posted by Baggiesboy
(No Masians, I confess that though I’ve been swamped of late, I possibly could have gotten around to posting something in the last week or so if I hadn’t been so enamored of seeing little Reggie Large in his Philly Phanatic onesie at the top of the page. But all things must pass. I promise that I will be back in the game in time to offer some thoughts on Mosley/Mayorga and Berto/Forbes in the next few days. In the meantime, bask in the glow of the almighty Bag and his favorite underwear model – L.)
Oh the sins of Kevin Keegan. He once launched a hair craze that still haunts a wide variety of 1970s British soccer stars, threw his Liverpool jersey onto the sacred Wembley sod after being sent off in a Charity Shield game, and had his photo taken kissing Margaret Thatcher outside 10 Downing Street. The soccer Gods’ can’t easily forget such offenses: and Keegan’s ill-fated second managerial spell with Newcastle United may have been his penance. But if you think ‘King Kev’sâ€ had a rough go of it lately, spare a thought for Xie Yalong.
Xie is the chairman of the Chinese Football Association. It was reported last week that he has taken leave from his job to attend government management school. While his counterparts across the spectrum of Olympic sports are basking in the glow of enough gold to fill King Solomon’s Mines, continuing education beckons for Xie , or more likely, re-education.
As any first-class flying, five-star hotel staying, lobster dining, sponsors glad-handing, soccer apparatchik will tell you: ‘No Administrator Left Behindâ€ is a program that every FIFA member country should enthusiastically endorse. But what should the standard curriculum be?
How about the following?
First period: How to hire an Italian head coach.
Amid much Sturm und Drang, the English and Irish FA’s both hired Italians, Fabio Capello and Giovanni Trapattoni respectively, to run their national teams in the wake of Euro2008 qualification elimination. The prenuptial agreements were air-tight, the honeymoons short for both Calcio legends, but last week love was finally in the air. Wallowing in the glory of two World Cup qualifying road wins, the sons of St. George finally took Capello (and Theo Walcott) to their sizeable breasts. Across the Irish Sea, four points from two tricky road games gave Ireland a strong start. Now, perhaps for the first time ever, there is a chance that a hint of garlic could mingle with the aroma of Guinness in the Emerald Isle.
So, onto Period Two: Required Reading.
‘Football Against the Enemy,â€ by Simon Kuper, ‘The Glory Game,â€ by Hunter Davies, ‘Futebol,â€ by Alex Bellos, and ‘Fever Pitch,â€ by Nick Hornby, are all standards of the soccer literary genre. But for me, there is one book that is a must read for any beaurocrat of the beautiful game: ‘The Autobiography,â€ by Niall Quinn. I picked this tome up at the Mark Twain Library book sale in Redding, Connecticut for 50 cents the other day. What the book’s title lacks in imagination it more than makes up for with a vivid portrait of young athletic men with too much time on their hands, and the inept workings of national football associations (and board rooms, and manager’s as well). Plus a blow-by-blow account of the Roy Keane 2002 World Cup walkout saga that can only be described as ‘Cosellian.â€ The book’s also very funny. And I’ve a feeling Xie could use a little levity in his life. (It’s not technically a soccer book, but if you really want to laugh till you cry, Quinn’s fellow Irish scribe Roddy Doyle captured the joys and absurdity of football better than anyone in the third installment of his Barrytown trilogy: ‘The Van.â€)
Finally, Period Three: ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.â€
As Eric Idle so poignantly puts it: ‘Some things in life are badâ€¦â€ For instance: you run the most popular sport in your country, and the national team takes the South Africa 2010 World Cup exit ramp before the U-23s bomb out of the Olympics. To paraphrase the wonderful Mr. Idle: Hey, sometimes you have to chew on life’s gristle. Everybody in soccer should live by the Idle maxim: ‘Always Look On The Bright Side of Life.â€ Why the eternal optimism? Because it could always be worse: For instance Xie can always claim credit for not putting a rendition of ‘Head Over Heels in Loveâ€ onto vinyl in 1979 or singing on a 1982 World Cup anthem dubiously titled: ‘This Time (We’ll Get It Right.)â€
Xie whiz, Kevin Keegan can’t say that. And that should be a lesson to us all.