I like Nate Silver. I read his political blog virtually every day and followed it religiously during the 2008 presidential election cycle here in the US. He’s a man who knows his statistics and also his sports: he writes for Baseball Prospectus and uses more decimals than I do. A lot more. So yeah, I like Nate Silver and when I learned that he was involved in ESPN’s Soccer Power Index (SPI), I was pretty excited. After all, Nate has a bigger brain than I do and maybe I would be able to learn a few things about approaching football/soccer statistically.
–Coach of the Year. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? UK paper (and a darned respectable one) Guardian says that our very own Pep Guardiola is their coach of the year. He has, and I quote, “The young Barcelona coach has quietly turned a team of underachievers into world-beaters.”
And so he has.
It was July 9, 2006 and I was standing in the viewing room of the French consulate in Chicago, weeping alongside a room full of other fans of Les Bleus. Yes, I had won the Chicago Tribune’s World Cup pool by betting my heart (Les Bleus all the way, as I will bet again this time out, if they make it.) rather than my mind, because I just knew.
I knew that Zinedine Zidane had one more magical tournament in him. That Patrick Vieira would be able to hold down the midfield, Yaya-style, while Zidane sashayed about on his Xavi-esque flights of fancy, giant feet flapping and distributing. I knew that Thierry Henry had more magical goals in him.
I just knew.
First, a bit of sadness: as has been noted before in the comments as well as in the newspapers, former Barça keeper Robert Enke died on Tuesday before our match with Cultural, leading to a moment of silence. Enke was a keeper, born in Jena, Germany in 1977. He played very sparingly for Barça during his time with team, only make 4 total appearances, none of which were very successful (in fact, he played in a Copa del Rey match that ended with Barça losing to Novelda CF of the Segunda B and Enke being blamed for the loss by many). He went on loan to Fenerbahçe and Tenerife, but despite some success there, he was not recalled to FCB and he moved to Hannover, where he was still playing at the time of his death.
From what I understand, he committed suicide by throwing himself in front of a train after battling with depression for many years as well as the loss of his two-year old daughter to heart complications. Tragedies such as these remind us that sporting success is fleeting compared to the value of a human life and that despite their superhuman endeavors in the athletic sphere, the people we watch on a daily basis are as human as we are and face many of the same issues and troubles that the wider population faces. They are not perfect and it would do us all a bit of good to remember that once in a while and to try and understand the various pressures we put on professional athletes that we’ve never met and will never understand.
You can check out a brief biography of Enke as a Barça player over on webdelcule.
Before we handle other things on this fine Veteran’s Day here in the US, let’s go ahead and tackle the idea that The Yaya is about leave. I’ve been getting emails from a few of you and links in the comments section to various articles from around the globe, all of which are about how our beloved behemoth is Blighty bound.
The likelihood of that happening is hard to say, of course, because none of us has a conduit into the mind and soul of The Yaya, but I think we can use perspective to understand a bit more what is going on.
Now, let’s go ahead and get to the articles themselves. There’s this one from goal.com, which claims, among other things, that it’s the lack of playing time that’s getting to The Yaya.
The squad for Spain’s friendlies against Argentina and Austria over the coming week were announced…
So you’re at this party in a gorgeous house, and the staff passing the drinks and snacks are supermodels. The music is perfect, and you’re having a great time. But there, on the corner of a rug that probably costs more than you make in a year, is a dog turd. It’s a little one, and nobody is really noticing it.
At least, they’re not actively acting as if they’re noticing it. And suddenly, you begin to notice other things …. that supermodel has nose hair, that other one has a sway back, you have a better music mix on your music player, if you really want the truth of it …. and so it goes.
And you’re cranky, because you should be having the time of your life but thanks to that little turd on the Bokhara, a little luster is gone.
Ye gods, there’s a lot going on in the world, such as:
Strike? A strike? Labor action by a bunch of pampered, overpaid athletes?
There is more assuredly precedent, at least in America, so people shouldn’t be horrified by such things if you know your sports history. But the prospect of no La Liga because of tax issues, frankly put, has my bloomers all in a bunch.
But my bloomers wouldn’t be the only ones in a bunch. Thong Boy, for example, would probably have his string turn into a cowlick, so high would his dudgeon be. Why? Because if the Spanish government has its way, the tax rate for furriners would rise to to 43 percent, from 24 percent.
Starting in 2010.
Yes, I want it huge. I want everyone to be able to return to this post, look at this picture and remember how it feels when we don’t play as a team, when we let a match that we should have won going away, slip away. Yes, it was a draw, but for me it feels like a loss. It certainly was celebrated like a win down in Osasuna, which is the story of the Barca life. A team will kill themselves just to draw with us, and we aren’t matching fire with fire.
So Thierry Henry is the best player in the world right now? Well he is according to the Castrol FIFA Rankings system, a complicated edifice that involves enough numbers to make even Isaiah tremble in terror, voodoo, live chickens and a chipmunk. It doesn’t bother weighting all that stuff that we fans value, such as clutch performances, match-winning efforts, etc, etc.
And you throw all that stuff into a hat, fire up a supercomputer or two, and out comes a numerical ranking that rates the best players across the top 5 leagues in Europe.
Yes, it’s early days, but our very own BANGS, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, is co-pichichi with Valencia’s David Villa. Each are on 7 goals. But did you also know that he was 4 of 4 with his shots vs Zaragoza, every last one of ’em being on target? This is very different from our performance against Rubin Kazan, in which some might have been buoyed by the fact that we had more than 20 shots, but I think you’ll find that their keeper will say that he had an easy night of it.
Which means what?
That our big Swede is making a liar out of some people.
In the wake of a series of fascinating recent matches in which opponents have essentially tried to kick us off the pitch, it’s interesting that we can look to the rough-and-tumble Premiership, to show us how it’s done:
–In Spurs v Portsmouth, Jermain Defoe steps on a downed defender who had just given him a hard challenge. Straight red, no debate, no argument.
–In the Liverpool/Villa match, the ref who allowed the “beach ball” goal, Mike Jones, will be officiating in the Championship next match weekend. Yes, refs can be relegated for poor decision-making, and frankly, should be.
Contrast that with the stiff-lipped gits who run the Liga, who decided that the dimwit who let Weligton kick, swing at and stomp his way though that Maulaga match, is all good in the hood. It was a shameful display then and it’s even more shameful now, in light of what I think any Liga devotee would say was a “no blood, no foul” league, cracking down on behavior that might injure a player, while also making sure that bad officiating does indeed get its just desserts.
Not that the aforementioned two decisions will do anything at all to make the Liga stop being run like a local indoor league, that doesn’t care if anyone shoves their way into the 127-person capacity gym to watch the matches.
That “hee haw” sound you hear is jackasses, braying en Espanol.