You probably didn't notice, but my column didn't run two weeks ago. It was Thanksgiving and my boss gave me the day off. Good thing he did, otherwise you would have had to read through my postmortem on England's failure to qualify for Euro 2008.
But now I'm back and, having been effectively muzzled for a month, I can't decide on one topic. So, here you go, seven columns (a full substitutes' bench) in one:
1. After years of mismanagement, greed, stupidity and, occasionally, corruption, the folks running Italian soccer have decided it's time for a change (for the better). To promote sponsorship, they've launched a new practice (they don't like to call it rule, but that's what it is): After the final whistle, both teams line up, shake hands and congratulate each other.
For those who experienced it, it's a bit like Little League ("Two, four, six, eight! Who do we appreciate? Tigers! Tigers! Yayyyy Tigers!"). It may work with kids, but forcing fully grown men to do it is downright demented. The UEFA suits themselves have questioned it, stating the obvious: If sportsmanship is forced, it loses much of its value.
2. Time to salute
It's just that Arsenal plays the game really, really well. The way its supposed to be played. And that's down to the manager.
One of the central defenders has started a grand total of zero league games this season (
And yet everyone knows what happened at Wembley. This Croatia is less talented than Bilic's side which reached the World Cup semifinals in 1998. But its manager is brilliant tactically and has a unique understanding of how to get the very best out of his crew. Credit him and credit them.
4. Maybe Barcelona is right. Maybe with
5. We all want "bungs" (illegal payments) and corruption out of the game. And it's nice to see that the authorities are doing something about it. But was it really necessary to send a virtual SWAT team to execute a dawn raid at the homes of Portsmouth boss
If one were of the suspicious bent, one might suspect that this whole thing had been engineered to definitively rule Redknapp out of the England job (especially since, curiously, somebody had tipped off the tabloid photographers). Surely that couldn't be the case?
6. It's official. Following its scoreless home draw against Juventus last weekend, AC Milan has yet to win a home game in Serie A this season. The European champions are the only team in Europe's top four leagues to remain winless at home. And the streak will extend at least halfway into January, since Milan won't play at the San Siro in Serie A play until then (the Rossoneri are off to Tokyo for the FIFA Club World Cup). Weird, isn't it?
7. In a world where many see the rich getting ever richer and the poor doomed to a role as eternal sparring partners, stories like Lanús warm the heart. The Buenos Aires suburb, which until now had been best known for gifting
Feel-good stories abound, like that of