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Monday 5 September 2005

International Imbroglio

In the recent past, an encounter between Ireland and France would've
presented a conflict of interest as far as I was concerned. I'd be desperate
for Ireland to qualify, but I wouldn't want to witness a poor performance
from France's Arsenal contingent. In my over-crowded cupboard, amongst my
huge collection of t-shirts, I have a particular favourite, which portrays
the front page of the Daily Mirror and the memorable headline "Arsenal Win
The World Cup". It was produced in honour of the major contribution of
Vieira, Petit, Pires and Henry, in winning the final for Les Blues back in

In the years that have followed the majority of Arsenal fans have maintained
a keen interest in the success filled exploits of the French national team.
In truth, aside from the incredible talents of the likes of Zinedine Zidane,
for the most part it has often felt as if we might as well have been
watching Arsène Wenger's outfit. Moreover invariably the football on offer
has been far more entertaining than anything the home nations have had to

After suffering England's sorry excuse for a performance on Saturday
afternoon, it was a pleasant surprise to discover live coverage of Les Blues
on TV5, a satellite channel, later that same night. The Faroe Islands ain't
exactly top notch opposition, but with 'Zizou' and the other International
retirees returning to the French fold, in the twilight of their careers, I
jump at any opportunity to witness a performance of such a special player.

Zidane reminds me of the likes of Pele and George Best, as the sort of
artists that genuine fans of the beautiful game will pay to watch no matter
where or when. I might not have been old enough to fully appreciate the
other two, but these players perform with a balletic grace, where the ball
is merely an extension of their feet. It's more akin to a gymnastic display,
with the ball attached to their boots by an invisible bit of string. It’s as
if we’re the privileged witnesses to the perfection of the sort of trickery
they’ve been practising since childhood, whereby their pleasure suggests
that we might just as well be watching the kid playing with his mates on a
rough patch of ground near his home.

Despite the negative effects of all the fame and fortune in the intervening
years, it’s obvious that they remain most at ease with the ball at their
feet. The joy of watching them perform is heightened by the fact that they
continue to retain that childlike buzz of enthusiasm.

Wayne Rooney first barrelled onto the world stage with a bang, with similar
youthful exuberance. But Sven seems to be turning all his England youngsters
into sanitised Scandinavians, perhaps a little bit too focused on their team
related tasks, to allow any room for individual brilliance. Only the odd
interchange between Gerrard and Rooney, and Ryan Giggs valiant efforts for
the Welsh kept me from falling asleep in front of the TV on Saturday
afternoon. My sympathies to those who stumped up hard cash and endured the
tortuous and never-ending schlep to and from the Millennium to watch this
dross. I sincerely hope they made it home in time to enjoy the light relief
of an unfettered French performance.

However when Thierry Henry was substituted midway through the second half,
with ex-Gunners Vieira and Wiltord still involved, it was some time before
the shocking realisation dawned on me that their wasn't a single Arsenal
player left on the pitch. In light of the memorable events in Paris in ‘98,
who could've possibly imagined that in a few short years, with Arsène Wenger
still at the Highbury helm, we'd be witnessing a French national side which
didn't include any Arsenal involvement. Especially when you consider the way
the tabloid media has focused on the Arsenal's close association with the
frogs, to the extent that some misguided gurriers must’ve imagined us all
turning up for matches in our stripey shirts, on our 'bicyclettes' with
berets on our heads and a string of onions or garlic cloves around our

Once the shock had subsided, there was the silver lining that while I
wouldn't want Henry to endure a confidence sapping experience, I will be
able to cheer on the Boys in Green at Lansdowne Road tonight with little of
the usual conflicted feelings. Come Sunday, I was able to enjoy Eurosport's
live coverage of Ivory Coast v Cameroon. Neither Lauren or Eboué was
involved for either side, but it’s strange to think that there could
feasibly come a time in the future when you might hear us Gooners hollering
“It’s just like watching Les Elephantes”!

I wasn’t too happy about Drogba getting the boost of bagging a couple of
goals but I was more disappointed when Cameroon sneaked a late winner. The
Indomitable Lions have already enjoyed participating in the World Cup.
Whereas the war torn Ivory Coast is in far more need of something positive
to focus on, instead of the differences which have resulted in eternal
post-colonial disputes that have destroyed this beautiful country and left
the population even more poverty stricken than the rest of Africa. What’s
more Germany 2006 would be a better place for the boundless fervour of Les
Elephantes and their fans and it’s a great pity they’ve probably blown it.

I only hope the same isn’t true of Ireland and that the sloppy lapses in
concentration, which ended up in Israel scoring equalising goals in the 45th
and 90th minutes, don’t eventually cost us a place in next summer’s
competition. It is very painful to think that the single act a player
switching off for the last few seconds of a half could have such calamitous
consequences over a year later for the entire country! But I suppose the
beauty and the beast of this game of ours is encapsulated in these brief,
gut-wrenching cataclysms.

As much as I savour every opportunity to watch the artistry of the
likes Zidane and Thuram, I wouldn’t be too disappointed if Saturday’s
injuries prevent them appearing in Dublin. With both sides dropping four
points to the Israelis and qualification in this tight group balanced on a
knife edge, each of the 3 remaining fixtures are massive, with both managers
futures firmly resting on the outcome. My close family ties to Israel have
caused an additional conflict of interest to date, but so long as it’s not
the Swiss who end up profiting from the failure of the two favourites, it’s
a bit of a no lose situation as far as I am concerned.

For Israel to qualify for their first ever World Cup would be a
miracle which Moses himself would’ve been proud of and in Germany of all
places! I guess the ideal scenario for me would be for Ireland and Israel to
qualify, so that Thierry Henry can spend the summer recuperating on the
beach, returning for the following season reinvigorated. However I don’t
expect I will get as much mileage supporting either side as I might have
from following the French. Yet I would guess that it’s the German
authorities who are fretting most about the possibility of the Israelis
involvement and the prospect of the sort of massive operation which would be
required, to prevent any repeat of the nightmares of the Munich Olympics.

Even if the Swiss should come up trumps, I’d have the slight solace of
supporting Philippe Senderos. I suppose there has to be some up-side to
having so many different nationalities in the Arsenal squad. Although it
would be little consolation for losing players for pointless International
friendlies and spending these two weeks worrying whether they will come back
fit. To be honest if it wasn’t for the diversion of the wonderful contest in
the cricket, I’d probably be spending the entire time expressing my outrage
about such a dreadful disturbance to our domestic competition, only a couple
of weeks into the season.

I never thought I’d be so eager for an arduous trip to Middlesbrough, which
has ‘thoughtfully’ been arranged for a 5.15pm KO, without giving a monkey’s
for the Gooners who might have to leave 5 minutes before the final whistle
if they want to make it back home on the train the same night! Sadly it’s
not at home, as otherwise I’d be off to see the reserves tonight, using the
excuse to check out Sol Campbell’s progress as a substitute for a proper
footie fix!


Hi folks

It is probably a blessing that you get two for the price of one this week,
because with the Examiner's Arena supplement coming out on a Wednesday (if
anyone wants the edited version of the following, check out and you'll see the link to "Arena" under "sections"),it seemed sensible for me to focus on the big match in Dublin between France and Ireland.

So in order that there is a little more Arsenal content, I have also mailed
out a piece I've just written for the next edition of the Gooner. Although
to be honest, many of you might have already read the sentiments expressed
in my whinge about the fact that we seem to have had so little input in the
development of OUR new stadium, in some of the comments I've posted to the
mailing list

To be honest both pieces proved to be a bloomin' nightmare. I've been
downloading lots of movies recently, since my broadband connection was
upgraded to 8mb (can highly recommend the movies Crash and Sin City) but
while Apple computers and especially the latest OS X software are usually
extremely reliable, I have a feeling that either my tinkering with my
connection settings, or the peer-to-peer sharing and downloads have caused
some sort of problem

You would've thought that after all this time, I would have learnt my lesson
and either got in the habit of saving my work every now and again, or use
Microsoft Word to write with, because it has an auto save setting which
ensures that your work is saved every few minutes and so of the machine
should crash, it will ask if you want to revert to the last version of the
document which was saved prior to the crash

However as a result of all these clever additions to MS Word, the
application is very memory hungry and so if I am browsing, in order to check
some facts, or downloading a movie at the same time, it can slow down the
machine quite considerably.

So I am in the habit of using the most simple word processing software on my
machine which unfortunately doesn't have these "auto-save" features.
Consequently when my machine crashed for the first time during my writing of
the Gooner piece, I ended up losing everything I'd written during the
previous few hours and all I had left was the first paragraph. The most
annoying thing is that whenever this has happened, one tries to rewrite
everything as quick as possible, whilst it is still fresh in the memory and
no matter what you end up writing, for some reason it always feels as if it
doesn't read quite so well as what you'd written previously

I am sure it's probably all in the mind, but I always end up tinkering over
the rewritten paragraphs for hours, convinced it doesn't read quite as well.

Having finally finished my piece for the Gooner on Saturday morning, I
eventually got around to beginning my piece for the paper on Sunday night. I
was in the process of downloading the Life and Death of Peter Sellers at the
same time and I'd written the first couple of paragraphs of my piece when
the computer crashed again.

This time, with the warning message telling me the computer had crashed,
sitting on top of my document on the screen, I grabbed Ro's laptop and
managed to write an e-mail to myself, typing out the words I could see
behind the warning message and guessing at the ending to all the lines which
were half-hidden.

With two crashes in such a short space of time, you'd think I would have
learnt my lesson, but no, I continued on undaunted. And so when the machine
crashed for a third time at about 3pm this afternoon, I was screaming blue
murder. I was most annoyed at myself for not having saved, or better still,
begun working with MS Word. I guess I've got a natural aversion to anything
related to the all-consuming Bill Gates conglomerate and so in addition to
hating PCs running Windows, I always tend to avoid using Internet Explorer,
MS Word, Excel, Powerpoint etc.

Although I have to admit that I've relented in recent times and now use MS
Entourage for my e-mail instead of Apple's own Mail application. But at this
point I was absolutely gutted, as I'd intended copying the work I'd done so
far into a Word document, so that I could count on the auto-save feature,
but I simply hadn't got around to it.

Again I grabbed Ro's machine - luckily she was out taking her
daughter-out-of-law to the hospital for them to do a scan to check the
progress of her second grandchild, as otherwise Ro usually gets a little
shirty when I want to use her machine because she's convinced that even if I
don't end up messing around with it, changing all her settings and somehow
creating some sort of glitch with all my messing around, I am bound to leave
grubby fingerprints all over her pristine machine, which is understandable
when you compare her shiny aluminium Powerbook to my scruffy iBook that
hasn't been anywhere near its original white colour for many months! :-)

However on this occasion again all I could see on my screen was a couple of
paragraphs and so having written these out in an e-mail to myself, I ended
up losing everything I'd been writing for the past few hours. I sat there
for a few moments, unable to quite comprehend the painful fact that I was
going to have to begin rewriting everything else all over again. I think I
was reluctant to hit the necessary keys to reboot the computer as it meant
admitting the fact that I'd lost everything and perhaps I was hoping for
some sort of miracle which might redeem the situation

But eventually I accepted defeat, hit the forced reboot keys and after
getting the e-mail with the first few poras, I began again frantically
adding as much as I could recall, as quickly as possible, both before I
forgot it all and in order that I'd get it to the Examiner before I started
receiving phone calls from them to enquire why I was late as ever.

It's funny because I ended up finishing at about 4pm and I was almost
tempted to wait for the phone call before e-mailing it over to them, just so
I'd have an opportunity of telling them about all my travails, as otherwise
they'd not have a clue quite how much effort had gone into getting my piece
to them

Meanwhile, at least I know that all of you will be suitably grateful and so
having sat at this keyboard for more hours than I care to think about and
with poor Treacle sitting here, patiently waiting with her legs crossed for
the past hour or so, I am going to let the poor hound relieve herself before
disappearing off on another tangent that leaves me writing another few
hundred words

Peace & Love

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