Monday, August 30, 2010

German Wonder Kid

This is Noah Shawn. He's 7 years old and plays in Bayern Munich's academy. I must say that I've watched plenty of videos of little boys...playing soccer of course, and I have never seen talent like this. We've all watched the Messi videos and there's also this kid, Hassan Ayari, but Shawn looks to be a different beast altogether.

If you've got five minutes to spare, sit back and enjoy. If not, at least jump ahead to 2:17. Then I promise you'll make yourself available for the whole video.

Always Wear Protection

No doubt you remember Ms. Jessica Kastrop getting thumped in the head by an errant ball during pregame last week. At no point has anyone felt bad for her since, after watching the video about 10-15 times, it's not hard to realize it's one of the funniest things you'll ever see.

Well this past weekend, Khalid Boulahrouz (the man responsible for playing that terrible ball) made a mockery of the whole thing. Don't get me wrong, the flowers were a nice touch. But then he hands her the head gear...the same head gear worn by Cristian Chivu and Peter Cech. Are you kidding me?! If you are going to give her protection, make it real protection. I would have preferred a hockey mask, or maybe a motorcycle helmet. Unless what he gave her is reinforced with metal plates, she's due for another unfortunate injury.

On the other hand, I kinda feel bad for her now... That video will make her the laughing stock of Germany and most of the world for years to come. Did they really need to rub it in with the helmet? Although credit to her, she did embrace it by interviewing Jürgen Klopp in full garb.

My sentiments are taking over. Let me watch the video again...

Ok. I don't really feel bad anymore.

Top Goals of the Weekend

The best of the best from a wild weekend of football throughout Europe.

It all started with on Friday as newly promoted side Kaiserslautern hosted Bayern Munich, and subsequently blanked them 2-0. The rookies now sit top of the league after two matches. This was the first goal from Ivo Ilicevic rocketed into the top corner:

Why must Dimitar Berbatov make everything so difficult? I guess he realizes how pathetically inept he is at finishing off easy chances. So instead, he goes out and does something like this:

The slow motion of this overhead kick actually makes it better. Giandomenico Mesto (what a first name) gave Genoa their only goal needed to defeat Udinese:

Don't knock MLS!! It made be a tad bit slower than most leagues, but there is still plenty of class on the field. Dane Richards, not a stranger to highlight reels, put together this beauty against San Jose:

Thank goodness for Spain. The home of the world cup trophy and the most tactically proficient players on the planet is finally back in our living rooms. It's goals like this one from Xabi Prieto that are as much about the build up as they are the actual finish:

Friday, August 27, 2010

La Liga Table Preview

La Liga kicks off this weekend, and this column couldn't be any more excited for it to start. As such, here's how it will turn out.

1. Barcelona

2. Real Madrid

3. Atlético Madrid

4. Athletic Bilbao

5. Villareal

6. Valencia

7. Sevilla

8. Getafe

9. Espanyol

10. Deportivo La Coruña

11. Real Sociedad

12. Almeria

13. Mallorca

14. Osasuna

15. Real Zaragoza

16. Sporting Gijon

17. Málaga

18. Racing Santander

19. Hercules

20. Levante

Platini guarantees 0% chance of human error

Speaking in Monaco yesterday ahead of the Champions League draw, UEFA president Michel Platini went on a bit of a rant regarding referees in the forthcoming competition. Notably, he stressed a "zero tolerance" policy towards referees screwing up calls. Right.

He then went on to discuss the brand new five referee system that will place an extra pair of eyes on the end line next to each goal.

"I think it's a very good system. If they cannot see if it's gone in they should get another job. If you cannot see the ball has crossed the line from three metres away then you are no good."

"There should be near zero tolerance with regard to referees because they should be able to see everything now."

"The Champions League final with only three referees makes me nervous because when it comes to decisions they can't see everything. With five referees we can be 99% or 100% certain.''

A couple things here. First, all Platini really cares about is one thing only - goal line vigilance. Preventing botched calls of whether the ball has crossed over the line. Something that happens, and let's be honest, not too often. What about every other missed offsides and handball and foul? I have watched plenty of Europa League matches to inspect the new system and those extra refs are clowns. They do nothing and say nothing.

Now to this guarantee. 100% certain?! No sir - humans are not perfect and we never will be. If the referees were secretly terminators that's a different story. But he just sounds like such a moronic idiot when he throws percentages out there like that. Does he really think the intellectual public believes that two extra referees is more fullproof than technology? Apparently so. And Sepp Blatter at FIFA is even worse.

These are the people running the sport at the moment. Until they're out, we're stuck with an outdated, juvenile system.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Champions League Group Stage Draw

It's the most wonderful time of the year...and the holiday season is still months away. But for Europe, and football fans worldwide, the holidays have officially begun with the group stage draw of the Champions League. There is, as always, a group of death (or is it?) and a couple snoozers. However, many of the groups are wide open - at least for second place.

I wouldn't say the groups look weak, but there is parity and fresh faces. Five teams reach this stage for the first time, while others are back after lengthy absences. So there are plenty of rookies and novices, and a handful of veterans who bring many question marks into this season.

Here's how they sorted out group by group.

Anchorettes Part 2 - Spain & Italy

Aaaaah Mediterranean women. Elegant...smooth...olive colored skin...blissful perfumes and aromas. They'll romance you with fine wines and rose petals. Think antiquity - beautiful women draped all over you, feeding grapes into your mouth. It's quite an ideal utopia for any right-minded man. Back in reality though, we do our best to constrict to society's rules of seduction and courting, and quite often find it a bit more difficult to conquer than our dream world...

In the same respect is our quest to meet, marry, and man-handle every hot body we see on television, all to often futile. The only thing that enables our fantasy to evolve is fixing our eyes on that television every week hoping our dream anchor will appear before us.

So, after a proper introduction to England and France's cream of the crop a few weeks back, we turn to Italy and Spain whose domestic campaigns commence this weekend. Italy packs a strong punch, with supermodel looks and cunning reporting. The world champions, on the other hand, report their football the same way they play it - with class and a soft tenderness. Making beauty so incredibly simple. We are all blessed to bear witness to such magnificence on a weekly basis.

Let the battle for Mediterranean supremacy begin!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Drinks on the House

Bayern Munich took time out of their busy training schedule this week to, well, sip a couple beers and shoot a commercial for Paulaner. Not a bad gig.

On closer look, something is a tad bit those beers are fake!! Lahm's center of gravity is off as he tips the glass towards himself, only the beer and foam are in the exact same position. No overflow.  The foam actually looks more like marshmallow fluff...

I was also unaware of the lederhosen class system.  Schweinsteiger, Van Bommel, and Klose all have the fancy suspenders with their outfits, while Louis Van Gaal, das manager, sports the landowners' diagonal suspenders.  Then of course you've got the surfs who can only afford the white shirts. However, Lahm is the "captain" of Germany and dressed like a serf. So perhaps seniority isn't the dividing factor. Maybe it's height...

Let's also note the fact that everyone is completely hairless. No facial hair, no leg hair. Of course, one cannot truly enjoy a fresh glass of Paulaner with bestial follicles protruding from the skin. It's disgusting and classless.

To be honest, it's all a bit too complicated for my liking. Just give me a das boot and be done with it. 

More photos after the jump...

Worst Shootout Performance in History

Congratulations to RSC Anderlecht of Belgium for giving us one of the most shocking displays of penalty kick taking in history. With the barrage of spot kicks landing in the parking lot, it seemed more like a long distance competition than anything else. I'm sure more than a few supporters were greeted by a few dents in their cars after the match.

The English commentators kept going on and on and on about how sub-par the pitch was, and that Champions League football shouldn't be played on such surfaces, bla bla. Give me a break! Stop being so nearsighted. From the looks of it (and you don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure it out), the Partizan players didn't seem to have any real issue putting the ball in the back of the net.

This came down to technique. Something the Anderlecht players simply didn't have. That divot in the ground from the 1st kick wasn't the result of a bad pitch. Although it depends who you ask, since more than a couple golfers would have marvelled at what were exquisite pitches of the ball. Don't divots mean you made good contact and got under the ball to send it to the stratosphere?

Anyway, you can judge for yourself. In fairness to Anderlecht though, they did produce this one piece of magic in the losing effort.

Party in the Holy Land

FC Salzburg lost. Good. After reports (unconfirmed to be fair) of despicable chants by the fans in the first leg calling on the Israelis to go back and burn in the ovens (and there were supposedly more), those fans, and that city, didn't deserve the privilege of hosting the kings of Europe on the grandest stage on the planet.

As for Hapoel Tel-Aviv, it is their first appearance in the group stages in the club's 83 year history. With a performance in the second leg that, outside the first ten minutes, was quite frankly abysmal (an own goal and the one in stoppage top to seal it), Hapoel escaped. But it was predicated on an impressive 3-2 away win in the first leg. With a win like that on the road they deserved to move on. And, UEFA can breathe a sigh of relief at the now moot prospect of rampant, racist fans showcasing the tournament.

Let the festivities begin in Israel.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


This is one of those instances where the mature person would say, "you shouldn't laugh."

Bulls**t. While I feel bad for this poor reporter (she's quite attractive mind you), all you can do is watch it. Watch it again. And then again.  The thump on impact is priceless.

At least she stayed on her feet!!

Comic Relief

Goalkeepers are some of the most superstitious and quirky individuals in the business. Where some employ lunatic manerisms to simply mask the fact that their abilities are average or sub-par, there are others who summon the powers of great beings to inject a sense of confidence and strength in their performance. In other words, they want to be superheroes...who doesn't?

Pablo Aurrecochea is one of these aspirants, and forget the fact that he's a grown man. The Uruguayan, who plays football for Paraguayan side Club Guaraní, has shown no shame in sporting goalie uniforms evoking the greatest Marvel Comics heroes of our time. Thing is, it's actually working...

Guaraní sits third in the Paraguayan 1st division and is tied for least amount of goals conceded. Go figure!

More pics and his Batman performance after the jump:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Goals of the Weekend

Not much can top Gareth Bale's volley against Stoke this past weekend:

Although Rafa's effort is not too far behind as he scored his first for the Red Bulls:

Schalke's Jefferson Farfan produced this cheeky goal in a losing effort:

And World Cup phenom Thomas Müller has picked up right where he left off:

EPL Week 2 Wrap-Up

The number 6, scribbled three times in succession, has haunted the superstitious and religiously fanatic world for centuries as the mark of the devil. To be honest, superstitions don't quite do it for me. All they do is incite and create unnecessary fears. I do believe in karma though, and with a capital K, Karma swept through West London and Craven Cottage as the real Red Devils of United got bit in the ass. However, it's still impossible to ignore how the remainder of England witnessed devilry in the South, Northeast, and middle of the country as Arsenal, Chelsea, and Newcastle each put their opponents to the sword by a score of 6-0. In Chelsea's case it's the second successive game doing so.

Chelsea are running rampant having scored 29 goals in their last 5 league games. They already enjoy a +12 goal difference and don't appear to be letting up one bit.  It's hard to truly judge their dominance after wins over the likes of West Brom and Wigan. Especially Wigan, who have now been outscored 10-0 in the first two weeks following an opening day drubbing to newly promoted Blackpool. I was wrong to predict Roberto Martinez being sacked by Thanksgiving. It looks to be an overly generous prediction at that, and he could very well be axed by the end of September depending on how things progress. As for Chelsea, they're next three games are home to Stoke City, away to West Ham, and home to Blackpool. Sounds like another 20 some-odd goals. We'll get a better idea how good they really are the last week of September when they travel to Manchester City followed by a home stand against Arsenal. In the meantime, enjoy the goal-fest while it lasts Blues fans.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Save of the Weekend

Sitting on his ass, from the seat of his pants, Edwin Van der Sar produced this epic display of goalkeeping as he deflected Etuhu's rebound over the bar. One of the finer saves you'll see:

Fastest Red Card in Bundesliga History

Cologne's home opener against Kaiserslautern began and subsequently ended in disaster. Only 87 seconds in (although the author of the video would have you believe it's 93 and/or 83 seconds...nice editing buddy), Youseff Mohamad pulled down the onrushing attacker and unfortunately was the last defender. Straight red and no question about it.

It serves as the fastest red card ever issued in the German Bundesliga's 47 year history. Cologne went on to lose by a score of 3-1.

Photo courtesy of

Friday, August 20, 2010

Weekend Couch Guide

Your guide to an Al Bundy weekend...

Friday, August 20
2:30pm Bayern Munich vs Wolfsburg -- ESPN Deportes

Saturday, August 21
9:55am  Arsenal vs Blackpool -- ESPN2

10:00am  Everton vs Wolverhampton -- FSC

10:00am   Stoke City vs Tottenham -- FSC Plus

12:00pm  Wigan vs Chelsea -- FSC

2:30pm  West Ham vs Bolton (tape delay) -- FSC

Sunday, August 22
8:30am Newcastle United vs Aston Villa -- FSC Plus

10:30am PSV Eindhoven vs AZ Alkmaar -- ESPN Deportes

11:00am  Fulham vs Manchester United -- FSC

3:00pm Paris Saint-Germain vs Bordeaux -- FSC Plus

Monday, August 23
2:45pm  Manchester City vs Liverpool -- ESPN2

Ronaldinho's Preseason Training Regime

With the Serie A season set to kick off next weekend, it's safe to assume every player is busting his ass to get in tip-top shape after summer holidays. More importantly, fringe players and those in poor form have the opportunity to wipe last season's slate clean and start anew.

Well, Ronaldinho's slate over the past few seasons with AC Milan has been full of bench warming, beer guts, and an occasional suare onto the stage with 50 Cent.

Maybe weightlifting and sprints aren't his mojo. Maybe commitment and hard-work are simply misnomers when it comes to preparation. Maybe the bright lights, loud music, and 7:00am self-imposed curfews are the secrets to reclaiming the title of best player in the world...or to remaining a fat, washed-up, waste of space.

Well whatever the end result is, Ronaldinho is putting in his best efforts to get there. And no better way than running off to Montenegro, hitting the club scene, and making besties with the extremely sexy Serbian model Sanja Brnovic.

More snapshots after the jump...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

You're BANNED!!

Some time ago, a couple of rotten fruit prompted a revolution and covert operations to unsettle the source of the problem. Defiance and manipulation attempted to disrupt Joe's fruit market in an effort to teach him a lesson of how to properly manage his product. Of course, peaches and plums aren't always the best comparison to real life drama, but in this instance their telling tale brings a shocking resemblance to recent events in France.

You could say Nicolas Anelka was the rotten peach during the World Cup. Perhaps Evra was the plum. Poor old Raymond Domenech was Joe. Just as Joe was targeted as the source of the bad tasting fruit, so too was Domenech accused of creating a bitter taste throughout the French camp in South Africa. "I don't make the peaches, I sell the peaches." Just like Joe, Domenech stood firm in his defense, and could never have anticipated the foul-mouthed vitriol Anelka spewed out of his mouth in the locker room, and the subsequent strike by the players.

At the end of the day though, just like Kramer and Jerry, the villains got what they deserved. "You're banned!!" Thus said Joe, and now says the French Football Federation.

In an official statement on their website today, the FFF handed down the following bans:

"Nicolas Anelka is sanctioned with an 18-game suspension from selection for the France team."

"A five-game suspension from selection for the France team has been issued to Patrice Evra."

"Franck Ribery will have to serve a three-game suspension."

"Jeremy Toulalan is punished with one-game suspension."

"The commission takes note of the explanation provided by Eric Abidal, who has not been sanctioned."

Wow. I couldn't be more pleased with this outcome. For Anelka, this spells the end of his international career playing for France. At 31, 18 matches covers at least 2-3 years leaving him an old fart when reinstatement is possible (assuming the manager even considers taking him back). Evra, as captain and ringleader of the summer shenanigans, should have received more in my mind. Although 5 still rules him out of a couple European Championship qualifiers and his absence will be felt.

All in all justice was served, and the most rotten of fruit will now wilt away on the sidelines. Nobody is bigger than club. And surely no one man or team is bigger than country.

EPL Week 1 Wrap-Up

First weekend is in the books and to be quite honest, it was as exciting as any opening weekend in recent memory. Opening match days are always an entertaining affair - newly promoted teams, reigning champs setting out to defend their trophies, the one month of the year when the UK enjoys sunlight and warm weather... This weekend had a different feel to it though. A sense that there was so much more at stake for every team involved. Whereas in years past the EPL has mirrored Spain and Scotland's two horse race, but with four teams, there are new kids on the block disrupting the established order. It is no longer a formality that Chelsea, United, Arsenal, and Liverpool will claim Champions League spots. Clubs are in economic shambles, so the money earned by qualifying for a European tournament is a vital lifeline. Throw in the fact that an extremely quiet transfer window has resulted in minor changes (except on the blue side of Manchester of course), and you can see why this past weekend made first impressions ever so important.

The results were a mix of the expected and the extremely unexpected. For the latter, we go straight to the DW Stadium in Wigan.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Goals of the Weekend

A cracking weekend of football in the various leagues already underway. Luckily for us, players have been happy to take some risks this early in the season which has resulted in a number of stunning goals and highlights. Read on to check out the best of the weekend:

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sports Anchorettes

I'll be completely honest with you - I'm sick of Hannah Storm and her mini skirts on ESPN. She's 48 and anything but a sex symbol. With all do respect, I prefer a little bit more youth and pep in my news anchors...ESPECIALLY if 90% of their job is to report on football and recount highlights to the audience.

Luckily, our friends in Europe have this down to a science - and I'm not talking about simply talent. They've found a way to combine stunning beauty with journalistic integrity. Brilliant don't ya think?

So without further ado, I'll stop blabbering and let you have a look for yourself at England and France's crown jewels for the upcoming season.

Weekend Couch Guide

If you love your couch, you'll love this weekend. Um, there's a couple games on...

Saturday, August 14
7:45am  Tottenham vs Manchester City --  ESPN2

10:00am  Aston Villa vs West Ham -- FSC

10:00am   Blackburn vs Everton -- FSC Plus

12:30pm  Chelsea vs West Bromwich Albion -- FSC

2:00pm  Wolverhampton vs Stoke City (tape delay) -- FSC Plus

2:30pm  Bolton vs Fulham (tape delay) -- FSC

Sunday, August 15
11:00am  Liverpool vs Arsenal -- FSC

Monday, August 16
3:00pm  Manchester United vs Newcastle United -- ESPN2

English Premiership Predictions

With the season getting underway tomorrow, it's time for predictions!! Here's how it's all going to end up in May...for serious:

1. Manchester City

2. Chelsea

3. Manchester United

4. Arsenal

5. Liverpool

6. Tottenham

7. Everton

8. Birmingham

9. Aston Villa

10. Fulham

11. Stoke City

12. Bolton

13. Blackburn

14. Newcastle

15. Sunderland

16. West Ham

17. Wolverhampton

18. Wigan

19. West Bromwich Albion

20. Blackpool

Let's see how you think it'll pan out. Top 4? Relegation? Champion? Feel free to drop a comment and contribute whatever predictions you have for the upcoming season.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Dutch Kung-Fu Part 2

Of course you all remember Nigel De Jong's flying kung-fu cleat to Xabi Alonso's chest. It seems the Dutch, who have completely forgotten how to play flowing, attacking football, have resorted to martial arts. This past weekend, Sensei De Jong's newest apprentice made him very proud.

Royston Drenthe, the underachieving, lackluster, and unimpressive midfielder/defender for Real Madrid showcased his years of training in the Rose Bowl Saturday night. With Bruce Lee and Mr. Miyagi looking down from the heavens, and De Jong watching intently from the confines of his dojo, Drenthe unleashed a thunderous right foot into the chest of the LA Galaxy's Juninho. Practice makes perfect:

Best Goal of the Weekend

Well it's a tie. On the one hand there was a piece of beauty from Paris Saint-Germain's Stéphane Sessegnon in their opening league match against St. Etienne. Fans across the United States perhaps thought it was good enough to simply watch the match, as France's League 1 debuted for the first time on cable. Little did they know a roundhouse, horizontal kung-fu kick was in store that even made fellow French speaker Jean-Claude Van Damme tremble:

Surely a different type of top goal, Javier Hernandez opened up his campaign on English soil with a, umm, "strike." In some ways you could describe it as a strike judging by the ensuing whiplash. Just watch for yourselves:

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sue the player – not the Federation

Bayern Munich is seeking reparations from the Dutch medical team. Arjen Robben, playing injured throughout the World Cup, re-aggravated a left hamstring injury leaving him sidelined for the first two months of Bayern's 2010/11 Bundesliga campaign. And apparently it’s the medical staff’s fault.

I should note this is not the first time the Dutch medical staff and the football association (KNVB) have come under fire. Back in November 2009, Robin Van Persie injured himself in a friendly against Italy sidelining him for 6 weeks with a serious ankle injury. Arsenal immediately filed a complaint seeking compensation from the KNVB. Aside from wanting them to cover his salary for the time missed, they were furious over alleged mismanagement of Van Persie’s treatment. Did Arsenal have justification? Sure they did.

Drawing parallels between the two however, other than the fact that both implicate the Dutch as plaintiffs, would be inaccurate and unwise. Club teams loathe international friendlies - especially meaningless ones. Van Persie's situation was one of these instances in that the Netherlands had already qualified for South Africa months before. Only three months into the Premiere League season, Van Persie was getting plenty of playing time and had plenty more yet. There was no reason for him to play against Italy. I have no problem calling him up, but don't play him. An entirely different scenario is what makes Bayern’s case groundless and moot.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday Links

This is even worse than the Madden curse. FIFA 2011's release date isn't for a couple months and Kaká is already sidelined for 4 months after surgery!! Take care of yourself Rooney...

Drawings for the last qualifying round of the Europa League and Champions League. Winners advance to the group stage.

Arjen Robben welcomes his former teammate to the Bundesliga with a rather cheeky letter [Bild]

Mehmet Aurelio served up this GOD AWFUL penalty kick [Goal]

FRIDAY BABE: Beautiful Basque Beauty - Mikel Arteta's wife, Lorena Bernal

Cesc Fàbregas has FINALLY agreed to stay at Arsenal this season. Follow the entire summer saga day-by-day [Telegraph]

Fancy footwork - CFL touchdown celebration [AS]

Messi enjoying a little bit of fun in the sun with the dolphins

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Getafe CF Readies its Fans for 2010/11

Getafe CF, famous for their absolutely ridiculous Burger King shirt sponsor, are at it again. This time it's a cartoon video for supporters to rally around the club this season. Sounds like it could be the theme for a Spanish Sesame Street knockoff. In any event, another clever marketing tactic for Getafe who finished in 6th place last season - the highest in the club's history in La Liga.

Translation is as follows:

"An optimist in a pessimistic world found some sad people (they are standing on an unemployment line). He saw how they weren't smiling and said, 'This coming season we will stay in the top division.'"

"Four optimists in a pessimistic world found...[a bunch of sad looking kids losing their hair?]  They saw how they weren't smiling and said, 'The entire country saw our game against Bayern.'" (referring to their UEFA Cup exit in 2008 at the hands of Bayern Munich when they conceded 2 goals in extra time)

"Various optimists in a pessimistic world found a bunch of people sweating in excess. They saw how they weren't smiling and said, 'We already have 2,000 new members of the club'" (in Spain, the fans can become "socios" which gives them a membership card and right to vote in elections)

"Thousands of optimists in a pessimistic world found...(looks like some ugly, unhappy whales).  They saw how they weren't smiling and said, 'We are just coming off the best season of our lives.'"

"All of the supporters in a pessimistic world found everyone else on the planet. They saw how everyone else wasn't smiling and said, 'We are going to continue making history.'"

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

FIFA's Hypocrisy Part 2

At least the French players deserved their reception upon returning home from the World Cup. The same cannot be said about North Korea who, although getting blown out by a combined score of 12-1 over three matches, gave a valiant effort in arguably the toughest group. According to US-based Radio Free Asia, after returning to Pyongyang, the entire team was summoned to an auditorium at the working people's culture palace where they were criticized and lambasted for hours by over 400 people. Among other things, They accused the team of betraying Gen. Kim Jong Un, heir to Kim Jong Il, and now the coach's safety is in danger (rumor has it he's been forced into hard labor).

No need to discuss the issues of communist dictatorships and Cold War-era nuances. It is utterly moronic that the party leaders in North Korea truly expected this team to return home from South Africa with the trophy. What troubles me most is the response, or lack there of, from FIFA.

Don't their own laws dictate that government interference in football matters is forbidden? They didn't shy away from threatening the French Football Association after the government launched inquiries into what actually happened down there. And what about Nigeria? FIFA threatened to ban the entire country from world football after President Goodluck Jonathan did it himself following the team's elimination. In both instances FIFA prevailed and the governments backed down.

Now comes another case of a team returning home disgraced from the World Cup and the government stepping in immediately to let them know about it. Don't doubt for a second that football is not important to the North Koreans - if anything it's one of the few opportunities the communist regime has to flex it's muscles to the world. In other words, the success of the team creates a crucial piece of propaganda.

I think it's safe to say that after years of ignoring sanctions by the UN and international community, anything coming out of FIFA's mouth would be laughed at. But failure by FIFA to open its mouth in the first place is appalling. How can they stand idly by while another government gets involved with the football association? And why on earth are they choosing to pick their battles? France, Nigeria, Iraq, Kuwait, Poland, Yemen, and Ethiopia to name a few. All were suspended or at least threatened for government interference in the past. North Korea's transgressions are no more or less egregious than the others (forgetting the human rights issues of course).

Inconsistency, hard-line stances and slaps on the wrist. Threats, suspensions, and staying mum. How FIFA expects to legitimize itself moving forward is beyond me (this column hasn't even mentioned video replay ad goal line technology). Football's governing body is becoming a laughing stock.

The hypocrisy must end.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Future is Now

Congratulations to France who on Friday won the European U19 Championship in Caen over Spain by a score of 2-1. Dominated in the first half and trailing by a goal, the French came out a different team in the second least after the first 4 minutes. The 3 before that included 2 guilt-edged chances for Spain who should have sealed the championship. However, France remained composed and equalized in the 49th minute against the run of play on a splendid goal from Gilles Sunu. France wouldn't let Spain play their game by pressuring and harassing anyone with the ball. It ultimately paid off as Alexandre Lacazette headed home the winner in the 85th minute to claim France's 7th championship.

Good for France. Seriously. After what happened at the World Cup, they deserved something to be proud of. 20,000 strong filled Stade Michel d'Ornano roaring on their home team with every touch. Any way you look at it, this was a breathe of fresh air for French football, and more importantly, it was the kids - the next generation - who did it.

How important is winning such a tournament? Perhaps only time will tell. These kids are still extremely young and have important years ahead in their development. Unfortunately, it is likely that many of the players will not feature for their clubs and national teams in the near future. They're still only between 17-19 years old. There is a slight exception to the rule though...

Top Goals of the Weekend

Tons of friendlies and exhibitions all over the world this past weekend. With the season only a few weeks away, fans are getting the distinct pleasure of seeing these superstars produce pieces of magic.

The weekend's very best after the jump.