Seeing your future not only defeat your past, not only taunt your past, but drop your past from high above into the path of an oncoming sport-utility vehicle — try to imagine the sensation that gave me. To see your past lose all its defenses, to see it exposed as a naked, mortal, vulnerable thing. A moment ago I overheard a woman coming out of the Qdoba say to her companion, “That was one weird burrito bowl.” I have considered her words, and I have realized that, with the economy of a poet, she has described what the Champions League semifinal was for me.
It was one weird burrito bowl, Xavi.
Read the whole thing here.
Here’s my new Grantland column on his improbable, small-scale comeback.
Matt Le Tissier is coming out of retirement, and I’m going to type that again, because it contains words that deserve to be repeated. Matt Le Tissier is coming out of retirement. If you don’t know who that is — and there’s a good chance you don’t, if you’re American, not a soccer fan, or under 25 — watch the YouTube clip of him scoring against Newcastle on October 24, 1993. This is the second season of the Premier League, all lunging tackles and signboards for Street Fighter II. Le Tissier’s playing midfield for Southampton, the team in red-and-white stripes. The ball comes flying over the left flank to the Southampton striker, Iain Dowie, who heads it down toward the middle of the pitch, where Le Tissier’s running forward at a smooth trot. It’s a bad header; the ball scuds directly behind him. The move should be over. But watch what Le Tissier does….
Read the whole thing here if that idea seems appealing to you.
I wrote a cheerful piece about match-fixing.
I am a midlevel Hungarian gangster. You are a Finnish referee. So here’s how it works. I get a call from a lieutenant in the syndicate — not from Dan Tan himself, the boss has to be protected, but from a middle man somewhere in Asia. Maybe Singapore, where Dan Tan is based; maybe someplace else. The caller says: We need so-and-so to happen in such-and-such soccer game. So I fly to Helsinki from Budapest and take a train north to Tampere, where you’ll be officiating a match in the Ykkönen, the Finnish second division, between FC Ilves and FC Viikingit. We meet. It’s not as if I’m lugging a duffel full of cash. The money will be laundered; we have the systems in place. I want you to be comfortable, after all.
You can read the whole thing at Grantland.
A little late with this, but here’s my new Grantland column about Rafa Benitez and Chelsea.
Abramovich is a week removed from sacking Roberto Di Matteo, a beloved former Chelsea player who managed the club for eight months and won both the FA Cup and the Champions League. You would have to be a self-deluding megalomaniac to see coaching Chelsea as anything other than a path to a short-term payoff. And Rafa has enacted the same bighorn-sheep-in-spring routine at every club he’s managed; you would have to be a self-deluding megalomaniac to hire him thinking he’d fall in line and do whatever you asked. So, yeah. Good thing neither of these guys is a megalomaniac, right?
Read the whole thing here.
And I wrote a column about it. This is the beginning:
I’m sick of Manchester United. In many ways, this is a compliment to Manchester United. When your emperor is cruel and merciless and rules from his twisted iron throne for like a million consecutive years, your pathetic longing for revolution is just proof that he’s great at oppressing you. If Manchester United weren’t permanently welded to the top or near-top of the Premier League table like the star on a Christmas tree no one throws out till May, I wouldn’t have had all this leisure time to accrue malevolent emotions toward their consistency and their stock prices and their players and their stupid face. Great job, Manchester United!
In other ways, however, this is not a compliment to Manchester United, because it is never a compliment when someone would rather see a goat, or Tottenham Hotspur, win the title over you. And the way I feel lately, if you rustled up a Siberian ibex that could score away at Stoke, I would wear its scarf every Saturday and cheer it on at the Theatre of Dreams. I would say the same thing about Tottenham Hotspur, but I’m trying to be realistic.