Of buses and bunkers

The last time I was in Tehran there were some taxi-bus vehicles that were called ‘Ayans’, if I recall correctly.  That’s what Iran parked on Wednesday night. They parked the Ayans, with so little shame that not even a forward was left up front.  Eleven behind the ball, and to think that when Carlos Queiroz, the coach with the looks of a long-faded porn star was signed for Real Madrid, he was considered to be one of the children of the new coaching dawn.  Bring on the night. Vicente del Bosque made way for him, because poor old Vicente, good coach though he was, could never have been a porn star, except in some parallel universe. Continue reading “Of buses and bunkers”

Could Hierro have a Zidane effect?

Preview of Spain vs Iran

Will the Spanish national team make this humble scribe eat his own words? According to the sounds I hear from their concentration hotel, they very well might.

I’m referring to my irate piece on the bizarre chain of events that ended up with Fernando Hierro on the Spanish bench for this World Cup. Among other decisions from different individuals who earned my righteous disapproval, I could not see how Hierro’s arrival could improve Spain’s chances of winning the tournament, but here we are, and it now seems like most players have warmed to the arrival of Fernando Hierro faster than could have been expected. Continue reading “Could Hierro have a Zidane effect?”

Spain: wax and wane

Well that was interesting, to employ that over-used English adjective. But you have to wonder about Nacho, a player who has spent the last 7 years on the training ground with Ronaldo, trying to work out how to nullify his attempts at the step-over.  And then it happens – the World Cup, fourth minute, and your mate is bearing down on you, in an unusually coloured red shirt. He does the step-over that you expect, but you fall for the trick, hook line and sinker.  Not only that, but you let your mate (CR7) make contact with you, and not the other way around.  Penalty, and suddenly Spain’s rather wet week is looking like it might just get diluvial.

Foul
Training-ground mates get serious

Continue reading “Spain: wax and wane”

Horror show in Russia

Or how to start a tournament off the wrong foot

The sequence of events surrounding the Spanish national team in the few days before the beginning of the World Cup deserves to be remembered as the pinnacle of Spanish sports weirdness, and that is quite a feat.

Decisions made and actions taken by every participant can indeed be justified: Real Madrid / Florentino’s ego needed a top-level coach; Julen Lopetegui felt that Real Madrid never calls twice, although a certain Fabio Capello may differ; and Mr Rubiales, the president of the Spanish FA, surely thought that Lopetegui’s behavior was disloyal to such an extent that the Basque coach could be trusted no longer.

But the fact that all three parties can argue their respective cases does not mean that they’re right. In fact, and from my extremely humble perspective, they are all closer to idiocy than to rational, sensitive behavior. Continue reading “Horror show in Russia”

It’s the Balls!

I was recently reminded by a reader that in the old ESPN days of yore, I used to do my top eleven La Liga players of the season, with a subs’ bench to boot.  This was often compared to Sid Lowe’s ‘The Sids’, and sundry debates did unfold. Ah well, Sid’s super famous now, but I guess if folks still want to know mine, we can just call it ‘The Balls’. I did once suggest that to ESPN, but as you know, it’s a family site. Here on Liga Fever, we can do what the hell we like.

It's the balls!

Continue reading “It’s the Balls!”

Shaking off the Quixote effect (2006)

*With the World Cup comin’ up, this was a piece I wrote for the New York Times in 2006, just after Spain had lost to France in the World Cup.  It was the last time the national side were to really suffer from the ‘Quixote effect’, and looking back, it’s interesting how the piece quietly predicts the changes to comeIf you prefer, the original is here:

I recall a time when Rod Stewart was still able to write songs. He composed a ditty entitled “Every Picture Tells a Story” some time way back in the previous century, and I remember the opening lines well: Continue reading “Shaking off the Quixote effect (2006)”