Monthly Archives: September 2012

700 Games Later

Last Saturday, Manchester United beat Wigan 4-0 in a run-of-the-mill Premier League game. Wigan are a small, slightly bizarre club from the north of England. Manchester United also play in the north, but they have more Azerbaijani fans than Wigan do season-ticket holders. This is football, the most monetized sport around, and Manchester United were playing at home. Wigan never had a prayer.

What made this game worth watching, what made it Saturday’s most endearing match – especially in contrast to John Terry’s return to Loftus Road, Anton Ferdinand’s childish non-handshake, and the dismal 0-0 draw that followed – was the shy-looking redhead who opened the scoring (a tap-in) and the almost-40-year-old whose darting runs and incisive dribbling troubled the Wigan defense all afternoon. If you don’t know where I’m going with this – if the names Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, or, as they’re commonly referred to, “giggsandscholes” (one syllable), don’t ring a bell – then either you’ve been living in a cave for the last 20 years or you don’t have cable. (Which is worse? I’ll leave that for you to decide.)

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Gianni Infantino and the Carcass of Beef: The UEFA Champions League Group Stage Draw

The annual UEFA Champions League Group Stage Draw should be a lot of fun. In theory, it’s got everything: the potential for drama and suspense; a high-tech, well-prepared venue (some fancy hotel in glamorous Monaco); and a veritable Who’s Who of European football stars. Only, what sounds good in theory is kind of disappointing in reality. UEFA has always had a knack for turning the ingredients for everything into hollow spectacles that fail to make much of an impression on anyone.

UEFA, the governing body of European football, is based in Switzerland but parties in Monaco, and the organization is as amusingly shady as that choice of location suggests. Headed by former French World Cup star Michel Platini, UEFA is routinely linked (probably erroneously) to suspiciously outlandish misconduct. Take Thursday’s draw, for instance. The ceremony, which splits a pool of 32 clubs into eight four-team groups, is, allegedly, a total fix – or so the conspiracy-mongers tell us. The whole thing is planned out ahead of time, they say; the miniature Champions League balls containing the team names written on special UEFA paper are strategically heated via remote control, so that each celebrity knows which ball to pick. Obviously, these conspiracy theories are absolute nonsense, but, like all conspiracy theories, they’re nevertheless utterly entertaining.

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