During the week I went to see Ireland against Poland in Poznan. It was a friendly game that was arranged after everyone fell in love with the lovely little Irish pixie-heads who sang as they had the holy living shit beaten out of them by Croatia, Italy and Spain instead of taking the opportunity of being on the world stage to protest against the dreadful exploitation of Irish football by the FAI. Now though, things have changed. It’s a brave new world for Irish football, with Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane, the FAI-loathing, stick-it-up-your-bollocks bullshit-killer, now in charge. Brave new world? No. No, it wasn’t. It was fucking awful, a shit sandwich served up with cat vomit sauce and mouldy toe jam garnish – and not just from the Irish. Robert Lewandowski’s disinterest was evident and highly antagonistic to everyone watching, John O’Shea stood around and pointed at things, Aiden McGeady scampered busily but achieved as much as a two-legged hamster on a broken hamster wheel. In short, no-one on the pitch gave a single, solitary shit about the game, about winning, or about the people who cared enough to come along to watch.
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Hey, did you know that Dynamo were run by the Stasi and have some nasty fans? And did you know that Hürtürkel have a former player who is an alleged anti-Semite, and that their trainer served a ban for allegedly making anti-Semitic comments? You probably do. I do too. The thing is though: I don’t think punishments that have been served should last for infinity, and I don’t think things that happened thirty years ago should necessarily be relevant. The benefit of the doubt should be given as much as possible. Think about it this way: would you rather have the US prison system, or the Norwegian?
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There are people who assert that football is a simple game. Just twenty-two men galloping around a field, kicking a ball at each other, swearing and sweating and falling over and gobbing all over the place. I find it hard to deal with such people. It’s rather like someone like me, who knows nothing about art, or architecture, or film, saying that the Sistine Chapel is a decent paint job, or that the Taj Mahal is a nice building, or that Dr. Strangelove is an alright film. Despite the fact that I know nothing of these topics, each of those remarkable achievements leaves me with far, far more answers than questions. Football does too, still does, and I simply fail to understand anyone that can’t or won’t to see the beautiful game as one of the many crowning achievements of human endeavour.
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The reason why I love David Foster Wallace’s essays is because, although he clearly thinks very deeply about his subjects, his presentation of his thoughts is always so informal and conversational that you almost feel as though you’re the one that came up with the clever, witty, insightful idea that he’s just fed to you. It is important to resist this revisionism. Declaring an opinion to be an obvious one is easy in retrospect, and that’s why I’m trying desperately not to change my prediction about Stern 1900 v Mahlsdorf in the Berlin-Liga at the weekend. Yes, I picked it as my Topspiel der Woche. Yes, I was excited about it. Yes, I thought it would be a great game. It would be difficult to deny those thoughts now, what with them being all immortalised on the Internet, which, as we all know, will last forever. However, having seen the game, I really, genuinely, honestly do think I should have known better. read full article
The match was moved from the grass pitch at Seebadstraße to a neighbouring Kunstrasen surface due to the damage caused by an invading army of moles. It’s one of the more bizarre reasons for a match being moved, but one more reason to love the trip up to Hermsdorf. Their facilities border the Eichwerder Moorweisen and the journey up north is long enough to make it feel like a real adventure. It’s not quite a trip into the wilderness, but at least it’s somewhere different: quieter, friendlier, more relaxed. read full article
Towards the end of last season, Empor were dropping faster than FDP approval ratings and Rudow were rising like a firework in Neukölln at Silvester. On an anxious last game of the season, both needed to win to guarantee survival: Rudow beat Hertha 03 5-0 and Empor limped to a 1-2 defeat by TeBe and are only competing in this year’s Berlin-Liga because of favourable results from other games. In this year’s hitherto unpredictable competition, both teams are giving inclinations of continuing where they left off: Rudow in mid-table; Empor loitering at the limits of the relegation zone. read full article
Visiting a new football ground is like going on a first date. The first few minutes are a feast for the senses as you run down through a checklist of required features. For a first date, things like physical attraction count. Not a racist is also a big plus. Ability to speak coherently. Not a pain in the arse, that sort of thing. For a football ground, the list isn’t all that different. Physical attractiveness counts. As do good bike facilities. No racists. And good Boulette facilities. And a grass pitch, none of that shitty Kunstrasen. And friendly people. Actually, the latter counts for a lot simply because it’s rarer than the others. The Sportplatz at Fischerstraße, home of Sparta Lichtenberg, delivers all of the requirements, and then some. The Boulette even had onions in it.
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I had a day at the Landesliga yesterday, except it didn’t feel much like the Landesliga. Of the four teams that I saw in action, none of them had been in that division last season: Adlershofer BC, Türkiyemspor and Club Italia were all relegated from the Berlin-Liga, while FC Internationale made their way up from the Bezirksliga. Of course, that doesn’t mean anything. Plenty of times, promoted teams have flown straight up into the Berlin-Liga after just one year at the Landesklasse. And plenty of teams have dropped like a stone after leaving the Berlin championships. It would, I thought, be an interesting exercise to see which of the four newcomers looked best equipped the leave again immediately – whether through the trapdoor or the roof hatch. read full article
There was a thirty-minute period in the first half when it really seemed as though Dynamo were going to do it. First Kevin Gutsche was millimetres away from connecting with a whipped Björn Brunnemann cross, and then Gutsche dissected the Stuttgart defence with a pass so sublime that it beggared belief that it came from a player that plies his trade in the fifth division. It released Tobias Scharlau, who jinked expertly around Jörg Niedermeyer, steaming into a tackle, only for Moritz Leitner to recover with an inch-perfect challenge. The best chance of all fell to Christof Köhne, who made a clumsy but firm connection with a long-range Brunnemann throw-in, only to see the ball cannon heartbreakingly off the inside of the post. read full article
Look at the recent history of Shelbourne FC and you can’t help but see the fortunes of the whole country of Ireland staring back at you with the puppy eyes of a dog that’s feeling guilty about eating your dinner when your back was turned. Years of reckless plenty after the turn of the millennium were followed by financial implosion and now, both club and country are limping forward with vague hopes that the future will somehow be better. This, however, is where the fortunes of club and country diverge: while Ireland is propped up by a European Union and cantankerous citizens that have little choice in the matter, Shelbourne have a loyal and full-voiced fanbase that are determined to see this famous old club through this time of difficulty. read full article