This stop frame animation made by a friend of mine is ludicrously good. Check it out.
It is a concept of the modern world that needs no explaining: every human being has bestowed upon them a name, a label by which the other members of their tribe can identify them.
It serves as a sign to the world, “I’m Dr Pasty-Smasher Omlette” (a genuine example of a 2010 name change by deed poll in the UK) is a representation of you, and although conventionally one has no choice over their moniker, it’s pretty much with you for life.
But in football, a name seems like so much more. Increasingly in the modern game (spit) it’s a brand – sorry, CR7? Give over – whereas previously it was just a kid’s way of picking their favourite player. As a young, naïve chap, I enjoyed watching Tony Yeboah. There was something about his name that was poetic, like Daniel Amokachi’s and even Danny Cadamarteri’s, which kept me following their careers even until now (Cadamarteri is currently at Huddersfield FYI).
I think it’s one of the things I’d always loved about Crystal Palace, being named after an extravagant landmark seemed far more interesting than sticking Albion on the end of whatever cess pit you were from, and we had our fair share of good player names too. They ranged from the cold-war-secret-agent-esque Itzik Zohar to the painfully British Wesley Foderingham, with Kagisho Dikgacoi filed in the ‘requires excessive lingual gymnastics’ section.
There are, of course, many players named after other players. As well as that Cameroonian Leo Messi, there is a Brazilian named Michel Platini (who plies his trade in Bulgaria) and even Chelsea legend *ahem* Maniche was named after Benfica’s hero of the 1980′s Michael Manniche. While there is a nostalgic romance to these, painting men as walking homages to idols of the past, this respectful practice is tarnished by its evil cousin, the modern re-naming. While naming your child Alfio, after the defensive linchpin in Racing Club de Avellaneda’s 1967 Intercontinental Cup win, might seem a nice tribute, someone, somewhere is filling out a deed poll form to change their name to Wayne Rooney (fifteen people did this in 2010, as well as five David Beckhams) and single-handedly destroying society.
I knew that in attempting to pick my own favourite I would struggle to whittle down the list. For every fluid and rhythmical name like Siyanda Xulu or Knowledge Musonda, there are the glorious forename/surname antitheses like James Rodriguez – pronounced ham-ess, and named after James Bond – or Macnelly Torres.
Unable to pick a favourite, I enlisted the help of some of my favourite writers to furnish this piece with some sense:
Rory Smith, The Times
There are certain footballers’ names which stand out, whether for an inherent poetry (Siyabonga Nomvethe), a childish glee (Waldo Ponce, Quim), a comic inappropriateness (Danny Invincibile), a fine literary tradition (Ricky van Wolfswinkel) or sheer madness (Zimbabwean players, passim). But my favourite, for no real reason other than the sheer bathos, is Alan. Just Alan. You could be the most lavishly gifted player in the world, a Brazilian striker of unmatched verve and imagination and skill, but can you ever be taken seriously with the name Alan? What sort of Brazilian looks at a kid and thinks: “Yep, he’s an Alan”? I don’t know, but it makes me smile every time I see it.
Michael Cox, Zonal Marking & The Guardian
In my view, there’s a simple formula for a great footballer name. The first part of the surname should represent what they do on the pitch, the second part should be a stereotypical ending according to their nationality. Therefore, Serginho, a Brazilian wing-back who surged up and down the line, gets top marks. APOEL’s Ivan Trickovski, a Yugoslavian-born winger who can be extravagant when trying to beat an opponent, is another good example. Marc Crosas really should have been a winger. And since you ask, in my days as a central midfielder in Surrey’s youth leagues, yes, I was responsible for many defensive cock-ups
Iain Macintosh, The New Paper (Singapore)
Call me childish, many have, but I still can’t stop giggling whenever I hear Blackburn striker David Goodwillie’s name over the tannoy. There’s something so beautifully functional about it. It’s not a great willy. It’s a good willy. Sturdy. No awkward bends. And yet, the twisted genius of Kermit Erasmus is a moniker I cherish even more. The reckless juxtaposition of the Dutch Renaissance man and the singing green frog is something that should have earned Mr and Mrs Erasmus some kind of civic award. But nothing, nothing in this world, will ever beat the majesty of Stefan Kuntz, a name so gloriously and so publicly mispronounced by John Motson in 1996. God knows, I love the German people, but just for once, with the greatest footballing disappointment of my life on the horizon, it felt like Motty was on the money.
David Cartlidge, Freelance
My favourite player name, without a doubt, goes to Miguel Ángel de las Cuevas of Sporting Gijón. There’s no bias here, as Sporting are my team, it’s just the simple fact it’s the smoothest name around. For a start, it’s in five parts, and few names sound better rolling off a Spanish mother tounge. Although, they leave out ‘Ángel’ in commentary etc. Now, running Spanish names through Google Translate can be a fun process: we have Juan Mata, aka John Kill, and Iago Aspas, Iago Blades. The king is De Las Cuevas though, who becomes known as the incredible Miguel of the caves. Too cool. He’s one of the few Sporting players actually capable of playing football too.
Rupert Fryer, Fox Sports
Alan Kardec – Brazilians have always taken a more interesting approach than us unadventurous Europeans when it comes to naming their offspring. Often electing to adopt the name of a famous person they’re particularly fond of, they also frequently reinterpret they way in which the given name should be spelt. Benfica’s Alan Kardec de Souza Pereira Junior was named in homage to the French spiritualist Allan Kardec, whose beliefs that true enlightenment could only be achieved through communication with the souls of the dead proved popular amongst certain groups of Brazilian society.
The pick of your suggestions:
@martinlaurence7 – Excellent Walaza
@Vitu_E – Sixto Peralta
@Wanchope_Dickov - Ziguy Badibanga
@GoonerPatrick – Hobbit Bermudez
Valderramarama is back after a busy period, and first up is a brief look at potentially the next big thing to come out of Chivas…
Fierro was part of the Mexico squad which won the U17 World Cup on home turf last year and certainly made an impression in front of visiting scouts. The 17-year-old, who has already made eight appearances for his club, Chivas Guadalajara, impressed at the U17 World Cup by netting four goals and creating two goals in seven games, finishing as their top scorer for the tournament.
At just 5ft 9, Fierro is your typical Sergio Aguero-style forward. He may not be the tallest of strikers but knows how to use his body to keep the ball and has his fair share of headed goal has tremendous pace and close control, but the intriguing attribute about him is his willingness to drop deep and carry the ball.
His finishing is his top attribute though and being a striker, you need a decent strike conversion rate. Give Fierro a chance and you can almost guarantee he’ll test the opposition keeper. You only have to ask France, who he terrorised during the 3-2 Quarter-Final win in the tournament, setting up the opener before scoring the winner in the second -half. See Fierro’s involvment in the 2-1 win over France in action here.
He struck a formidable partnership with Liverpool’s Marco Bueno during the tournament and it’s his movement between the lines of the defence which allows him to get into goalscoring positions.
Obviously, due to Fierro’s nationality and club, the comparisons between himself and Javier Hernandez are inevitable. But Fierro is more well-rounded than the Man Utd striker, coming deep to get the ball and dribbling with it, whereas ‘Chicharito’ prefers to play with the ‘fox-in-the-box’ mentality.
Although many pundits have tipped him for a move, the general opinion is that Fierro is happy playing at his local club and the media believe he should wait before moving to Europe. He is currently being courted by the likes of Real Madrid, Chelsea and Inter Milan, but it would seem that if Man Utd showed an interest, he would be more inclined to join his compatriot Hernandez at Old Trafford.
And if Fierro can continue his impressive scoring form, there’s no reason why he couldn’t go on to become a top player, perhaps even emulating Hernandez’s acheivements.
Way back in 2007 when I first started writing about football one site that provided much inspiration was Pitch Invasion by Tom Dunmore, an Englishman who lives in Chicago, whose aim was cover perspectives missed by the mainstream media, with a focus on supporter culture, the history of football, women’s football, photography and the political and economic aspects of the sport. It was a website that I looked at often in my early days of trying to write about football and I often wondered when my own words would appear on its hallowed pages.
However over time as I have wasted my hours on football forums and trying to keep three separate blogs going I have visited Pitch Invasion less and less and that’s why I was extremely pleased when I heard that there would be a “The Very Best of Pitch Invasion” book coming out. This would be my chance to catch up on all the essays that I had missed out on over the years.
The idea of compiling posts from a website into a book is an interesting concept in itself but I am pleased to say it works as these are not merely 750 word opinion pieces, of which I am responsible for many, but these are what I would call essays – detailed examinations of the topics alluded to earlier. The book is divided into five sections, which are Fandom, History, Culture, Life and Activism and that in itself is a clever way of grouping what is an extremely diverse range of writings from a variety of authors and without these sections the book could have become extremely incoherent and lacking in direction.
The first section although entitled “Fandom” focuses much of its attention on the rivalry between the Portland Timbers and the Seattle Sounders in the MLS and with much of the early part of the book there is a strong emphasis in relation to American football. Mark Inness’ three part essay about the fortunes of Japanese side Omiya Ardija, who live in the rather large shadow of their close neighbours Urawa Reds, is a delight although it could have quite easily been combined into one piece for the book as Dunmore appears to have wanted to maintain a sort of a homage to how it first appeared on the website.
As with opening section there is again an emphasis on the American football scene in the “History” section including essays from Dunmore and Peter Wilt, which provide an enlightening insight into the troubled history of football in the United States. As an Australian football fan there is much we can learn from our American counterparts and these essays are definitely well worth a read. My favourite piece in this section would have to be Dunmore’s own essay on Ydnekatchew Tessema, an Ethiopian footballer who progressed from the national team to coaching it to being co-founder of CAF to being its president for fifteen years. That piece alone illustrates the joy of Pitch Invasion for me; giving me an insight into something I knew absolutely nothing about.
The book’s third section is dedicated to “Culture” and the first four essays are dedicated to the songs that fans sing at games and this makes it for me the most enjoyable section of the book as it takes a look at the other side of football. It also features Brian Phillips, editor of the brilliant Run of Play and whose twitter feed has me constantly in stitches, who takes a look at history of what he describes as one of the strangest supporters songs in football – “Goodnight, Irene” and its relationship to Bristol Rovers. Alex Usher’s rough guide to football in print, although a little out of date now, is also a must read for anyone wanting to get into the world of football books.
“Life” is the title of the fourth section of the book and Dunmore in his introduction describes it as connecting loss, hope and the commercialisation of sport. Although it featured some excellent writing from the likes of Bobby Brandon, Jennifer Doyle and the aforementioned Peter Wilt as well as Dunmore, for me was probably the weakest section of the book. Unlike the other sections it didn’t seem to quite gel and maybe People maybe have been a more appropriate title.
The fifth and final section is entitled “Activism” and deals in most part with football in England and more specifically the role of Supporter Trusts with Gary Andrews excellent four part essay on the Trust Movement being the highlight. Like Mike Inness’ earlier three part effort I also felt this could have been combined into one large essay without losing any of its impact. Also providing a great insight was Shay Goulb, chair of the Israeli National Sports organisation, who highlights the efforts and problems faced by Israeli football fans as they look to pay a more active role in their nation’s football clubs.
Overall however I think the “Very Best of Pitch Invasion” is an invaluable addition to the ever growing world of football literature and could very well point to a new direction for football writing especially and it many ways Pitch Invasion was/still is a forerunner to publications such as The Blizzard. With that in mind I look forward to the next edition of the “Very Best of Pitch Invasion” and you never know, my name may make in there.
In the absence of one here, I’ll post a link to my Clausura previews.
(and a small feature for MirrorFootball): http://www.mirrorfootball.co.uk/opinion/blogs/mirror-football-blog/South-American-football-blog-Will-Juan-Sebastian-Veron-s-football-career-have-a-fairytale-ending-by-Ed-Malyon-article864373.html
No, he didn’t suddenly act on his lustings for the Arsenal midfielder, it’s just a cross between early-noughties crooners Travis and the story of Mario Balotelli’s lively beginnings in England.
It’s time for Africa. Again.
18 months since the world focussed its gaze on Africa for Earth’s greatest footballing showpiece, a smaller proportion of that world will once more set its eyes there for the African cup of nations.
Much like the Copa America, something I watched all but three games of last summer, it seems to be quite a niche tournament that few people really get into.
What interest there might have been in the tournament will also have been impacted upon by the lack of some of Africa’s leading football nations. Winner of the last three CAN tournaments, Egypt, failed to qualify, as did Togo, Cameroon, Nigeria and South Africa. With four of those being some of the traditional heavyweights of the continent, there’s no doubt that the interest levels (not to mention the TV revenues) will have been damaged, but it gives us a chance to see some other emerging nations.
In much the same way as traditional minnows Venezuela and Peru shocked everyone in the CONMEBOL showpiece last June, there is the opportunity for the likes of Zambia, Gabon and Guinea to do the same.
Cesar Farias got Venezuela to where they are by being organised in defence and looking to score on the counter. The challenge for the likes of Zambia will be to recreate this model, and they have the tools in their playing squad, it’s a case of whether the management can instill the discipline and system.
Of course, there are other ways to succeed, they may wish to go all out and attack, something we could see from tournament big guns Senegal. Blessed with the majority of their strength in the forward department, it will be interesting to see how they use the talents of Demba Ba and Moussa Sow when Papiss Cissé and Dame N’Doye are knocking on the door. The temptation must be to play at least three of their talented quintet, and expect them to be direct given that they do lack midfield craft, despite having an abundance of graft with N’Daw and Diamé playing in the middle.
This is where Ghana really have the edge, and they are rightful favourites to return to the summit of African football. From the evidence of Brazil’s friendly in Gabon, the pitches aren’t of a great standard, so slick passing football won’t be particularly easy. Regardless, the strength, guile and all-round game of Kwadwo Asamoah and André Ayew is something none of their major rivals for the tournament can compete with. Avoiding the facile stereotyping of African players as willing, enthusiastic runners, Sulley Muntari and Anthony Annan both have extra strings to their bow which take them to a different level to many of the other midfielders in the competition.
The Ivory Coast, of course, will be in with a chance of winning it too. Captain Didier Drogba will possibly be making his last appearance at a major competition if the Elephants can’t qualify for Brazil in 2014, so having never won the African Nations Cup, he will be hoping to get his first major honour in that famous orange shirt, and his country’s first for twenty years.
Even without Romaric, Emerse Faé and Guy Demel, it is a squad that nearly rivals Ghana for all-round ability. They certainly boast more going forward than defensively though, and Didier Zokora and Cheick Tioté’s ability to screen their defence may be just as crucial as the roles for forwards Drogba and Doumbia. Their roster is deepest in the wide areas, where the likes of Konan, Kalou and Gervinho all impress in Europe’s biggest leagues (aguably Gradel too) and Abdulkader Keita is an experienced Champions League winger.
Morocco are a side on an upward curve once more. Without a World Cup appearance in quite some time, there is a mix of players both approaching and enjoying their respective primes in a midfield that has a real cutting edge to it. Belhanda is part of the Montpellier team that lies second in Ligue 1, and Anzhi’s pair of Mbark Boussoufa and Mehdi Carcela provide flair and pace whether they are utilised wide or through the middle. Marouane Chamakh has disappointed Arsenal fans since his free transfer from Bordeaux, but on this stage he won’t be lacking in confidence as he does in England’s top flight.
There is also the mystery aspect of teams like Niger and Botswana (who are tournament debutants). Burkina Faso claim to have a 16 year old Chelsea midfielder whilst the club denies knowledge of the same individual! In many ways, swathes of Africa still form part of Europe’s footballing blind spot, and as I did in Argentina last June, I would love for those traditional expectations to be blown apart by the emergence of newer footballing nations, the opportunity is there…
The precision is just ludicrous.
With Spain bubbling up in anticipation, the nation’s biggest football newspaper (which handily doubles as a Real Madrid fanzine) has led its pages on Tuesday with 10 commandments on how to win Spain’s biggest game.
So for your digestion – here is the translated consejos
1. Don’t concede the first goal
2. Make the Bernabeu a cauldron
3. Forget about the referee
4. Take advantage of your superior aerial ability
5. Don’t lose sight of the ball
6. Close down spaces effectively
7. Pressure, verticality and lots of rhythm (for more on verticality ask this chap)
8. Mobility to wear Barca out
9. Concentration and co-ordination
10. Self esteem: Play without fear or anxiety
They stopped short of giving them the official advice of Valderramarama which is:
10a) Score more goals than your opponent.
Just for fun, you understand.