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Happy Monday!

Breaking News: Zinedine Zidane is pulling a Jupp Heynckes and coming out of retirement (of sorts) to return to European powerhouse Real Madrid where he won multiple Champions League titles with during the past few years.

Following the embarrassing Champions League series loss against Ajax just last week–highlighted by the 4-1 loss at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium by the team from Amsterdam–coupled with less-than-stellar performances in La Liga this season, Real Madrid has been in veritable crisis mode. It’s the reality of incredibly high expectations for a club that’s been the king of the Champions League with Mr. Zidane as their manager.

And now Real Madrid’s real leader has returned. Of course, winning the Champions League is not an option in 2019. Catching Barcelona, a team that’s 12-points ahead of Real Madrid, for the La Liga title also seems unlikely in 2019. So what’s left?

Mr. Zidane must right the ship immediately by basically winning out the remainder of the 2018/2019 schedule with style and renewed energy while searching for his new Cristiano Ronaldo. Real Madrid will be looking to throw insane amounts of money for its next world-class x-factor. And finding this player where “x marks the spot” will be Mr. Zidane’s greatest challenge.

Oddly enough for Real Madrid, that spot marked by x (well, actually three x’s) may very well be located in Amsterdam. Just ask Barcelona.

Have a Better Week Than Last Week. 

P.S. I  have to say that I called Ajax upsetting Real Madrid in their Champions League series. However, I definitely did not foresee the blowout win that transpired. That was shocking. Who saw that coming? In Madrid no less! Now hopefully Bayern Munich can pull off a similar upset against Liverpool this Wednesday at the Allianz Arena. 

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A 3-3 Win for the 2018 FIFA World Cup

Today’s match between rivals Spain and Portugal fulfilled all the drama–before and during the game–short of a game-winning goal. And let’s be honest…this is one of those games where I should just point you to the highlight of the night.

Click PLAY, then click “Watch this video on YouTube” (FIFA stuff) and then please return to Jimmy’s Daily Planet. 

Instant Reaction:

Spain will view the 3-3 tie as a loss as they were pre-game favorites. They had the chance to win the game, collect three-points and sit atop Group B in pole position.

Portugal will likely view the 3-3 tie as a win as they were pre-game underdogs. Led by superstar Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat trick that served as the scoring bookends for the day (4th and 88th minute), the Portugeuse now have an opportunity to sincerely challenge Spain to win Group B.

Slightly More Reaction:

It’s a little difficult to tell if Spain and Portugal will continue at this pace, both in style and proficiency, throughout the tournament. Was this performance by both nations more of an isolated rivalry game that, like Ohio State and That Team Up North, just ignites an unexplainable fire that fuels players to accomplish the spectacular? Time will certainly tell, particularly outside of Group B against comparable top competition.

Either way, the hype is real–and was heart-poundingly real in Spain vs. Portugal–for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

From Russia with love for the beautiful game.

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…

Chapel Thrill

For those who wonder why so many soccer players celebrate by pointing their fingers towards Heaven…

Soccer (or football) is known as the beautiful game. As a lifelong player and fan, I can and will attest to this description with the power of a thousand suns.

Like many sports, our personal favorite(s) often reveal a philosophical belief in how we go about life on a daily basis. The specific strategy, urgency, patience, necessities, rewards, setbacks, effort and so forth of any sport can typically be closely translated into how we view our work, jobs and the complexities of our personal lives.

The following segment from a 60 Minutes interview with FC Barcelona star Gerard Piqué from 2013 struck something inside me as a viewer, a soccer player/fan and a Christian. During the time of this interview, FC Barcelona was regarded as the best soccer club in the world. With all the star power in its starting eleven and the fanfare surrounding this team in Catalonia, take a look at what the designers of the Camp Nou believed was a must-have in the walkway from the locker room to the world famous pitch.

Despite not being a Barça fan, the chapel in Camp Nou showcases (in its uniquely intimate, off-to-the-side kind of way) the link many soccer players have when it comes to their belief in God as it pertains to the beautiful game.

That’s living and embracing the beautiful game on and off the pitch.