ten words or less #65

Thus far, 2013 has been a whirlwind. As with most years, there’s been the expected absurdity that accompanies the holiday season to keep me busy: the annual cornucopia of fixtures, plus the ensuing avalanche of (faux-)headlines that is the January transfer window.

inter milan's wesley sneijder

the only person who’s had a busier start to 2013 than WSOTP is wesley sneijder’s agent.

But, unlike previous years, things have been especially crazy around the imaginary WSOTP office during this already hectic time of year thanks to the eclipsing of a number of major milestones for the blog. First, I had the privilege of having my first ever article published by legendary blog In Bed With Maradona. Next came the announced partnership with the stalwarts at the Free Beer Movement. And then piggybacking off of that, over the last week I’ve seen the WSOTP Soccer Pub Atlas get further attention from at least three major MLS blogs… which has left me buried in pub submissions.

If it sounds like I’m complaining, I’m not. If these were problems, they’re good ones to have. And thanks to the vast increase in exposure for the blog I’ve also seen an influx of new followers and likes from the social media channels. And if you happen to be one of the n00bs, don’t think I’m just a “soccer bar specialist” — as if that kind of specialization actually exists. I also write a bit, too. So make sure to check back regularly to read my musings on the world’s game.

So as I put some finishing touches on my next original treatise, let me kick the new year off in truly lazy fashion by sharing a few of my favorite links from the last week.

Sign this petition to end USSF support for Sepp Blatter. – theshinguardian.com

Kevin Prince Boateng takes a stand… and might walk away. – guardian.co.uk

“He eats other chairman sprinkled on his morning corn flakes.” – dearmrlevy.com

Want to find and watch an old match? Check this out. – reddit.com/fullmatch

A theory explaining why Gooners are the way they are.
- beardedgeniusofftwitter.tumblr.com

Is Baines just good, or good because he’s at Everton? – espnfc.com

Ben Olsen is a D.C. icon. – kckrs.com

My new year’s resolution to read more books got easier. – forbes.com

Checkout any time you like, but you can never leave. – dirtytackle.net

The true centennial crest for US Soccer. – thebeautifulgear.com

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ten words or less #44

barcelona's lionel messi wins the 2011 fifa ballon d'or

george castanza approves of messi's velvet suit.

Now that I’m sort-of fully settled into 2012 — I am admittedly still having trouble accidentally writing 2011 on everything, an annual challenge for sure — it’s time to ring in some minor changes around the blog. The largest of the changes is a new, fancy “Featured Posts” section, which highlights some of my bloggings that fall outside the realm of the standard essays on current events in and around the game. This new page is part of an overall effort I’ve undertaken to help improve site navigation and search… something nobody was complaining about yet I still felt the need to address.

OCD and ADD: it’s a powerful combination. Enjoy some links, now in doses of 10:

A forgotten hero fades into the dark. – nj.com

If there wasn’t football: Hodgson, Rooney, Mick, Gerrard, Rio, Beckham. - theoriginalwinger.com

Unique re-thinks of national team logos, by Pelé Sports. – creativeroots.org

The decision that saved MLS in 2002: contraction. – mlssoccer.com

Lesson learned? I still shouldn’t play in face paint. – inbedwithmaradona.com

The first foosball table I’ve wanted in 20 years. – 11thegame.com

This guy is buying everyone’s drinks this weekend. – timesofindia.com

Challenge for my buddy currently vacationing in Bogotá: find this. – domusweb.it

Like the Super Bowl Shuffle, but 100 times worse. – youtube.com

The question remains, how is Eto’o’s coverage compared to Verizon? – kckrs.com

an open letter to sepp blatter

sepp blatter

blatter's racism remarks are just the latest in a long line of major gaffes by the fifa president.

Mr. Sepp Blatter
FIFA-Strasse 20,
P.O. Box 8044 Zurich, Switzerland

Mr. Blatter:

I am writing with regards to your recent off-color remarks during an interview with CNN World Sport on November 16th, 2011. Considering all of the outrage that you’ve faced since it’s publication, I’m sure you know which remarks to which I’m referring. But just in case you’ve forgotten (as is probable with any 75-year-old man), or if any of the public that read this aren’t yet aware, I’ve quoted you below:

I would deny [that there is racism on the pitch]. There is no racism, there is maybe one of the players towards another, he has a word or a gesture which is not the correct one. But also the one who is affected by that, he should say that this is a game. We are in a game, and at the end of the game, we shake hands, and this can happen, because we have worked so hard against racism and discrimination. And on the field of play sometimes you say something that is not very correct, but then at the end of the game, the game is over and you have the next game where you can behave better.

Judging by those statements, you obviously haven’t been paying attention to the game you claim to govern and protect.

only potty mouths would cover their blab hole during matches.

If you had, you would have noticed that your sport’s most popular league currently has two ongoing investigations into on-field incidents of racism involving several very high profile players. If neither of those incidents ring a bell, perhaps you’ll recall an incident during last season’s much hyped series of Clásicos where Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets called Real Madrid’s Marcelo a monkey. And in case you hadn’t noticed, all of these incidents occurred on the pitch, which is pretty contradictory to your statements above.

Still not convinced that racism still exists on your hallowed professional pitches? In both Busquets’ and Terry’s alleged abuses, the accused both covered their mouths while speaking. I don’t know about you, but I only cover my mouth when I don’t want anyone to see what I’m saying. With these star players keenly aware that a million cameras are pointing at them, why else would they cover up what they were saying?

On top of that, you seemed shocked that everyone — and I do mean everyone — was so offended by your comments. It’s like you thought, “If Sepp deems it true, it is true!” But, instead of apologizing gracefully and owning up to your callous remarks, you swatted them to the side and threw up a picture of you and a racial minority, as if to say, “See it’s okay that I said that because I’m friends with a black guy!”

To be honest, we all should have expected this from you. After all, you are the same guy that suggested that women’s soccer’s would be more popular if the ladies would sport some shorts that hugged their rear-ends a bit tighter. You’re also the same guy that said John Terry’s adulterous life choices would have been celebrated if only he were in Latin America instead of Europe. And considering you didn’t think FIFA had a crisis on it’s hands when it was exposed that Executive Committee members were accepting bribes in exchange for their World Cup bid votes, we really shouldn’t have expected you to think racism was an issue anymore either.

Take a look around you, Sepp: your house is clearly out of order. Corruption runs rampant at nearly every level of your organization. FIFA effectively raped and pillaged South Korea and South Africa during the last two World Cups, leaving each country saddled with massive debt for unusable stadiums as you mandated tax loopholes that enabled you and your cronies to pocket more of the profits. The next tournament looks to be more of the same, assuming Brazil are even capable of pulling off all of the required preparations in time to host the damn thing.

fifa's motto should be weighing heavily on sepp's mind right now.With all of that in mind, it’s time to leave the game, Mr. Blatter. You’re stranglehold on world football has been too long, and it’s time to allow someone else to come in and clean up your mess. The sport needs a new direction, and you’re clearly not capable of providing the necessary leadership.

Disgracefully, gracefully, I don’t really care how you go. Just go. Hell, I’d be fine for you just to retire away to your native Swiss hills or the Caymans or somewhere else where you and your dirty money can be shielded by friendly bank privacy laws… we’ll just be glad to be rid of you. If you have any respect for the game you’ve been “serving” for so long, you know deep down that your resignation is — like FIFA’s slogan — “for the good of the game”.

Time’s up, old man.

D.J. Switzer
wrong side of the pond

has sir alex lost the plot?

we’ve been trained over the years to not question him. and why should we?

sir alex may be the most successful manager of his generation, but is he still on top of his game?

sir alex ferguson’s 24 years at the helm of manchester united have landed them an almost unprecedented number of trophies: 11 premiership titles, 5 FA cups, 3 league cup titles, two champions league titles and two club world cup tiltes. his results by themselves are hard to argue with: not a manager in the modern day game has delivered more than him.

his “my way or the highway” attitude has lead to falling outs with star players that none of us thought the club would be able to recover from. but the losses of players like gordon strachan, pual ince, david beckham, roy keane and ruud van nistelrooy almost always resulted in the team becoming more solid. in fact, fergie’s hardline managerial style is probably one of the biggest contributors to his success.

and his knack for unearthing unbelievable talent isn’t anything to question either. high profile departures and retirements never seemed to bother him, as he’s always had the red nose (and money) to bring in more than adequate replacements.

until recently, that is.

i can’t help but feel that sir alex’s wily ways have finally caught up with him. the high profile departures from last year continue to loom over this season. they definitely miss ronaldo and tévez, and not just for their goals.

right now, man united are a one dimensional team, at least as far as other teams are concerned. sure, their dangerous with dead balls; ryan giggs in particular. and they’re fundamentally sound and deep at every position. but who on their roster strikes fear into the heart of defenders besides rooney? michael owen could, but he never gets off the bench. danny wellbeck and federicho macheda aren’t there yet. i don’t even want to hear an argument for berbatov, who hasn’t been a cause a defender to wet his pants since he left tottenham.

when the ronaldo and tévez where still wearing their red jerseys, opposing managers had to worry about shutting down at least two players every game… possibly even three. ronnie, carlos and wayne could all produce something out of nothing. not now though, as only rooney remains of the three.

that means that opposing sides only really have to focus on shutting down rooney. sure, united are still getting plenty of goals from the rest of the squad, but no one else is a real threat to regularly score goals. close down rooney, and all you have to worry about is a midfielder or defender pulling something out of their ass.

even better for the opposition? the further into a game you can keep a clean sheet, the more likely it is that rooney will take it upon himself to drop deeper and deeper into the midfield to help create something. this is especially true when united are down. which means you have a park ji-sung or antonio valencia spearheading your attack while rooney tries to catch up from his foray into the back.

how didn’t sir alex see all of this coming?

he sold one of the most potent weapon he’s ever managed this past summer for £80 million. he hypothetically could have used that money to buy all of newcastle united. not that that purchase would have increased his team’s goal scoring abilities, but i’m just saying he had more money at his disposal than any manager could have ever dreamed of. benitez has wet dreams over money like that.

fergie didn’t make a single move for any player to replace ronaldo’s 20+ goals a year or tévez’s 15. he could have virtually had any player in the world for half that money: valencia’s david villa, edin džeko of wolfsburg, atlético madrid’s kun agüero, or hulk from porto. hell, he could have even convinced bayern to offload ribery for £60 million. (the only players i think he couldn’t have gotten for that money? torres, drogba and ibrahimovic.)

however, old red nose decided against buying anyone. maybe he like’s sleeping on a giant pile of money? or he felt content with partnering rooney with the con-artist formerly known as berbatov and a bunch of young, and using an unproven crop of kids to fill the shoes of two of the best players in the premier league. owen was signed as nothing more than an insurance policy. and now he’s stuck with a one dimensional attack option.

and united’s attacking problems aren’t the only issues sir alex is facing right now either.

it’s no secret that united are knee deep in an injury crisis, especially in the back. rio ferdinand seems to have permanently broken his back. nemanja vidić, john o’shea, wes brown and johnny evans have all been fighting off persistent injuries all season. number one goalkeeper edwin van der sar has been given “indefinite compassionate leave” after his wife suffered a brain haemorrhage. owen hargreaves hasn’t played since bush was in office: rumor is he could be coming back soon, but i’m not falling for that one again.

also, this united roster isn’t exactly the youngest of sides. sure, there are plenty of young players on the team sheet (macheda is 18; danny wellbeck, fábio and rafael are 19; gabriel obertan is 20; anderson is 21; mame diouf, zoran tošić and daron gibson are 22; valencia and rooney are 24; the rest of their regulars are either late 20′s or in their dark 30′s), but only anderson, rooney and valencia could be considered regular starters. there’s no denying that these young guys are talented, but how often do they see the field?

maybe vidic is growing tired of fergie's iron hand.

ferguson hasn’t really started to lean on the rest of his young players yet, and continues to rely on veterans such as van der sar (39), giggs (36), scholes (35) and gary neville (34). eventually these old men are going to start needing nursing home care retire, so fergie will need to start testing his youngsters more regularly.

lastly, it’s become increasingly evident  that some of united’s more talented players have become unsettled in manchester in the last few years. ronanldo is easiest example of this to point out, but he’s not the only one. tévez became increasingly disillusioned with his playing time and life at old trafford as fergie didn’t want to be held hostage by carlos’ agent kia joorabchian’s high transfer price. sir alex’s insistence to not bow to anyone’s demands led to tévez’s exit to city.

the latest to apparently join this list is star centerback nemanja vidić. intense speculation has begun to swirl about the media that vidić is real madrid’s biggest january transfer target. rumor is that the big serb’s wife is not happy with life in manchester. that’s never good news, as we all know an unhappy wife means an unhappy husband. not only that, but vidić’s demand for a new contract (and higher pay), seems to indicate he is trying to engineer a move to the spanish capital.

so is the one of the greatest managers of all time losing his magic touch? an impotent attack, an aging and injured squad, and an increase in the amount of unsettled players in his side lead me to say maybe. this season is barely half way through, and i know that united have the ever-pissing-me-off tendency to play out of their minds in the second half of the season.

but, there are some cracks in the foundation that i can’t ignore. hell, i want those cracks to get bigger: i’m tired of manchester’s continued dominance of england. i’d love to see that dominance end… just as long as it’s not chelsea that takes the top spot from them.

round-up #9

judging from my lack of posts as of late, i wouldn’t blame you if you thought i had been kidnapped by mexican drug lords or that i was eaten alive by a rogue bear. but as you can see from my recent postings that neither has been the case, though i am sorry that i’ve left you all anxiously awaiting my next epic piece. so to reward those of you diligent enough to continue visiting through my barren stretch, i’m giving you two whole posts in less than 24 hours. and what better way to cap off my marathon writing exhibition than to drop you another footballing news round-up! i know, my generosity is just too much sometimes.

harry rejects rio rumors – skysports.com
seeing how manchester united’s normally predictable defensive penchant has gone missing for most of the season so far, many have blamed rio ferdinand’s uncharacteristic mistakes in the back as a primary reason for his team’s defensive shortcomings. it certainly seems that rio has caught the poor-form bug from jamie carragher, the england center back’s displays have made him the perfect subject for tabloid transfer fodder.

and where else would the papers be picking him to land other than at my spurs. after all, ‘arry redknapp gave ferdinand his big break while the two were at west ham about a half century ago, so picking tottenham as a potential destination isn’t that far of a stretch. the tottenham gaffer was quick to dispell the rumors, and rightfully so. first off, a small dip in form from one of the most consistent center backs in the world is no reason to sell him yet, and united certainly won’t be ready to make that gamble. but more importantly (for me at least), why would tottenham want to throw money at another oft-injured center back? the only reason i can think would be to give ledley king and jonathan woodgate some more company in the training room…

where did the recent thierry henry to MLS rumors come from? – theoffside.com
i can’t deny it: i love the idea of former arsenal hitman thierry henry moving to MLS next year. i absolutely love it more than any other juicy transfer rumor

henry facing new york last summer. could the frenchman be gearing up for a move to MLS next summer?

in the world right now. i don’t even care what team he ends up with (save for LA), though 99% of the rumors have him landing with red bull new york. however, as the article above so clearly implies, this story is nothing but a rumor based upon more rumors. there doesn’t seem to be a shred of factual evidence or resources that say henry or his people or barça are even discussing the issue. but i’ll tell you one thing: if he does come, it will put my butt in an MLS stadium next season to watch him play. this is the kind of use of MLS’s designated player rule that i can truly appreciate, and the article says it perfectly:

He could be described as the David Beckham for people who actually like football instead of celebrity.

couldn’t have said it better myself. so let’s make it happen MLS. i guarantee new york’s fans are begging you. i bet juan pablo angel would beg you if you asked him in private. and i’m definitely begging you.

robinho’s £6 million loan – thesun.co.uk
so it looks like the cry baby will finally get his wish after all. man city’s brazilian winger spent the last few weeks publicly pining for a move to his former club’s hated rivals, and it looks like all of his whining has been worth it. feeling under appreciated in the spanish capital (or in reality, tired of facing the criticism for having not made as much of an impact as he should have while playing for madrid), robinho forced his way out of real and thought he was heading to his preferred destination of chelsea.

however, thanks to city swooping in at the last minute with a superior bid, madrid delightfully sold him to a team that they knew they would not have to face in the champions league for at least a few years. brilliant move by the spanish giants: more money and less risk. it’s pretty much common knowledge that robinho was disappointed with being sold to man city from the first minute he stepped off the plane in england.

my guess is that with the £6 million barca will pay man city for the 6 month loan in january, city will also get yaya toure and more cash in the summer in an eventual full sale of the winger. personally, i’m sad that his “personal hell” looks to be coming to a close… it’s what he deserved.

sounders fc gadget for windows – soundersfc.com
while surfing the interwebs for soccer news the other day, i came across this interesting tidbit. microsoft’s recently released windows 7 operating system is making a waves in the computing world, and suprisingly in the world of soccer too. microsoft built the sounders their very own gadget/widget for the windows 7 desktop that gives fans quick access to bounty of info about the team (news, schedule, stats, roster, etc.). with microsoft just down the road from seattle, the club being owned primarily by one of microsoft’s former big wigs paul allen, and the team’s jersey sponsor being microsoft’s xbox gaming platform, it’s not really that surprising that microsoft would do something this cool for a very well supported club. and while i’m an apple-fanboy through and through, i definitely would like to see more of this type of exposure available for all MLS teams.

smithy meets the england football team – youtube.com
a gem of a comedy video featuring some of the england squad’s biggest stars, featuring comedian james corden from the BBC’s gavin & stacey. i’m sold whenever, and i repeat whenever, someone rips on john terry to his face. trust me, it’s well worth the watch.

(props to nic for giving me the heads up on this video… thanks!)