Saturday, August 18, 2007

Sugar, Spice and No More Than Three Seconds - by Zephirine and Mimitig

To most people, the Baggy Green is the headgear proudly worn by the Australian cricket team. For others, the phrase has an altogether different connotation.

Some of us had to do our games lessons at school wearing skirts - short skimpy skirts, designed to reveal the podgy thighs characteristic of the adolescent British female - and under the skirts would be special knickers. Worn over the normal knickers, you understand, to provide an extra layer of modesty. They were more than the big pants of Bridget Jones fame: they were huge, baggy pants, and depending on your school uniform they might be navy, grey, or… dark green. One of us can never hear that Australian expression without a quiet smirk.

But worse, far worse than having to wear this combination of skimp and bag on a cold winter’s day while the teacher was warmly wrapped in her tracksuit, was having to play netball.

Research (well, one click on Wikipedia actually) informs us that netball, having been originally invented as a form of basketball specifically for women, is now “the pre-eminent women's team sport in Australia and New Zealand and is popular in Jamaica, Barbados, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and the United Kingdom”. Your correspondents find this hard to believe.

Based on personal experience, we maintain that netball is a stultifying distortion of everything that a ball game ought to be.

Think about this: when playing netball, you are not allowed to run with the ball. Or walk. Or move more than one step. Imagine a sport where, as soon as you get possession of the ball, you have to STAND STILL. That’s fun, isn’t it? Exciting? Dynamic? Not.

But you can’t stand still with the ball for more than three seconds. Got that? Can’t bounce the ball to keep possession, either.

You have to pass to somebody else. Aha. This is where we begin to see the hidden agenda of this ghastly game. Girlies must be made to share nicely. Girlies are not allowed to keep the ball and make a spectacular run down the court culminating in a flamboyant slam-dunk like the nasty boys do.

Only two players per team are allowed to shoot. So that’s great for the rest, eh? The star girlies who are the pets of the games teacher, they get to shoot, and everyone else has to be their little slaves and pass the ball to them so they can look good. And each player is only allowed in certain areas of the court. Girlies must remember their place and stay in it.

And, naturally, physical contact of any kind is strictly forbidden. Because girlies can’t push and shove, now can they? Girlies might hurt their delicate selves. And if you should chance to hamper another player just a tiny bit, or even come within touching distance of her, she gets a free pass and you have to stand beside her and do nothing. That’ll teach you: nice girlies don’t play rough.

Zeph, who in those days was a bespectacled child who would rather have been reading a book anyway, recalls being bemused, in her baggy green knickers, by a so-called sport in which so many sporting skills were not allowed. “I remember the constant whistle-blowing from that games mistress with the strange frizzy hair, halting the game every time it threatened to get going - some infringement of the rules could be guaranteed to occur every two minutes or so. And the tall, rather boyish girl in the class who got on so well with the games mistress would somehow always come out ahead and get to score lots of goals.”

Mimitig, who was a teenage athletic star (her knickers were navy) remembers: “It’s cold, it’s wet, it’s winter. Games. That’s fine, obviously – we’ll run out onto to the field and play hockey. No, no – it’s time for netball. Oh the horror. First off it’s the picking of the team. Seven girls to each side, and I have to wait until the end to hear my name called. Me: Captain of the Under-15s (hockey), playing tennis for the Under-16s and swimming for my county – but I can’t get picked in a playground for netball. No wonder I hated it.” For Mimi, too, the sport is forever associated with the boys from the nearby school who would climb the fence to watch the girls playing netball. “We got cold, even colder on that little playground. It was desperate as the boys watched our knickers and we watched the favoured girls score goals.”

And yet, this restricted, artificial, frustrating game is ‘the pre-eminent women's team sport in Australia and New Zealand’. What’s wrong with Southern Hemisphere females? Why don’t they follow the fine traditions of their countries and play cricket or tennis? And it’s ‘popular in Jamaica, Barbados, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and the United Kingdom’. Well, it certainly isn’t popular with us two inhabitants of the UK, or anyone we know. And surely, surely if you live in Barbados there are better things to do than catch a ball and stand still for not more than three seconds before you pass it on, making sure that you’re in the right section of the court and not within touching distance of any other player? Wouldn’t a nice swim be preferable? Or a bit of beach volleyball?

So let’s hear from these many women who apparently think netball is a great game. Are you out there? Are you readers of Pseuds? Come on, convince us. Tell us what’s so great about it. Persuade us that the time spent freezing in those baggy knickers wasn’t totally wasted, for to be sure we will never have that time again.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Sisyphus and the King – file, Guitougoal (MotM & Offside)

Sisyphus and the King

Sitting in a slow corner thinking about the last car I ever owned, again, watching dust dance in shot sunlight shafts. A man came to me, a stranger and in a soft voice he said “Albert?”

“Sisyphus” I said, so we could talk.

Call me Sisyphus; every day I roll my rocks higher without any hope for effect or reward but just occasionally the reward is in the rolling of the rocks themselves.

“What do you remember about goalkeeping?” he seemed to be peering under my eyebrows.

As I’ve said "A man's work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened."

It was no accident; he’d unlocked the door with a calm and steady hand. I was already strapping up the gloves, spitting on them, planting studs in the earth, filling territory, a rock in the tempestuous waters of my defence; a lion in the mouth of a mysterious cave for any opposition. I was a sleek cat, ferocious guardian in those days.

“Would you like to talk to Lev Yashin in Vegas, maybe write a few words?”

“The Russian? But, …he’s dead.” I blurted out.

“Aren’t we all?” he replied as he walked back into the shadows from which he had come, some tickets now on the floor by my foot.

Lev Yashin, the Russian colossus, the Black Spider, the man who’d said “What kind of a goalkeeper is the one who is not tormented by the goal he has allowed? He must be tormented! And if he is calm, that means the end. No matter what he had in the past, he has no future!”

That’s my kind of goalkeeper; he might be the King of Goalkeepers. Why Vegas? I thought.


I was always a stranger but here in the Vegas candy bowl I felt like ordinary boiled sugar in an acid ocean of saccharine explosions. The hawkers, the hoods, the strippers, their marks; all screaming for attention over the nerve-jangling nickel waves of the slots.

Here the hot sun was cooking a Petri dish of degenerates, they were sizzling, devolving in the harsh light. Even the sand here was different from the ancient dust in Algiers, here the dream had been infiltrated, subverted with rhinestone and here, decadence was a badge of honour.

Walking in from the Nevada sun, the bar was unlit, I was blind. I put my hand out and followed my way along the wall until I could see again. I thought I was alone.

“Lev?” I called out but the sound sank into the velvet walls. There was a cough from a table near the exit, I looked over and saw two figures silhouetted there; a big man and a man in a cape.

They’d been playing chess, some of the pieces had fallen over but all I could see was the lamplight in the eyes of the great man. More than 270 clean sheets, and over 150 penalty saves in a career that spanned 16 years in Russian, European and World football.

He smiled, he knew I was tongue tied.

“Can I introduce you to my friend?” he said “Sisyphus, this is, ah… Lucky, Lucky Jackson.”

Big aviator sunglasses in the gloom, a lock of black hair hanging, a curled lip.

“Please ta meet ya, man” he held out a hand and I saw the rings.

“What…what is this?” I shook his hand, it felt warm and delicate.

Elvis laughed like only he could, can, Lev Yashin was smirking.

In a low voice he quoted my own words back to me "Truly fertile Music, the only kind that will move us, that we shall truly appreciate, will be a Music conducive to Dream, which banishes all reason and analysis. One must not wish first to understand and then to feel. Art does not tolerate Reason.” And I understood.

“Pleased to meet you too Lucky” I said.

What follows is a record of our conversation that day, Lev, Lucky and I.

Sisyphus: With all the ephemeral show ponies on display these days, is anyone really practicing the true art of the goalkeeper?
Lev [laughing]: Well, goalkeeping is a funny art, not normal…and I was a bit of a rebel for my times...

Lucky: I think most people have an instinct to rebel…

Sisyphus: What is a rebel but a man who says “no”?

Lucky: I couldn’t say no to the army…

Lev: No, army no, but goalkeepers too. Goalkeeper can’t say no to the shot hein, like girls can’t say no to cars eh Lucky?

Lucky [grins]: I once gave a pretty waitress an Eldorado, as a tip!

Sisyphus: Mon dieu! The coffee must have been good! It’s a matter of consent non?

Lev: The goalkeeper consents to put his body between the ball and the net, then he agrees to be famous…

Sisyphus: Fame is an aberration, a construct, a fake.

Lucky: Yeah, there’s a Me impersonator in Stockholm now, an old ham calls himself Blue Swede Shoes, huh! Even the Admiral wasn’t that bad, man…

Colonel Parker: A fella’s gotta eat! Hi guys, thought I’d find you all here.

Lucky: Man, you nearly gave me another heart attack, I thought you’d been fired.

Colonel Parker: Another day another boulder eh Sisyphus? Listen guys, I got a great idea…

The fast talking man in the Panama hat told us of his vision, a movie “The Penalty” an all action romantic comedy based around the adventures of a maverick yet charismatic goalkeeper in his quest for the heart of his one true love.

Colonel Parker: Marilyn’s gonna come back, play the broad, hey, how much does it cost if it’s free?

Lucky: I..I..I’m not sure about this…Marilyn ya say?

Colonel Parker: Monsieur Camus will do the scribblin’ and big Lev already has a contract to consult. I ‘m gonna leave you to work it all out, gotta go, hasta la vista babies!

Colonel Parker slips off out on to the strip. There’s a pause while the dust settles.

Lev: He seems like a nice man da?

Lucky: He’s the devil in disguise, huh!

Sisyphus: There can be no devil without God and if there is no God…

Lucky: Y-you know, more than anything I’d wanna be a good actor, a great actor but I always ended up doing those soft movies, darn.

Sisyphus: Hmm, a penalty is a dramatic moment Lucky, maybe we can do something.

Lev: I can help, I’ve saved more penalties than anyone, ever, I think.

Sisyphus: Didn’t you used to wear all black too?

Lev: Yes, they called me the Black Spider, big scary black spider, but only a bad thing for the other team, hah, for Moscow I was their pet, their friend.

Lucky: Yeah man, I know that feeling, big scary with a soft heart

Sisyphus: Does the penalty fit the crime?

Lucky: I am in double trouble on this one sir, my mama told me ”You do the crime you do the time” but the Admiral, man, he did a whole lotta crimes and I’m doing the time see…

Lev: Ah, the gulag …

Sisyphus: So what kind of part would you really like to play?

Lucky [scratches head]: Ah… singing-millionaire playboy, race driver, sir

Lev: Isn’t that what King Con made you do before?

Lucky: Only about 25 times Sir

Lev: Couldn’t we make this goalkeeper er…less realistic?

Sisyphus: This time the hero should seek understanding, the strike is the question, the save is comprehension which is also the goal …

Lucky: I could use my Karate, you do Karate in football right?

Lev: It’s normally called shoulder barging, but they don’t do that in penalties, they just shake their hips and stare a bit.

Sisyphus: Stare a bit, hmmm.

Lucky: Shake their hips, yeah?

Lev: Yeah, then the striker strikes, the goalie dives, saves and the whole stadium go crazy, it’s the best feeling in the world…

Sisyphus: Surement, but there is that stare…

Lucky: And the hip action…

Lev: Well, yeah but it’s a big moment, the tension, a time for men to be men.

Lucky: A man is just a little boy wearing a mans body

Lev [laughing]: Yes, you feel like a little boy in front of 80,000 screaming people.

Lucky: I know man, I know.

Sisyphus: Hmph, we should be focusing on the moment, non?

Lev: Actually it goes a bit silent in that moment just before the penalty is taken

Sisyphus: During the staring bit

Lucky [stands up]: With the hips, like this

[Elvis lifts his arms a bit, snarls and slowly gyrates to a sudden brass band thrust. Camus falls off his chair]

Lev: Hey Lucky, be careful man, he’s an intellectual he doesn’t understand those things

Sisyphus: *!@*!

Lucky: Hey, sorry man, I got into the moment.


We ended up editing our footage down to a 7 hour stare, with strategically placed hips and glimpses of Marilyn in the stands. Elvis read the voiceover with dark liquid power, a eulogy that spanned the perspectives of each of this trinity.

In a moment that stretched out forever, the tunnel vision was a metaphor for the solitude of existence and the ultimate futility of the actions of the striker or the goalkeeper, even the manager.

I thought it was funny but Colonel Parker wasn’t too interested in the movie itself, he said "I don't give a damn about your movie script, I don't understand it and don't try to explain it, just sell it!" Later he apologized "Hey sorry guys, you don't have to be nice to people on the way up if you're not coming back down."

But when it got around to the filming he kept asking the producers for more money for every frame showing Elvis’ hips as he set himself on the goal line.

The film was never released, it turned out that Colonel Parker (a.k.a. King Con) was really a Dutch midfielder. He’d embroiled the genetically enhanced van de Kerkhof twins in a Total Exploitation scam to expose Elvis across all media, leading Michels’ to Total Football and players covering all positions.

That was why he’d never allowed Elvis to tour Europe, in case Bill Shankley discovered the secret and sought to turn Ron Yates into a playmaker occupying the hole just behind Roger Hunt. Hell hath no business like the beautiful game.


We met once more in that dark bar in the middle of downtown Vegas. We were all back dressed in black, sensing each others existence in the pale lamplight. Not much was said, we’d all died before.

In the end we stood on the strip that night and together we looked around, Lev saw a world of forbidden neon fruit, I saw electric fishing nets for fools.

Elvis just breathed it all in and when he breathed out the world seemed brighter. He swung his black cloak off, reversed it in a violins sweep and paused to fix a diamond clasp. The virgin white satin now shimmering in the city lights, the rhinestone, diamante and pearls their own luminance.

Elvis grinned, his plump cheeks, the star in his eye, his imperial radiance, seemed to be the source of all we purveyed.

The return of the King.

He hugged Lev Yashin with regal grace and Lev was swiftly whisked off by the men from the institute in a black sedan.

“See you on the other side, man” he said as he put his arms around me too. For an instant I knew what he meant. I started to say something but with a sideways look and a flick of his hair he was gone.

It was as if all those fake stars on the strip had suddenly become real. The goalkeeper, the philosopher the King; crying culture in the face of their destiny, choosing freedom for a chance to be better men.

I lit another cigarette, put my head down and started walking again.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Silly little winker - Premcorrespondent

Twenty thousand people winked at Richard Hughes last night as he used all his foreign guile to wind up Christiano Ronaldo and get him sent off.

In a 1-1 title abdication for United, Pompey were accused of using various sinister tricks to give their opponents a hard time. Christiano Ronaldo got so incensed by the unsporting behaviour that he brushed his head against some one’s nose, while Sulley Muntari went for the more traditional late tackle to earn his early bath.

‘A bit of rain and a physical game’ was all Howard Kendall ever needed to beat Spurs and it seems some things don’t change. The midweek football started at White Hart lane but only one side played as Spurs went home after seeing a tough kick from Stubbs in the warm up. They really never did replace Dave Mackay.

And as reported at the weekend, Jose really does want a more exciting season this year. He let Reading have a one goal lead before two players earning more than the whole town also earned the Champions elect their now not so vital three points.

In the rest of the midweek action, Sven showed with a 1-0 win over Derby that all England needed to win the world cup was to pick some foreigners and play piss poor teams every game.

Soon to be relegated Wigan’s ‘not-so-local boy made good’, Antoine Sibierski, scored a consolation winner against a poor Boro side.

Sunderland proved that fear of the manager does work on modern players. For the second time in two games a last minute goal ensured a blood free dressing room at the end of what turned out to be a 2-2 draw with Birmingham.

And finally Fulham beat Bolton with a winner from Alexi Smertin in the sort of game that desperately needed a Nat Lofthouse or Johnny Haynes to save the crowd from cold and wet multi-million pound dross.

Now I think the Taxi has just pulled up with my takeaway and a big bottle of brandy. That should do till the weekend.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Dear Aunt Polly - file

Aunt Polly is the agony-aunt for the footballing stars of Great Briton and beyond. She knows pain personally and will always try her best to help through her tears though she is not legally or morally responsible for any of the consequences of following any of her advice.

Dear Aunt Polly,

I’m a struggling first time manager in one of the under divisions and I’ve just seen that the Carlisle manager Neil Macdonald has been sacked already. We’re only one game into the season, he drew that and his lot had finished eighth last season, my own record compares not well with his. How long do you think I’ve got?

Pickled Eggs

Dear Pickled Eggs,

Are you still there? Hard to say how long you’ve got, it depends on the particular flavour of your chairman’s mania. Some maverick owners will rant with spittle about loyalty right up to the moment they dump you however the more common or garden variety will just rant incomprehensibly and then sack you. If you’ve recently been given a vote of confidence or if your club has a loud supporter’s voice I’d find an estate agent from out of town.

Dear Aunt Polly,

I’ve got a pain in my foot and I think it might be one of me bones again, the doctors, manager, coach, players and a cleaner tried to explain it me but my I-pod was playing up. Does this mean I can’t drive me Hummer?

The King

Dear The King,

Sadly that’s probably true, is there still a bus service near where you live?

Dear Aunt Polly,

I’m a serial axe murderer from Haiti with lots of dosh I got from that government malarkey, I need a bit of a change of scene and I was thinking that a football club might be good for my image. Can you suggest a suitable one for a practical swashbuckling type like myself?


Dear XXXX,

Aren’t you already here? Why don’t you stop by the Bates Motel in Leeds when you come over? Feel sure you’d be a warmly welcomed word to the wise.

The Wisdom of Footballers Quote of the Day:

Bobby Robson “We didn't underestimate them. They were just a lot better than we thought.”

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Bye George he did it - premcorrespondent

Jose said something a while ago (I would look it up but my drink-addled body will not respond well to extended research - the DT plays havvock wioth tyyping don't-cha know) that he would make the team more exciting.

And by jove he did it. 3-2. Against a relegation favourite. Fragile at the back and exhilerating going forward. How very Ranieri/Vialli/Gullit/Hoddle/any previous Chelsea manager of him.

Elsewhere in the league things went, largely, according to plan.

Big Sam, Billy Davies, and Roy Keane all showed it's the manager not the money that makes things happen. Oh, and Sven's Championship Manager game is going as well as the time I took over Atalanta and led them to international glory. He seems to have kept faith with Bianchi - as I did all those CL manager sessions ago (Bianchi did rather well for me as well). All he needs to do now is sign Supat Rungratsumaree from Pompey and Akinfeev from somewhere in Moscow and Bojinov from Lecce and the parallels will be unprecedented. But then the last time a real-life (is Sven alive? I've never been sure) manager believed ChampMan it didn't go well (

Nice to see that money without the manager is also rather pointless - kudos to West Ham, Pompey, Spurs and Man U for reminding us that football is about more than balance sheets.

Arsenal - as many predicted, having lost their Calvin Clien model and the king of cool himself - seem to have lost their je ne sais quois and their ability to beat a high line of defence. Fighting Fulham with indeed - such things have not been heard of since the bad old days when Voltzy ( lined up in the red and white.

Liverpool managed to drag victory out of the jaws of impotence and a dodgy beard - but then young Steven has a habit of pulling stunning stikes out of the jaws of own goal and penalty-giving-away mediocrity.

Right, I'm off to the nearest late licence offy where I will buy enough legal, mind-altering stuff to tide me over until Wednesday's six games of goodness.


Endorphin rush - Ebren

I went running yesterday. It's not something I do often, apart from my annual 10k road race (and at the rate I'm improving I'll be quicker than Paula Radcliffe by the time I'm 57), but after being blown away at football on Wednesday and having the true state of my physical conditioning thrown into sharp relief I felt the need to improve.

So, on a (the) glorious summer Saturday I dug out my running shoes and a David Beckham sleeveless vest trainers and whacked on some high-tempo rock on my iPod and headed out the door.

Unfortunately, I soon discovered why I don't go running very often.

It's dull, tiring, you feel bad when fat people pass you, walking, while eating an ice cream. Then, after deciding that you should run up a hill a bunch of fallow deer block your path.

Realising if I just turned around I would be forced to run past all the picnicking couples I had passed a mere two minutes earlier, making my athletic pose look about as convincing as Boris Johnson's I enacted an emergency detour.

Running through a lush field filled with happy couples making a far better use of the sunshine and nature than I had managed. I jogged on, then it hit me.

Ahead of me was a small hill, but a steep one. I accelerated. Five metres before the start of the hillock was a tree, two meters after the crest was another. I picked up my pace again.

I hit flat out at the first tree, and drove on. I found another gear halfway up and thrust out my chest for the tape at the second tree.

It was effortless, powerful, I couldn't feel my feet hitting the ground, I flew. I was alive.

I doubled my jogging (trudging) pace and headed for the park gate, ran on through and home.

I think I had just experienced my first endorphin rush, today my hamstrings hurt but the memory is strong. I might even go running again.

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