The soccer bridesmaid played great against the French, only to have its World Cup hopes annihilated on a handball so flagrant that even Thierry Henry himself had this to say after the match:
I am not the ref . . . . The ball hit my hand and, I will be honest, the ball hit my hand. It was a handball.
Through these comments Henry's reputation as a fairly good guy probably survives (even though he deliberately handled the ball twice!).
A major embarrassment for the referee and FIFA of course (as if FIFA actually gives a damn). What a shame that the Irish team will stay home next summer and the old and busted French team with their old and busted manager will go to South Africa.
As for the US team's woeful performance against Denmark (country motto: "Denmark: We're Not Sweden"), please direct your browsers to Fullback's dire yet accurate match reaction here, complete with Hamlet-quoting goodness.
I wonder if Kevin Payne sat at home watching the playoffs this weekend, thinking that, but for some bad luck in the last game of the season, DC United could have been there . . . .
Maybe he did, but this season's edition of United would have found it tough going against any of the last four teams, who mostly played pretty decent soccer all around. Maybe the sweetest part of the weekend was seeing Chicago eliminated at home on PKs, since this helped redress the playoff games in which Chicago sent me home from RFK on the verge of tears.
By now you've heard that Robert Enke, the goalkeeper for Hannover 96 and likely starter for Germany in next years' World Cup final, threw himself in front of a train on Tuesday. He apparently had been devastated by the death of his first child at the age of 2 in 2006, and had kept his depression hidden from his teammates. According to Enke's wife:
[H]er husband spent years trying to hide his
mental illness, fearful it might destroy his career and cause the
authorities to take away their adopted daughter, before he finally
Like in the aftermath of other suicides, people in the community of the person who took his life are asking whether they could have done anything to prevent the loss. The football world in Germany is engaged in similar introspection:
"How is it possible that a young successful footballer can get into a
position where he sees no way out?" wondered the ashen-faced president
of the German football association. "Could we have seen it coming?
Should we have dug deeper, beyond the surface? No one had any idea."
One of the pleasures of sports is that they are a release from the realities of life. Perhaps that is why, when things like this happen to sportsmen, they seem quite shocking.
The more interesting issue involves how Enke felt he had to hide his problems because, in part, of his job. This is not surprising, given football's macho culture, but it is not characteristic of football alone. People in all walks of life hide their mental illness or refuse to get treatment because of fear of being stigmatized or even losing their careers. Professional pilots, for instance, dread having a record of treatment for any serious ailment, for fear that they will lose their licenses to fly.
By their nature, competitive sports cater to primal instincts--to be part of a group, to fight, to win--and in doing so often underscore truths about real life. Enke's situation was not unique to soccer. Showing weakness of any kind can kill many types of careers, and the increasing responsibilities that come with age can lead anyone to feel trapped without a way out--except the ultimate one.
So, soccer itself should not be blamed for this. On the other hand, having players and coaches openly examining their feelings in the wake of this event is probably not a bad thing, given the pressurized culture of the sport as a whole. If, as a result, someone someday is encouraged to get help boxing with their shadows and finds a little peace, then that will be allright.
Enke found his peace at the sharp end of a speeding train.
It looked like the better team won last night at Home Depot Center.
The NY Times has an interesting article, found here, about Beckham's renaissance with the Galaxy. A quote:
“Now I would say they really enjoy each other,” said Arena, who
credited Donovan’s professionalism for mending the relationship.
Donovan said it was Beckham’s renewed dedication to his teammates. He
described how Beckham had addressed the Galaxy on the eve of Sunday’s
match and had recently taken the players out to dinner to celebrate
making the playoffs.
“He’s done a lot of things to show that he wants to be here,” said Donovan, who has assumed the role of captain from Beckham.
The article includes a reference to Bruce Arena acting like "Dr. Phil" to smooth things over between his high-strung stars. I'll be rooting for Houston to prevail, on general principles, but it's probably a good thing for the league that the Galaxy is not a total laughingstock anymore.
On a quick business trip to Germany, what else is there to do but this: go straight from the airport to the hotel, drop bags, and then immediately make one's way via subway to an early Saturday soccer match.
The venue was Allianz Arena, home of Evil Empire Bayern-Munich, but today hosting a second division showdown between hometown 1860 (the "Lions") and the unpronounceable Greuther Furth ("GF"). It was my first live Bundesliga experience, and it was interesting.
It is impossible to overstate the magnitude of anticipation that many breathless fans have for today's Man U - Barca showdown in Rome. For those like us living to the west of Europe, fundamental questions essential to the meaning of our lives must be answered, such as:
Do I call in sick or "work from home"?; or
Go to a bar for a "long lunch" with similarly obsessed colleagues?
Here in Curmudgeonland, however, any excitement is tempered by the knowledge that these marquee matchups can turn out to be dull affairs, even when the likes of Messi and Ronaldo are on the field. This game could easily end up 1-0 or 0-0 after regulation, and not in an exciting way, either. Still and all, there are already some positives to look forward to:
We won't have to hear the cheesy Champions League music repeated ad nauseum for awhile; and
There's at least a 50-50 chance that we will get to see Christiano Ronaldo cry.
For what it's worth, DCU players and managers have chimed in with their predictions here.