Monday, August 21, 2006

Rendezvous in Kiev

A lovely swirl of shady cosmopolitan intrigue surrounds tomorrow's crucial Champions League qualifier pitting Liverpool against Maccabi Haifa. Haifa nicked an away goal at Anfield, meaning a crafty 1-0 win would send them through to the cash-crazy group stage. That would be bad, bad, bad for Liverpool, who are apparently "skint," as the Englandistanis like to say, and prudently budgeted their off-season expenditures assuming they'd bag a League berth. Brill! Absolutely brill!

But those are merely the atmospheric shadows. The real plot centers on the decision to play the match in Kiev (of all places) on the home ground of mega-historic Ukrainian club Dinamo. The Israelis claim Tel Aviv would have made a perfectly jolly host for this fixture, despite their country's continuing involvement in expeditionary military action in Lebanon. The Maccabi manager further claims that the Reds are dirty—reliant on their political muscle with UEFA and physical tactics on the pitch. (I know nothing about the Israeli league, but I'm *sure* it's the acme of graceful, free-flowing football, with nary a cynical tackle to be seen, and upright business dealings.)

Then you have Gerrard out with a stomach complaint...the club's luggage lost for a solid hour in what must have been, if my brief but vivid experience with Soviet airport construction and management are any guide, decidely grim circs...a pretty bad outing against Sheffield United on Saturday...Peter Crouch's strange body...

This thing is looking like an Alan Furst thriller. How many Ukrainian fans will take advantage of this strange drama? Would that the Royal We could be there...

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