World Cup Hurting Movie Biz?

This is an old article from Variety (plunked from an unfinished post by @huffcity) but kinda interesting, especially to see if it has played out to be true. Basically, it says that the World Cup — June 11-July 11 — has put a real crimp in Hollywood’s movie release schedule, particularly in Europe, where they’re presuming every debut would be a flop.

Personally, I think they should just re-run Victory non-stop:

Drogba and Ferdinand Injured; World Cup Hopes in Doubt

On the eve of the U.S. men’s last warm-up game before the start of the World Cup, sobering injury news for two huge names–Didier Drogba and Rio Ferdinand–and a reminder that what’s most important for the Nats against Australia tomorrow is to stay healthy.

The U.S. already has injury concerns, with Oguchi Onyewu’s ability to go a full 90 minutes still very much in question. And Jozy Altidore picked up a “mild” ankle sprain in training Wednesday. He’s been held out of practice since, is listed as day-to-day and is doubtful to play against the Socceroos.

Those concerns are minor compared to the worries of England and Ivory Coast, who appear to have lost talismanic players just days before the start of the tournament. England Captain Rio Ferdinand hobbled out of practice after a clash with Emile Heskey (who else could it be?) and was later seen leaving the hospital on crutches. Sources are saying Ferdinand is out of the tournament with a knee injury, though coach Fabio Capello has yet to confirm the dire diagnosis.

(UPDATED: Ferdinand is out. Capello announced, “It’s obviously bad news and everyone with the squad is very disappointed and sorry for Rio.” Tottenham defender Michael Dawson is on his way to South Africa as the allowed injury replacement and Steven Gerrard takes the captain’s arm band.)

That leaves the Three Lions with the choice of Ledley King or Matthew Upson to line up next to John Terry in central defense. That’s decent cover, for sure, but King’s legendary brittleness almost assures England won’t start the same defensive pair in all of their group games.

As for Drogba, there is no replacement for him. He’s truly a “destination” player, one whom even a casual observer tunes in to watch, along the lines of a Lionel Messi or Wayne Rooney, and the World Cup will suffer if he’s unable to go. And all involved with Ivory Coast will be livid at the manner in which the injury–reportedly a fractured elbow–was sustained, a reckless karate kick from Japan defender Tulio Tanaka.

That’s just dirty and un-called for. A “fucking disgrace,” if you will. Nobody in the Ivory Coast camp has officially ruled out the striker and reports are currently all over the place, with Drogba claiming he was out, while coach Sven-Goran Eriksson says he still might play. Ivory Coast’s first game is in ten days against Portugal.

So, to repeat, U.S. of A. lads: watch out for flying Aussies. The game is on ESPN2 at 8:30 a.m. (EST).

The Scottish Play(or MacBeth or Throne of Blood)

After a long bout of gout, two assasination attempts and a stint in rehab the Dallas office of this venerable institution has crawled out of its refuse infested bunker and finally seen sunlight.And lo and behold one of the first news to hit me square in the head was the loss of the Scottish Premier League’s second spot in the Champions’ League. It turns out the rather anemic performances of Celtic and Rangers in the mega Euro competition has lowered the league’s UEFA coefficient. Coupled with the demise of Setanta sports and the resultant TV revenue, the SPL seems on the brink of a major devaluation. Even the rather non-pulsed Walter Smith has in recent months called for what he refers to as an “Atlantic League”. Clearly there are signs that one of the more venerable European leagues seems to be going through a metamorphasis. What is worrying about this is that this is one league where the current economic downturn may effectively wipe Scottish football off the face of the planet. With each new issue the Scotts face the end result is a loss of money, funds that in turn could be used to nurture, buy, and/or rebuild the human resources needed to keep any league alive. A nation that can boast of producing Kenny Dalgish, Graham Souness, Billy Bremner, Archie Gemmill, and Alex Ferguson is now on the verge of joining the ranks of Europe’s chaff. And this problem may soon spread to other nations. Recently UEFA revealed that the debts of the EPL clubs represent over 55% of all the debts incurred by all European football leagues. Will a soccer bubble or meltdown be the next domino to fall similar to debt crisis of Greece and Dubai.

Landycakes Swings One In

Fresh off making a hilarious run for the border, Landon Donovan debuted Saturday for Everton at Emirates Stadium against home side, Arsenal. His inclusion in the starting team was something of a surprise, considering he’s been idle since skying a spot kick over the bar in MLS Cup and has only been training on Merseyside for a week. Regardless, it took him all of 12 minutes set up a Leon Osman goal off a corner.

Following the 2-2 draw, Everton manager David Moyes was quoted in The London Times as saying, “Donovan did very well. From what I have seen of him his football’s simple, quick, lively and he was intelligent today. He tracked people back and we know he can play off the front or wide. I thought he made a good contribution.”

Most of the other games in the Barclay’s Premier League were cancelled on the weekend due to weather, but Donovan’s USMNT teammate Clint Dempsey led a slew of highlight shows with this cracker against Stoke mid-week.

Quite a finish. Still lost to Stoke. Looks like English punters will see plenty of the Americans leading up to the US-England World Cup tie on June 12.

The Weekly Dump

Manchester United - Leeds FA Cup

Jermaine Beckford, Leed’s United, celebrates after scoring against Manchester United at Old Trafford Stadium (AP Photo/Jon Super)

Manchester United crash out of FA Cup – A result that brings joy to a lot of (non-ManU) supporters. Not only did they lose to a third division club, it was the once mighty Leeds who did the deed.

And Sir Alex is pissed,

“The preparation was good but I was shocked at that performance. We didn’t start right and Leeds did. They fought like tigers but you expect that from any team coming to Old Trafford. It’s a disappointment. Human beings can always surprise you but I didn’t expect that. I don’t think any of them can say they had a good day. We never got going and the quality of passing – the whole performance – was bad. Leeds had a far better appetite for the game than us. You need luck and they got it but they deserved it because they played really well.”

Portsmouth again unable to pay their players – This is the third month Pompey players watched their payday go by with nothing to show for it.  The club is facing dire financial times but officials promise the players will be paid.  The Football Association is taking Pompey’s television revenue to pay past debts to other clubs.

News Flash: Liverpool stink, players fault – Joe Speaker’s beloved Scousers are doing their best imitation of an MLS club.  Steven Gerrard blames the players, “We are in this position for a reason and it tells us that we really haven’t been good enough, and the players have to take responsibility for that.”

President of the Iranian Football Federation said “Happy New Year!” to Israel. Then quickly apologized while he still had breath to do so.

The U.S. Men’s National Team kicked off their winter camp and our very own Joe Speaker tell us what to expect.

Finally, it seems Landycakes decided to make a run south of the border to pick up a Mexican Lottery ticket.

Liverpool Seeks to Indoctrinate American Children

liverpool-kids

Discovered something interesting while home in Dallas for the holidays … my brother-in-law has a niece who apparently takes her soccer pretty seriously. And her team: The Reds.

She’s very proud to play on Liverpool. My first guess was this has to be some sort of Tom Hicks gig. Sure enough — Liverpool FC America, “combining the traditions of Liverpool with the pride of Texas”.

Brilliant concept, really … considering how many bajillions of American kids play soccer, it’s a shame that none of us were taught about the greatness of the EPL until after our own play had been relegated to the Sega/Playstation/Xbox leagues. But now, American youth soccer players come with a team to root for right from the pre-pubescent git-go.

Will be interesting to see if this catches on and expands. I’d so want my (theoretical) children to go to Aston Villa Goalie Camp, for example.

UPDATE: Everton has something similar (out of Connecticut, I believe):

http://www.evertonamericact.com/

DaMarcus Beasley Finds His Form

When we last saw US international midfielder DaMarcus Beasley, he was gifting
Brazil a counter-attack goal in the Confederations Cup last summer with a giveaway so egregious that even his staunchest supporter, National Team coach Bob Bradley, was forced to sub him, lest Beasley embarrass himself any further.

That poor first touch off a short corner kick seemed to be the last straw as DMB was left out of the side for the Nats’ final five games of the World Cup qualifying campaign, after featuring in three previous matches in the hexagonal, one of which was the disastrous attempt to play him at left back. Even worse for his future prospects with the national team, Beasley was firmly ensconsced on the bench in Scotland with his club team, Rangers.

Well, lookee here. Beasley is back in favor at Ibrox and is finding his form. He has made four starts and a substitute appearance in the last five games. He’s drawn a penalty, scored a cracker mid-week against Dundee (see below) and today, was involved in the buildup to a pair of goals before bagging one himself in a 6-1 thrashing of Motherwell.

It’s been more than two years since Beasley broke his leg in a Champions League match against Stuttgart. He’s been out of form ever since, while also battling groin and hamstring injuries, which appeared to rob him on his greatest asset, his speed. In addition, his first touch has been dreadful, as has his confidence. He no longer seemed willing or able to run at defenders.

He has, of course, shown plenty of ability in the past, scoring important goals for the national team, like his strike against Mexico (off a short corner!) that helped clinch World Cup qualification four years ago. He has a good understanding with Landon Donovan from their youth days and the pair have always combined well. His recent spate of playing time in Scotland coincides with the upcoming January transfer window as rumors persist coach Walter Smith might be looking to unload him to another club. But not only is Beasley taking advantage of his recent opportunities, he’s making a renewed impression on his coach.

“DaMarcus has come back and played extremely well,” Smith said. “He started his career here like that but unfortunately got a bad injury. He is back and playing well and is the type who is liable to score as well, as he has shown in the last couple games.

Perhaps it’s not yet time to close the door on Beasley’s international career, particularly in light of Charlie Davies’s injury, which robs the US team of pace. Beasley is still just 27 and if he continues to get minutes and play well, he’ll certainly earn another look from Bob Bradley.

As long as it’s not at left back.

Fútbol fabricada en Argentina

My second favorite fútbol club hails from Rosario. And it’s not just because Rosario is universally acknowledged throughout Argentina as being home to the highest percentage of beautiful girls in a country with quite a few hotties. And it’s not because there is an amazingly beautiful “All-American girl” in one of the HSBC buildings I teach in who hails from there. (Though this doesn’t hurt… and I would have asked her to marry me today… again… but I found out last month that she’s not really 26. She’s only 20, but casi 21… almost 21 is maybe a little young for me. Not in my eyes, but in hers… and her father’s.) No, my second favorite fútbol club is in my top two because it has far and away the best name in all of Argentine (first division) fútbol.

The British brought “football” to Argentina when they came to build the railroads about a 100 years ago. (This was long after they had taken the Falklands and long before they took them back.) And with the game, they brought British names. That’s why the Argentina Fútbol Association (Asociación del Fútbol Argentino) is a league with such names as Boca JUNIORS, RIVER PLATE, ARSENAL, Argentina JUNIORS, Chacarita JUNIORS, and BANFIELD. But even among those names, NEWELL’S OLD BOYS stands out.

Newell’s Old Boys is one of the two teams that divide the city of Rosario (about 1,000,000+ people) in two, but compared with “Rosario Central”, how could anyone even think that there’s a choice when considering which team to support? (Especially after hearing an Argentine say “Newell’s Old Boys”… a charmingly hilarious treat if you should ever be so fortunate to hear it.)

With the loss this past weekend by 1st place Banfield, the opportunity was there tonight (Monday November 30th, 2009) for Newell’s Old Boys to take sole possession of first place with a win over Colón of Santa Fe just over 100 miles up the “highway”. (I put highway in quotation marks because the infrastructure in Argentina can swing from extremely modern to absolute crapo in the blink of an eye and unless I’ve travelled that road, I can’t guarantee that it really can be considered a highway.)

So tonight’s matchup with Newell’s Old Boys travelling from Rosario up to Santa Fe to take on Colón was a biggie. N.O.B. is considered a “small club” (basically everyone but “The Big 5”: Boca Jr., River Plate, San Lorenzo, Independiente, and Racing) and I don’t think that they’ve spent a lot of time in 1st place over the last… oh, I’d say… 100 years or so.

I didn’t see the first 88 minutes of the game, but I’m sure that in classic Argentine fútbol fashion, it was 88 minutes of attack followed by counter-attack, followed by counter-attack, followed by counter-attack… Throw in a halftime whistle and some fake pained expressions on grown men rolling around on the ground and you get the picture. I raced into my room to start watching in the 89th minute to see Newell’s trying to protect a 0-1 lead with only 10 men. When the announcer said that he had been told that there would be 6 minutes (seis minutos) of injury time, I knew that I must have missed something good. (Play acting, wild celebration, machismo posturing… yo no sé, pero ni importa.)

The 6 minutes came and went and the referee raised his arm and blew his whistle and…

…and then all hell broke loose!

There were hot-blooded Latino guys trying to attack the referee(s), there was a bench player (or maybe the attacking team’s goalie) trying to hold off the hot-blooded Latinos, there were police with big clear plastic shields trying to jump in between the hot-blooded Latino attackers and normal temperature-blooded Latino referees but these police were getting shoved away to the side by the previously mentioned hot-blooded Latinos with excessive hair and sometimes a day or three’s growth of facial hair.

I was thinking that I must have missed something REALLY big in the first 88 minutes if the team with a man advantage felt that they had been jobbed by the ref, but really what I missed was a hot-blooded Latino acting like a petulant bitch and then getting held responsible for it. “What?” you say, thinking “They NEVER get held responsible for anything!”, but remember, there’s a first time for everything.

Here’s what I missed:

With over 5 minutes and 40 seconds gone by in injury time, Newell’s Old Boys had sent a long ball all the way to the Colón end of the field. I can’t remember if the goalie tapped the ball ahead to a Colón player or the player had simply retrieved it before it made it to the goalie and had then turned to bring it up field. But whatever it was, number 13 for Colón had the ball at his feet and a burning desire in his heart not to end the night a complete loser. And with “hot Latin blood” pumping through that heart, you might have been able to predict that he wasn’t going to take being a complete loser lightly.

The referee was walking towards midfield about 8 to 10 yards ahead of number 13 as he raised his arm. Number 13 knew what this meant and he wanted to lash out. What would the smart thing have been to do as the referee blew his whistle? Most people would say “nothing”. But number 13 isn’t “most people”. No, number 13 thought the perfect thing to do would be to crush the soccer ball into the ass of the referee who had just blown the whistle. The referee, however, might be categorized in the group of “most people”, so he didn’t think that crushing a soccer ball into the ass of the (most probably) non-partisan arbitrator (who are “non-partisan” by definition) of this match was such a good idea. And so he immediately reached into his back pocket and gave a red card to the resident jack ass of team Colón.

Well don’t think that this hot-blooded Latino was going to accept this logical punishment lying down. Forget that his expulsion has no bearing on his team’s ability to start 11 players and use 3 substitutes in their next match. No, he was thinking it would be good idea to assault and try to batter the ref in an attempt to show that there is no place for logic on the cancha de fútbol in Argentina!

So there was pushing and shoving and more pushing and shoving and attempted police intervention. (I say “attempted” because the short-sighted people of AFA didn’t even have their JV police squad out there for riot control, much less the Varsity squad that they employ during superclasicos such as River/Boca, Independiente/Racing, Huracán/San Lorenzo, Gimnasia (LP)/Estudiantes (LP), and probably Rosario Central/Newell’s Old Boys. If they had, there wouldn’t be any quotations marks and there would be graphic details of police on boludo violence!)

I just discovered that “number 13” is also known as “Germán Rivarola”, but don’t worry about remembering the name, because we won’t be hearing about Germán next week or maybe for the rest of the season. With 3 games left in the season and a red card already in the books, starting a near riot might just be enough to get 2 more games added onto his mandatory 1 game suspension and he would thus finish the season in the dressing room. Then again, maybe not. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this yanqui (pronounced “shankee” and meaning “Yankee”) is the illogical one. Because after all, logic doesn’t always have a place in the beautiful game down here. Why? Because this is Fútbol fabricada en Argentina.

El Classico Part One

Round one of this Spanish slugfest goes to the Catalans thanks to a fantastic Zlatan Ibrahimovic volley. I still believe that unless more creativity is engineered by their midfield, Real Madrid will always have problems with teams the caliber of Barca. Real needs the magic of a Laudrap, and in Xabi Alonso they possess a player capable of true artistry. But until Alonso settles in and plays like he did last year for Liverpool, Real will simply trail Barcelona. Real’s chances came, but they came almost in the spirit of one on one match-ups. On a side bar it was funny listening to Linda Cohen trying to pronounce Ibrahimovic’s name on Sportcenter tonight.

Only the French

Are you kidding me? I can deal with a number of sporting injustices, but this goes so far beyond the pale that I want to write my congressman and demand that french fries be permanently renamed freedom fries. How does any French sport fan look themselves in the mirror without a modicum of shame after this. How does that referee ever oversee a game after this? The stakes were high, and in the end the fear of a referee refusing to make a bold stand against the home team wins out over anything that occurs on the pitch. Someone has to make a stronger case for an extra official or/and instant replay. Hell instant replay in the last 5 minutes of regulation and injury time. There is no greater bitterness in football than something of this nature.

I Hate God

Fulham 3-Liverpool 1…So I think I get a pass if I beat up a nun before the night is over. With this loss the league trophy is down to three teams and a desperate fight for the fourth Champions League spot between Liverpool, Tottenham, Aston Villa, and Manchester City. And I wish I had an image for this post, but I forgot how to add images. I’m gonna go get drunk now.

Anyone with knowledge of the “beautiful game” knows the scourge of football the world over are hooligans. And whether they are called casuals, ultras, a firm, etc. the fundamental truth is they in no way add anything to the game. From Bruford’s elegant and rather haunting paen to the wild young men and their antics of desperation, we can gather that an atavistic ceremony is in progress when the hooligan goes on a rampage. Little did we know that in the early 21st century a rather ingenius programmer from Argentina has taken the soccer hooligan experience into world of video gamming. If their are any gamers out their, and FIFA 10 just doesn’t whet their hunger, try “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas” for the PC. This add on for the game allows the player to take on the persona of a Boca Junior ultra and rampage through the streets of Buenos Aires, slowly moving up the ranks of of his firm by beating the holy hell out of any fool stupid enough to wear the wrong colors. Whether this will increase fan violence across the soccer world or dissipate it, as a virtual hooligan experience is now available, is yet to be determined. All I can say is, the horror, the horror, exterminate the brutes.

Something to Sing About

In the last few months it may have looked like the Dallas office of Soccerati had fallen off the face of the sporting world. Well if your team had lost to such perenial powers as Spurs, Villa, and Sunderland, writing about the pain would probably not have been on a shortlist of things to do. And don’t give me that crap about pain facilitating good writing, because the Dallas office doesn’t do good writing, just rants. Yet today the clouds dissipated for a few glorious hours as Liverpool notched their third straight defeat over Manchester United. Sure it was a nail biter, and when the fourth official put up five minutes of injury time I was in the process of hiring a crack team of Albanian hit men to finally take out that Scothish drunk. Yet despite the backing of the FA, Man U failed to do what they always have a knack for, stealing games and points in the dying stages of a game. Hopefully this is the spark that ignites Liverpool’s season, if not then I have to put up with douche bags that sing United songs all summer. Oh by the way lap dances to anyone who can name the musical I’m referencing in the title of this post.