Saturday, May 31, 2008

Love For Sale

Well, well—what is there, really, to be said about England's little jaunt to Trinidad? We are deep in FIFA kabuki here, and I especially like the part about the FA's anxiety that its World Cup bid not be seen as "for sale." They're delighted to participate in the 100th anniversary of Trinidadian football—man, who wouldn't be? A chance to chum around over rum cocktails with the estimable Jack Warner is not to be missed. My question is, can someone dig up a plausible commemoration in the Pacific Northwest, so we can con England into playing here? Sadly, we missed the 30th anniversary of Soccer Bowl '77, but there must be something else. Chugger Adair's birthday?

UPDATE: Looks like everything is going very well.

Friday, May 30, 2008

A Cheap Holiday In Other People's Misery

The attentive Eleven Devils reader (and I know you're out there, lurking amid the Interporn) will note a dearth of comment on the Portland Timbers Football Club of late. That's because I, uh, haven't actually been to a match yet this year. This makes my second consecutive year of atrocious attendance, but, uh...well, I was there at the beginning! For real! Back in the day when the Timbers Army consisted of a couple guys with buckets and a few local ska enthusiasts! There are photos that prove it! Seriously! Rose City 'til I die, if I had the wings of an eagle, etc., etc.....

In my absence, it seems the Timbers have an intriguing, if typically muddled, campaign going in the exalted United Soccer Leagues First Division. (A real league: look it up!) They won a bunch of matches to start, made an earnest run at the world record for consecutive draws, and now can't seem to buy a goal. The big away match against ever-hated Equipe L'Impact de Montreal takes place tonight before Stade Saputo's crowd of rabid Quebecois nationalists and the vast continental television audience of Fox Soccer Channel. We have a way of winning at Montreal—or, at least, it has happened—and three points would put us in a very peachy slot in the table. So, on balance, things are looking up, especially compared to a couple of the trainwreck seasons we've endured in living memory.

But that is emphatically not what I'm excited about. No. The most exciting thing to happen to the Club, probably ever, comes in the form of the US Open Cup, the venerable (one of the oldest Cup comps in the world, in fact) knock-out tournament that is, like the name says, open to clubs from all levels of competitive soccer. A star-crossed tournament at best for the Timbers in past years, this time the Cup yields a fantastic, totally hilarious first-round fixture. On 10 June, the Timbers will host—yes, that's right!—HOLLYWOOD UNITED, the world's most glamourous pub team. They say football makes people happy, and it must be true: ever since I heard about this pairing, I've been on the edge of uncontrolled mirth.

Hollywood United, see, was founded by a dude from the Sex Pistols, a couple guys from The Cult and one of the guys from Def Leppard who had all his limbs. Ziggy Marley—Ziggy Marley—has played for one of its several sides, as have a revolving cast of Commonwealth-inflected showbiz also-rans (I guess "B-List United" didn't have quite the right ring...) and retired pros. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like Ziggy, Robbie Williams or Vinnie Jones (!) are in the current first-team squad. Still, the prospect of taking on a club run by a bunch of puffy ex-rock stars is delicious. You just can't make this stuff up.

Now, all we have to do is beat them. No problem. Right?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dead-Blogging England v. USA

Gaaaaah. I took my leave from this sad occasion at half-time, after making precious few observations, due in part to the fact that precious little occurred, and in part to the fact that I know sweet FA about football and am only pretending. But, anyway:

—We have a silly team. DaMarcus Beasley is a silly player. Steve Cherundolo—silly player. And note how both also have silly names. Eddie Johnson may be a "grown-ass man," but he still gets caught in possession just about every time he touches the ball. Silly. In their inability to do a thing with the ball when it comes to their feet, in their fecklessness in the last 40 yards of the field, in their woeful inability to defend a set-piece against a second-rate European opponent, the Americans personified silliness. We will still beat Mexico four times out of five, however.

—Those new USA kits actually look kind of cool.

—I like friendlies, because they only ask 45 minutes of your time. Unlike the three-hour Sturm und Drang of your average Big Final, with its inevitable extra time and penalty hoo-hah, a friendly little friendly offers less than an hour of actual entertainment before the mass substitutions turn the match into an episode of Whose Line Is It, Anyway? "John Smith (who?) receives his first international cap (and his last) here in the 81st minute..." Et cetera. Instead of ruining your whole day with alcohol, adrenalin and disappointment, the friendly gives you the perfect excuse to linger over one (1) pint for a bit, curse the day Carlos Bocanegra (see? silly name) was born, then head back to work. Perfect!

—The atmosphere (or restful lack thereof) at my downtown Portland soccer bar filled me with nostalgia, in fact. About two dozen people held dozy court over mid-day beers and lunch, muttering peaceably at the rare outbreak of action on the big screens. This was vintage Soccerball USA, a refreshing change from the rampacked scene at the same joint during the Champions League Final: the coupla hundred Johnny-Come-Lately fans in their brand-new Manchester United PLC and Chelsea Football Club garb, whooping, hollering and groaning with histrionic abandon. I mean, I love to see that stuff, since it plays right in to the dearest long-held fantasy of the American soccer fan, i.e., that History Is Turning Our Way. But frankly, it can be a bit much, and can engender a predictable longing for the old days, when finding a soccer match on television in this country was sort of like tracking down a covert gay sex club. (Or so I imagine, y'know. Poetic license.) Used to be, every match drew this kind of polite and tiny crowd. And PS, I was totally hip to Bleach before Nevermind came out.

—I see, from the Guardian's jaded MBM coverage, that England now lead 2-0. Good for them—excellent warm-up for Euro....HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! Sorry, couldn't resist. We'll be lucky to get past Bermuda. Later.

That Sinking Feeling

I sit here wondering why I am gripped with an indistinct but real feeling of impending doom...and then I remember: Oh yes, the USA plays England today. In 20 minutes, in fact. That's got to be it.

Prediction: England 3 : 1 USA. Brace from Rooney. Feel free to call your bookies now.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Philosophy of a Loser

Ah, the comforting equilibrium of the Premier League: Manchester United are champions, Arsenal are the pretty team that should have won it but botched the job, Liverpool sort of suck but stumbled to a lucrative half-successful season in any case. And at Chelsea, a veritable high-school drama class has broken out. Welcome, Hull City! You'll have fun.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Amazing World of Football

What other sport features matches between crunchy-left darlings Tibet and right-wing Italian separatist nuttos "Padania"? That would be none.

Mutually Assured Destruction

Now that I am done vomiting, allow me to share some reflections on today's Champions League final:

—Both as a spectacle and as a sawker match, this was a freehanded mixture of the ridiculous and the entertaining. Hey, guys, how should we decide the (ostensibly) finest football competition on Earth? Why not have the players slide around on a disintegrating real/fake turf imported from Slovakia for 120 minutes, then play tiddlywinks at 1:30 am for the Cup? Da, tovarish!

—Then again, this is Big Time Football circa 2008: total Bizarroworld absurdity is integral to the package.

—Still, goofy as this whole match was, I did find plenty to enjoy. Ferdinand's near-decapitation of Joe Cole was a nice moment, and the whole Ballad of Carlos Tevez took on a kind of strange anti-heroic grandeur, especially in extra time as he flailed about, looking ever uglier. John Terry's denial of Ryan Giggs in the goal mouth provided the drama of a Fistful of Dollars/guns blazing on Main Street variety, with the respective participants' fate in the penalty shootout serving as the wistful coda. Yes, I had a beer. Just one.

—I caught only the back half of this match (also known as The Part With No Goals, In Which Chelsea Hit the Woodwork Twice, Proving That God Thinks This Kind of Thing Is Funny) at Kells, here in scenic downtown Portland. For extra you-are-there English verisimilitude, there were a bunch of bald, middle-aged white "blokes" bellowing about who was and was not a "cunt," and a drunken tramp who appeared to be rooting for both sides.

—Didier Drogba needs to learn how to put his weight behind that swing.

—Roman Abramovich needs to stick a crowbar in his wallet and buy a bloody tie. Does he think he's OJ on the first day of trial?

—This marks two years (just about) and exactly 300 posts of Eleven Devils. Thanks to all 10 of you for reading. At some point next week, it seems I will be "guest blogging" on the far better, more useful and popular blog Du Nord. Details to follow.

In Other News...

As the Big United prepares for today's clash in Moscow, the Other United, rebel breakaway punk football exemplar FC United of Manchester, is celebrating its third promotion in a row. I can't wait for this Cup derby somewhere down the line.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dynamo Chelski v. Manchester Bay Buccaneers: PREDICTION

So we come to the end—the Eurodelic SuperSeason concludes with the Financial League Championship Final (And Illegal Heavy Arms Bazaar) in Moscow tomorrow. This exciting occasion actually marks Eleven Devils' second anniversary (not like we're solipsistic or anything), and provides yet another opportunity to figure out (temporarily, until the next time they play each about two months) who REALLY rules the jungle: Manchester United or Chelsea. As Roman Abramovich and various members of the Glazer clan receive "special massages" in the luxury suites, their hirelings will do a one-match reprise of their 38-match race for the Premier League crown for the edification of many, many intoxicated Englishmen and the rest of the world.

So what will happen? And who will care? Here at Eleven Devils, the Editorial We finally had a good long sit down and decided to support...Chelsea. A painful decision in many ways, but ultimately an easy one because, y'know, fuck Manchester United. That's about the best we can do. At least a few Chelsea fans have suffered in living memory, and blue is a lovely colo(u)r, and they've got John Terry and Petr Cech's clever hat. So lezzzzzzz gooooooh you Blues!

Outcome prediction: Chelsea 1 : 0 Manchester United. Didier Drogba goal on some unspeakably ugly and forgettable piece of business in about the 75th minute, either followed or preceded by the inevitable Wayne Rooney red card. Fun! We'll see yas.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Every Good Boy Deserves F_____

Congratulations to Zenit Saint Petersburg for bagging the UEFA Cup and all, but...I'm sorry, what brings that competition into more disrepute? The fact that Manchester City qualified for next year's edition by finishing sixth in the Premier League's "fair play" table? Or the fact that Fulham, a club that would be looking forward to next year's big clash with Ipswich Town if not for divine intervention, almost qualified by the same metric? Shouldn't there be a separate competition for "fair play" standouts—maybe one where both teams sit down for a nice cup of tea at midfield?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Rangers v. Manchester

Ah, Rangers. Let's just admit that we would have been surprised if all had been sweetness and light, eh?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

New Boots & Contracts

The Eleven Devils Stamp of Approval descends with terrifying speed and force on this Richard Williams column, in which he compares the meaty, beaty, big and bouncy Premiership bonus boys to the less lovely side of '70s rock in its most decadent phase. Pushing the metaphor, Williams sees a parallel between the scruffier, more egalitarian (and, sounds like, more fun) world of the Championship and the pub-rock insurgency that led directly to punk.

This jibes with some preoccupations and reactionary opinions long held 'round here, to wit: while the Premiership can be dandy entertainment, it's also symptomatic of the Soviet-style gigantism and mindless power-worship that have taken over all of sports. One sees this everywhere—from the capitulation of the entire American sports scene to the NFL juggernaut (and its college junior league) to the glammed-up parody cricket of the Indian Premier League, the alleged Invisible Hand is used as an excuse for crushing the small, the quirky, the independent and the non-mainstream. Meanwhile, fans are renovated into consumers, their traditional sense of ownership replaced by a passive role. Buy, buy, buy, kids—until the owners find a more lucrative market, at which point, one way or another, you're gone.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

We Are the Champions!

Actually, my Albina Going FC Unicorns are having a bit of a rough go of it in Portland Futsal's increasingly tough Third Division; we took our second one-goal defeat to league leaders Brooklyn Park Pub this week, and face two matches in two days to finish our season, with our prospects for climbing above fourth place (out of five) looking sketchy at best.

However, all is not gloom. Two of our players, in fact, should be sucking down the bubbly today, because they are co-owners of the newly minted FA Trophy champions, Ebbsfleet United. I'm sure Sam and Jimmy are having a fine time on their private islands today. Moguls.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The People's Car

Surely there is a wry historical joke hiding in the news that DC United, the club whose fierce Eagle Rampant badge has prompted some uncharitable comparisons to the aesthetics of various unsavory 20th Century political movements, just signed Volkswagen as its shirt sponsor. I am too tired to make it, however.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Today's Apocalyptic Forecast

The Columbus Crew is (are?) the best team in Major League Soccer. Lines for well-provisioned bunkers form to the left.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Mundo Albiceleste!

After visiting Argentina last year, the XIDevils Editorial Committee maintains a Strange Interest in all things Albiceleste, from tiny cups of really good coffee to riding noble steeds across the pampas. Delightful, then, that a commenter on the previous post (a guy from, of all places, Malayasia) runs this blog devoted to all Argentine players everywhere. God bless the Blaaaaghosphere.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Zenit's Zenith

So as I survey the possible wreckage of the Champions League final, which I fear will be a dire occasion enlivened only by the different comic facial expressions Drogba and Ronaldo use while wagging their fingers at the referee, I've been thinking how awesome it will be next year when the superb fantasy-football line-up of Bayern Munich gets its act together and rips through the CL. And then, of course, Bayern goes to Russia and gets completely sashlik'ed by Zenit St. Petersburg, like so:

All of which leads me to both revise my predictions for next year's Champions League and reflect that the competition would be REALLY awesome if clubs like Zenit could make it to the final stages.