Foot in your Eye!

Ever have one of those moments where you know that the other guy is gonna kick that chest-high ball but if you were to stick your head in there you would get the ball before him and it would create a counter-attack possibly leading to a goal-scoring opportunity? On the debit side of the ledger, if you stick your head in there, it will almost certainly get kicked.

What would you do in that situation?

I stuck my head in there. It got kicked.

Proud to be a Fan

After the world cup, I said:

I hope beyond hope that Ferguson is able to work his magic and keep Ronaldo at ManU but, even if he does, this year will be extremely difficult for him.

Well, Fergie did work his magic and Ronaldo is still there and just gets better and better every week. He is easily the best player on the team right now. It’s nice to see that other people think so too:

Shirt number all but obliterated with mud, Cristiano Ronaldo’s early departure from the latest instalment of Manchester United’s thrilling renaissance was accompanied by the fans behind Brad Friedel’s goal hissing expletives and flashing V-signs, all presumably in the cause of In-ger-land. There was nothing new there except that on this occasion it was balanced by a scene of near-mutinous proportions. High in the adjacent Jack Walker stand there were Blackburn Rovers supporters applauding, rising to their feet in a show of old-fashioned politeness for a footballer who is wholly unaccustomed to being afforded such manners.

World poverty might be wiped out before some football fans will bring themselves to acknowledge Ronaldo’s more endearing traits but the applause was sustained and perhaps also unprecedented. Supporters the length and breadth of the country have tried to break his soul but, having failed so miserably, this was the first public recognition (outside Manchester) for the strength of character Ronaldo has shown since his World Cup ended with the Sun newspaper superimposing his face on a dartboard and a publicly stated desire to leave behind this country of rain and recrimination.

Sunday’s report in the Guardian

What a pleasant change to read something positive about football fans!

Soccer is skill-based

Raph Koster uses an analogy with sports to make a point about structure in multi-player games. He chose the wrong sport though.

First some terminology. Most of the recent online games require you to choose a class (a healer, a warrior, a wizard or whatever) and you are then constrained to learn only those skills that that class is allowed to learn. When you form a group to battle the dragon, you have to choose a balanced mix of classes – a healer to heal, a warrior to fight, a wizard to cast spells – because, clearly, there is no way that a warrior might know some magic or that wizards might learn some first aid. This gives the games, to me, an artificial feel. It takes away opportunities to improvise.

A lot of sports are like that – American football, baseball, cricket, rugby – they have rules about who can throw the ball, who can wear extra padding, who can stand in front of the back foot of the scrum. As a result, the people who excel at those sports start to look a little freaky. All the locks are 8ft 3in tall, all the linemen are 400lbs, all the batters look like they are on steroids.

Soccer is not like that. There are only two classes. The goalkeeper and everyone else. The goalkeeper is a special case (and freaky) but everyone else has the same skills – they all tackle, they all pass, they all score goals, they all cross the ball. They just have different blends of the same set of skills.

Look at Henry. You probably wouldn’t even pick him out as a sportsman. He just looks like an ordinary chap but he is one of the best players in the world. Look at Ashley Cole & Gabriel Heinze. Both defenders by trade but both able to slot in to the attack as well as any world-class winger. Players in the same role often have wildly different skills sets – Rossi, Rooney, Crouch, Adriano, Drogba and Shevchenko are all strikers.
Go to any random city in the world and find a group of 12 years to play some soccer and they will all be able to play in any position. Some will be better goal scorers, some will naturally choose to defend. Sure, they’ll argue over who is going to go in goal because goalkeeping is a different animal altogether. It’s the exception that proves the rule.

Soccer is skill-based. That’s just one more reason why soccer is the beautiful game.

EE! AYE! ADIO! We’re gonna win the league!

Don’t be expecting these every week now – unless we stay on top 🙂

Pos Team Pld W D L F A Diff Pts
1 Man. Utd. 2 2 0 0 8 1 7 6
2 Portsmouth 2 1 1 0 3 0 3 4
3 West Ham 2 1 1 0 4 2 2 4
7 Chelsea 2 1 0 1 4 2 2 3

I tried to put twenty quid on a ManU/Saha double at 66-1 but the mean old betting sites wouldn’t take my american money. I would be already counting my winnings about now!

We’re gonna win the league! We’re gonna win the league!

Ronaldo was back home safely, Rooney was in devastating form, Scholes was back to his old self. What more could you ask for on the first day of the new season?

Pos Team Pld W D L F A Diff Pts
1 Man. Utd. 1 1 0 0 5 1 4 3
2 Chelsea 1 1 0 0 3 0 3 3
3 Portsmouth 1 1 0 0 3 0 3 3

Enjoy it while it lasts!

Too old to go in goal

I don’t need to go in goal to appreciate how hard it is to be a goalie. I already know it’s hard. Playing on the wing is hard too but nobody tells goalies that they should try playing on the wing so they can appreciate how hard it is.

You are never to old to rock and roll but I am definitely too old to play in goal. I hurt. I’ll never play in goal again.

We Didn’t Qualify !! Yippee !!

We got there at 8:30 and it was already over 95°. There were just a few trees on a neighboring property and everyone was crammed under that tiny scrap of shade as we waited for the first game to start. By the second game there was no shade at all.

During that second game, our goalie was sent off with a red card performance that would have made Zidane’s mother proud and we struggled on with 10 men. After the game, I bought two of those large bottles of Gatorade and quaffed them straight down leaving me looking like a pot-bellied Biafran refugee.

The temperature had passed 110° as the third game got underway but luckily a hot wind that stank of horseshit had blown up. Someone announced that, because of the eccentric scoring system they were using (points for clean sheets, points for goals, points deducted for cards), if we won with a clean sheet and some other team lost, we would qualify for the knockout round on Sunday. The last game was a bad tempered affair with players falling down with cramp and we won with a clean sheet.

We trudged sadly up to the results desk to confirm the bad news and the lady there told us with a smile that the other team had in fact lost and that we were tied on points. Fortunately, that red card meant that we would not we playing tomorrow. A tiny cheer went up among our team and we resolved to buy a crate of beer for our fiery Italian goalie. We had dodged the bullet.

I am sorry to say that I have no great pee stories from Saturday. I have no pee stories at all for I did not pee on Saturday.

Epilogue

I went for a swim later that evening. Remember when your mum used to tell you not to go swimming after eating cos you’d get cramp. I have some advice to add. Never go swimming after playing football for 3 hours under the hot desert sun in record temperatures. You’ll get cramp. I did anyway. Cramp in both calfs and both thighs simultaneously. I sank.

Football Tournament

I am playing in a football tournament tomorrow in Morgan Hill. We have three 60 minute games. In the middle of the day. In the middle of the desert.

Hope it’s not hot! Forecast says “partly cloudy” so it should be fine.

Saturday

102° F | 67° F
39° C | 19° C

Sunday

103° F | 67° F
39° C | 19° C

Monday

100° F | 66° F
38° C | 19° C

Tuesday

93° F | 66° F
34° C | 19° C

Wednesday

92° F | 65° F
33° C | 18° C

If we do well tomorrow we get to play two more games on Saturday.

Almanac more Average (KSJC) Record (KSJC)
High Temperature 82 °F / 27 °C 96 °F / 35 °C (1954)
Low Temperature 56 °F / 13 °C 52 °F / 11 °C (1968)
Average Temperature

Play Beautiful !

A couple of years of ago, Beckham left ManU for Real Madrid and, a few days later someone new showed up wearing the No7 shirt. “Who is that?”, I wondered.

Within about 3 minutes, I said “I think we got the better end of the deal here. This guy is much better than Beckham”. This guy was Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo is one of those rare geniuses that appears every now and again and, like most of his predecessors (Best, Bowles, Hoddle, Marsh, Cantona, Maradonna), he is flawed.

I love watching players like Ronaldo. If there is a single category of player that is my very favourite kind it is Flawed Flamboyant Genius. You can go a whole lifetime without having a Flawed Flamboyant Genius on your team. It seems that most fans – and many managers – don’t like Flamboyant Geniuses so I am rather fortunate that my team – ManU – rather likes having them around. Right now I am in the incredibly lucky position of watching two of them every week – for Rooney is a Flawed Flamboyant Genius too – and I love them both. Rooney is slightly ahead in the Genius department but Ronaldo has Flamboyance streaming from every pore and is therefore my favourite player of the two.

Julio blogged yesterday about how all the England fans boo’d him during the Germany and France games – he was extremely unpopular in England even before the world cup. What Ronaldo did during the England/Portugal game was no different to what Rooney would have done had the roles been reversed. It is terrible and sad that Ronaldo will be forever blamed for knocking England out of the world cup and ridiculous too. Ronaldo bears no responsibility for the red card. Rooney got sent off all on his own.

I hope beyond hope that Ferguson is able to work his magic and keep Ronaldo at ManU but, even if he does, this year will be extremely difficult for him.

Eric Cantona – my second favourite flawed flamboyant genius (and bearer of a red No7) of all time – had a series of commercials during this world cup entitled “Joga Bonito” and he ended each one saying

Play Beautiful!

If Ronaldo is forced out of England because of petty spite, the beautiful game will have lost a little of its beauty and that will be a great shame.