

December 12, 2012

Levante UD vs FC Barcelona
“It was Pep Guardiola, the former manager of Barcelona, who once suggested that Lionel Messi should be observed instead of dissected. He is, after all, widely considered the world’s greatest soccer player, not a biology project. ‘Don’t try to write about him,’ Guardiola said. ‘Don’t try to describe him. Watch him.’ Last Sunday, Messi set an international record by scoring his 86th goal in a calendar year, for both Barcelona and the Argentine national team, delivering an average of one goal every four days, more frequently than a starting pitcher takes the mound, as often as Starbucks opens a new store in China. But Messi is best appreciated, Guardiola admonished, in the virtuosity of the moment, not against the backdrop of history and statistics. Soccer, like figure skating, demands art as much as sport. This is not baseball, where numbers mean so much that they seem to carry a moral weight. Soccer’s beauty is that it surpasses mathematics, or, in Barcelona’s case, conjures a sublime human geometry of triangular passing and movement.” NY Times

A Record 40 Years in the Making – Lionel Messi breaks Gerd Müller’s record
“It was a record most did not expect to be broken in their lifetime yet the history books have been rewritten by a player who just turned 25 this summer. Gerd Müller was 27 when he set a world record that remained untouched for 40 years and 16 minutes into Barcelona’s game against Betis Sevilla this weekend the prodigious Lionel Messi equalled Müller’s record of 85 goals in a calendar year. Almost inevitably and with the sports world holding its collective breath, less than ten minutes later he broke it with the eventual match winner. Somewhere in Munich meanwhile a sixty-seven year old Gerd Müller nodded in approval, knowing that the torch had finally been passed on four decades later.” Bundesliga Fanatic


The Writer & The Economist: An Interview with Soccernomics’ Authors

December 12, 2012

“Two weeks ago I was given the opportunity to conduct a Skype interview with Simon Kuper (from Paris) and Stefan Szymaski (from Ann Arbor, Michigan). It couldn’t have been a better representation of how global soccer had become – me, being a recent convert and blogger through watching digital TV feeds from England, talking to men located halfway around the world who had grown up watching and writing about it for a living. What ensued was a nearly fifty minute conversation on all the topics covered in their latest edition of Soccernomics: how the partnership works so well between two writers from very different schools of writing, why the Moneyball approach failed at Liverpool, their thoughts on financial fair play, and how match data is transforming the game. They offered me a few insights into what they might include in the next edition of the book, as well as what they’re working on in the immediate future. They even gave me their thoughts on the Robin Van Persie situation at Arsenal and their predictions for the Champions League final and European Championships. In all, it is 7000 words of insight from two of the preeminent authors in soccer journalism today.” Forbes

Horncastle: Udinese’s dedicated lone away supporter against Sampdoria reveals turnout issues in Serie A

December 12, 2012

“Arrigo Brovedani walked alone so that his team Udinese didn’t have to when they played Sampdoria in Genova on Monday night. ‘Walked’ is used in a figurative sense here. Because Brovedani actually drove. ‘I just got in the car and went,’ he said, as if a 500km, five-hour trip from his home in Spilimbergo in the northeast corner of Italy near the Slovenian border, all the way across to Genoa in the northwest was like venturing out to the corner shop to get a carton of milk. In truth, Brovedani had to be there on business. He works for a wine company and had meetings to attend to in the area. That they just happened to coincide with an Udinese game couldn’t have turned out any better. As an away fan, obtaining a ticket without the much-maligned and controversial tessera del tifoso identity card wasn’t easy. Many would rather not go and watch football than get one and forego their civil liberties and be treated with suspicion. Yet Brovedani was undaunted.” The Score

The forgotten story of … Heleno de Freitas

December 12, 2012

“For most in Brazil, what happened in the Rasunda Stadium in 1958 was a gleeful affirmation of what they had always known. They were the world’s great football nation and beating the hosts, Sweden, in the final was vindication after the trauma of the defeat to Uruguay in the Maracanã eight years earlier. In an asylum in Barbacena in the state of Minas Gerais, patients clustered anxiously round a radio as the game entered the final minute. A cross came over, Pelé rose and made it 5-2: the world title was confirmed. Patients and staff celebrated together – all except one. In his room, alone, Heleno de Freitas filled his mouth with cigarettes, lit them all and tried to smoke himself to death.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Heleno de Freitas
“Heleno de Freitas, nicknamed Prince Cursed, (born 12 February 1920 in São João Nepomuceno, Brazil; died 8 November 1959 in Barbacena) was a Brazilian footballer. The striker spent most of his career with Botafogo, scoring 209 goals for the club, most with his head. In 1948 he transferred to Boca Juniors in Argentina, but returned to Brazil the following year, winning the 1949 Campeonato Carioca with Vasco. He ended his career with América in Rio, he played only one match for the club and it was the first and last game in the Maracanã. He died in 1959 in a sanatorium in Barbacena.” Wikipedia

Inter 2-1 Napoli: Cassano & Insigne the key men but Guarin provides the most important contributions

December 12, 2012

“Inter leapfrogged Napoli and into second place in Serie A. Andrea Stramaccioni was without Walter Samuel, so moved Esteban Cambiasso into the centre of defence. Walter Mazzarri brought Christian Maggio back into the starting line-up, but otherwise named an unchanged side. This was a good, open game of football – Inter stormed into a 2-0 lead and although Napoli fought back, they couldn’t quite find an equaliser, partly thanks to some fine Inter defending.” Zonal Marking

Roma 4-2 Fiorentina: Roma attack three v three

December 12, 2012

“An extraordinarily open game at the Stadio Olimpico. Zdenek Zeman named an unchanged side from the XI which defeated Siena 3-1, which meant Daniele De Rossi was only on the bench after his return from suspension. Vincenzo Montella was without two key players – Stevan Jovetic and David Pizarro. Adem Ljajic was also out, so Montella surprisingly named Juan Cuadrado as a support striker behind Luca Toni, bringing in Mattia Cassano on the right. Ruben Oliveira replaced Pizarro at the bottom of the midfield. 4-2 wasn’t unfair, but a better reflection of the match would have been 7-4…” Zonal Marking

The rise and fall of the great British football comic

December 12, 2012

“In a number of areas, British comics are enjoying something of a resurgence at the moment. There are a slew of intelligent and inventive indie comics creators, particularly working in the autobiographical field, in print and online. British writers and artists are again among the foremost talents pushing the envelope in the mainstream superhero field. And even 2000 AD is going through a fresh purple patch of critical acclaim and publicity for both the weekly comic, and the cult hit Dredd movie adaptation.” New Statesman