Americans Haunted By A Phantom Call

Major, major props to Team USA for not succumbing to despair after falling behind 0-2 against a surprising Slovenian squad, that apparently holds Chuck Brown in no small amount of reverence. The fact that America’s team equalized in the second half is a testament to the grit and can-do attitude that fueled the establishment and growth of this great nation.

Of course, it was lackadaisical marking and a flaccid attack that put them in the early hole and to be sure that will surely be addressed by head coach Bob Bradley. Resiliency is a trademark of a team that can make a deep run in this, the greatest of all sporting events, and the American proved that they have just that.

The story of this match should have been that, a scrappy American squad falls behind early only to come roaring back in the second half to tie, then in the closing minutes to win on a Maurice Edu strike off a set piece. But nooooo…

Instead, the story of the match is head referee Koman Coulibaly from Mali who made an atrocious call that nullfied Edu’s potential game-winner. Coulibaly called Michael Bradley offside on the play despite not being in a position to make such a call. You see, that call typically goes to one of the linesmen who has a better angle on it. What makes this especially frustrating is that no one knew what the nullifying call was.

Even before making up this offside, this ref had shown a remarkable ability to make a buffoon of himself. He gave US forward Robbie Findley a yellow card for a handball. Fine and good, except that the ball hit Findley in the face. I don’t know maybe in Mali a hand is a face and a face is a hand, who knows?

I do know that this may sound condescending but what the hell is a man from Mali (FIFA Rank: 54) doing officiating a contest on this, the grandest of stages? What’s more, why is the Saudi ref (KSA’s FIFA Rank: 66) who clumsily presided over the México-France match also afforded the opportunity on this stage? Yes, I know that not all refs from low ranking FIFA members are laughably incompetent, but I’m beginning to sense a pattern and I’m not the only one.

In my opinion, the best football/fútbol is played in Europe and in Latin America so why not fill the World Cup referee pool overflowing with the best men from the leagues therein?

Mr. Coulibaly showed that he has no business presiding over a juice box-ridden and orange slice-infested FFPS lovefest much less a World Cup match.

All that said, here are some thoughts on what transpired:

Read more of this post

Advertisements

Move Over Lloyd Christmas

In that great cinematic work, Dumb and Dumber, Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) asked Mike Starr’s character, “Wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world?” And he proceeded to serenade him with what, at the time, was the most annoying sound in the world. Here’s the clip:

Well, suffice it to say, that sound plays second fiddle to the drone emanating from those ubiquitous South African “stadium horns”, vuvuzelas. That infernal noise was first heard by a worldwide audience during last year’s Confederations’ Cup. They were annoying then, and they are annoying now at the World Cup.

Opinion varies as to whether these horns are “annoying irritants” or “joyful expressions of African culture”, but at the risk of sounding dismissive of other cultures, they simply are annoying and irritating expressions of joyful African culture.

Whether it’s a South African, German or Mexican (below) providing the wind power, the noise produced is equally irritating. So much so that earplugs have become a hot item in South Africa. One might conclude that the vuvuzela was a clever scheme concocted by ear plug vendors, but I digress…

I took this pic after a México win at Reliant Stadium a couple of years ago, a match which proved to be my first exposure to the glorified funnels. As horrible as the noise is, it can’t take away from the beautiful game, especially at an event like the World Cup.

However, it would be a good if somehow Univision or ESPN found a way to filter out the vuvuzela noise, as the BBC is thinking of doing.

Here are a couple of observations from yesterday and today’s action:

  • The Germans have looked the best out of all the teams that have played so far. So effortless do the Krauts look, so crisp and pinpoint their passes are, are they not? They seem to have mastered the troublesome Jabulani (the official match ball), could it be because most of their squad plays in the Bundesliga, which used the Jabulani as its match ball last season?  Things that make you go hmmm…
  • Speaking of ze Germans…  How ’bout that rousing advertisement for globalization that their squad is?  The German National Team, dubbed Die Mannschaft (insert joke here), boasts a naturalized Brazilian, a son of Turkish immigrants, a guy named Gomez (born in Germany, has a Spanish father), 2 naturalized Poles (seems to be a running gag), another guy whose father is Tunisian.  Ol’ Adolf must be turning over in his grave…
  • What is it with Italy allowing headers from Latin American teams at the World Cup?  In ’02 it was México’s Jared Borghetti and today it was Paraguay’s Antolín Alcaraz who did the honors. Like in ’02 against El Tri Italy tied with Paraguay 1-1.
  • ESPN, I know that you learned from the last World Cup and hired good announcers to man your booth but you are still lagging behind Univision’s varsity, Pablo Ramirez and Jésus “El Profe” Bracamontes.  After Italy equalized today, Ramirez sung in Italian.  That is how you do it ESPN.  When a goal is scored don’t call it like it’s a throw-in, call it “with feelin'” as Jon Bon Jovi crooned.

Finally, on a totally unrelated not, you are very welcome Baylor.

The White Rabbit Will Lead México to An Early Exit

Surely it must mean something that I posted on Team USA’s shocking draw with England before posting on the opening match of the 2010 World Cup, which pitted host South Africa against my beloved Tri.  What it means is that the opening match left a bad taste in my mouth.

Like the US and England, South Africa and México tied 1-1. For South Africa that’s as good as a win and it’s safe to say that for the team representing my native land, that result is as bad as a loss.

Again, if careful and exegetic analysis of the match are your cup of tea, go check out it here.

Before the ball even got rolling there was a problem for México: Óscar “El Conejo” (The rabbit) Pérez starting at keeper for México. What catastrophe has to unfold for Mexican helmsman Javier “El Vasco” (The Basque) Aguirre to leave this guy on the friggin’ bench? I won’t even get into another lousy decision by Vasco: starting Guille Franco as the point man up front. To summarize Franco’s brilliant performance, he whiffed on 3 clear scoring opportunities. Two off-target headers and a feeble shot on goal that Bishop Tutu could have stopped.

It’s worth noting that after South Africa opened the scoring, Desmond started cutting a rug. I’d point out something about the dignity that accompanies age but then I’d come across as the woman (not to mention legalistic Baptists) who despised King David in 2 Samuel.

Like Rudy, Conejo is 5-foot-nothing, unlike Rudy, he is a wee bit more than a “100-nothing”. In the modern era of fútbol (after ’66 when they used that ridiculous volleyball as a match ball), no team has gone deep into the World Cup with a keeper that vertically challenged.

I’d understand if the man still had his ups, but he’s 37!!!!!! Whatever spring he might have had is long gone. I’d also understand if you didn’t have any other options, but riding the pine like some perpetual bridesmaid is Sideshow Bob Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa (right). Vasco, if Allstate is going to make Memo the centerpiece of an entire ad campaign, the least you do is start the man. Forget the fact that he’s 6′, young and in the prime of his career.

Throughout the match, Pérez looked to be way in over his head. He whiffed on a couple of crosses into the box that a taller and/or athletic keeper would have easily snagged. Given that set pieces and the aerial game are 2 of México’s main problems, it’s inexplicable why Aguirre goes with Pérez. I’m not sure that even Memo would have stopped South Africa’s impressive goal, but judging by the replay, Pérez was a few inches from getting at least a glove on it.

Then in what could have been South Africa’s game winner, Pérez defends it by doing a jumping jack [Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images]:

Pérez has no business being on this team, much less being the starting keeper. If Aguirre comes to his senses and starts Ochoa, at least this gives the team a better chance and will eclipse some of the other shortcomings that were in full bloom against South Africa (inability to capitalize, adventures in set pieces etc).

Given Aguirre’s noted stubbornness and pride, I have a feeling he will continue to follow his white rabbit (below, Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images) all the way into the hole that is not making it past the group stage.

Run, rabbit run… all the way to the bench please

Clint Dempsey’s Strike: From Nac-Town with Love

Yesterday morning at the store, I ran into a friend of mine and he asked me what I thought the outcome would be of today’s England-US World Cup showdown. My response? A draw.

Can’t say that I called it because I didn’t predict a score. Even as my prediction rolled off my tongue, I thought about the feasibility of such an outcome and came to the conclusion that even a draw would be a victory for Team USA, given how loaded the English squad is.

While it would be best to leave the tactical analysis of the match to the experten, I cannot help but discuss Clint Dempsey’s equalizer.

Yes, English keeper Robert Green made the type of mistake which should never be made at the World Cup level or any level of soccer save Fun Fair Positive Soccer . However, not enough credit is being given to the Texan Clint Dempsey, the man who presented Green with the opportunity to embarrass himself, his family and his country before a captivated world audience.

Prior to firing the fateful shot, Dempsey had to break free, and he did so by juking English captain, Steven Gerrard, out of his expensive Adidas cleats. Here’s a shot from mid-juke, (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)


Es OK Esteven, there are embittered Mexican men in Nac-Town who feel your pain

Judging by the display, one might have thought that Dempsey must have learned these skills from Hakeem Olajuwon who as we can see in Exhibit A below, just abused David Robinson back in the 1995 NBA playoffs.

But no, Dempsey honed these moves in his youth while playing in Nacogdoches’ Mexican League matches. As is reported here, Dempsey,

…beat men more than twice his age, proud men from Mexico and El Salvador who’d throw you to the East Texas dirt for trying a fancy move on them.

And according to one of his childhood friends, one time Dempsey

“did some kind of weird trick—it was so awesome—and the guy got mad and spit in his face.”

Due to the fact that us Mexicans think fútbol is our game and not the Americans’, I can certainly understand the ire of the men he schooled.

It’s hard to swallow when someone beats you at “your own game”, just ask British columnist and America’s Got Talent judge, Piers Morgan who penned this:

I honestly can’t believe we drew with the Americans. Soccer is a complete non-sport in the US. It ranks somewhere below tiddlywinks in their national competitive psyche.

Now, Dempsey might have picked up a huge assist from the wildly unpredictable Jabulani but it is certain that the glorified beach ball had nothing to do with his dissecting of Gerrard.

Major props to Dempsey and the rest of Team USA for their win draw against a tough opponent. I do feel bad for Robert Green but I’d feel worse if he played for Colombia.

A Mexican’s World Cup Primer

No, it has nothing to do with Tequila shots or other such truck but rather a historical retrospective.

Mexicans get soccer fed to us in our baby bottles

I made this statement to an American friend a couple of years ago. Many will say that it is a generalization and perhaps be insulted by it. A Mexican-American chap who heard it certainly was and let it be known just how offended he was. The fact that he neither was born and spent most of his childhood living in México made his overreaction a little bit less credible.

My native land hosted the 1986 World Cup and I remember it vividly. Anyone remember the borderline offensive mascot, Pique?

[found the pic at:  http://degenerasian.blogspot.com/]

The memories are bittersweet because while Manuel Negrete’s strike made an indelible impression on my mind, the loss against ze Germans in the quarterfinals broke my young Tri-loving heart.

Over the years, we moved to America and my interest in soccer waned as it had to compete with American football, baseball and basketball. Yet every four years I was drawn to the world’s biggest sporting event, The World Cup. I have soaked in every WC since ’86, and followed especially close those in which my beloved Tri took part of. (All of them since ’86 except for Italy ’90).

I pined in ’94 to go watch them live but alas it was not to be. We are but 2 weeks away from the start of South Africa 2010 and like many of my compatriots living in all corners of the world, I am giddy with excitement.

Yet this anticipation is tempered by the ghost of México in World Cups past. Like many Mexicans I take a hopeful pessimism approach into each World Cup. Yes, the squad is a solid one with great potential but let us not set our sights too high.  Otherwise we will be disappointed if El Tri comes crashing down like cadet Juan Escutia at the Battle of Chapultepec.

Read more of this post

The Arm of God Haunts México

[Para Español no oprima el #1, nada mas haga click donde se termina el Ingles]

I was not able to watch yesterday’s México-England match in its entirety yesterday given the fact that this small thing called work kind of prevented it.

Thanks to Telemundo’s live streaming of the events, I did manage to catch a good chunk of the 1st half and about a quarter of the 2nd half. Kudos to Telemundo legend Andrés Cantor for dropping an f-bomb on live television. His partner, Sammy Sadovnik asked him what Mexican coach, Javier Aguirre, shouted at English captain Steven Gerrard.

Cantor obliged him by repeating Aguirre’s “Hey Steven, F*ck you!” Cantor thought the mikes were turned off, fail. Oh well, I guess the FCC doesn’t care since it is a Spanish station.

To the match…

It was good to watch El Tri go up against seemingly top-flight competition without throwing up all over themselves. That is, if we’re not going to consider the inability to defend set pieces and to put the ball in net (looking at you Carlos Vela) as examples of throwing up all over themselves.

México’s performance was tantalizing and typical of what happens when they go up against world powers (Though England hasn’t won a World Cup since 1966, they are still considered one of the world’s best, if not by merit then by tradition.)

El Tri created a myriad of scoring opportunities and yet failed to capitalize. If you want to beat good teams you have execute in front of the net. England? They had 2 corner kicks in the first half and scored in both. Granted, in the second corner English forward Peter Crouch was offsides and brushed the ball into the goal with his arm, but still.

Seeing the Frankenstein monster’s-like 6’8″ Crouch tower over my diminutive countrymen was hilarious but things would have been far more humorous and haunted if the Mexican contingent would have invited noted Mexican ref and Dracula doppelganger, Marco Antonio “Chiquidracula” Rodríguez (below)

Good teams (México is not there yet) find ways to maximize the opportunities granted to them, that they create opportunities should be a given.

I know it’s just a friendly, but the flashes of brilliance shown by the usual suspects up front, Gio and Carlos Vela, gave us Mexicans a glint of hope that maybe just maybe we might have the horses to get out of the frigging Round of 16 in South Africa. Then Vela blows 2 clear scoring chances.

Oh well, my beloved Tri has pined to be in that top tier of squads, and dwell in the lofty spires where Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Italy make their home. Unfortunately that is not currently the case as evidenced by the setting of this very match. This was England’s World Cup send off.

The host picks a “lesser” opponent to play in the send off match. Very much like homecoming in American football. For your homecoming, you schedule a team you know you’re going to beat. England had no doubt that it was going to beat México, hence the 3 lions scheduled my Tri.

That’s OK, until México shows that it can beat top-tier competition it will reside in the middle of the pack.

That said, I think they earned the respect of the Brits, or at least their journalists judging by some of the pieces I’ve read from their newspapers.

Here is a fine example of one from the Telegraph,

England 3 Mexico 1: match report

Up next for México? The Netherlands tomorrow at 1:30 PM.

Read more of this post

Today in Houston…

The Mexican National Soccer Team (FIFA ranking: 17), will square off against Angola’s team (FIFA ranking:85) at Reliant Stadium. It’s a friendly match which means that

  • It doesn’t count for anything except extracting my countrymen’s hard earned lawn-mowing money
  • No Barkleyesque elbows will be flung in the direction of Angolan athletes.

Because it is my beloved Tri that is playing, expect to see this in the stands,


[Photo credit: Me. Took it during a México v. Belize match at Reliant Stadium]

The festivities will em, kick off later today.  No news if the wonderful folks at the so-called Minuteman Project will stage a whinefest.

That’s today in H-town, yesterday there was a protest led by none other than “local activist”, one might say “community organizer”, Quanell X.

As one might have guessed the protest had to do with racism, perceived or otherwise. Recently, a Bellaire officer, Jeffrey Cotton was acquitted of aggravated assault on Robbie Tolan, a Bellaire youth. Sgt. Cotton shot Tolan while the latter was in his front yard. By all accounts it was a misunderstanding, since Cotton believed that Tolan had stolen a car (the officer punched in the wrong tag number).

A confrontation ensued with the boy’s mother and the officer believed Tolan was reaching for a weapon and opened fire, wounding the young man. Personally, I believe the situation could have been avoided if Tolan had simply followed orders and waited for the misunderstanding to get cleared up.

Maybe it’s just me but if a cop tells me to do something, I’m going to do it and not put up any resistance. Remember folks, there are more of them than there are of you and they carry radios (not to mention guns). Besides, if you’re free of wrongdoing then that will come out in the wash, why aggravate the situation?

Quanell the Tenth decided to stick his nose in all this because Tolan is black and Cotton is white. At the protest, Mr. Tenth said,

This cop is a criminal, this cop should be in jail. If you shoot one more black man in Bellaire in cold blood, then your damn city will go up in flames.

I find his tone very interesting. Yes, it is possible that Cotton’s demeanor was influenced by the fact that Tolan is a young black man. Young black men and the police don’t seem to get along very well. I don’t find it outside the realm of possibility that the officer might not have been so trigger-happy if Tolan was white.

That said, Quanell the Tenth just made it more difficult for young black men in Bellaire. His passionate and extremely careless threat just paints a very negative image of blacks in the minds of Bellaire residents. In their minds, he’s painting an image (if not reinforcing) of black men as being violent, hot-tempered and not too hesitant to making threats. That’s a disservice to the very people he claims to represent.

To me, it’s very similar to when Muslims get their knickers in a twist when anyone suggests that some professing Muslims have violent tendencies.

As I’ve said before,

If someone says that you have a tendency to get out of control, and you don’t like it, then probably it’d be better if you didn’t get out control with your reaction…