The S – Word

God lives in Catalonia

“Mega -Messi”, “Messi Masterclass”, “The Messiah”, “God lives in Catalonia!”

…are just some of the headlines that followed Barcelona’s 4-1 demolition of Arsenal last Tuesday – a crushing defeat that was orchestrated to perfection by one man, Lionel Messi. The Argentine scored all four goals at the Nou Camp, with a hat-trick in the first half. His goals, exquisite ones at that, gave the Catalan side a 6-3 aggregate win and a passage to a Champions League semi-final against Inter Milan.

Even I, here in my Pacific paradise, couldn’t miss the recent rhetoric about Messi and I was tempted to write about the FIFA World Player of the Year last month, following Barca’s 4-2 win against Real Zaragoza. Messi bagged another three in this game, becoming Barca’s first ever player to score consecutive hat tricks in La Liga, their previous outing being a 3-0 win against Valencia.

Leo has already won the Champions League trophy twice, he’s also got three La Liga titles to his name, a UEFA Super Cup, A FIFA Club World Cup and three Spanish Supercups. He is Maradona’s “successor” – words lauded by Diego himself, he won last season’s Ballon d’Or and he beat Cristiano Ronaldo to the title of World’s best player while he was at it. Oh, did I mention that he’s Barcelona’s all-time top scorer in the Champions League? Not bad. It’s hard to believe he is still only 22…  

And just in case the Zaragoza goals didn’t have you drooling into your keyboard enough, here’s Leo’s in action against Arsenal:

A class act, I think you’ll agree. As far as week’s go, I’d wager that perhaps it was one of Leo’s best. Even the staunch anti-Barcelona/pro-Real Madrid newspaper ‘Marca’ praised the diminutive number 10 for his footwork against Arsenal. Could his week get any better? It could and it did. Pep Guardiola’s men rounded off a superb week with a 2-0 win in ‘El Classico’ against Real Madrid. Messi overshadowed Ronaldo, he scored is 40th goal of the season and, with Barca’s second goal from Pedro Rodriguez, his team went three points clear at the top of La Liga. Marca, not surprisingly, weren’t too effusive with their praise this time…

There are some number 10’s who have always been special, who will always captivate the public and who will never be forgotten. The likes of Pele, Platini, Puskas, Maradona and Eusebio, to name but a few. For me, it’s really interesting to witness the ascent of Leo Messi, as he’s one of the few current players who could rank alongside the greatest number 10’s of all time. Perhaps, to some, he already does. If he takes Argentina to a World Cup final win this summer, then he’ll certainly be up there and the comparisons to Maradona will ring truer than ever. But for Barcelona fans I’m sure they couldn’t care less – as their shy, 5ft 7, Argentine number 10 is already the best in the world. God, as they are saying, already lives in Catalonia.

Mahalo for reading!

As a side note you may wonder why Manchester United’s game against Bayern Munich hasn’t had a mention. I think that the less said about that one, the better. Ahem…


Soccer’s JT makes the Maui News
February 9, 2010, 3:04 pm
Filed under: Football in Hawaii, World Cup 2010 | Tags: , , ,

When I saw a column about the England captaincy running in the Maui News this week, I knew it must be a big story. Not famed for its soccer coverage, even our local paper told the tale of John Terry’s recent ‘away days’ and subsequent demotion as England captain.

For those of you not in the know – John Terry has a reputation that stretches beyond the confines of the football pitch. Like many footballers before him he has an eye for the ladies and has openly admitted to cheating on his wife, Toni Poole, at least eight times before they were married in 2007 (imagine the count of the ones he hasn’t admitted to!).

Footballers + kiss and tell stories = everyday tabloid fodder, but the column inches devoted to Terry’s latest misdemeanours are even more lurid than most.

Earlier this month Mr Justice Tugendhat, a high court judge, lifted an injunction which had been preventing details of an affair between Terry and the ex-girlfriend of his friend and England team-mate Wayne Bridge. Terry, 29, is said to have started the extra marital affair with Vanessa Perroncel, mother of Bridge’s child, while Bridge played for Chelsea and the pair were neighbours in Oxshott, Surrey.

All smiles at England training. Little did they know...

Bridge is said to be “in bits” about the affair, while Poole has  retreated to Dubai with Terry’s children – three year-old twins Georgie John and Summer Rose.

Okay, so it’s not the first time a player has had an affair and it certainly won’t be the last but seriously, of all the women to choose – why would you do it with a team-mates girlfriend? Ex or otherwise…?

I have never been Terry’s biggest fan. Perhaps as a Manchester United fan it goes with the territory, but I did meet him once, about four years ago when I interviewed him for a radio show. I actually found him to be a nice guy – very agreeable and polite – quite the opposite to what I had expected. We had an amusing conversation about the merits of horseradish sauce and yorkshire pudding (Not part of the interview, I hasten to add) and I was slightly taken aback by the woollen jumper he was wearing – it had knitted deer on it. No, seriously, it did. But I came away from it thinking he was a nice fella. That dissipated over the years, I must admit, especially whenever United faced Chelsea…

Anyway – quite rightly (in my view) Terry was stripped of the England captaincy this week. Fabio Capello, the England manager, lived up to his own reputation as a strict disciplinarian and told Terry the armband was no longer his, following a 12 minute meeting at Wembley.

Capello said: “After much thought I have made the decision that it will be best for me to take the captaincy away from John Terry.”

“As a captain with the team, Terry has displayed extremely positive behaviour. However, I have to take into account other considerations and what is best for all of the England squad. What is best for all of the England team has inspired my choice and Terry was notified first.”

Before the news of Terry’s demotion came to light I was wondering who would be a natural replacement as captain and it was quite alarming to think about how slim the pickings are.

There may be many natural leaders on the pitch – Terry, Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand, even Wayne Rooney, but honestly  – when it comes to role models the cupboard is bare. Terry – see above, Gerrard – in court recently for assault, Rio – we all know about his infamous ‘missed’ drugs test, Rooney – lewd tales of aging prostitutes. I’m not even going to start on Ashley Cole…

Even David Beckham. Becks, ‘Golden Balls’ oh how we all love him and how the sponsors love him, but even he has been embroiled in kiss and tells. Perhaps unfounded allegations, but who knows…

Role model or not, Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand will be our new captain, with Gerrard as deputy. Rio has done a good job as United captain, when injury doesn’t keep him on the sidelines, and hopefully he can command the national team with responsibility and vigour as they head to South Africa in June. And hopefully he can keep peace in the dressing room – it would be very interesting to be a fly on the wall when Bridge and Terry next meet.

I’ll be back soon, with a look at one of the most interesting football books I have ever come across. Until then, thanks 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 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? 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.