Thursday, August 17, 2006

You can be as lonely in a crowd as on your own, far from one.

I stumbled across this amazing piece written almost using Soccer analogies.....Read it to get a glimpse of how the world is changing right under ure feet....

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Among the mass of international soccer games played across the globe on Wednesday and Thursday, three men faced up to the reality that no one is safe and secure in a game that moves on ruthlessly.

In Dublin, despite the support of a full house of 42,000 at Lansdowne Road, Steve Staunton, the new Irish national team coach, must have felt isolated as his side was taken apart and was lucky to lose by only 4-0 against a young Dutch team being groomed for the future.

"They done to us what we intended to do to them," sighed Staunton. "We couldn't get near them, and we couldn't get out."

Zhu Guanghu knows the feeling. The coach to the People's Republic of China endured a night of embarrassment in Tianjin where his players survived a last-minute penalty to escape with a 1-0 victory over Singapore in an Asian Cup qualifier.

The home crowd of 26,000 called continuously for Zhu to be fired and, though the coach acknowledged their ire, he vowed to carry on. China, population 1.3 billion, has slumped to 103rd in the world rankings - two places beneath Cape Verde Islands, population 420,000.
But the third, and possibly the most forlorn figure in world soccer Wednesday night, was surely David Beckham.

His private jet was delayed on the runway in London as the airports struggle to cope with the backlog of flights after last week's terrorist alert.

The Beckhams had been granted two days' leave of absence after Real Madrid's tour of the United States, but he was still grounded Wednesday while his club mates were training in Madrid.

When, finally, Beckham touched down at Barajas airport, just a short hop from the Madrid training base, the session was ending. The world's most recognized player had sat, with his family and the pilot, for two hours in London awaiting permission to take off - but Fabio Capello, the new coach for Real, waits for no man, however celebrated.

Beckham did what an athlete must do: He dashed to the ground, changed, and ran, all alone, for 45 minutes.

While he was running, so was the England team he used to lead. No longer captain, no longer wanted for duty after the World Cup of faded English boasts, Beckham, at 31, is facing the afterlife of a world-famous player.

His place at Madrid, where he is renowned for selling more replica shirts than Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Raúl or Zinédine Zidane combined, is by no means secure.

Capello is a stickler for effort, for punctuality, for performance. Reputation will count for less than nothing. By the time Beckham had showered and left, England was already in full swing at his old field of dreams, Old Trafford, the Manchester United stadium.

England eclipsed an acquiescent Greek side, 4-0. All of the goals came before halftime, and it was probably around then that Beckham got home to his wife and sons. The "lads" of England did not appear to be missing him.

And even taking into account the evident fact that Greece came bearing gifts of porous defending and a sad lack of pride in being the champion of Europe, there was a fast tempo to England, a directness and a physical edge that had been lost under the tolerant and rather vapid years when Beckham and his mentor the coach Sven-Goran Eriksson were in charge.

Actually, Becks was not entirely alone at the Valdebebas training center of Madrid. Ruud van Nistelrooy, once his colleague at Manchester United and now re-united with Beckham since his own transfer to Real, waited behind for him.

Possibly van Nistelrooy did not want to be alone either this night.

He, too, has been cast aside by his national side. Marco van Basten dropped him during the World Cup, and left both van Nistelrooy, the nation's record goal- scorer, and Mark van Bommel, the midfield enforcer, out for the trip to Ireland.

It was, like most matches Wednesday, merely "friendly," or preparatory, action. But van Basten made it clear the old stagers should not expect a recall anytime soon; he is rebuilding Netherlands for the 2008 European Championship, and he has new blood in his planning.
"The Dutch showed their class and gave us a football lesson," conceded Staunton after Ireland received its biggest ever thrashing on home turf.

Rafael van der Vaart controlled the contest. Two goals came from Klaas Jan Huntelaar, one from Arjen Robben, and one from Robin van Persie.

Asked about calling time on van Nistelrooy, the coach replied: "Huntelaar scored two goals and he made two assists - he played very well."

Van Basten, who was his country's record scorer before ever van Nistelrooy appeared on the scene, has moved the clock on.

In Livorno, alas, a friendly encounter turned into a wretched political display.

Italy's new coach, Roberto Donadoni, had no World Cup players to call on. The club season is delayed in Italy, and the new coach decided to use his first match in charge to take a look at fresh figures.

His team lost, 2-0, at home to Croatia, also under new management, with Slaven Bilic as coach.
"I can't blame the players," Donadoni said. "They did what they could, but we knew the Croats would be in a lot better shape than us at this stage of the season."

Victory for Bilic, however, was demeaned by the sight of Croatian fans lining themselves up to form a human swastika in the stands. In the complex politics of Italian soccer, Livorno's "Ultra" fans see themselves as leftist. They responded with choruses about Italians being massacred by Tito's Yugoslavs during World War II.

Sport is deformed by such utterly outmoded fanaticism.

-Rob Hughes International Herald Tribune

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and so is life...

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