Monthly Archives: March 2009

How to walk away with an Oscar, World Cup Qualifer edition

I was trying to watch a World Cup Qualifier and I ended up watching a telenovela. Around the 60th minute, Salvadoran players started dropping like flies. None of their injuries were particularly brutal – most of them rolled around on their backs and grabbed their calves – but it was the theatre of it all.

A brief description, which may or may have come from a script found in the trash at Estadio Cuzcatlán.

Salvadorans, seemingly in peak physical condition, were struck down by the vile US players. They yelled and collapsed to the ground, screaming for their mothers and wives and an end to it all. One or two of them shed a tear. I mean, not even Christian Bale can cry on demand. Well, maybe he can, but I’m scared to ask him about it. Teammates gathered around their fallen comrade and solemnly looked on; manly hand-holding ensued. There was, perhaps, some yelling in Spanish or Spanglish at the offending US player; if there was no offender, the closest player in a snazzy white striped shirt would due. The crowd hushed. The stretcher arrived, carried by 4 EMTs (or whatever the Salvadoran equivalent to EMTs is), and was laid carefully beside the fallen player. The player was gingerly lifted onto the stretcher and carried off the field to thunderous applause from his teammates and the crowd. The courage! The bravery! How could he ever go on?

The EMTs stood back after lowering the stretcher to the ground, safely off the pitch. El Salvador’s head trainer began his work, relying mostly on the Magical Soccer Spray. It is a tribute to their dedication to the Salvadoran national team, to pride itself, that the injured players, near death in all likelihood, stood up and re-entered the game. I can’t be sure if the clouds parted and sun shone only on them, but I’ll assume that’s what happened.

I half expected Half-Squat to present a little wooden Oscar to the keeper, Miguel Montés, who managed to delay 6 minutes. That’s right: he was down, inside his net, for 6 minutes. It was a masterful performance.

On a side note, the US came back to draw, 2-2. Frankie Hejduk was the best player in San Salvador on this particular evening.

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Filed under CONCACAF, World Cup

Does stability mean championships?

Over at F365, Pete Gill has written that today’s culture of instant gratification means that managers are under increating pressure (something I agree with) and that boards are more likely to pull the trigger sooner rather than later (also something I agree with). Where I disagree with Gill is when he contends that boards virtually have to operate this way, given the big money nature of the game today.

Boards can operate however they want; they simply choose to bow to fan and/or media pressure quicker than before. I humbly submit that if you choose a manager you think is right, stand by him. The board went to the trouble of picking him, so why not give him a shot? Is it realistic to expect titles every year? That depends who you are; for Manchester United or Chelski or Real Madrid or Bayern, that’s the minimum expectation. But should that be the case? I submit that it shouldn’t because, by definition, there can only be one champion per year. It’s all well and good to expect to compete until the end but it’s not well and good when a manager pays the price unfairly.

The examples for stability are Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger, as pointed out by Gill. At the other end are serial manager changers like Real Madrid and, lately, Chelski. On the surface, it appears that patience brings benefits; look at Fergie’s reign lately and Wenger’s undefeated year, both of which came after some early stumbles. Would Man Utd or the Arse be where they are without their managers? I doubt it.

But, as Gill points out, the era of the long-term manager is likely over, which is too bad. Short-term specialists, like the Special One, are the future. I, for one, think there should be more patience unless a manager is clearly unqualified. That means that Mark Hughes shouldn’t be fired from Man City (as he likely will in the summer). I think stability is good for a club and for the players. But that’s just me.

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