Tuesday, July 11, 2006

ZZ (blows his) TOP!

The Best team lost.

Zinidane Zidane slid into the shadows instead of riding into the sunset.

France played the better football, with heart, with technique and then Zizou blew his top. Typically in response to a bit of Italian gamesmanship. It cost his country the World Cup.
The comparison with that other masterful marshal - Napoleon, is uncanny.
Zidane the midfield marshal, like Napoleon was sent off to exile in disgrace. Unlike Napoleon, His memory will be revered by all Frenchmen, racists apart.

Allegedly Marco Materazzi wished him (ZZ) & his family “an ugly death”, called him a “terrorist” and creased it off with a “F*ck you!” While this goes on at all levels and in all games & in all sports, the showpiece of football, the World Cup Final did not need it.

ZZ’s response was regrettable but would understandable be too subtle a word to describe his retort? He walked back to the Italian, clearly upset and butted him in the chest. Materazzi is a few inches taller. The Italian crashed to the ground as if a bullet hit him, as if he was seized by the spirit of an ancestor from WW2. The ref had no option to red-card Zidane, hopefully an inquiry into the event will yield worthwhile retribution for Materazzi.

It was a terrible way to end a glittering career such as his but as I described in my final preview, it sums up the difference in class between two footballing cultures of France & Italy.

The legendary Brian Clough described Italy’s “favourite team” Juventus in 1973 as “Cheating bastards” after they stole a European cup semi final from His Derby County with their “antics”. Afterwards it was discovered the Italians had indeed bribed the ref with “gifts”. Juventus are once more accused of game-rigging in 2006, facing demotion to two levels as indeed are Milan, Fiorentina & Lazio. The last time Italy won a world cup (’82) it was to a similar background. Some things it appears never change.

For the record, I believe the best team went out to Germany in the quarter final. Argentina. The Germans weren’t too far behind either; their titanic tussle with the Argentineans tired them out for the Italians.

All over now though. Chelsea for three in a row and the Champions’ League next year!
C’mon you Blues!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Chicago again!

The Windy City

“To the City of Chicago
As the evening shadows fall
There are people dreaming
Of the hills of Donegal”

Or so the song goes…well I am not dreaming of the hills of Donegal though I was in the south of that county – flat as a bloody pancake incidentally, when we (Wexford) played them in the 3rd division of the national league (1981)....how times have changed for the better for both Counties in the Football department.

Anyway, we were off to that City once more to visit my wife’s maternal home although her own ancestral home is Wexford. Lots of things are planned, visits to old haunts and some new ones too. My wife is anxious for us to try Italian grinders…sandwiches, dripping in olive oil, sausage, peppers, various cheeses all topped by a rich tomato sauce sprinkled with herbs.

Chelsea by some strange co-incidence visit the town at that time and by an even stranger co-incidence we will be seeing them too. I’ll enjoy the time away, meeting some old friends from England & Ireland…a chance to relax amidst my own, and a refreshing change from the daily grind...no pun intended.

Coupe de Monde 2006 - Endgame

Thrilling isn’t it, this world cup promised so much and fizzled out to a damp squib by the tournament’s end. France play Italy in the final and the romantic in me wants the French to win, the purist – Italy.

This world cup won’t be remembered for much save the awful refereeing, the cynicism of a lot of the teams, the playacting of a lot of the leading players and the bellyaching of England as yet again they fail to live up to their own hype….They had some wonderful talent but left it all at home. A bunch of turnips led by a Swede as it turns out.

So now two are left, France & Italy.

France was galvanized by comments of Msr. Le Pen, Leader of the Front Nationale who declared that “there were too many blacks on the team”. Galvanized by Spanish Coach, Luis Aragones racism & the Spanish fan’s monkey chants, galvanized by the diving of Portugal..the “old men” marshaled superbly by Zinidane Zidane, the son of Algerian Immigrants, himself well versed to racism of the “know nothing” element that one finds all around the world. Being acquainted with it here, I am well aware of the anger & resentment it causes in the soul.

Heart, Bravery, Courage, call it what you will…I’d love to see France win over an Italian team that were galvanized also, galvanized by the corruption scandals in their own country. Scandals that are very serious yet symptomatic of their game, forever being tainted with bribery, it could be said that the chickens are coming home to roost. But therein lays the rub, in France v Italy – we have a common cause over an uncommon cause. Light against Dark, right over wrong.

Bravery over Cynicism that is what this game boils down to.

Vive La France!