World Football

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sorry....

My apologies for not updating the site more frequently. Work has gotten busy and that has detracted from my real passion -- writing about soccer. The upcoming week should find me with more free time and more time to devote to the blog. Thanks for checking. Update coming on Tuesday at the latest....

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Playing Abroad

Below is the latest from the Colin Vint experience. Colin talks about his debut, the red tape that goes into getting clearance to play abroad, and the perils of dining on toast and water before a big match. Enjoy and comments, as always, are invited and encouraged.


MY BRAY DEBUT
So training has been going well since signing, but there was a lot of red tape surrounding getting clearance to play in the league. Even though I hold Portuguese citizenship and do not require a work permit to play anywhere in the EU, the Eircom League still required me to get a release both from my last club and from the US Soccer Federation. I contacted my coach at Richmond and had him email me a .pdf release with his letterhead and signature, and forwarded that onto the general manager of the Wanderers, but come training on Saturday (we had a match scheduled for Tuesday the 18th against Sligo Rovers) there was still no response from USSF. Clearly no business would be done Sunday, so really I had one more day to get it all handled if I wanted to be eligible to play on Tuesday. I spent most of Monday on the phone with home, having my stand-in agent brother take care of things on that side. He contacted the USSF to get the ball rolling, and as it turned out they had received a letter from the Eircom League, but the release they needed wasn't from my last University, but literally from my last club team, Team America Premier out of Alexandria, VA, who I haven't played for since the summer after my freshman year of college. Luckily we still had my coach's number laying around somewhere, so my brother Peter spent the rest of the day back and forth between my coach and the Federation trying to make sure everyone was doing their part to get the release sent over to Ireland as soon as it was ready. By training Monday evening manager Tony McGuirk said still nothing had come in, but we had until tommorow morning really so there was a chance it would come in overnight. Thankfully it did, and we had it faxed over to the head of the league at the open of business Tuesday, officially clearing me for that evening's match. Being eligible to play was only the first half of the battle though: with 21 names on the first team roster, and only 16 players dressing, there are always a few left out of the locker room. The starters were announced, and a few stressful minutes later Tony announced the 5 subs he wanted to dress, the last of which included me. A sigh of relief, really, as I assumed he would've had me watch a match as part of the team before including me.
To be honest, it wasn't a a very interesting match in the first 45, with few legitimate chances testing either keeper. Sligo had the better part of the possession, as their attack seemed to be more focused on combinations through the center of the park and distribution to the flanks, stretching out defensive third and looking for any holes to attack. The first 45 saw them unable to find the killer pass, but in the 58th minute a very scrappy goal put them deservedly ahead. Keith Foy, Sligo's portly left back just recently returning from injury, got into a bit of a scrum on the corner of our 18' with two of our backs, with all three on the grass stabbing at the ball. Don't ask me how, because I can't even begin to explain how, but Foy rose from the pile and toe poked a ball that sliced perfectly through the picket fence of our back line, to an open Adam Hughes on the back post, who calmly poked it in to an open net, as our skipper's efforts to dive across the length of the goal line failed. Sligo should've really put the match out of reach with a more than a few 1v1 opportunities either turned away by O'Connor or carelessly put wide or over the bar. Then it came, my call to warm up, and in the 68th minute I was brought on for one of our backs, Steven Gifford. Entering on a corner kick, my first touch nearly started my career off with a dreamlike storyline, as the kick was sent far post, headed back in to the 6' box, and as I stumbled backwards to get under it I somehow got a head to it that looked destined to bounce off the post and trickle in, but the Rover keeper squashed that with a beautiful play of his own, scrambling across the goalmouth and barely getting a fingertip to it on the line to put it out for another corner. In the 81st it appeared Sligo had blown a win when our Romanian striker Andrei Georgescu, or Franco as we call him, beat two defenders and slid a ball in far post to level the score. Our home fans were quickly silenced by a late winner by Darren Mansaram, who netted the game winner for Sligo just 3 minutes later, and we saw our desperately needed point go out the window on a 2-1 loss.
Only one training session seperated that match and our next contest, which pitted us against St. Patrick's Athletic on Sunday. One of the THREE teams hailing from Dublin (R.I.P. Dublin City, who fell victim to bankruptcy last week), the short trip to Bray means plenty of St. Pat's fans make it out for any match against Bray. With a 3:15 kickoff, I had plenty of time to kill before reporting to the Carlisle Grounds, but in retrospect the only thing that seemed dead was me. With no food in the house, nothing within a reasonable walking distance (I make the walk multiple times a week into Greystones, 30 minutes each way, but I was saving myself for the match today), and with no mode of transportation as everyone I consider a ride was off doing something they had to do, my pregame meal consisted of toast and 2 litres of water. Sure, I was hydrated, but definitely had zero energy, which came into play in the worst way from 3:15 on. I was pretty shocked to learn that I would be wearing the number 11 that afternoon... yes, a starting forward's number. Only 20 minutes under my belt as a Seagull and I was already starting a match?! Warmups went well, but from the moment we kicked off I could tell I wasn't running on much. I already knew my match fitness at this point isn't much to brag about, as I haven't played in a full match since November for Richmond, but this was like nothing else. I was winded after only a few runs to chase down balls, and my touch was clearly off. I couldn't bring anything down cleanly, and since our plan appeared to be to play it long to me and Franco, this was a huge problem. I had no support underneath me from the midfield, who looked to be miles away in the 20 yards of space and line of red separating me from them, so anything I did bring down I had to deal with 3 defenders closing down on me, which I more than not failed at. My one bright spot in the first half was turning and playing a through ball to Robbie Doyle, who flicked it on to Franco who tested the keeper from about 40 out but unluckily put it off the crossbar. St Pat's were in control from the start, using simple 1-2s to avoid any problems, and switching the point of attack frequently, so our chasing was reduced to just that...chasing. By the end of the first half I could already feel twinges in my calves, meaning it was only a matter of time before the cramping began. I fully expected to be subbed off at halftime, but for some reason I remained in, even with my obvious lack of match fitness and inability to put a stamp on the game. St. Patrick's jumped out to a 1-0 lead early in the 2nd off a beautifully orchestrated combination play, and quickly doubled the lead. Franco once again brought hope back to the loyal fans with a goal just 4 minutes after the lead was doubled, but that would be it from us, and from me, as I was substituted out in the 70th minute. I never expected to stay in for that long, and as I made my way from the pitch to the bench the full calf cramps set in, and just as I had struggled on the pitch, fittingly I struggled just to get off in. Not what I had expected nor ever imagined for my first start, but as disappointing as it was all I can do is put it behind me and only work hard in training to prove I do deserve to be out there next time we suit up. Oh yeah, and note to all you out there who have a match of ANY level: make sure you eat properly. I never thought it would affect me as significantly as it did on Sunday, but my mind and body were at a disconnect, and it influenced both my fitness and my decision making. That definitely will not happen again.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Farewell to the Master

The Dennis Bergkamp era officially came to a close today. Bergkamp's testimonial(a kind of sendoff exhibition match) was held today in Arsenal's brand new Emirates stadium. As Bergkamp spent the majority of his playing career in the Arsenal and Ajax shirts, it was only fitting that Ajax would provide the opposition. Some of the players on the field included former Arsenal legends David Seaman, Ian Wright, Patrick Vieira and the undisputed king of Arsenal Thierry Henry. Ajax's side was no less impressive with the GREAT Johan Cryuff, Marco Van Basten, the De Boer brothers, Frank Rijkaard and Edgard Davids suiting up.






Few players in the history of the game have played with the kind of grace that Bergkamp played with during his career. The hallmark of his game was the feathery first touch and his amazing vision. He always seemed to be thinking one move ahead of his opponent. My three favorite Bergkamp moments are: 1) the goal against Newcastle where he flicked the ball over his opponent to his right, spun left, went behind the defender and calmly slotted the ball beyond the keeper. If this all sounds like I'm making it up you can view the goal here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuTdGC6rLoQ&search=Bergkamp%20goal%20against%20Newcastle . 2) Bergkamp's goal against Argentina. Bergkamp takes down a 50 yard pass with his first touch and spun Ayala inside out and put it in the roof of the net, beating the keeper at the near post. He did this with no more than three touches of the ball. Simply amazing. 3) The game against Juventus where he drew three defenders and shook them all then laid the ball off fro Ljungberg to score.
Bergkamp will likely be remembered less for the goals that he scored or the ones he set up and more for the way he played the game. There was something very cerebral about the way he approached the game. He was never the type of player who would sit around the box and wait for goals like Van Nistelrooy or Owen, nor was he as versatile as Henry or Ronaldo in his prime. What Bergkamp had was something no other player I've seen ever had -- the ability to lose four markers with one touch of the ball, or the ability to go full speed then suddenly stop on a dime and chip the keeper from 20 yards out.

Farewell to the Dutch Master.


His arrival at Arsenal in 1995 signaled a change in the way the team would play the game. Long gone were the chants of "boring, boring Arsenal" and Bergkamp gave the team a style and verve that was never before seen at Highbury. Later came the likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Marc Overmars and Robert Pires and Arsenal would go on to win three league titles in '2000, 2002, and the unforgettable undefeated season in 2004.
The burning question for me now that Bergkamp is gone is where does he rank among the great foreigners who have played in the premier league. He is certainly below Cantona, Henry and Gianfranco Zola and possibly beneath Vieira as well. Outside of those players I don't think any foreigner who has played in the premier league has had a greater influence on the style of play and the flow of the game that Arsenal developed in its ten years since Bergkamp arrived. Bergkamp will definitely missed by all Arsenal fans and the game will miss him as well. Players like him come around once in a lifetime.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Playing Abroad

Below is a first hand account of what it is like to go abroad and chase the dream of becoming a professional soccer player. I got the entry from Colin Vint via his older brother, Peter, who is a good friend of mine. Many thanks to Colin for taking the time out to write about his experience and allowing me the "exclusive" privilege of being the first to chronicle his experience in Ireland. Hopefully many more entries will come my way that I can share with you and hopefully in the future we can get an entry of what it's like to play in the EPL, La Liga, or the Bundesliga. Well, without further ado, I present Colin Vint's firsthand experience of training with Bray Wanderers and later recieving a contract offer...


GOING ON TRIAL
Salutations from across the pond in Greystones, Ireland. Believe all
the rumors you heard about Ireland being really green... it is. I
don't know if it's because it rains more times a week year round than
not or what, but it definitely makes for beautiful scenery and crisp
pitches. No story really to how I ended up here, a friend of mine
from the University of Richmond who graduated a year before me lives
here and had a connection to get me a trial with the Finn Harps, a
first division side located in the northwest of the republic, but
since that couldn't go through my unnamed contact helped facilitate
the trial with the Bray Wanderers, a premier division squad
conveniently located only 20 minutes away from where I am staying. I
booked my flight, and a week later I was here, training with the
under-21s that evening. The whole process of going on trial is new to
me since I only recently graduated, and it's nothing like trying out
for your local select team. I was the only new face on the day, and
was just sort of thrown into the mix to see if I could keep up with
the u-21s, which thankfully I could. A midweek friendly was scheduled
against the St. Joeseph's schoolboys, basically a youth program that
feeds into Bray's u21/reserve sides, and regarded as one of the best
youth squads in the country. they jumped out to an early lead, but
thankfully our starters put their nerves to rest and levelled it
minutes later. Coming off the bench I quickly got into the mix
quickly, flicking on my first touch as an assist to the other front
runner, who buried the bouncing ball one touch. Second half I had a
bit of magic of my own, as my left foot is not my most prized
posession, but a through ball found me in a foot race with 2 Joey's
defenders and I was able to get onto it and slot a near post shot just
past the keeper with my left peg from about 16 yards out. The match
ended 4-2 in our favor, and afterwards the 1st team manager Tony
McGuirk
approached me and told me I had a good showing, and to report
to 1st team training the next week.
After a simple session on Monday, we then had our own
friendly against the visiting side Livingston FC, recently relegated
from the Scottish Premier League down to the First Division but still
a strong opponent. They jumped out to an early lead with a goal 5
minutes in, and doubled the tally just moments before the halftime
whistle blew. Whether it was the unseasonable heat (nothing compared
to the humidity in Virginia) or something else, our side looked flat
and uninspired. The second half began much like the first, with
Livingston netting an early goal to make the score 3-nil in their
favor. Being a friendly, we didn't quite adhere to the international
rules for substitutions, and in the 60th minute a few of us, including
me, were brought on to provide fresh legs and hopefully create a
spark. I didn't see the ball much, but when I did get it I was able
to play a few guys through with simple balls, flicking stuff over
defenders or splitting them, but I did make use of the one decent
opportunity presented to me. Receiving a ball at the corner of the 18
facing my own half, I faked a pass back and cut the ball back behind
me, splitting 2 defenders... after muscling through their attempts at
a tackle I smacked an overzealous shot that curled just wide of the
upper corner. Disappointed with the end result, but I did turn a few
heads with what I created. Livingston netted another late goal, and
the match ended 4-0. Overall a poor showing from our side, but we
were able to create a lot more in the second half.
After another training session with the First Team that week,
and a third early the next week, I finally sat down with Tony and
discussed my progress. He said just as he was after the u21 match, he
was impressed with my vision on the field and my ability to create,
and my size (6'2'' 220 doesn't really go against me) was a positive
given the style of defending in the league. With that, he said that
they definitely wanted to offer me a contract, and that I should go in
to the grounds that week to meet with Jack O'Neill, the general
manager, to finalize what we both wanted and expected. After a bit of
back and forth between what they had to offer and what I asked for, we
came to an agreement, and I signed with the Bray Wanderers on
Wednesday, the 12th of July, through the end of the current season in
mid-November. Crazy to say it, even crazier to think it, but that
officially made me a pro footballer!

Playing Abroad

Below is a first hand account of what it is like to go abroad and chase the dream of becoming a professional soccer player. I got the entry from Colin Vint via his older brother, Peter, who is a good friend of mine. Many thanks to Colin for taking the time out to write about his experience and allowing me the "exclusive" privilege of being the first to chronicle his experience in Ireland. Hopefully many more entries will come my way that I can share with you and hopefully in the future we can get an entry of what it's like to play in the EPL, La Liga, or the Bundesliga. Well, without further ado, I present Colin Vint's firsthand experience of training with Bray Wanderers and later recieving a contract offer...


GOING ON TRIAL
Salutations from across the pond in Greystones, Ireland. Believe all
the rumors you heard about Ireland being really green... it is. I
don't know if it's because it rains more times a week year round than
not or what, but it definitely makes for beautiful scenery and crisp
pitches. No story really to how I ended up here, a friend of mine
from the University of Richmond who graduated a year before me lives
here and had a connection to get me a trial with the Finn Harps, a
first division side located in the northwest of the republic, but
since that couldn't go through my unnamed contact helped facilitate
the trial with the Bray Wanderers, a premier division squad
conveniently located only 20 minutes away from where I am staying. I
booked my flight, and a week later I was here, training with the
under-21s that evening. The whole process of going on trial is new to
me since I only recently graduated, and it's nothing like trying out
for your local select team. I was the only new face on the day, and
was just sort of thrown into the mix to see if I could keep up with
the u-21s, which thankfully I could. A midweek friendly was scheduled
against the St. Joeseph's schoolboys, basically a youth program that
feeds into Bray's u21/reserve sides, and regarded as one of the best
youth squads in the country. they jumped out to an early lead, but
thankfully our starters put their nerves to rest and levelled it
minutes later. Coming off the bench I quickly got into the mix
quickly, flicking on my first touch as an assist to the other front
runner, who buried the bouncing ball one touch. Second half I had a
bit of magic of my own, as my left foot is not my most prized
posession, but a through ball found me in a foot race with 2 Joey's
defenders and I was able to get onto it and slot a near post shot just
past the keeper with my left peg from about 16 yards out. The match
ended 4-2 in our favor, and afterwards the 1st team manager Tony
McGuirk
approached me and told me I had a good showing, and to report
to 1st team training the next week.
After a simple session on Monday, we then had our own
friendly against the visiting side Livingston FC, recently relegated
from the Scottish Premier League down to the First Division but still
a strong opponent. They jumped out to an early lead with a goal 5
minutes in, and doubled the tally just moments before the halftime
whistle blew. Whether it was the unseasonable heat (nothing compared
to the humidity in Virginia) or something else, our side looked flat
and uninspired. The second half began much like the first, with
Livingston netting an early goal to make the score 3-nil in their
favor. Being a friendly, we didn't quite adhere to the international
rules for substitutions, and in the 60th minute a few of us, including
me, were brought on to provide fresh legs and hopefully create a
spark. I didn't see the ball much, but when I did get it I was able
to play a few guys through with simple balls, flicking stuff over
defenders or splitting them, but I did make use of the one decent
opportunity presented to me. Receiving a ball at the corner of the 18
facing my own half, I faked a pass back and cut the ball back behind
me, splitting 2 defenders... after muscling through their attempts at
a tackle I smacked an overzealous shot that curled just wide of the
upper corner. Disappointed with the end result, but I did turn a few
heads with what I created. Livingston netted another late goal, and
the match ended 4-0. Overall a poor showing from our side, but we
were able to create a lot more in the second half.
After another training session with the First Team that week,
and a third early the next week, I finally sat down with Tony and
discussed my progress. He said just as he was after the u21 match, he
was impressed with my vision on the field and my ability to create,
and my size (6'2'' 220 doesn't really go against me) was a positive
given the style of defending in the league. With that, he said that
they definitely wanted to offer me a contract, and that I should go in
to the grounds that week to meet with Jack O'Neill, the general
manager, to finalize what we both wanted and expected. After a bit of
back and forth between what they had to offer and what I asked for, we
came to an agreement, and I signed with the Bray Wanderers on
Wednesday, the 12th of July, through the end of the current season in
mid-November. Crazy to say it, even crazier to think it, but that
officially made me a pro footballer!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Sports Guy is now Soccer Guy.

The world of socer just got a new fan in Bill Simmons. I tend to think Simmons only knows five things: basketball, the celtics, comedy, the patriots and the Red Sox. Now that he has had soccer to his list I'm interested to see what his coverage will be like. Simmons has a new column over on espn.com where he picks the team he will support in the upcoming EPL season. I commend Simmons for not going with the obvious choices and instead opting to support Tottenham Hotspurs. Much like his decision to support the Clippres, this one will consign him to a life of sporting failure. Tottenham doesn't have the financial muscle to compete in the EPL but they will be a fun team to watch this season, especially if they get Damien Duff from Chelsea. Simmons has a lot to learn if he thinks Aaron Lennon is a Dwayne Wade type player. Lennon is good but he's not the type of player to win you championships, wingers rarely do. In any case, it's nice to see someone with a higher profile than myself writing about soccer on a consistent basis.

The latest rumor, which has been confirmed by ESPNSoccernet is that Fabio Cannavaro and Emerson will both be heading to Real Madrid to join their former Juventus Manager Fabio Capello. With Emerson at the Barnebau that makes 6 Brazilians in the squad with him joining Roberto Carlos, Julio Baptista, Robinho, Ronaldo and Cicinho. That's it and that's all. This is a bad down time for socer since all the Euro leagues are in limbo and the only thing to write about are rumours.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Transfer Rumours.

Chelsea are looking to pay about 70 million Euros for Kaka from AC Milan. Mind you, the next closest bid for Kaka was 35 million by Real Madrid and Roman Abromovich, Chelsea's billionaire owner, decided to double it. Where Kaka will fit into a midfield with Ballack, Lampard and Robben is beyond me.

Manchester United are looking to take Patrick Vieira on a season long loan from recently relegated Italian side Juventus. This is, eh, KIND OF A BIG DEAL. For about a decade Vieira played for Manchester United's biggest rival in recent times, Arsenal. I'm a huge Arsenal fan and it would be hard to stomach to see him in a Red Devils uniform. If Alex Ferguson fails to land Vieira he will look to add Michael Carrick from Tottenham for 15 million pounds. Utd. are also linked with a 25 million pound purchase of Atletico Madrid forward Fernando Torres.

Liverpool
have lined up a season long loan for penalty goat David Trezeguet.

Tottenham are linked with a 10 million pound purchase for Chelsea winger Damien Duff. Duff's days are numbered at Chelsea after the team purchased Shevcheko. They are likely to switch to a 4-4-2 formation which will limit his appearances. Tottenham will be a dangerous team next year if they can land Duff because with him and Aaron Lennon on the wings they will cause defenders problems. They will have to finance this move with by selling either Michael Carrick or Jermaine Defoe. Both have been linked with Manchester United. Tottenham are also linked with the Juventus fire sale as they are hoping to get former European player of the year Pavel Nedved on the cheap.

FC Barcelona are rumored to be close to agreeing a deal for signing Lilian Thuram. Thuram will probably come cheap as part of the Juventus firesale.

Ruud Van Nistelrooy seems to finally have gotten the pink slip and is on his way from Manchester United to Real Madrid after the teams reportedly agreed on a 12 million pound fee for the striker. Real Madrid are also linked with Andrea Pirlo of AC Milan and Fabio Cannavaro from Juventus.

One player who absolutely will not be moving is Alessandro Del Piero. After the team was relegated to Serie B and given a 30 point handicap for the upcoming season because of the match fixing scandal, the all time leading scorer has pledged to stay with the team no matter what.

Finally, Colin Vint, formerly of the Richmond Spiders, recently signed a contract with Bray Wanderers in the Irish Premier League. With any luck, I'll be getting some blog entries for this site from Colin on being an American playing abroad. Stay tuned...

That's it and that's all for today.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Welcome, Bienvenue, Willkommen, Bem-Vindo

This blog is a carryover from my World Cup blog. I really enjoyed writing about the World Cup and intend to continue writing about futbol on this site. Despite the title, "World Football," I must admit that the subject matter will be very Eurocentric. There will be some mention of South American games because I am able to see those games. However, if you are looking for coverage in African, Asia and Oceana I cannot offer that. There will, however, be ample info from La Liga, the English Premier League and Serie A. In addition to that there will be some stuff thrown in from Ligue 1 in France and the Bundesliga. There will, of course, be Champions League coverage and with the help of my friend Ilan in Brazil some Copa Libertadores. I may be casting too wide a net but as the seasons gets rolling I am sure it will whither down.

The European seasons kick off roughly around the third week of August. I will try to have previews for each league before they start. I look forward to writing about the domestic leagues in the fall and hopefully it will be as big of a hit as the World Cup blog turned out to be. Stay tuned.