all enquiries to:

Monday 4 September 2006

Just Like Watching Brazil

Hi folks

You’ll have to forgive me as I’ve used some of the best bits from last Friday’s long-winded ramble, in my Examiner piece below, so please accept my apologies if you feel like you’ve already read some of the following.

I think all the season ticket holders who took up their option to buy their seats for Sunday’s game, were glad they did, as it was the sort of footballing festival you won’t get to see with your own eyes too often.

While I only nipped in just before the 6pm deadline, I bought both our seats, thinking that my closest Spurs mate might like this neutral opportunity to check out the new stadium. Although perhaps he didn’t fancy having his face rubbed in our spanking new facility, as he blew me out at the last minute. However I can hardly complain, since as of this minute, the tickets were paid for with his plastic.

With Ro already having assumed she wasn’t going and with Jamal, the lad who lives downstairs off playing footie on Hackney Marshes, which was a pity, as the sort of football played by Brazil and Argentina must be inspirational for any youngster. Even with my dodgy knee, when I got back home it wouldn’t have taken much to encourage me to join in with the kickabout on the enclosed pitch in the centre of our estate.

There’s no such thing as a friendly between these two old rivals, but with nothing riding on the result, it was obvious that the lack of pressure enabled both teams (but especially the Brazilians) to play with a freedom which allowed these fabulous individuals to express themselves. In fact for about the first 30 minutes of this match, we might’ve been watching a one-touch match played on Ipanema beach.

Meanwhile as I walked around to the new stadium, it was so close to kick-off that I didn’t want to end up at the turnstiles with my spare ticket still going begging, but in too much of a rush to hang about and find a home for it.

I was thinking that most people arriving without tickets would’ve long since sorted themselves out by now and I was seriously considering offering mine to the first kid I saw as I walked past the Gunners pub and along Elwood Street, rather than it going to waste. But then I’m really in a position to make such generous gestures to strangers and what’s more these days you can be mistaken for a perv for merely talking to unknown youngsters, let alone taking one to a match, so I was reluctant to offer it to someone, in case there was a buyer awaiting around the corner.

I needn’t have worried, as even with the two national anthems playing in my radio earpiece, there was still a huge throng of forlorn looking ticketless folk hanging about outside the Arsenal tube. No sooner had I enquired if anyone wanted a spare, than I was absolutely beset by takers. The first to ask was this Brazilian lad, but I wasn’t about to hang about and miss any more of the match, while he and his mate had a confab and as I hurried along, trying to convince him that I didn’t have a second spare ticket for his mate, I was being hassled by at least three other people who wanted to muscle in on the ticket.

While I was feeling a bit guilty that I was in such a hurry that I didn’t give poor Alessandro my new pal, time to arrange a meet with his mate, I was glad to have been instrumental in getting this extremely grateful Brazilian lad in to see the game. Although for all my rushing, there was a huge queue awaiting us at entrance J and as I stood there growing increasingly frustrated with the steward, checking e-mail print outs and taking his time showing everyone how to get through the electronic turnstile, obviously we missed the first goal

I am glad that it didn’t prove to be the only goal of the game and when we eventually made it inside, I took the 30 quid face value off my new mate. When I was telling someone today that I could’ve sold the spare ticket ten times over, he asked the logical question as to why I hadn’t asked sixty quid and paid for my own ticket. But it goes so much against the grain for me to flog a footie ticket above face value that this thought hadn’t even crossed my mind.

To be honest, compared to having to give it away to some stranger, I was glad to have recouped anything at such a late stage. Although I might have had a slightly different perspective, if I’d discovered the parking ticket on our motor before the game, instead of it coming as an nasty wind up late last night.

Ro had nipped out late Saturday night and not being back into the footie season groove and knowing only that the Arsenal weren’t playing this
weekend, it hadn’t occurred to her when she’d parked up a mere few feet away from one of the parking bays which are only operative on a match day.

This needless taxation is so incredibly frustrating that I am tempted to fight it, but I am not sure I have the energy to write the obligatory three letters (at least!) before anyone is even prepared to entertain ones argument. Still I guess even though yesterday’s entertainment ended up costing me a further fifty quid, it was still worth every penny

There’s definitely some special aura the Brazil and their fans bring to a football match. Aside from those fans originating from South America, there was a proliferation of yellow shirts present, which along with the occasional rumble of a “Brazil” chant confirmed which side the vast majority of the 59 odd thousand fans were up for.

However while the samba drums kept up a fairly constant beat all afternoon, just about the loudest chant was a chorus of “Stand up if you hate Tottenham” which I think was inspired after Baptista came on for the last 15 mins and after which I spent about five minutes trying to explain what it was all about to my Brazilian mate.

Meanwhile at least I got to learn the Brazilian equivalent of “Allez” so if you should hear a “Vamos-la Julio” when we get to see Baptista in an Arsenal shirt, you will know where it’s coming from. Luckily it looks much like the Spanish derivative, so at least I know my new mate wasn’t teasing me by getting me to holler out “Julio you tosser” for the rest of the season, as looking at the muscular physique of “the Beast” he’s one player I wouldn’t want to upset!

Kaka received a warm welcome when Dunga finally introduced the AC Milan midfielder into the mix. I haven’t watched that much Italian football these recently, but Kaka doesn’t appear to have had quite the same impact of his first amazing season in Serie A. However until the arrival of young Lionel Messi on the European scene, Kaka was without doubt my favourite non-Arsenal player.and late in the game on Sunday, there were both my favourite midfield players on the pitch at the same time.

Messi perhaps looked like a player who’s season in La Liga has yet to begin, with all that amazing balance on the ball due to his low centre of gravity, but without some of the sharpness. However Kaka’s season in Serie A hasn’t started either but Milan’s qualification match in the Champs League might have resulted in him being a little closer to full fitness.

Kaka certainly didn’t lack anything physically when he picked up the ball and proceeded to run two thirds the length of our exceedingly long new pitch. Often when you see a player run so far with the ball, having done all the hard work, they often fluff their chance, either because they haven’t sufficient strength left, or the composure to do anything but take a stab at goal. Whereas in ghosting past the Argie defender (although I can’t remember who this was, as if it was Walter Samuel, he’s a little way past his peak!) and having the presence of mind to place the ball across the keeper into the corner of the net, Kaka scored probably as good a goal as we’ll see at the new gaff all season.

The organisers of this occasion (a Russian company –surprise, surprise, hence the minute’s silence for the anniversary of the Chechnyan school disaster or Chesneyan disaster as Jonathan Pearce pronounced it, as if we were empathising with the poor souls who’ve had to listen to Chesney Hawkes’ singing), they couldn’t have arrange a better climax to this match if they’d scripted it, as I was left high-fiving it with my ecstatic new Brazilian friend.

Baptista didn’t really get long enough on the pitch to make much of an impression and I was a little disappointed that Denilson wasn’t involved (although he’s apparently been given the number 15 shirt for the season, refuting suggestions that he’ll be joining all those other Arsenal youngsters out on loan – where the progress of the likes of Gilbert at Cardiff, Lupoli at Derby, Bendtner, Larssen and Muamba at Birmingham, even Stokes now at Falkirk and anyone else I’ve forgotten, certainly maintains my interest in the lower leagues).

Meanwhile with this match being played at our place, I suppose it was always likely that both sides would use European based players and in fact the entire 22 in the two starting line-ups were made up with players from European club sides. So perhaps the next time we have a whinge about the lack of British players getting a look in at the Arsenal, spare a thought for our South American cousins, who year, upon year have to endure the mass emigration of the cream of their local talent from their shores.

Certainly two of these émigrés will have made the most of their outing on Sunday, in preparation for their Champions League return on 1st November with CSKA Moscow. Playing for the last 20 minutes, midfielder Dudu didn’t make much of an impression on me, but with Robinho and Fred playing up front for Brazil, the Russian side’s striker, Carvalho, spent most of his hour on the pitch out on the right flank, where his displayed the sort of pace and skill which certainly suggest he’s capable of causing us some problems.

As for Mascherano and Tevez, I watched all of Argentina’s games in the World Cup and I can’t for the life of me remember Mascherano, although I told he played the entire 90 minutes of every match. This leads me to conclude that he’s a bit of an inconspicuous water carrier and he did nothing on Saturday to contradict this belief. Whereas like Lionel Messi, the little bull like Tevez looks like he could be a real handful. However if hot-headed little tyke doesn’t learn to keep a lid on his emotions in the Premiership, he’s likely to spend as much time suspended as he does on the pitch and I’m pretty sure opponents will soon learn to target his fiery temper.

Still Tevez is an exciting player and I am surprised Fergie didn’t fancy the Argentinian to bolster Utd’s squad. In some respects, ol’ Red Nose is dead lucky Utd have made such a good start, as otherwise their disgruntled fans would be up in arms. However if I thought Mascherano and Tevez must have thought their new home looked a little grim, when they stepped out of their limo at Green Street, on their arrival at Upton Park, imagine the first impressions of the Brazilian pair mentioned above, as they found themselves in Red Square at 20 below zero for the first time.

I will indeed be watching with interest the two Argies introduction to British football with the Irons, but based on Tevez’s past record, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if with their substantial egos, they and all the financial brouhaha surrounding them, end up having a negative impact overall, on the great team spirit Pardew seemed to have begun to create in the West Ham camp.

As we exited the stadium on Sunday there was a crowd gathering around a group of colourful Brazilian fans, dancing and drumming and before I parted company with Alessandro we had a brief conversation about the differences between the convvial hot blooded South American footie fans and their stiff upper lipped London counterparts. I certainly wouldn't complain if the arrival of a couple more Brazilian players brings some of the same uptempo atmosphere to every game at our new gaff.

Peace & Love

Just Like Watching Brazil

When the camera zooms in on a couple of pretty gals, enthusiastically bouncing up and down, during the break of any Brazil game, I usually assume that some letch behind the lens has spent the first-half seeking them out. Yet on Sunday I saw with my own eyes that Brazil is not only just about the beautiful game’s biggest draw, but that they also seem to attract huge numbers of female footie fans, including masses of fair maidens, as opposed to the more buxom ‘geezer birds’ who’re perhaps more common on British terraces (with apologies to all those svelte damsels who don’t fit this sexist stereotype!).

Naturally I normally only have eyes for my own missus. Róna can confirm that I’m more like one of the two doddery old boys in the ancient joke about them watching the young fillies parade past on the seafront, as he ponders to his pal “I know I’m supposed to look, but I can’t remember why?” There were few lulls in the fabulous balls skills on display in Sunday’s game, yet we certainly didn’t want for head turning distractions during the occasional break in the marvellous entertainment.

Despite the fact that it might actually benefit the Arsenal in this instance, I still despise this break for the International double-headers. Especially as the authorities seem to have shoehorned it into the schedule as a regular occurrence. With a whole fortnight’s interruption coming so soon after the season has kicked-off, our two opening matches feel like a false start. Hopefully our transfer deadline day business will serve as the boost to the mood of the squad, that’ll ensure we go about our game with somewhat more aplomb second time around, as our season begins again against Boro (albeit with an eight point handicap!).

In hindsight our uninspiring start was perhaps not so surprising. As our competitors tried to snuff out any complacency, by shuffling their packs and playing their new cards, our first XI virtually picked itself. Our solitary fresh face wasn’t fit for the first game and although we might have saved a few quid by signing Rosicky prior to his couple of World Cup goals, any buzz resulting from his arrival had long since evaporated.

Still it could be a lot worse as we’ve merely drawn one and lost one. Whereas at White Hart Lane, Martin Jol’s whacked up his total summer spending to £30 million, after losing two out of three. The way Jol’s been spending like it’s going out of fashion, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were the next chunk of our footballing culture to fall into the hands of an iffy East European oligarch (after West Ham!).

Following on from his indomitable efforts last season, everyone expected Flamini to continue filling in at left-back. Or, after he’d impressed in pre-season, perhaps the teenager, Traore. So it was puzzling why Wenger played the right-footed Hoyte. Poor Justin hasn’t looked comfortable and is rapidly becoming the boo-boys latest victim. Initially I assumed Arsène might’ve felt obliged to include Hoyte after his return from Sunderland.

It’s a sign of the times that an all foreign XI is no longer newsworthy, but it’s only just dawned on me that with Wenger’s cautious introduction of Theo Walcott for only brief cameo appearances, Hoyte is the only English player in the starting line-up. In fact amongst the 33 players listed in the first team squad, there are only two other English kids, Connolly and Gilbert, with Gilbert loaned to Cardiff for the season. While our Irish starlet Anthony Stokes has joined Falkirk until January.

So until such time as Walcott wins a starting place, or unless 16 year old Mark Randall forces his way into the frame, it looks like the Arsenal will be playing for much of this season with a multi-national starting line-up, including players from every corner of the globe except this one!

Slightly gobsmacked, along with the rest of the footballing world, by the Hammers deadline day coup, I was half-hoping the Argies arrival at Upton Park might be a prelude to us pinching Reo-Coker. But this would’ve been totally out of character for Wenger. Basically the absence of British players in our squad is a reflection of Le Prof’s reluctance to spend his all too limited budget on the hugely inflated fees for inexperienced homegrown kids, when he can pick up proven foreigners for a fraction of the cost.

If I knew Reo-Coker was mere wishful thinking, I was always convinced Ashley Cole was history, if only to facilitate the publication of his bloomin’ book. However as I sat here last Thursday, watching the Sky Sports News’ ticker announce details of players diving through the transfer window as it slid shut, to every other club but ours, I grew increasingly anxious. Were we really going to be left with the renegade Reyes and a hubristic Cole, cooling their heels until January, contributing to an uneasy mood within the confines of the exact same shallow squad.

I was grateful for the Boro chairman’s reassuring comments, as he appeared on TV to explain the delay in their deal for Huth, with details that Kenyon was otherwise detained, adding “I think we all know why”. Thus it was just a matter of waiting to see which way the dreadfully stale Cole cookie crumbled.

Come Friday morning, all Gooner discussion centred on whether Dein had played Martha, to Kenyon’s Arthur. To be honest I didn’t give a monkey’s about the financial minutiae, besides which I wouldn’t mind betting that between Cole’s “loyalty” bonus and the disparity between what Gallas is earning and what the Arsenal are paying him, the deal is probably costing Chelsea a whole heap more than the reported £5 million. All that mattered to me was that our squad appeared substantially stronger than it had the day before and the thought that Blues fans might be feeling like they’d found a shilling and lost a pound, was the icing on the cake.

The Reyes/Baptista arrangement was a no lose swap in my opinion, as we’ve shifted the sulky Spaniard and in the Beast, we’ve got a player with all the physical attributes missing from our midfield. However Baptista wasn’t exactly bulling to join the Gunners last summer and I only hope we haven’t got shot of a homesick Jose, for an unhappy Julio. Who knows perhaps the teenage Denilson will turn out to be the bargain of the summer.

What I do know is that I’m far more eager to witness the effect of our three new arrivals on the Arsenal squad, than I am to watch England play against a couple of countries I can’t even find on a map. I fell asleep during the Andorra game and was gutted that there was no live coverage on the box of the valiant efforts of the Boys in Green. I was left listening to RTE’s radio broadcast via satellite. And as for Macedonia, I’m all for keeping politics out of sport, but I’m not sure anyone should be forcing players to perform before these Neanderthals, after the racist outrages that have occurred there recently.

At least there was some respite from Saturday’s soporific no-contests, with Sunday’s rare treat. As the song says, it really was a case of “just like watching Brazil!” And the myriad of beautiful women weren’t the only ones aroused by a veritable orgy of sexy South American football. Even the sun put in a reappearance for this samba soccer party, As a precursor for International occasions to come, I can’t possibly imagine a more fitting match to introduce our new stadium to the rest of the footballing world, than this “Super Classico”. Outright war might’ve broken out on the pitch if Bennett hadn’t blown up after 90 minutes, otherwise we’d have happily sat there all night. If a nation’s character traits are expressed in the way they play their football, then I guess it’s no wonder Brazilian football is so popular with the female of the species.

e-mail to:


Bern said...

Just checking your awake :-)