Friday, January 30, 2009

Canadian Soccer Supporters Need to Recruit

Happier Times with the Canadian National Men's Team

A while ago AMSL asked the question: what the hell is actually wrong with the Canadian Soccer Association? Since then I've read blog after blog after blog, finding only a vague nebula of complaints about 'provincial interests' and 'incompetent management' and 'lack of funding.' The only point in common seems to be the most obvious: the CSA isn't equipped for the requirements of the modern international game.

This past Thursday, Canadian midfielder and Deportivo Del Coruna player Julian De Guzman let his feelings about the CSA be known: "It feels like we're taking a step backwards. That's the feeling in the whole association. They lack knowledge about the present game." The CSA of course has kept mum on De Guzman's comments, while the Canadian soccer community has either shown outright support or lukewarm admonishment for whom many think is currently Canada's best player.

De Guzman certainly has a point. Canada may have only one or two pre-tournament friendlies before participating in the CONCACAF Gold Cup this July, and our dismal performance in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers would have been a national embarassment had any major media outlets bothered to give it substantive coverage.

But we've been here before, and it goes something like this: player reams out the CSA (like Jim Brennan did last year), blogs go all a twitter about how the CSA needs to be restructured, nothing gets done because national team success is not a priority for the CSA (something they've indirectly acknowledged time and time again), blogs equivocate, mumble something about 'restructuring,' and the 'Crawford Report,' followed by dead air until the next player outburst.

The situation is a bit of a Catch-22. Some Canadian soccer fans acknowledge there needs to be wider interest in Canada in soccer, not as a participatory game but as a serious national sport, before real change can happen. Certainly any restructuring of the CSA will not be successful without increased government funding, and no funding will come without political pressure. So how do you make a poorly-performing national team popular nation-wide? Part of the answer to my mind is working to recruit football fans who currently know or care little of Canadian soccer.

The irony is hardcore fans of Canadian soccer, usually the noisiest of the anti-CSA crowd, aren't helping. There is a widespread assumption among soccer fans in Canada that both the government and the nation should have a de facto, a priori interest in the Canadian game, regardless of whether soccer has any popular support. Others look to Toronto FC's success as a sign that change is on its way. Maybe, but the fact is many Toronto FC fans probably couldn't name even three of Canada's starting eleven and likely don't even know what CSA stands for, although they could name the entire squad for Man United, or Real Madrid, or Celtic. They feel, quite rightly, that Canadian national soccer culture is insular and boring.

Yet these are the ones who need to be recruited to the cause of the Canadian national team, the European and South American club supporters, the infamous immigrants who give Canadian soccer fans grief by waving foreign flags in Canadian stadiums, the kids who grew up watching Serie A and La Liga and the Copa Libertadores. I don't know how this happens exactly, but I do know that Toronto FC is an extremely valuable tool, a bridge between these two sometimes antagonistic football cultures. I'm not convinced it's been used effectively by those who rant and rail against the mismanagement of our national team.

A few scattered, illegible black shirts don't count.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I am a Mistake-Prone, Back-Stabbing Traitor

We're up to three pissed off clubs -- this time I've got fellow Aston Villa fans in a tizzy because I went and said Aston Villa's success in the Premier League makes no sense whatsoever.

I didn't help myself by calling David Moyes Chris Moyes, or by mixing up Gareth Barry with Gabby Agbonlahor (the snow is affecting my synapses), but man, I don't know how much more abuse I can take. We'll find out once I've gotten through riling up the seventeen other Premier League teams.

I'm Obsessed with Portuguese Sports Bars





My first post for the Torontoist went up on Monday, so to celebrate, here are some pictures of my favourite Portuguese Sports Bars in Toronto taken last year by yours truly. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I am a Glassed DJ

Please, stop asking who I am! I told you, I don't know!

So, as EPL Talk's 'comedy writer,' I've discovered that Manchester City and Arsenal supporters can be a bit...earnest. Today's write-up brings more colourful comments about my 'inept hackery' and helpful suggestions for me to 'suck an egg with my sympathy' and to 'stick it up my ass and fucking smoke it you charlie.' Charlie! Good god, I don't even know what era that comes from!

And that's only two clubs out of twenty. Let's see how far down the rabbit hole we can go, shall we?

I'm also apparently writing for the Torontoist (hence the recent delay in posting, as I have to, you know, try to write well and stuff). So fellow Torontonian soccer fanatics, if there's a story and you want it covered, talk to the jerk.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I Am Sol Cambell Away at Tottenham

Wait -- ow! I take it back! Mark Hughes is a genius!
Long Live ADUG!

This marks the first time I've been called a cunt, a cock, unfunny, puerile, Richard Shittall, retarded, pathetic, a pathetic piece of shite, a potential toilet-scrubber, brilliant(!), and a waste of space all before noon EST. Well, at least since middle school.

But I guess with twenty or so hateful comments already...mission accomplished? Erm, 'enjoy.'

Monday, January 19, 2009

Kaka Does Not Exist

Milan's Very Own Masal Bugduv

It's been a fabulous weekend; singing Bach's Mass in B Minor in Montreal under the direction of Montreal Symphony Orchestra conductor Kent Nagano with my evil Anglo squarehead ensemble, Tafelmusik; watching Villa win against form YET AGAIN, preposterously beating Stoke two-nil; and witnessing fellow web-enthusiast Fredorrarci shoot up the MSM charts by revealing that Arsenal-target Masal Bugduv does not exist.

Well how about this clanger? Neither does Kaka.

You read that right: Kaka, Brazilian midfielder, winner of the European and World Cup, does not in fact exist.

I don't mean in the bland literal sense of there not being a physical person named Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite who plays for a football club in Milan.

I'm speaking of Kaka, lover of Christ, charitable donor, hawker of boots and shoes and shirts, the man who Manchester City's new owners deemed worthy of a transfer of 100 million pounds, payment of 500 000 pounds a week, the man who can singlehandedly transform a struggling midlands club into a European powerhouse. That man is not there. Manchester City have been saved at the eleventh hour from buying a football player who does not exist.

Come to think of it, Maradona doesn't exist either; Barruchaga wouldn't recognize the idiot-savant both glorified and villified endlessly on Youtube-- he will however be forever greatful for the sublime pass from an unparalleled playmaker toward the end of the '86 final against Germany.

Pele doesn't exist either, except as the FIFA-approved 'King of Football'-- it was Edison Edson Arantes do Nascimento who trained his socks off at Santos, learned the art of self-marketing, and completed the first ever mega-siging in football history when he went to New York in 1975.

At least Edson, after sustaining an injury in the first round, had the chance to watch Manuel Francisco dos Santos inspire Brazil to another World Cup triumph in Chile, 1962, not long before the latter's horrific struggle with alcohol and depression. The man we saw, Garrincha, is Brazil's foolish saint, that happy trickster caught on diffuse black and white bits of film, a figure as apocryphal as St. Christopher. And Manuel still carries Garrnicha's weight -- his family remains in poverty while Brazil's national football musuem gives passing homage to the myth bearing his nickname.

The Manchester City saga is indicative of how the transfer market, much like much many of our socio-economic signifiers, dislodges enourmous political and commercial capital over nothing more than shadow-play. Whether speaking of Kaka, subprime mortgages, or Barack Obama, the cliche still holds: myths are always too good to be true.

And football, like the economy now teetering on the edge because some Wall Street bankers thought housing prices would keep rising until Jesus did, tends to deal in reality.

A Manchester City with Kaka and Ronaldo and Robinho will still be a Manchester City in the middle of the Premier League table by mid-May. Football's myths crash hard when they're defending a Delap throw-in on a godawful February evening in Lancashire, or working off a hangover instead of working on the basics, or leaving football aside to do thirty-second spots for a video game featuring their photoshoped likeness on the cover.

Just ask Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, grateful to get his second chance at Milan as Ronaldinho; or Real Madrid's entire starting lineup circa 2005, now retired or injured or sold down.

So here's to Ricardo dos Santos Leite for staying at Milan -- by doing so he's ensured the myth of Kaka will go on at least until his testamonial. Or when he decides to start a beach volleyball tournament.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Team Talk with Martin O'Neill, According to Tony Mowbray

Hey! Wipe that interested look off your face!

West Brom boss Tony Mowbray has launched an attack on Aston Villa – saying they are "not really interested in playing football."

“Villa do well because they have got defenders who head it and kick it basically and defend their goal, which is a crucial part of the game,” he told the Express & Star.

“At the other end of the pitch, they have got a striker who scores goals every time he goes on the pitch.

“Ultimately, that’s what football is about – stopping it at one end and scoring at the other. They’re winning football matches."


Alright boys, first things first: you are not interested in playing football. I know 'playing football' may seem to be what we do week in and week out, but if that's really what you think, you should go ahead and douse your Villa shirt with gasoline and set it on fire, preferably while you're wearing it. It's not worthy of you.

We are Villa. We are not interested in 'playing football.'

You, Laursen, Zat, Davies -- your job is to head the ball and kick it basically and defend your goal, which is a crucial part of the game. But don't look too interested while you're doing it. Especially you Laursen.

Moving along; Gabby, your job is to score a goal every time you go out on the pitch. Impossible you say? Well then you shouldn't be playing for Martin O'Neill's Aston Villa. You're out. Harewood, you're in. Harewood - same thing I told Gabby.

Look people, ultimately that's what football is all about, stopping it at one end and scoring at the other. Oh, and doing both as disinterestedly as possible.

So, summing up, don't be interested in playing football, just defend the goal by heading the ball and basically kicking it, and then you Harewood, go out and score everytime you go out on the pitch. Okay?

Put your hands down everyone, I'm not answering questions. We're winning football matches, what more do you want?




Monday, January 12, 2009

Pato: "Beckham's Heroically-Misplaced Crosses Inspired Me to Go and Score"

Yup, meant to do that too

Rome (Reuters) Just as the British-press was about to write off the debut performance of everyone's favourite England also-ran, David Beckham, up popped Pato to defend the one-legged ball hoofer.

"At first, I wasn't sure of myself, but Beckham, he kept crossing into the box off of [Roma defender Phillipe] Mexes head, and it inspired me to forget waiting for service and just charge at goal myself. Without David, I would have waited for the perfect ball to come in the box. I owe my performance to him."

Beckham was pleased with Pato's performance in front of goal but was quick to give credit where credit was due. "Yeah, it's true. I could see he was a bit sluggish, him and Kaka there, in the box, so I thought if I just, you know, bounce the ball off the Roma defence every single cross in, they'd get all frustrated and just do the work themselves. It's like at those burrito places where you're not sure if there's a waiter or not; I was just telling [Pato] that he had to order at the cash."

Ancelloti went on to explain, "To get Beckham with the squad we have, Pirlo, Jankulovski, he doesn't fit in at all. It's ridiculous right? Well now you know why he's a Milan player." Ancelloti says he plans to have Beckham put the ball repeatedly into touch, misplace passes and pick up spurious yellow cards as a way to motivate his aging squad. "He is a living public service announcement," he explained. "Who wouldn't want that?"

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Joe Kinnear Fumes as Alan Wiley Disallows Carroll Goal for 'Inappropriate Cornrows'

Big mistake, pal.

Tyneside (AP) Newcastle manager Joe Kinnear fumed over Alan Wiley's decision to disallow Andy Carroll's goal for 'inappropriate cornrows' after Newcastle's 2-1 loss to West Ham United on Saturday afternoon. The defeat leaves Newcastle in sixteenth place in the Premier League table.

"You know, these are hard fought games, and to have a goal disallowed like that...the FA should review it's rules because this is a [expletive] full of shiny bits of [expletive]."

Wiley later explained the decision, indicating that "[Carroll]'s hairstyle is completely unacceptable. I mean does he think he grew up in South Central Los Angeles or something? The ball became tainted once it came off his head on the header. I was left with no choice."

West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola was sympathetic to Kinnear but went on to state, "Cornrows? I mean...I am still getting used to managing in the newer Premier League, but...cornrows. Please. He should have known better."

Sources close to the FA say any official appeal will likely be rejected in principle.

Carroll has yet to make any comment, although sources in the dressing room say he understands he made a mistake and plans to visit cities in the Southern United States as part of an apology tour this summer. Newcastle may decide to auction off the clipped bits of braided hair collected from the dressing room for charity.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I am Ronaldo's Ferrari

This is okay because no one got hurt, right? Right!?

Before the accident, Ronaldo never oiled me, changed my tires, or cleaned out the empty moisturizing bottles from my back seat.

I am Ronaldo's Ferrari.

Getting him to and fro from his beautiful Cheshire home to United's training ground in Carrington, I was able to hit speeds of 315 Km/h. I wasn't going quite that fast when Ronaldo smashed my face open against a tunnel barrier yesterday, but after 180 clicks it all feels pretty much the same.

I know this because I am Ronaldo's Ferrari.

I have witnessed disgusting things, horrible horrible things. I learned to dread the month of May; the parties, the conga line of United defenders and their non-WAGS on my back seat. All over the leather interior. Did Ronaldo take time from his summer vacation to have my insides cleaned out?

No, because I am Ronaldo's Ferarri.

I remember when I first saw him at that car dealership in Lisbon. Everyone was there, the owner, the owner's brother. Little did I know I would be the chosen one. Those cleats felt a little weird at first during the test drive, but eventually I got used to them hammering my pedal to the plush sheepskin floor. I pictured us racing along the Atlantic coastline, wind completely not affecting his immaculate hair, like one of those car ads from the early nineties when sports cars were really cool. Then he drove me to England and I thought my windsheild wipers would fall off from fatigue.

I was Ronaldo's constantly wet Ferarri.

You'd think I'd be bitter about getting turned into scrap. But this way I finally get to enjoy my moment in the limelight. Ronaldo escaped completely unharmed, so that can only be good for my safety rating, right? And I'm only slightly upset that Van der Saar's poncy Bentley grabbed a sentence in the police report.

Yes, all told, I am happy I am no longer Ronaldo's Ferarri.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Fuming Hughes keen to dump three Manchester City rebels -- Guardian Headline

Dearest Leader


To the Glorious Victors of the Eastlands Revolution!

Peoples of the Blue Moon! Your struggle for emancipation from the grinding gears of mid-table mediocrity requires nothing less than eternal vigilance! Our triumph over the forces of decadence in the Eee Pee El demands constant spiritual and intellectual rigour!

Your subservience and fealty to our neighbouring oppressors is coming to an epic final close! Now is not the time to succumb to the tantalizing allure of slothful self-proclaimed reformers within Man City who would seek to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory!

These bourgeois elements are attempting to undermine the Dressing Room Politburo under the Democratically-Elected Great Leader Mark Hughes. They would seek to reap chaos where our glorious Abu Dhabi overlords have sown joy! They must be rooted out for the sake of the Revolution -- Elano, Jo and Ben Haim -- and in their place we must have the midfielding wizardry of Wayne Bridge, among an as yet unknown group of others!

We are reaching the world-historical apex, the age of City dominance in the Great League of England! On to victory, Brothers in Blue! You have nothing to lose but your innate inferiority complex and some middling bench warmers who are clearly anxious about their future in the wake of a madcap spending spree!


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Magic of the Cup: A Simple Recipe

Hmm, that's some good Third Round Action!

The Magic of the Cup is a hearty dish, but it requires very special consideration to 'come off.' It can easily spoil, doesn't usually keep very long (quaterfinals if you're lucky), and can leave fans with upset stomachs, and in severe cases, especially with regard to fawning members of the English press, logorrhea. Here is a surefire recipe that, with a bit of luck, will help your FA Cup fixture rise to the occasion.

Ingredients:

  • 1 League Two side (I recommend a side that's struggling in the league, also with 'Town' somewhere in club name. Can be substituted at your own risk with a Conference side. Should have lots of aging premier League Stars or failed siblings of current Premier League stars for flavouring.)

  • 1 Premier League Club (again, if you're ambitious, a top four side can be used. One with an under-fire manager is preferable.)

  • 1 Creaky Small Town Park (I recommend one with lots of Victorian-era chimneys in the background, standing terraces, as well as a car-park near the south stand. Hoarding signs should include local plumbers, a regional real estate company, and if possible, a local anti-crime toll-free number.)

  • Lots and lots of salty language from stands immediately beneath commentary booth mixed with some classic FA Cup cliches by the announcers.
Take the League Two side. Make sure you mix-well in the six-yard box, putting a lot of unexpected pressure on the Premier League side. Next, score 1 (one) goal against Premier League side within the first fifteen minutes (be careful not to wait too long or the fixture won't come to a boil). Goalscorer should be an unknown seventeen year-old from neighbouring town.

Next, have the Premier League side score a demoralizing equalizer. This should come as closely as possible to the 45' mark for maximum deflation; I recommend a goal from an offside position. Best results if goal scorer is hated continental international and Ballon D'Or winner.

Once half time is finished, have the twenty-year League Two goal-keeper make a series of unbelievable stops for about ten to fifteen minutes, until the clock reads 60'. This should be carefully followed with a series of very good chances for League Two side. The crowd should be quite loud at this point, so temper the action to make sure they don't over-do it before the final ten minutes.

Around the sixty-fifth minute, substitute now-tiring goal-scorer with aging former Premier League star. Keep League Two chances building until the 80th minute. About this time you'll want the League Two goal-keeper red carded for an heroic last minute challenge on Ballon D'Or winner. If you feel like making it spicy, the penalty can be controversial (careful: an outright dive can risk on-field violence, which can really screw up the magic.) The keeper's fifteen year-old substitute should make a miracle save.

Finally, and this is the tricky part, after withstanding lots of pressure from the Premier League side, you'll want aging League Two former Premier League forward to score last minute winner. My own preference is for free headers on the edge of the box, but many also like freekicks (be creative!). As for timing, I find the second minute of extra-time does quite nicely, although others prefer a bit earlier so the game can finish off with lots of nerve-racking moments in League Two six yard box. By this time the home stands should be really cooking, so feel free to finish with a pitch invasion after fulltime.

Et voila! The perfect Magic of the Cup to help warm you on a cold January afternoon. Enjoy in moderation.