The S – Word


Brown, Benali and years of geekdom…

There was once a time when I knew everything about football. When I was in my early teens I started going to games on my own and I started to develop an encyclopedic knowledge of Manchester United and the Premier League. It bordered on the obsessive, to tell you the truth. I could have told you in great detail about any player at Old Trafford; their career statistics, which was their best foot, what were their strengths, weaknesses and a minutae of detail about various stadiums around Europe where they played. Hell, I could have even reeled off players’ middles names, ages of their children and their favourite foods without too much thought. Not many people were beating down my door to hear this information, I hasten to add, but to me it mattered.

I collected match programmes, read every report and filed away almost every back page from The Manchester Evening News with great diligence. I must have contributed a pretty big large share of my pocket money to buy various pieces of memorabilia and merchandise too.

It was out with the pony stories and Enid Blyton books and in with the football reading material. It wasn’t just Manchester United though, it was everyone, every team, every player, everything.about.football.  I collected Manchester United magazine and Glory Glory Man United and would read them over and again until I knew every fact but I soon started collecting others; GOAL, Shoot, Match, Total Football, Total Sport, FourFourTwo, Premier League sticker books. My addiction was growing…

Also (I don’t know if I should admit to this) when I was younger I used to watch Match of the Day and take notes. I was determined to become the show’s first female presenter and I thought it best to chronicle the information. I kid you not. I used to write down the goalscorers, the names of the referees, bookings and more. Then I would file them in my MOTD box.  Ha! I was a geek, through and through. And my poor dad, I used to ask him (or is that make him I wonder?) quiz me on the previous night’s programme. Any car journey, long or short, was an opportunity to be challenged. Ask me about football dad, ask me, ask me, ask me. Or, Dad!! Peter Schmeichel is going to be opening a menswear shop in Deansgate on Tuesday. I HAVE to be there. How I knew these things I have no idea, but I’d always be there – nervous, sweaty-palmed, probably blushing, standing in various Manchester menswear shops, clutching my autograph book and waiting for one of my heroes, positioned awkwardly somewhere between the briefs and man bags.

My mum suffered the same treatment. She was frequently met with requests to drive me to watch reserve matches at Gigg Lane in Bury or to the Cliff – Manchester United’s old training ground. At the Cliff you could hang around in the car park, meet the players and they’d happily sign autographs for you. Back then players drove Renaults and Volkswagens. Now, at Carrington, you’d be lucky if you got a glimpe of one of them behind the tinted windows of their Bentley and extremely lucky if they stopped to autograph something.

I wonder how many other 13 year-old girls there were in Cheshire at that time who thought they should know what Southampton’s Francis Benali looked like or what Ruel Fox’s goal to game ratio was? Lessons in school became opportunities to talk football with the boys in my class. Hey – where do Galatasaray play their home games? I’d ask. This was far more interesting than physics. (it’s the Ali Sami Yen by the way…)

Francis Benali

There's only one Benali. Erm...

Throughout my teenage years and into my twenties this fanaticism grew and my love for football continued. Admittedly, it dipped a bit as I started university, did my fair share of partying  and developed a love for travel but it was always there. My capacity for remembering small details about players and their teams probably diminished a bit around this time and I refrained from keeping notes about Match of the Day, But I never fell out of love with the game.

These feelings never changed and that’s what led to my career in football journalism. Thank God all that information was actually used for something! Those hours spent poring over books and magazines were not in vain. Hurrah! Football journalism was heaven on earth for me and not just because I got to work with some of the best fellow geeks around. All day was spent either watching games, talking about them, writing about them – or being out and about interviewing players and managers and negotiating the slippery world of football agents. Morning duties included reading every back page and soccer supplement and Sky Sports News became a permanent fixture in my life. It was on in the background for up to 9 hours a day, we really had to know everything as soon as it happened.

And this is precisely what motivated me to write this entry. Back then I had to know everything and now, well… my knowledge is diminishing. I don’t know how many people in the world were affected by Phil Brown’s recent sacking at Hull City. Not many, I’d wager. For those of you not in the know, the perma-tanned and aptly named Brown was relieved of his managerial duties on March 15 and promptly made his exit from the KC Stadium and into gardening leave. Now, it’s not the sacking that bothers me. Sure, Brown seems like a nice enough guy and it’s not nice to see anyone get fired but what really gets me is that I DIDN’T KNOW!!!!

Former Hull boss Phil Brown

Former Hull boss Phil Brown

This must be how Samson felt after Delilah’s betrayal – his locks were shorn and his superhuman strength left him. The muscle-bound Isarelite was a changed man and that’s how I feel. Ahem, apart from the fact I am not superhuman, I’m not a man and I wasn’t deceived by a woman called Delilah, but you get my drift.

I moved to Hawaii. Quite possibly the best decision I will ever make. My days are spent on a beautiful island, in the sun, surfing and canoe paddling, life is truly perfect. I have to pinch myself regularly to make sure this is real. But it is a life with little football. I try hard to monitor all my favourite news sources and my friend, former editor and ex- Arsenal player Adrian Clarke has a great podcast that keeps me informed but many, many stories just pass me by. 

It made me chuckle, when I was thinking about this situation, that I was so affected by Phil Brown. I mean, really, of all people! But it wasn’t Brown, he is merely the poster boy who represents the growing gap in the knowledge I once had. A brown, slightly leathery, northern poster boy, with a penchant for odd half-time ‘motivational’ team talks, but a poster boy nonetheless.

So, I am not as up to date with English football as I once was – I don’t watch Sky Sports, I rarely see games and, with a tear in my eye, I gave away my  magazine collection when I left the UK. But life here is good, no – life here is fantastic and I still get to write about the sport I love. What could be better than that? Maybe I should start paying more attention to the smaller stories in English football, maybe I should write more. But as soon as Phil Brown gets a new job, I’ll be damned if I am not the first to know.

Thanks for reading my ramblings! Aloha, until next time…

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Pacific tsunami and a City win
February 27, 2010, 5:04 pm
Filed under: Premier League, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

Today has been surreal. I was woken up at about 3 in the morning, with news that a tsunami warning had been issued in Hawaii – following a devastating earthquake in Chile. The 8.8 magnitude quake triggered tsunami waves throughout much of the Pacific Ocean and, quite rightly, the warnings were taken very seriously here.

I’d gone to bed at about midnight, pretty tired after a sunset canoe paddling session, followed by a great margarita pool party (I know, it’s a hard life…). So when I woke up I actually thought I was dreaming. I went back to sleep for about 45 minutes until I was woken again. “Watch the news!” I was told.

I was glued to the news this morning, for tsunami updates

Everyone where I live was up and about – filling the cars with gas, water and food, as we’d been advised. When the air raid-like  tsunami sirens started sounding at 6am, it was pretty eerie. As a matter of fact, everything felt strange – the evacuations, emptying roads, everything closed down, panic buying at the supermarket, really weird. We drove ourselves to higher ground, parked up and spent six or seven hours watching the West Maui coast, anxious about the approaching waves, not knowing what would or could happen.

Thankfully Hawaii “dodged a bullet” – the words of tsunami expert and geophysicist Gerard Fryer. We saw some receding of water – which normally signals a wave is about to hit but nothing too damaging happened. There were sucks back and then surges along the parts of the coast that we could see, but no devastating walls of water.

What a relief! I was seriously impressed by the warnings we were given leading up to the expected time of the first wave, the evacuation procedure, everything. Hopefully nowhere else in the Pacific will be badly affected.

It seems a bit erroneous to talk about football in the same breath as earthquakes and tsunamis but if it wasn’t for the huge win that Manchester City registered against Chelsea today, I probably wouldn’t mention it.

But…I have to.

It’s rare that  I am pleased by a City win but today’s victory raised more than a smile. It was not just the manner of the defeat that pleased me (a 4-2 drubbing at Stamford Bridge with two Chelsea players sent off) but the loss on home turf also prevented Carlo Ancelotti’s men from going four points clear at the top of the Premier League.

It’s the second time this season that City have beaten Chelsea, which surely speaks volumes about the leaps they are making now that they’re, well, totally loaded. A top-four finish is looking more and more possible by the day, which takes some getting used to. City can’t actually win things can they? The fans I know from the blue half of Manchester will be howling with derision for me saying that but it’s just so hard to imagine. I mean really, silverware at Eastlands!?

Oh and  something else that I got great pleasure out of was Wayne Bridge’s refusal to shake John Terry’s hand. After the sordid philanderings I spoke about in my February 9 blog all eyes must have been on the pair and I think it was exactly the right thing for Bridge to do.

Snubbed!

I need some sleep after today’s events so that’s all for now… I’ll be back soon, hopefully after a Manchester United victory against Aston Villa in the Carling Cup final.

Mahalo for reading!



Dancing leopards, small shorts and Ronaldo’s abs…
January 15, 2010, 10:36 am
Filed under: Uncategorized, World Cup 2010 | Tags: , , ,

There are 146 days, 2 hours and 13 minutes until the 2010 World Cup kicks off and naturally, being in Hawaii, my thoughts have turned to the official mascot for this year’s tournament…

Could it be any stranger than Goleo, the mascot for Germany 2006? I think he was meant to be a lion. One of those famous, ahem, German lions. I actually thought he was a camel, a fleabitten camel at that – which I hope illustrates to those of you who aren’t familiar with World Cup mascots at just how bad they can be. I hate to think how many people, how much money and how much time was spent designing Goleo. He was no World Cup Willie that’s for sure.

See - even 'Big Phil' Scolari was scared.

I just visited FIFA.com to find out who would be representing South Africa 2010 and I found this:

“Zakumi is a jolly, self-confident, adventurous, spontaneous, and actually quite shrewd little fellow. He loves to perform and always follows his instinct and intuition, yet sometimes has the tendency to exaggerate a bit. You will often find him fooling about and teasing people but not in a mean way. He is warm-hearted and caring, and wants to make as many friends as possible.”

Reads a bit like a dating ad, no?

And check out the picture:

Zakumi – he symbolises South Africa, apparently.

Were the green hot pants included to please Sepp Blatter? As we know, he is famed for his love of small shorts. The thrusted crotch, the androdgyny, the coy pose, is this the best they could come up with?

Surely there are better ways to sum up the spirit of South Africa? The ‘Rainbow Nation’ that is so rich in culture, beautiful landscapes and wildlife is hosting the World Cup and the poster-child for the tournament is this? Zakumi the, erm, actually what is it?

FIFA.com says: “So what can we say about him? One thing is for sure, Zakumi will be first on the dancefloor and last off it at the biggest party in the world. He wants to dance and entertain as many people as he can. He is an animator for fans, players and officials, for schoolchildren, teenagers and big kids alike!”

After more of this lonely hearts column-style fodder I found out Zakumi is a leopard. One with green hair, green spots and green hot pants. Nice. And one that sings, dances and likes to party. Regal lion anyone? Noble elephant? Nah, let’s go with the camp, manga leopard that promises to be the ‘last one off the dancefloor.’ Hmmm, actually perhaps he has more in common with modern day football than I first thought.

Which brings me to this. Ronnie, oh Ronnie what have you done this time? Inspired, no doubt, by David Beckham’s recent forays into the world of crotch shots Cristiano Ronaldo has outdone himself with these ads for Armani underwear and jeans.

Cristiano Ronaldo, pictured relaxing at home

Once there was a time when footballers were more known for their abilities than their abs. Aah, the halcyon days of the beautiful game. How I miss thee. But I had to include this picture in my blog, I just had to. The comedy value is just priceless.

Ronaldo has never been known as a shrinking violet, indeed he is as famous for his fashion choices, girlfriends and Bentleys as he is for his football. But this new picture takes the cake. What are you doing, what are you wearing? Is that make-up? Surely that position can’t be comfortable? Ladies and gentlemen I present to you – the world’s most expensive footballer.

Well, I think that’s it for today. The sun is shining, the beach is calling and I’m off to ponder bizarre choices in the world of coquettish leopards and washboard abs.