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ESPN invents new, unholy German Franken-club. You should stay away from ESPN. August 17, 2010

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in German soccer, War on ESPN.
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Funny thing about "Bayern Leverkusen" is it doesn't exist.

By now, my hatred for ESPN Soccernet is well-documented. The fact that many of their native articles are bottom-of-the-barrel (with exceptions for some of their World Cup coverage, as well as the work of Phil Ball and Uli Hesse-Lichtenberger), often containing falsehoods, is insufficient. Plenty of well-funded sites have very poor articles indeed.

But Soccernet must either have bad copy editors or no copy editors. At least half the stories I’ve read on ESPN contain at least one glaring grammar error. Here, I write about one article that contained seven dangling modifiers (I now realize the last one is not a dangling modifier). The soundess of an organization that hires a writer who seemingly doesn’t understand the concept of the dangling modifier is troubling enough, but not having a copy flow that catches such an incredibly basic error is pretty egregious.

When ESPN’s not kicking sand in grammar’s face as it shambles along, it’s often making blatant and embarrassing factual or spelling errors like the one above.

Today, I saw one such error that made me quite angry. It was a link to an interview with Michael Ballack that said he’d moved to “Bayern Leverkusen.” He has actually moved to Bayer Leverkusen, a club sponsored by aspirin-maker Bayer, but the writer of the summary appears to have gotten that club confused with Bayern Munich, whose name comes from the German word for Bavaria, a region that contains Munich, but not Leverkusen.

Whoever is writing the site’s display text is either too sloppy to proofread his or her work or simply not cognizant to the fact that “Bayern Leverkusen” does not exist.

I’ve made some grammar and factual errors on this blog, but this is a blog, where that’s to be expected, not that I don’t try my best. I’m not paid to do this. ESPN can’t point to any such justification. I don’t know if ESPN’s sections on other sports are so poorly edited because I don’t read them, so I can only speak to that part of soccer fans.

So to you, soccer fan: You’re a rational consumer and you have a choice. I’m not saying read this blog, although I’d like that, but there are plenty of soccer websites out there that care enough about their readers to hire people who’ll compose intelligent articles, and to make sure they’re properly edited. The Guardian is my favorite because I’ve been reading it for years, but if you’re an looking for something that takes a similar perspective to ESPN’s, Sports Illustrated’s soccer section is excellent.

SI’s used to be an afterthought, but when the World Cup came around, the magazine invested in hiring really excellent columnists: Jonathan Wilson, an absolute trailblazer in soccer writing, Sid Lowe, Tim Vickery, Marcela Mora y Araujo, Rob Smyth, Raphael Honigstein. They even poached ESPN’s US soccer staff.

ESPN: Improve. Now.

World Cup Post-mortem part 1 July 6, 2010

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Dutch soccer, European soccer, German soccer, Spanish soccer, The World Cup.
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What’s that you say? “The World Cup isn’t even over yet! How can you think of doing a post-mortem?”

To that I say that the only sides that matter to me at the World Cup are the ones from outside Europe. Without teams from the other continents, it’s simply not the World Cup, because the World Cup is an experience richer because it allows new players and new ideas to take center stage in the footballing world. The final, whomever wins between Germany and Spain, will be 4-2-3-1 vs. 4-2-3-1, chic European technocrat vs. chic European technocrat, winger with defensive responsibilities vs. fullback with attacking responsibilities, and Champions League winning captain vs. captain who has at least reached the final of the champions league.

All this from a tournament that, at one stage, promised a reinvigoration of footballing ideas: South American demigods, careworn East Asian ghosts, Argentine revolutionaries, and Iron Curtain throwbacks in chintzy suits and chintzier ties were among the managerial stars. We suddenly discovered three-man defenses working in harmony with three-man attacks, lopsided systems that actually worked, goalscorers and speed-demon wingers repurposing themselves to remarkable effect as trequartisti.

And then nothing. It’s over. Who cares which European giant triumphs in the end? It’ll just confirm that Europe’s trendiest system is the one true God; that a slick, generously subsidized national youth development project in a large country with a sizable immigrant population can yield extremely effective footballers and very successful national teams when welded to a competent bureaucratic structure. That, readers, is not rocket science.

But when we look back on this World Cup, if we look back on it, unless we’re celebrating in roja or oranje on Sunday night, it’s unlikely we’ll remember anything about the Spanish or Dutch (except for what a resolutely negative presence Mark van Bommel is in our lives, and perhaps Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s thunderbolt). And if we remember the Germans, it will likely be in the context of the greater things the likes of Ozil, Muller and Khedira go on to achieve, and how funny it was when they were alloyed with Miroslav Klose, Arne Friedrich and Lukas Podolski.

On the other hand, it will be difficult to forget Diego Maradona’s touchline charisma, the absurd injustice of Ghana’s defeat, Marcelo Bielsa’s thrilling quixoticism, North Korea’s bizarre appearance, Slovakia’s thrilling victory over the World Champions, and at least four brilliant Uruguayan goals.

The final and the champion are of lesser importance. In the greater scheme of things, competent bureaucracy, devotion to youth, 4-2-3-1 win out, but it’s no surprise when things that are well funded and organized come out on top. We don’t watch the World Cup to see that. We watch to see what’s wild and new and free, or at least I do, and with the tournament now rid of all of that, I think we’ll call it a month, no?

UEFA Cup observations March 12, 2010

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in English soccer, European soccer, French soccer, German soccer, Italian soccer, Portuguese soccer, Spanish soccer.
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I don’t care about the UEFA Cup. I care so little about it that I refuse to acknowledge its nonsensical name-change, which I assume UEFA made because this tournament is such a shameful farce that European soccer’s governing body no longer wanted to be associated with it. The most damning evidence is the recent triumphs from the former Soviet Union, largely a consequence of the fact that nobody good actually cares about this competition, meaning the fittest side (i.e. Ukrainian and Russian teams whose season has historically started about this time of year) often wins.

Because I don’t care about it, I didn’t watch it today, aside from about 10 snooze-inducing minutes of Liverpool vs. Lille I squeezed in before my class. That was definitely the biggest mistake of the day. So here’s 10 half-assed observations:

  • Liverpool is really, really bad. Seriously. Stevie Gerrard is closing on 30 and I think Liverpool may have intentionally signed a clutch of woeful players to disguise the fact that he is now past it. It’s not really anyone’s fault except whoever it is that keeps stopping the club from building a new stadium that can generate the kind of revenue the other big English teams’ arenas do. Oh, also the owners. These factors have colluded to inflict a truly wretched team to watch upon the rest of us.
  • French advertising laws: kind of a good thing. Liverpool has always had to wear special shirts stripped of Carlsberg’s logo for trips to France, because alcoholic beverages can’t be advertised there. As a free-speech fan, I am against this. As someone who thinks uniforms look better with fewer logos, I am for this. Nonetheless, someone in Liverpool’s organization is an idiot for not arranging a separate, incremental sponsorship deal for away games in France.
  • Wait, where did David Navarro come from? I thought the Valencia defender had been exiled to the second division for his behavior against Inter a couple of years ago. Shouldn’t he still be serving a lengthy European ban? I guess not, cause guess who started for los Che against Werder Bremen today. You’d have to think either a.) there’s some happy redemption story in there somewhere; or b.) Valencia’s standards have fallen since the days of Roberto Ayala.
  • Standard Liege: dark horse? I didn’t watch the Belgians play Panathinaikos, but I did see them several times in the Champions League this season, and I like them. Certainly, them winning it would be a lot cooler than anyone else doing so. With all the amazing young players coming out of Flanders, that victory might even be the herald of a new dawning in Belgian soccer, if the country can get its act together.
  • My pre-season UEFA Cup prediction’s not looking so hot. Taking a 1-1 draw into an away leg’s not really good news for any side. I predicted Benfica would win it this year, simply because of a front five too good for the Portuguese league. But the gentleman over at Zonal Marking.net said Benfica’s quality in Portugal stems in part from the namby-pamby style of play in Portugal and I guess coming up against a muscular Marseille wasn’t their cup of tea.
  • Atletico Madrid can’t break down 10 men. I guess they’re just a laughingstock, no?
  • Do the Dutch hate Belgians? Two of Hamburg’s scorers against Anderlecht were Dutch.
  • Fulham’s result is a bad thing. Does Juventus really care about the UEFA Cup? Because Fulham does. Just saying.
  • Where did Grafite go? I’m not bothering to check, but he played against Ireland recently. That meant 89-year-old Obefemi Martins in Wolfsburg’s starting lineup.
  • Unirea Urziceni should be here.

Can’t help but smile December 16, 2009

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in German soccer, U.S. soccer.
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Hannover put on one of the performances of the season against Borussia Moenchengladbach this season. Not that they won. It was a 5-3 defeat for die Roten, but they were so on form that, in addition to scoring three of their own, they took the gentlemanly route and scored three for Gladbach as well. And what a hat-trick it was! Just look:

Before we state the obvious, it seems important to note the quality of Hannover’s own second and third. The former, Didier Ya Konan’s second, was a demonstration of superhuman dexterity and determination, in which, sandwiched between two Gladbach defenders, the forward dinks an aerial ball past both of them with his first touch before finishing. For the third, Christian Schultz uses a thudding slide tackle to aim a precise finish past the Gladbach keeper.

The best of the game, though, was definitely the wide-angle, sidefoot volley Hannover’s Constant Djakpa placed precisely past Hannover’s Florian Fromowitz. Off his weaker foot. First-time. A forward would be proud of that one, but you have to wonder what Djakpa was actually trying to do.

Djakpa was devastated and had to be peeled off the floor by teammated, a sharp contrast to the reaction of Karim Haggui, who clearly can’t restrain his grin at the own-goal he scored to put the points out of die Roten’s reach.

Provincialist last paragraph: Both of the goals Gladbach’s men actually scored themselves came off of North Americans: Canadian Rob Friend’s header for the second and US international Michael Bradley’s rip for the second.