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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Happy to be Back Part 1

First happy to be back. I hope I left you hanging on my last words like an apostrophe! (Geddit?) I received some interesting feedback from a highly respected reader, Nic Fit, saying that Miamista was drifting and that the name Miamista was no longer appropriate for the blog. Read the discussion. I should add that the guest articles are coming down tomorrow so I'm only sorta back.

I feel obligated to report on my time in Europe but I’m not sure what to say. It’s not like when you’re spontaneously sharing stories with people next to you. In fact, this blog did me the non-favor of sharing my trip with people whom I might have asked to go but wasn’t really at liberty to because of a number of reasons. I was also too poor to buy everyone gifts that I would like to so here is my apology.

Do I start on some sociological musings, for instance, asking why travel abroad, and what it says about the constraints of economics, class, race, etc.? Do I go into racism in football which more than the theme for this year’s world cup, was a hot topic that played out on the pitch as well as in discussions in the media and the great people whom I met? What about the conversations and observations? I missed a short trip to Montreal that I failed to report on as well as a Moroccan and China trip.

I have been in a rush to travel these days because I assume that my days of freedom from responsibility are numbered. So much of my life is predicated on giving myself the maximum flexibility and maximum mobility. Can’t imagine it will be cool to hit up budget hotels and youth hostels forever. I was too old to get into one or two which was FRIGHTENING!!! I can’t let hard won opportunity and growth slip away so easily. You’d be surprised how many things get lost over time, how many things get placed in storage only for me later to sell and give away. I might also mention that I pulled a tendon in my heel while playing pick up soccer in Germany and that makes me fear that athleticism will start to fade. Hmmm. I hope we can take all of this and spread it out over the next few weeks without me getting on your nerves.

Here is me bemoaning that 80-85% of Americans will never own passport, even though twenty percent of just those Americans in the Census are first generation (including those born of immigrants and born abroad) and that passports tend to be issued to the same sectors of our population, immigrants and the wealthy. Two percent travel abroad outside of Canada (for God’s sake every college kid goes to Mexico I thought!) Mexico, Canada, England by far, then France as a way distant fourth… Well the rest of the world does suck.

Okay, football/football/futebol. Let me be clear, I am no fan. And by that I mean I enjoy the actual game, playing it and witnessing it rather than rooting for teams. That goes for sports in general.

Italy- Masterful performance. Very physical. Brutal defense. Superb gamesmanship (more on that later). Good set pieces of the English type, i.e., a tall striker who use their height for heading even if they can’t walk straight much less dribble. (There seems to be a shortage of tall AND coordinated people in soccer.) And no one dives like the Italians, whose performance throughout was worthy of La Scala. Those of you who know my last name will know that I’m only being fair, despite a very distant ancestral call.

Oh Brazil!- Fat Ronaldo (okay, he’s just big boned) was not good for Brazil as a single striker. I mean if he can beat your off sides trap the way he did against Ghana, you’re just a sucky team, or at least an undisciplined one. I’ve always thought he was skillful, no one get the ball off his feet with direction and speed quicker and he is great with headers, but he is also selfish. That not really a fault with a striker unless that striker can no longer move. Greatest collection of players and crappy team. Ronaldhino deserves better targets and Cafu should have retired before, not after this World Cup.

Holland, Germany, Sweden- the ugly game, concentrating on set pieces, hard tackles, intimidation (not really Germany) with attacking players having more pace than ball control. I think it is fair to say that there is much less diving among these teams.

England- Seemed to have it all. Brutal team tackling, dead on corners (isn’t that the only reason Beckham is allowed to walk a pitch), pace (Rooney), intimidation (Rooney again), ball control (Owen), a tall striker for heading (Couch). Penalty kicking was bad and their goalie was mediocre. We’ll probably never see a team of specialists like that again but they were way overrated as individuals. Now the English can do what they usually do and blame a newly minted villain for their ineffectualness, preferably a swarthy Latin with flair, (Cristiano Ronaldo plays the role of Maradonna) in these sad post-imperial days.

Portugal- the little country that couldn’t should have done better but compounded probable bias as a little country with the little country syndrome of whining and the finesse team habit of diving (too an extreme matched only by Italy.) Cristiano Ronaldo needs to get a new trick besides scissor kicks and diving but his pace, strength, flair and quickness coupled with the fact that girls LOVE dude, means he should be the next great thing- except in piss-pants England. (Sorry old buddy Geof in Cheltenham, good seeing you.)

Argentina- should have won but they blew it by trying to play defense. When you pass and move together like that, that IS your defense. Argentines are insufferable though right? So who wanted them to win? Me; purely on the grounds of soccer, Maradonna and Nestor Kirchner.

Ukraine- they’re God awful but deserve mention for an entirely different reason. Oleg Blokhin, their coach has inspired me to dislike his team; here’s what he said to do so: “The more Ukrainians there are playing in the national league, the more examples there are for the young generation. Let them learn from Shevchenko or Blokhin and not some zumba-bumba whom they took off a tree, gave two bananas and now he plays in the Ukrainian league.”

Spain- How does Spain always manage to be so repulsive? I mean there is the tennis player Nadal who I want to like but his mastery is of those sloppy, fuck-up-your-clothes, Third World-ish clay courts. (I mean, no half developed nation should play on clay except the French who continue to use them just to be different.) And why does that ass-ferret Nadal insist on wearing culottes. Oh, why do I hate Spain? Spain is the most notoriously racist football fans and team in the world. Spanish team coach and Ralph Arza hero Aragones manager told his players “to get (French star) Henry Thiery, to show that Black piece of shit you are better than him.” The Spanish Football federation all but cheered him on. Spain is where the monkey chants at Black players started and continues, unabated. A group of racist thugs viciously beat a man in a stadium after a game because they thought he was a South American immigrant (turns out he was Spanish native/national.) Teams have group of wannabe fascist fans, most despicably including the Ultra Surs, who several Spanish players go out of their way to support. And there are no mitigating achievements like football team success or national habits of good clothes, good food, good cars, etc.

France- should have won but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, right Zizou (aka Zidane Zinadine)? You better really consider if it’s worth it however as opposed to reacting. I mean, you can take the guy out of the hood by you can’t take the hood… Speaking of the ‘hood, why does virtually all of the French team come from it? I mean, it is like the Foreign Legion of soccer, with all but two of its starters coming from abroad (Africa and the Caribbean) or children of immigrants from the same. Is there a law that only Arabs and Blacks can play or in France can only Arabs and Blacks play?

Zizou- why we still love ya. Thiery Henry, team mate to Zinadine Zidane overheard Marco Materazzi call Zidane a "Screw his damn Arab mother" and asked him earlier "Why don't you play for your own country". Materazzi has a history of thuggish play and racism. He tried to end Aloisi's career with a knee tackle away from the play and his cynical and brutal two-footed challenge could have ended Marco Bresciano's career and almost did. Materazzi said Zoro (an African player in the Italian league) was just getting publicity when Zoro walked off with the ball in Sicily amidst thrown bananas and monkey chants. Materazzi, has also been involved with a number of other altercations on the pitch and has been suspended for it almost a dozen times. It is unclear whether that was the final insult before the headbutt or one of the comments up to that point. Materazzi for his part says that he insulted Zidane with whatever the inflammatory comment was because Zidane looked at him with “super arrogance”. Materazzi had self-admittedly “held him by his shirt for just a few seconds” during a corner kick and Zidane said “if you want my shirt that badly I’ll give it to you”. Materazzi refused to say what comments he used. When it was asserted that during the match he had called Zidane a terrorist Materazzi said he was “ignorant and doesn’t know what an Arab terrorist is.” Materazzi declined to say specifically what he called Zindane.

If this were a less important game I wish Zidane would have cocked him, but in this case he just played into his hands. Zidane should have learned already. When playing against Saudi Arabia there were bunches of chants with people calling him a sellout and accusing his father of being a collaborator in Algeria. A player called him a "harki" (Arabic epithet for colonial collaborator) and Zidane stomped him. Zidane was suspended for six games I think. Later he announced that his parents or family had never been collaborators. Perhaps he should use his mouth instead of violence.

Why is it that all the racism seems to come from the poor, backwards countries of Europe, the EU problem children? Italy (to an extent), Spain, the Ukraine… (In Northern European nations, including the U.K, France, Holland, Germany, Scandinavia, etc., players are suspended indefinitely and fans are banned for life for chanting or displaying racial epithets, and it’s not a real problem.)

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