Monday, July 30, 2007

Mundial de los Descamisados

The Homeless World Cup is in full swing in Copenhagen—a fantastic, inspiring event that aims to use football as a rallying point to get people into jobs, houses and education. The United States seems to have come second in their first-round group, bowing to an apparent powerhouse in undefeated Kazakhstan (the former Soviet Union, sadly/impressively, seems to produce many of the slicker homeless sides). A decent goal difference would seem to book USA's place in the next round—good thing, too, since fans would be obligated to riot at the airport on the team's return if they had disgraced us.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

VI Day

Victory in Iraq.

Scroll down to see the remarkable photos of a celebrating people...scroll down further to find one grumpy lefty (undoubtedly a comfy Yank, Brit or Frenchie, possibly with tenure) commenting that the whole thing is just bread and circuses while the colonizers steal Iraq's oil. Realize that, as is so often the case, a lot of people just don't get what life is about.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Weep for the Southseasiders! Hail the Hordes of Evil!

Woe, woe are the men, women and children of Marsaxlokk! The brave Maltese premiers, who endured the probing gaze of an Eleven Devils Champions League Profile not long ago, made their exit from the Champies with a 9-1 aggregate loss to FK Sarajevo.

For those of us who've come to know and love the Southseasiders (aka Tal-Lampuki, or something), it is a dark day. However, we can take comfort in the fact that Sarajevo, which boasts a truly awesome club badge and an ultras section called THE HORDES OF EVIL, fights on.

And does Sarajevo know how to party? Why, yes:

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Forza Iraq

I think it's safe to say that Iraq's against-the-odds run to the Asian Cup final bids fair to become the football story of the year. A championship for a country that the US tested the Pottery Barn Doctrine on would be a beautiful thing.

Of course, if Iraqi football keeps improving, there's every chance that the US will be drawn against the Lions in the group stage of the 2010 World Cup. I'm sure they would greet us as liberators.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

How To Celebrate A Goal

Liverpool handled the Monks of the Shaolin Temple by a 3-1 final, but the South China boys scored this incredible free-kick goal, notable both for its otherworldly swerve and the commendable manic enthusiasm with which it was celebrated.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Liverpool v. ... SHAOLIN TEMPLE!

The great thing about football is that the all-singing, all-dancing entertainment doesn't cease at season's end. Liverpool, for example, has had a highly diverting summer: signing hot players right and left, making menacing statements about the Premier League title, and now trying to out-lawyer Man United for the services of G. Heinze. (United doesn't want the Argentinian, but doesn't want Liverpool to have him either. Alex Ferguson—and I know students of the international game will find this surprising—is being a complete prick about the whole thing.)

It's almost a shame that real games must start taking the place of all this hot-stove (or I guess that should be "ice-box") action. But it's showtime in Hong Kong, where the Men of Anfield face a pre-season match against a highly sinister outfit named South China AA. This club is the dominant power in Hong Kong's top competition, which bears the priceless and parody-proof name "HKFA Coolpoint Ventilation First Division League." Yes! But here's where it gets scary: South China's nickname is apparently...THE SHAOLIN TEMPLE!

Will the RZA play left back?

Saturday, July 21, 2007


In an incredibly significant (though how, exactly, it's hard to say) piece of cosmic kismet, here's an item from tonight's Galaxy v. Chelsea stat sheet:

Alan Gordon (David Beckham 78).

That means that many Portland Timbers fans saw the man (ex-Timbers phenom Gordon) who Beckham replaced as a substitute in his (Beckham's) MLS debut on the occasion of his (Gordon's) professional (Timbers) debut.

It's all incredibly exciting. The chief difference is that Gordon scored a goal in his first match, whereas it seems Beckham did sweet fuck-all tonight.

Southern Comfort for Los Timbers?

While SoccerballnationUSA focuses squarely on the Beckhamista non-event in Los Angeles, where Chelsea will lose to the LA Galaxy 2-0 in between appletinis and Posh and Bex will be seen sitting in the stands wearing sunglasses, actual competitive football remains underway elsewhere. Our beloved Portland Timbers (whom I have seen exactly once this season...I'm blaming the Kid for this, as will be my practice henceforth) take one of their difficult road swings through the USL First Division's southern outposts. The Atlanta Silverbacks—a team named for gorillas, which is pretty cool—and the Charleston Battery await. The latter fixture reunites the Timbers with formerly talismanic Portland forward Byron Alvarez, who is having a decent campaign with his new Dixie-fied club.

As Portland members of Calcio Amerika will be aware, the Timbers are currently TOP OF THE LEAGUE, a whopping five points clear of mighty mighty L'Equipe Football "Impact" du Montreal, the perennial Franco-Canadian power that typically runs away with the USL table before bottling it in the playoffs to allow the Richmond Kickers or someone through. Best part is, the Timbers still have a private reserve of games in hand over all the clubs that matter. Worst part is, about half Portland's points came against the utterly gash California Victory, a team the Timbers, in an innovative scheduling experiment, played five bloody times.

So the question is: Are the Timbers on the real tip, yo? A win over ever-tough Cascadian rivals Vancouver provided something of an answer, but for my money whether Gavin's Kids can squeeze some points out of these cross-continental away days may be more definitive. Dare we limber up for post-season fun at PGE Park?

Friday, July 20, 2007

UrbanHonking Athletic Seizes Rivals Cup


After a hard-fought match at Portland Futsal last night, UrbanHonking Athletic took the Rivals Cup for the first time. The coveted Golden Winged Angel of Everlasting Triumph has visited the trophy cases of both my Albina Going Football Club and Dudes FC, but UrbanHonking—ironically, the competition's founding club—heretofore knew only frustration. Honking bagged the hardware with a pair of white-knuckle one-goal wins, with last night's decisive strike coming with less than one minute to play.

All of which means that Albina Going's mission is now clear: RECLAIM THE CUP!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Auld Sod FC

In the depths of intense sleep deprivation, I was hit by a strange and probably stupid thought. (Thank God for the blogosphere! Now I can share it with EVERYONE.) Here it goes:

Major League Soccer should place an expansion franchise in Dublin, Ireland.

A beautiful, bustling, prosperous, sports-mad city lacks a truly big-time football club. Lansdowne Road is in the middle of a state-of-the-art rebuild. MLS has already broken out of US borders with Toronto FC (and, in another sense, with Chivas USA). A flight to Dublin isn't much more punishing than a flight from New York to LA.

FC Dublin (or whatever) would use Irish players as its domestic talent pool, and could even function as a sort of all-star team for the Eircom League. While money would dictate that the very best Irish players would continue to play in England or Scotland, an MLS side would provide a middle ground between the Eircom and bigger things. Meanwhile, the team's away games would attract a lot of Stateside interest, particularly in Irish bastions like New England, New York and Chicago.

Insane? Dumb? Probably both.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Copa Amerizzzzzzz...

The Copa America final looked like a classic in the making: stylish, steamrolling Argentina against an undermanned but still potent Brazil. Turned out to be sort of a soul-sucker, eh? Argentina didn't show up; Brazil did, chiefly in the middle of the park with studs showing. Well, it's a man's game after all, but if this is the new Brazil, look for various marketing entities to launch a desperate search for a new troupe of jogo bonito tricksters. Tackles from behind don't sell a lot of shirts.

Brazil was creative enough, in a thoroughly direct, ruthless way, on the three goals, but by and large it was a performance that said that Romance is Dead And We Are Here to Win the Fucking Trophy. Can't fault them too much. The referee was on top of just about all their transgressions, giving Argentina plenty of free-kick opportunities with which they accomplished nothing. Besides, it's a little unfair to expect Brazil to play like a whimsical crossbreed of Cirque du Soleil and the Harlem Globetrotters all the time. They are, after all, a football team.

Still, I hope some alternate dimension got the fully rocking samba/tango inferno that could have been.

Strange But True Facts

FC Barcelona, in addition to the expected basketball, handball and futsal squads, runs both a baseball team and a...roller hockey team (?).

The Wisdom of Socrates

Is it just me, or are Brazilian football mononyms just not as cool as they once were? I mean, "Robinho" is okay; "Vagner Love" is stone-cold cool in a kind of '70s black-is-beautiful I'm-gonna-have-some-women-over-and-drink-Colt-45 way; and "Kleber" has the virtue of being completely bizarre. But now that the Brazilians have exhausted every possible variation of "Ronaldo" and churned out multiple "Fred"s for some reason (why no "Barney", or even "Wilma"?), it's hard not to be nostalgic for the days of truly epic aliases. Like "Socrates," for example—has there ever been a better 'un?

Idea: the Brazilians should seek renewed inspiration in the Classical World. Think of this starting XI:

Cato * Cyrus the Younger * Thucydides * Pericles
The Emperor Diocletian * Darius II * Alcibiades * Crassus
SPQR ("The Senate And People of Rome"!) * Octavian

Seriously. How bad-ass would a player have to be to call himself "The Emperor Diocletian"?

Friday, July 13, 2007


With the "unveiling" of David Beckham in LA, we have been treated to the usual (and, what, the 10,923rd?) round of lazy, half-informed, unreported journalese on the crucial question of WHEN WILL THE (STUPID, IF THE WRITER IS BRITISH) AMERICANS TAKE TO THE (SORT OF GAY AND WEIRD, IF THE WRITER IS AMERICAN) SPORT OF SOCCER/FOOTBALL (OR WHATEVER THE COMMUNISTS CALL IT)?

As a so-called professional journalist, I am always astonished at what editors let writers get away with on this subject, though I suppose it has become a staple in the same vein as old favo(u)rites like DO POLITICIANS LIE?, SHOCKING VIOLENCE CLAIMS INNOCENT LIFE and HOW STRANGE AND UNKNOWABLE ARE TODAY'S TEENS, WITH THEIR GADGETS AND HOODOO MUSIC?

It's an easy way to earn a day's pay, I suppose: chuck in a few well-worn tropes about how Americans just don't get the game because there aren't enough commercials, or how the players are all soft because they can reasonably expect to live to 50, unlike gridiron pros; add some ungrounded speculation about how the World Cup, Freddy Adu, David Beckham or [INSERT SOMETHING HERE] might or might not change things; hit the bar. It's not quite as easy as quoting your cab driver while filing from foreign soil, but it's close.

Bad news comes for all hacks, however, in the form of a post on The New York Times' so-far excellent soccer blog. The jig is up, the party is over, because when nearly 1 million people in New York City alone are watching a Copa America semifinal match, I'd say the fait is accompli.

Some will say the gonzo ratings for ArgoMexico don't matter because the commentary was in Spanish. That misses the real story, which is that the language "barrier" is irrelevant to the growth of the US soccer audience. Enough Americans either speak Spanish fluently or know enough to get by to understand Univision. (How conversant do you need to be? "Pelota" and "gol" are pretty easy to work out, and most everyone can appreciate the Latino TV Cleavage Factor on some level.) Any American who lives in an urban environment is exposed to spoken and printed Spanish every day. A lot of Americans were born in or have travelled to Spanish-speaking lands.

It's over.

You Cannae Deny the Laws of Physics

You cannae. I cannae. But this dude can:

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Your XIDevils Champions League Profile: Marsaxlokk!

The chimera known as European soccer's "close season"—roughly 15 minutes after one 10-month slaughterfest ends, new competitions and the inevitable round of money-spinning pre-season friendlies, Asian-American grand tours and transfer-market freakouts begin—is over. (Our long international nightmare, one might say.)

The UEFA Champions League commences with its First Qualifying Round, starring 28 victors from the august top divisions of Bosnia, Wales, all the Irelands, the odd Baltic state and various other leagues where clubs tend to use mysterious combinations of initials for names. These teams will compete for the right to be beaten in the Second Qualifying Round by marginally larger clubs, who will in turn then be beaten by teams that finished third or fourth in one of the real leagues, who themselves will proceed to fuck up their group-stages campaigns, resulting in fired managers, ruined transfer prospects and fan protests organized around the chucking of celery, anchovies, rugulac or some other local product.

It all leads, of course, to the supreme drama of the Champions League knock-out rounds, culminating in semifinals featuring AC Milan and Barcelona taking on Overrated English Clubs A & B, the lattermost coming through on dodgy away goals or penalties, or preferably both.

The importance of the First Qualifying Round, then, is clear. [[[The Official XIDevils Fatwa on the Champions League states that ALL participants should be—y'know—champions and that the fussy business of qualifying rounds and group stages should be done away with in favor of straight two-legged knock-out play. Like the Old Days, which as an American sports fan I am constitutionally required to prefer.]]] A scan of participating teams reveals plenty of intriguing, exotic entrants, none more so than the CHAMPIONS OF MALTA, mighty Marsaxlokk. Because I am a sucker for any place name with a rogue X in the middle, let's take a closer look.

Turns out Marsaxlokk is a beautiful fishing village of just over 3,500 people. If it weren't for those bastards in the Faroe Islands forever taking the mickey, I'd say it's entirely likely that this hamlet is the smallest locality represented in the Champions League. The hometown team is quaintly nicknamed The Southseasiders, or less quaintly, "Tal-Lampuki," which might actually be quite quaint in Maltese for all I know.

The club seems to play its home fixtures in Malta's national stadium, meaning every man, woman and child in the actual town of Marsaxlokk could bring five friends to a match. The Southseasiders have been at it for close to 60 years, but appear to be a club on the make: two promotions in the last decade; recently linked to Paul Gascoigne (Wikipedia might be making that up, but I'm not); importing Eastern European, Nigerian, English and Brazilian players with some regularity. The bulk of the squad, of course, is Maltese, meaning that not even the most cosmopolitan opponents will be able to decipher the team chatter.

Team Tal-Lampuki Fighting achieved qualfication for Qualification by winning the Maltese Premier League, a 10-team circuit full of amiable-sounding, old-school-ish clubs like "Hibernians" and "St. George's" and "Wanderers." The MPL (Eleven Devils will be bidding on US English-language broadcast rights in due time) boasts an unusual and sort of interesting set-up. After the traditional home-and-away schedule, the league splits into a six-team Championship Pool and a four-team Relegation Pool, and another home-and-away series commences. It's hard to work out just how points carry over, but it seems Marsaxlokk won the first phase with a single defeat and a goal difference of +30, so it's safe to say they kicked ass by the bucketful throughout.

But how will Marsaxlokk cope with First Qualifying Round opponents FK Sarajevo? And how will they handle playing in front of Sarajevo's ultras, the "Hordes of Evil"? Southseasiders v. Hordes of Evil? This is the stuff that dreams, and the First Qualifying Round, are woven of.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Baby's First Soccer Fight!

Thanks to the infinite patience of my wife, and the resilience of my nine-day-old son (who is directly to blame for the lack of Eleven Devils activity), I packed the entire family off to Kells for an evening of elimination-round futbol. The air con was on, the U-20s were on one screen with the ArgoMexican match on the big enchilada, the Stella was icy and my wife, who is still recovering from months of pregnancy-related sobriety, gave me her Sierra Nevada after about a sip and a half. Sometimes life is good; sometimes Lionel Messi bags an delectable chip while your first born is at your feet, and life is very very very good indeed.

Despite all the reproducing I've been doing, I am aware that two superb football tournaments have been underway. From what I've seen on YouTube (and courtesy the Emanuel Hospital cable system), both Copa America and the U-20 World Cup feature the kind of football that make the sport a global obsession. Huge goals, fanatical fans, players going ballz-out for king and country—a refreshing change from the uptight play that too often pervades the game. Plus, after the USA's C team bowed out quietly in la Copa, the American young guns put together some of the most swaggering, game and (frankly) damn lucky football ever played by a US team. The Adu-captained Yanks are a sight to behold, and I was psyched to catch the last half of their knock-out with los Uruguayanos.

A big crowd of endearingly rowdy Argentinians were on hand, lending the faux-Irish pub a welcome Porteno flair. Songs followed all la Republica's goals. Two of 'em—Heinze going deep for a flying side-foot volley, Messi lofting it home—were mind-searing affairs. Mexico played a ferocious first half and for a time seemed set to kick, thrash and pummel their way to an upset. But by the end, Argentina was playing a kind of football that only they seem to play with such aplomb: virtually walking from pass to pass; one-touching it from one hemsisphere to the other; daring any and all to try to take the rock. Too bad such pure fuuuuuutbol can only really be played when there's nothing more to decide.

Meanwhile, Freddy and the Jets pulled off a classic heist in extra time, stealing a match Uruguay thought it deserved to win. the Urus acted like little putas after the whistle, while the USA imperiously departed with their quarterfinal berth in their collective shoulder holster. (Well, look, I haven't been getting a lot of sleep.) It was a refreshing change from that senior side of ours—those boys who have so often out-played the opposition in big games only to see a goal or two separate them from victory.

Good times. I think the boy liked it okay—he managed to sleep through the whole thing.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Your XIDevils Premiership News Round-Up!

Sadly, Liverpool has sold forward Craig Bellamy, who attacked a teammate with a golf club when he (the teammate) refused to sing karaoke with him, to West Ham United.

New Manchester City owner Thaksin Shinawatra, the deposed former prime minister of Thailand, faces corruption charges from the quasi-military government that overthrew him.

Manchester United appears set to buy Argentinian forward Carlos Tevez from West Ham. Tevez was one of two Argentinian players involved in a byzantine transfer saga last year, when a shadowy international syndicate that somehow owned their contracts let them move from the Brazilian club Corinthians to West Ham for free. (A lot of weird shit happens in Brazilian football.) West Ham then turned around and punted one of the Argentinians to Liverpool, which was somehow
allowed even though the rules stipulate a player may transfer only once per year. Tevez proceeded to be the hero of West Ham's
last-minute escape from relegation, which prompted Sheffield United, who did go down, to file a legal challenge claiming that the Hammers should be kicked out of the league for using Tevez illegally.

And this is just the off-season. Who can wait for August?

Friday, July 06, 2007


It's been awhile. A long while. (Frankly, I've been doing...a few things.) But this—THIS has me psyched: