Blog Archives

Happy Thanksgiving

Spending Thanksgiving with family and friends reminds us of the warmth of our relationships, the delicious food that’s brought to the table and the unique hilarity delivered by our family members. For starters, there’s a sign in my parent’s house that reads, “‘Tis the season for forced family fun.” Most of all, this holiday is about settling our rivalries, coming together and being thankful. And in true Thanksgiving fashion, this should happen on the gridiron.

Or at a nearby park.

The Geller Yeller still hasn’t announced the winner.

Happy Thanksgiving! 

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MESSIng with FC Catalonia

Spain is experiencing a Brexit-lite moment these days. And the aggressive tactics that prevented massive amounts of voters from casting their ballots in Catalonia that, according to early polls, would’ve very likely led to Catalonia declaring its independence from Spain earlier this month, didn’t help matters.

Catalonia’s vice-president has said that the Spanish government has given them “no choice” but declare independence.
–Caroline Mortimer, Independent UK

News of bitter conflict between Spain and one of its own regions (for now) Catalonia instantly brought to mind a 60 Minutes interview about FC Barcelona from a few years ago. Please scroll the timeline to 12:21 for the interview portion concerning the long existing divide between Spain and Catalonia.

As the interview in the 60 Minutes piece reveals, the rift between Spain and FC Barcelona’s home in Catalonia is not new and has been peacefully subdued for years and years through passive-aggressive tension. Not anymore. The time to get off the fence has finally arrived. The future outcome between these two Spanish forces is unknown at this point, but there are serious divides between Spain and its independent-minded region. The consequences, positive and negative, for the Catalan people are, and potentially will be, far-reaching and lasting in a variety of ways. These critical issues will continue to be highlighted and discussed in the coming days and weeks as this battle royale rages on. However, again, what’s fascinating is that soccer football has a place at the table in this evolving debate.

If Catalonia successfully becomes an independent nation and actually has its seat at the UN, then what league does FC Barcelona play?

Technically, FC Barcelona would not be a city in Spain. How would La Liga feel about admitting/re-admitting one of its most historically prolific and profitable clubs? Could, or would, Spain really turn away the cash cow that is FC Barcelona in the Messi era? Would the Spanish government interfere at the highest levels? Would there be a public vote? Could FC Barcelona become football’s first independently floating Notre Dame equivalent? Would the English Premier League, Serie A and Bundesliga bid for FC Barcelona to join their league?

These questions may not be as hypothetical as people may want to think.

Moreover, former FC Barcelona manager and legend Pep Guardiola, born in Catalonia, recently expressed his views to reporters on the Spain vs. Catalonia debate after a Man City match.

“It’s a really sad day for democracy. I thought in the 21st century, those kind of things didn’t happen,” he said.

“Especially, for example, the Catalan parliament is older than the Spanish parliament itself.

“I am really, really sad. The Catalan people just wanted to vote and we want to be listened to and let the people say what they wanted to be [part of Spain or independent].

The EU and its powerful, overarching style of governing may still be mostly intact, but it seems each of its members is passionately and continually expressing its own desire for independence in some form or another, whether it’s from the EU or from itself. Fascinating and transformational times we live in, indeed.

El Clásico in Madrid, Spain should be interesting on May 6, 2018. Something tells me the supporters for each club will be cheering and contesting for more than just a football victory in their high-stakes rivalry game…

From 2nd Place to 3rd Place to No Place

Total Football’s total mess is over…but only briefly.

The Dutch blanked Sweden 2-nil in Amsterdam ArenA today in the final game of World Cup qualifying. However, as a consequence of a massive goal differential shortage entering the match, the Oranje finished tied for second in points. But because goal differential is the first tie-breaker, the Dutch technically finished in the non-qualifying position of third place in their group behind Sweden and France. Therefore, the Dutch will miss the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

As a lifelong fan of the Netherlands, it’s tough to see this team not playing in a World Cup. Without diving too deep into the weeds right now (failure of a youthful, next generation of footballers to develop at a world-class level), what’s even more depressing is what was said after the final whistle blew.

Arjen Robben (33), my favorite soccer player, declared he is retiring from international competitions with the Dutch National Team.

This move was predictable, as it was either going to be announced this year or after the World Cup next summer had the Dutch qualified. Still, to know that Robben won’t put on a national team jersey again is jarring. One of the leaders of a golden generation of players for the men in orange (Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Robin van Persie) was excruciatingly close to winning his country’s first-ever World Cup on multiple occasions. The Dutch finished second in 2010 and finished third in 2014.

Now, as this disastrous World Cup cycle has proven, the Dutch will not be serious contenders for a long, long time. There is a very concerning talent gap for such a historically influential and talent-rich soccer nation.

Returning back to Robben’s breaking news, three pieces of immediate solace are:

  • He will continue to play for Bayern Munich.
  • His two goals today (especially his second) were classic Arjen Robben moments.
  • He retired from the Dutch National Team in front of his home fans.

Speaking of his classic second goal today against Sweden…

Ironically enough, the Netherlands won today’s game with the worst lead in soccer. And 2-nil proved, once again, to be the worst lead because they needed a much higher goal differential to miraculously qualify for next summer’s World Cup. It was a loss disguised as a win.

As opposed to Arjen Robben’s legacy with the Netherlands, which was always a win-win situation.

Thank you for all the memories playing for the Oranje! 

It’s Time for Wesley Sneijder to Widen His (Soccer) World

Two people walk down the same street together and see something happen. Incredibly, it’s entirely possible that these two people will have vastly different reactions and, therefore, reach two vastly different conclusions to said event.

Ready, set, go.

“Galatasaray have terminated the contract of Netherlands midfielder Wesley Sneijder.”
–Goal.com

What does the statement above mean?

The initial response indicates bad news for Dutch superstar Wesley Sneijder. Has to, right? When contracts are terminated, regardless of profession, that isn’t good news. However, having followed Mr. Sneijder’s comments recently, the opposite is actually true in his case. As a matter of fact, the “termination” was a mutal decision made between Mr. Sneijder and his now former Turkish club Galatasaray.

After making his 131st cap for the Netherlands national team (a record) during a revitilizing (and desperately necessary) 5-nil win against World Cup qualifying foe Luxembourg last month, signs emphatically point towards the 33-year-old #10 preparing for a third consecutive World Cup run next summer in Russia.

What does this projection mean?

Galatasaray is a good club, but not the one that will best condition the undervalued world-class veteran for what could possibly be the last best chance for his home country to try to win its first World Cup for a generation. Along with Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie (also 33 years-old), this explosively dynamic golden trio still have what it takes to hoist the greatest trophy in soccer. But the youngsters/next generation of the Oranje have to dramatically step up their game just to qualify for next summer’s competition.

It’s still an “if” at this point in qualifying, but possible.

Wherever Wesley Sneijder takes his talent to next, that club will have one of the most creative and dangerous #10 playmakers in the world. He can pass with precision and vision and score at seemingly any moment.

Here are a few examples of the now free agent finding the back of the net throughout his career for both club and country.

And Wesley Sneijder has Turkish club Galatasaray to thank for permitting him to build on his career once more at a critical juncture. Plus, Wesley Sneijder should get to fly on Turkish Airlines at least one more time…

Any chance to listen to Morgan Freeman’s voice, I’ll take it.