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Our World Player of the Year shortlist: Bebe, Beckham, Charisteas December 6, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in HalfVolley World Footballer of the Year Award.
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I recently read that the shortlist for the Ballon d’Or contained Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Xavi. This news was so boring that it did not actually register in my brain. Further proof that FIFA is a garbage organization. I can think of nothing more mind-numbing than the idea of selecting among three outrageously talented and accomplished footballers who have won trophies in the world’s best leagues.

I am going to be giving out my own world player of the year award. I don’t know what to call it yet, but I’ll figure that out as I go along.

1. David Beckham — I read some article or heard some roundtable discussion in which it was said that someone’s North Dakota-based relative knew of David Beckham, but had never heard of soccer.

This can only mean that Beckham has actually gotten bigger than the world’s most popular sport. This is worrying for soccer. If it is not careful, something outrageous could happen. Sports channels could begin replacing soccer programming with live video feeds of the megacelebrity sleeping. Or possibly the sheer gravity of his personal fame will increase until soccer is drawn into its orbit and becomes little more than a satellite of Beckham.

I hear people arguing that having a good but not exceptional year for the Los Angeles Galaxy should not be considered anything like sufficient for being voted the world’s best player, but come on guys. We need to play the long game here. We’re talking about the survival of the sport. If soccer is really nice to Beckham, maybe he’ll be nice to soccer once he becomes fully aware of his omniscience.

Of course, maybe his gargantuan media profile will accidentally crush soccer like the insect that, in relative terms, it is, perhaps without even noticing it.

2. Angelos Charisteas — Look guys, Greece isn’t doing so hot at the moment. The people of Greece could really use a pick-me-up. Charisteas is probably the most popular player in Greece (somebody should check this), considering that he scored the goal that won them Euro 2004 and he has never played for Olympiakos or Panathinaikos. Sure, he’s only played 13 games at club level this year, and I’m pretty sure he’s only included in the Greek squad for sentimental value, but the award for Europe’s best performing footballer is about more than who happens to be performing the best at football. Just think of the feelgood factor.

3. Bebe — Obviously Bebe doesn’t deserve the award, but if this gong is to have any credibility, it needs to pick needless feuds with Sir Alex Ferguson. Plus, we’re no good at articulating our reasons for doing things. Not a problem. We could just duck and dodge until Ferguson is asked what he thinks of it. He would be of course forced to justify it — humiliatingly.

Then finally a Sun reporter tracks down Mike’s cellphone number (I will of course have told them Mike was the one that handled the award, although now that I’ve written this, that assertion will be difficult to make credibly). “So,” he’ll ask, “Why did you pick Bebe?”

“Have you talked to Sir Alex?” Mike will reply.

“I have,” the reporter will say.

“Well, what did he say?” Mike will ask.

“He said it was a recognition of the player’s potential and the quality of his contribution to Manchester United’s victory over Wolves in the League Cup. He said Bebe is definitely the best player in the world.”

Mike will snicker quietly and tell the reporter Ferguson stole this summary word-for-word from him. Cue feud. Cue denouncements. Cue readership.

Anyway, which of these options do you, the reader, think is best.

EURO 2012 Preview #4: Del Bosque tries to add even more central midfielders November 16, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Euro 2012, Spanish soccer.
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Spain is a team for purists. I’m not having this participation by the likes of Sergio Ramos and David Villa. Look it up: they are not central midfielders. For the pure expression of Spain’s style, you need more than they’ve been playing. Pep Guardiola’s experiments with six central midfielders are brave, but they’re not enough. Spain needs more. Vicente Del Bosque knows this. This is what he has in store:


FC Barcelona doesn’t care about black people July 18, 2010

Posted by michaeltomlinson in European soccer, Spanish soccer.
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First George W Bush and now the authority on beautiful football, FC Barcelona may catch the weary eye of one, hip-hop fashionista Kanye West. Over the last two years they have for one reason or another let go of their three most prominent African descended footballers (Touré, Henry, Eto’o). French National Eric Abidal is the lone ranger who sees consistent starting time at left back, and made clear by this striking photo he apparently doesn’t like you, sorry.

I’m not trying to portray Juan La Porta as xenophobic or anything, I’m just saying he fears foreigners for generally unfounded preconceptions, its different. I am willing to accept that his MAY be an absurd and unjust claim, but really it is too easy to blame Spain and their people for cute little instances of racial insensitivity, its just so casual!

One of the more recent exits of Yaya Touré felt personally the worst and from a footballing stand point made the least sense. Thierry Henry’s voyage to the new world was no shock, The retirement home for former European greats, errrr The MLS had been keen on him for a while and shouldn’t leave Camp Nou in any sort of dire position. But Touré at times did for Barcelona what Cesc is heavily relied on doing for Arsenal and arguably Spain in his substitute stints, and that is break down the center of the pitch with timely and calculated runs. I’m ready aware that Cesc plays an attacking role while Yaya generally holds down the defensive side of things but what they share is an innate ability to find gaps in the center of defense for runs off the ball, and both players do this for teams who at times control possession without much vigor to push forward.

On another note Xavi and Iniesta are often coined by many as the little magicians and what they do, they do it superbly, but that certainly isn’t being 6’2 and large bodied. Where as Xavi and Iniesta together use more outside of the foot touches and turns to frustrate defenders Touré literally boxes them out a la Charles Barkley. Size in soccer probably means less than any major sport especially in The United States but that isn’t to say that it is unimportant. Between Xavi, Iniesta and Messi they barely have 15 and a half feet between them and calling Sergio Busquets frail may be an understatement. Sometimes you need a large body out there just to keep defenses honest.

Whether you find it absurd or not their is a Reason (outside of spending money on pretty much anything) that Manchester City made Touré the highest paid player in the Premiership. Being able to hold down the fort with stellar positioning and smart passing coupled with the ability to ward off defenders to maintain possession and create through the center of the pitch is something any team in the world would love to model a holding midfielder after.

It’s been made fairly obvious with the disgraceful departure of Chygrynskiy that at times even with the touted youth system and scouting prowess Barcelona has at their finger tips they dig a bit too deep. If it aint’ broke don’t fix it, and yet with Samuel Eto’o  a year prior and with Yaya recently the Catalan giants seem content with dealing away talent in search of the next best thing.  An analogy can be made to your neighborhood heroin addict and his inherent need for more but I think the xenophobia reference was quite enough for everyone.