Monday, June 12, 2006

Trashy limeys and other bedtime stories

T&T keeper, Shaka Hislop, is writing in The Times:
YOU KNOW, I DON’T THINK AN easy-going Caribbean outlook is the first thing managers look for in a goalkeeper, but there is the odd occasion when it is just what you need. At 5.40 on Saturday evening, I was preparing to be on the bench for the biggest match in Trinidad & Tobago’s history, but then my good friend Kelvin Jack suffered an injury in the warm-up.
“Shaka, you’re playing.”
“No worries, boss.”

There was no time for stage fright or pre-match jitters. It was the game that I’d dreamt of my whole life, but I didn’t have to contend with any of these kind of emotions. One minute I was out, the next minute I was in. That suited me fine.

To be honest, though, I did feel something different out there. I’m a guy who likes to soak up the atmosphere in games I play in. I like games to hold lasting memories and maybe that has been to my detriment at times in my career, but here things were happening and they were just flashing by. I don’t know whether it’s a case of being “in the zone”, as they say, but it was different from what I’ve felt for a while — understandably so because of the game and what it meant to us.

What did it mean to a 37-year-old who has been around the block? It meant everything. It was the proudest day of my career. I think it would have been even if I hadn’t played — I was happy with the role I played in the qualifying campaign and I didn’t really expect too much more — but Saturday’s match completed the jigsaw for me. I know now I’ll be a happy man when I retire.

I was always going to be once we qualified, but from the time the first whistle went I knew that a big part of the jigsaw had been fitted. And then for things to go as they did, well, I think I’ll die a happy man.

It was a perfect day. Well, not quite perfect because I really felt for Kelvin, but I was just so proud. For us to get a draw against Sweden in our first game in the World Cup finals and for me to make a few decent saves along the way, it felt great.

But, to me, even more important than the point we won was the point we proved — not only to ourselves, but to the people of Trinidad & Tobago and I think also to people all over the world.

When we went out on to the pitch before the game, it seemed that 75 per cent of the crowd was made up of the yellow of Sweden. The rest of the stadium seemed to be neutral except for a few little pockets of the red, white and black of Trinidad & Tobago. OK, I thought. But then, with ten minutes remaining, it seemed the whole crowd was chanting for us. That was mouthwatering. It told me we were winning some friends, which is what we came here to do.

Decent humor
Calcium? Just a fad.
Seriously, English people -- it's time you drink some milk. David Beckham broke bones in his left foot two months before the 2002 World Cup, leaving him less than 100 percent; then this year striker Michael Owen suffered a foot fracture, and fellow striker Wayne Rooney could be limping throughout this year's tournament with a broken bone in his foot. So what I'm suggesting is some calcium. Just a glass of milk a day. Give it a try. And not only does calcium strengthen bones, it does wonders for teeth. Not that you all have any teeth problems, of course. I was simply stating one of the added benefits calcium provides.

White trash Englanders, #1
What Jason is describing is a regrettably accurate assessment of England's culture these days. It's not just the chavs, it's everywhere. (Try going to Disney World in the summer and you'll see). The country has developed an overbundant supply of loutish, laddish morons. I go back there to visit family every year or so and find it generally very depressing. It's like watching the lead lap in the race to the bottom.

White trash Englanders, #2:
In anything other than winter, the Englishman abroad can generally be described by any two of the following three adjectives -- drunk, tired and hot. The England team who just beat Paraguay 1-0 were tired and hot and therefore complete pants.

The 30,000 or so England fans who are here in Frankfurt to cheer on their team, both in and outside the stadium, were largely drunk and hot. And therefore sang rather well.

By the second half the England team were very tired and very hot. And the fans were very drunk and very hot. And that's (mostly) why the singing died down in the second half. The other contributing factor was the England team's pantsness.

In ascending order of pantsness then, here are my player ratings:

No one, none of the England players delivered a completely pantsless performance. Torsten Frings for Germany yesterday evening? Absolutely no pants.

John Terry
Rio Ferdinand
Steven Gerrard
Frank Lampard

Lampard was man of the match and he probably lasted better than any England player on the field, but John Terry and Rio Ferdinand were the pick of litter for me. However drab you and the world media might label England's performance, Paraguay never really looked like scoring and England will not be easy to knock out of the World Cup if no one can score against them. Oh crap -- but there are those penalty shootouts after nil-nil draws and we've always been terrible at them. Gerrard, in his World Cup debut, started strong, so "committed" in the tackle, switching so well with Lampard it looked like they might finally be able to play with each other. And then he got tired and hot.

Joe Cole
David Beckham
Peter Crouch
Paul Robinson

Previous Entries
• Day 1: I kiss football
• Complete World Cup coverage

Not quite pants but definitely disappointing, Joe Cole linked up horribly with Ashley Cole on the left and seemed to take every opportunity to cut inside and towards goal without much of an exit strategy. He will have better games in this World Cup and Ashley Cole's ineptitude did not help. Beckham stayed in position and defended well but failed to provide enough scoring opportunities for the forwards -- and that is his job. Beautifully taken set piece, though, which created the own goal in the second minute. The only positive for Peter Crouch is that he will learn from this game -- the Paraguayans, as promised, played him extremely physically, the Mexican referee gave him no help, and he wilted under the pressure. He worked hard though, tackled back and ran all afternoon.

Michael Owen

One of the poorest games I've ever seen the Newcastle striker play in an England shirt. Almost anonymous until he was substituted. No English player looked tireder and hotter.

Gary Neville
Ashley Cole

The substitutes, Owen Hargreaves and Stewart Downing didn't play long enough to receive a rating on the above scale but I'll give them both those really long, below-the-knee cargo shorts which they don't let you wear at respectable golf clubs.

The most worrying aspect of England's performance for me was the ineptitude of the fullbacks. Gary Neville gave the ball away continually and looked like he'd never played with Beckham before in his life. Ashley Cole seemed to fall over every time he had the ball, or the ball was anywhere near him. He looks nowhere near match fitness.

To conclude, England were dull but three points is all that really matters. Sweden are struggling against Trinidad and Tobago in the second game, and by tonight, England might have effectively already qualified for the next round.


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