What Does it Say?

I am sure the sportswriters all across the globe all have similar topics regarding the state of Italian football. What does it say, when three of the top Italian teams, in Inter, Juve and Roma all go down in defeat over the course of two days in UEFA Champions League play? Does this mean English football is that much superior to the game the Italians play?

I watch plenty of footie from the UK and Man U, Chelsea and Arsenal are much like their Italian counterparts in terms of quality of football on the pitch and their positions in the table every year. Of the three Italy v England matches, two of them were scoreless draws in the first leg. Only Arsenal managed a lone gone, courtesy of a penalty kick, after dominating Roma for much of the match. Arguments can be made for the other matches, as Mourinho defends his team’s play against the Reds, while Juve came close numerous times versus Chelsea, but came up short in the end.

Of the three Italian team, Inter’s exit is probably the most shocking, come up short in a 2-0 loss to SAF and the Red Devils. Seems only fitting though, that in his years at Chelsea he was at the top of his game, only to lose another match to Man U. This was the real title that Jose was after, not the scudetto in Serie A. Mourinho last won the CL in 2004 with Porto and exited in the semifinals twice while at Chelsea, so while his track record is proven, his team just did not have enough to finish off SAF’s Red Devils.

The Roma match was a roller coaster of emotions, being down 1-0 AGG heading back to the Olimpico for the second leg. After a dominating performance by the Gunners, it was talked about pregame to be much of the same. Yet Roma is always resilient and a tougher team to play in Rome and they proved it yesterday. It only took 9 minutes when Juan found the back the net, after a pass came through the box and was slotted past Almunia.

This was a big goal goal for Roma and their fans, as it allowed them to draw even on aggregate goals. Roma proved to be the stronger side much of the match and produce quality chances in front of Almunia, but could never finish. As with most matches, there was a controversial no-call by the Spanish referee on Matto, as he appeared to have his jersey pulled from behind by Clichy, causing him to go to the ground. Yet nothing was rewarded and game play continues.

Baptista had a horrible showing much of the match. He came on late in first period as Juan exited due to injury and seemed to be a step behind and a pass off. He did have a chance to seal a victory for Roma on a beautiful cross which was flicked on my Totti, but Baptista tried for the one-timer and it was for not.

Arsenal showed some prowess late in the second half and much of two, 15 minute overtime periods, but the score remained 1-1 as the match went to spot kicks. Dona was riding high after he saved the first attempt, as Roma converted. Unfortunately, Roma’s season would come crashing down after 7 penalty kicks when Max Tonetto stepped up and put the ball over the crossbar. While I don’t lay the blame on him, I do put some of the responsibility on the shoulders of Mirko Vucinic, who half assed an attempt right at Almunia, evening up the PKs after the second round.

So where does that leave Italy football? Sure, Inter will go on with win their third scudetto in Serie A, while Juve and Roma will both finish in the top five and be back in the Champions League next year. What does this say about the World Cup, upcoming in 2010? I don’t believe England has a better squad than Italy and now with many players imported to play in countries like England and Italy it’s more difficult to judge the on field talent when its brought together. The 2008 Italy squad was unique, in that all the players played in country. Not the case any longer. I do think Italian football will need to look within, in order to have better showing next year. Here is to Man U winning the Champions League, as well as the Premiership, the FA and the League Cup, which they have already completed.

Community Shield

The 100th FA Community Shield was played today in the UK with Portsmouth going up defending Prem Champions Manchester United. This kicks off the new season, as there are a full slate of matches next weekend, which I am looking forward too. As for the NFL…pffft.

The game was rather uneventful, as the Red Devils were not even fielding a full team with some big names not in the lineup, like Rooney, Ronaldo, Hargreaves and others. Portsmouth, winners of the FA Cup last season look to make a run for the championship this season, or at least be in the top four. But they did not play well, outside a great game from the flamboyant, David James.

When this guy is hot, look out he is one of the best in the game. But sometimes his aggressive play style gets the best of him and those easy ones end up in the back of the net. Not today though, he kept Pompey in the game, even though they could not muster much offense.

The big name signing of Peter Crouch was rather quiet, coupled with Jermaine Defoe they did not really click in the match. Most of the offense was seen at the opposite end of the pitch, with James continuing to make save after save.

The game was 0-0 at full time, which mean a penalty shoot out. Pompey looked terrible from the spot, but I do think Van De Sar has something to do with that, as an opposing figure between the sticks. Portsmouth missed, scored and the next two were saved as Man U went on to win their 7th FA Community Shield.

Next weekend is shaping up nicely with some big games to kick off the new English Premier season with many big names on new teams. As for Serie A, they kick off the last week in August. More big signings for clubs like AC Milan, Juventus, Inter as well as my favorite, AS Roma. Football, not throwball is back!

Premiership to Remain Premier

There was a proposal set forth by the Barclays’s Premier League to stage league games outside of England. Many mangers of English clubs were not happy about the prospects of playing league games abroad.

The United States would have been one of the countries on the list with games played in two big market cities, New York and Los Angeles. Only one problem, which I am somewhat surprised that MLS deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis did not recognize. Football…err…soccer for you Yanks does not sell in America.

Yeah, I am sure with expansion planned to Miami and San Jose, some would look at the MLS being on the upswing. Yet there are telltale signs all is not well. Consider that clubs have lost a combined $350 million since the league’s inception in 1994. Attendance figures are not stellar considering clubs are drawing between 11,000 and 16,000 fans on average. Yeah, I also know there are some exceptions, D.C. United, Toronto FC and the Los Angeles Galaxy (Thanks to David Beckham!).

But I can step back and take a breath because other, stronger nations in football, like Australia, Africa and Asia (Japan & Korea) have rejected the FIFA proposal.

From Gazidis, “I don’t see it as a negative for MLS, but the implications go beyond these games on their own. There are implications for the game worldwide. There are implications when matches are taken across borders in this way.” No one attends games now, what makes the MLS think with Prem clubs coming across The Pond, fans will flock to watch REAL football? Add to that, the fact clubs will raise ticket prices before of the QUALITY of football.

Now, I as a football fan (No, not NFL) would relish the chance to see a Premiership match. Honestly, it would just not be the same to see football in a country that hardly recognizes football…err…soccer as a sport in America.

Guess I will have to book my reservations for a Trans-Atlantic flight to meet Qster (Andy) at Villa Park and then off to Vicarage Road. Now tell me Yanks, do you know who plays at these stadiums? Ha, didn’t think you did. Go back to your American football.

Footie Season Opens!

I am counting down the minutes at work in order to get home and plop on the couch for 6 hours of football. No, not the American game (NFL), but the Premiership over in the UK. I know football…errr…soccer is not one of the “big three” in America and it never will be, regardless of what over the hill star signs with an MLS team. Sorry David but you are more fit for Hollywood than the pitch right about now.

I am madly refreshing the Watford F.C. site hoping to see a victory for the Hornets, who are my main team in the UK. Even though they were relegated after last season from the Prem, they should return in prime form and have a great shot at the Championship League. I am also excited about the start of the Premiership because I took on the role of manager of 6thFloor in a fantasy football (soccer for the Yanks) league. It will be the first time I try my hand managing my team of 15 and $100m.

As for the NFL, eh I am sure I will catch any games that involves my hometown San Diego Chargers, but outside of that I have lost interest in watching the games. I will run the 27th season of fantasy football (yes, American football, Euros) with me as the acting commish. Our draft is next weekend, hopefully both “football” teams see successful this season!

Man United Future Footballer

I think the video says it all. For a 9 year kid, Rhain Davis is pretty god damn amazing footballer. He was just signed by Manchester United of the Premier League in the UK. His skills are very impressive. Could he be the future Wayne Rooney?

Beckham Arrival Overrated?

I have never been a big David Beckham fan going back to his days with Manchester United. He is one hell of a footballer and his accomplishments are quite impressive: FA Premier League Champion 6 times, FA Cup winner twice, UEFA Champions League once. Pele also listed Beckham as one of the Top 100 greatest living footballers in the world. So to his credit he is nothing short of a football good in the eyes of many.

Much like Pele, Beckham leaves the European (and Spanish) League flies across “The Pond” and lands in Tinseltown, Los Angeles, home to the L.A. Galaxy a team that has struggles this year in the MLS. Pele came to the NASL at age 35 in 1975 to the highly profiled New York Cosmos, where he played until 1977. Beckham at 32 years of age is getting on in his football career. It did not come as a big surprise when Man U. did not want him back, instead going with youth up front, so Beckham took his namesake and game to Real Madrid. Was his time in Spain a bust? If you base that decision on championships, then no Real Madrid won their first La Liga title in 3 years with the help of Beckham.

On January 11, 2007 it was announced that Beckham would follow in the footsteps of Pele and take his game to America, where football is known as soccer and has very little support compared to the other major sports like baseball, American football and basketball. The deal was 5 years up to a reported $250 million to play for the L.A. Galaxy. What sort of impact will he bring to the Galaxy is yet to be seen, but many of the reports I have heard are “team oriented.” It is no longer just about Beckham.

Will he be able to help the Galaxy who have 13 points with only 3 wins in 12 games? Sure I do think he will be able to bring his experience and talent to the MLS and America help the team win. I don’t think his impact will really help increase the interest in ‘soccer’ in the U.S., which is what many are banking on. Sure, those into the game of soccer in the U.S. are excited for his arrival, but I for one see it more as a PR move more than a smart move. Revenue for many of the MLS teams cannot be all that high and having to shell out $250 million for a single player is quite a bit.

Pele helped introduce the game of football to America from 1975-1977, I remember watching him on television and in person against the San Diego Sockers. Pele made 64 appearances and scored 37 goals, but he was a true ambassador of the game. Beckham leaves Europe with a turbulent past, the jury is out as to what sort of impact he will have on the league, the game and brings more Americas out to see one of Europe’s best.

Note: Oddly enough he will play his first match against a team he knows all too well, Chelsea, when they face the L.A. Galaxy on July 21.

Another Sunday

So Week #2 of the NFL is here and it will be another weekend I don’t watch football and turn my television to Premiership and Serie A footie [soccer]. Northern California has to be the worst place in the country for NFL football at the moment. Two terrible teams in the Raiders and 49’ers, who I believe will have a combined 8 wins between them when the season come to an end. Even with all 16 home teams selling out this weekend, there are no second games on FOX in the morning and CBS in the afternoon. Then again the match ups of Raiders v Ravens and 49’ers v Rams are just not that enticing. It’s no wonder I play fantasy football and pull for individual players and not teams.

The footie schedule is much stronger on Fox Soccer Channel and GOLTV today as my favorite Italian Serie A club, AS Roma go up against Siena. I already have my DVR set to record this match since I will miss about half the game as I am driving home. But this is quickly becoming my regular Saturday and Sunday schedule, watching footie and forgetting football. The big game of the day is Manchester United v Arsenal at Old Trafford beginning at 8:00PDT. Other Serie A matches from Italy include Lazio v Palermo and Atalanta v Catania.

It’s not that I am loosing interest in the NFL, as much as I am gaining more of an interest at getting back into footie. Guess I have the World Cup to thank for that. Forza Italia! Of course if the San Diego Chargers are playing or another game of interest I will watch, but until that time, the TV schedule for the NFL has truly been ass! I would gladly pay $9.95, hell $19.95 to watch the Chargers play each Sunday. I know Comcast offers an MLB and NBA package, but I don’t believe there is one for the NFL, like Direct TV has. Even watching football streaming on the Internet, give me that option.

I bought the MLB package this year for $89.95. Now the price might sound steep at first, but when you consider you get every out of market baseball game, it is a small price to pay for nearly unlimited games! I get to watch the San Diego Padres at my leisure (except when they play SF). Not sure this would work for the NFL, but it would be a great option to have. I can even buy individual UEFA Champions League match for $9.95. Hopefully the trend in the future will be offer more events on streaming media. Guess time will tell.

Fútbol or Football

Okay, so the US is a bit backwards when it comes to football, the American version and the international version. Those in the states usually refer to it as soccer and not football, fútbol or “footie.”

This past weekend was the opening weekend for the NFL and while I am a big fan of the NFL and fantasy football, I could just not get into the swing of the games on Sunday. Then again, there were some horrible games on television, maybe that is why. So instead of flipping channels during the early games and settling in for the afternoon affair I tuned the NFL out and the Premiership in!

The what you ask? The EPL. The Premiership, the top league over in England, along with catching two Italian matches. Now I can see many rolling their eyes and saying boring, but it was much more exciting that any of the three NFL games I had to choose from. Sure the scores were rather low scoring, 1-0, 1-1, 2-1, but it was a much more enjoyable product on the field, or in footie terms, the pitch, than was watching the NFL.

Maybe this is where fantasy football as gone, as I don’t care so much about watching the games any longer than I do about my fantasy players performing well enough to score big points. Of course I will also root and cheer for my San Diego Chargers, who in fact, kicked the shit out of “Raidernation!” One nation, my ass! And you Bay Area myopics thought Aaron Brooks was the answer to all your prayers. LOL!

I guess I have the recent FIFA World Cup to thank for the sudden infusion of footie in my life and the fact that Italy, my favorite football nation won the cup. As a kid I played the game, through high school and two years in college. But once out of college, I did not play again, but the love for the game is still there and stronger than ever. So while the NFL is in my blood, the love of the game lies watching footie.

The Ugly Side of Germany 2006

With all great events, such as the 2006 World Cup, there is always a downside. I am still trying to decide what has taken away from the matches more, the commentary on ESPN or the officiating. Don’t get me wrong, I am excited I can lay claim to watch every match so far. For those not into footie, I guess it could be about as exciting as watching paint dry or grass grow. Nonetheless, it has been a very entertaining World Cup so far.

Let’s start with the commentary on ESPN. Let me preface this by saying, soccer [here in the US] is something we are not good at. When I say we, I mean Americans. There is very little coverage of the so-called “professional” league, which continues to loose money and does not draw fans like other, international leagues, like Serie A in Italy, Bundesliga in Germany or the Premiership in England. So with that said, the commentary has been horrible outside of Adrian Healey and Tommy Smyth. Unfortunately, we don’t get to hear their commentary much.

Let’s single out the studio “expert” Eric Wynalda. This guy comes off as a real arrogant, all knowing asshole! Sure he played for the US team and is still the leading goal scorer [which isn’t saying much], but in studio he has some weak takes and never seems to stray far from mentioning something about US Soccer. Julie Foudy is another one, while not arrogant does not add a damn thing to any of the coverage. She isn’t attractive, doesn’t have any valid points, expect for being the Captain of the Woman’s US Soccer Team. I told you how weak the professional league is in the US? Well women’s soccer is even lower than men’s. Sorry Julie but get off my television!

Game coverage has been good, if you want to watch it, but again, tossing an ex-professional player in the booth with some unknown commentator does not provide for average coverage at best. And they are always bringing US soccer into the mix! Unlike Healey and Smyth, who bring a great knowledge and experience to the commentary, the other commentators seem to try too hard to “Americanize” this international game. You can hear this in the terminology used.

Not to be outdone, the officiating has been downright terrible. Although today’s France v Spain match was probably one of the better matches. The 2006 World Cup has set records for the number of yellow and red cards handed out. Remember no official is supposed to decide the outcome of the game. Hell, as I wrote a few weeks ago, we should not know the name of ANY official on the pitch!

I understand the officials needing to keep the match moving and maintaining control of the players on the pitch. But that does not mean dropping yellow cards for every infraction. You can tell the good officials from the bad. Those officials who whistle a player for committing a foul, quickly administering a verbal warning and then play continues. You can keep control of the game without handing out a record number of cards.

Even with those two areas receiving criticism in my book, I have been very pleased with the 2006 World Cup. The games have been entertaining and great to watch. I look forward to 2010 when FIFA goes to South Africa. This gives me time to draw up plans to attend. I have connections in South Africa, believe it or not.

Oh and before I forget FORZA ITALY!