Philosophy Football Madrid
In spite of a complete lack of preparation due to mysterious engagements which prevented the X Men from running a proper pre-season preparation, the men in blue started their second season even better than their first. While the first game of last season, against the same opponent though under a different name, ended with an easy 6-1 win, this time the X Men scored the same number of goals while keeping a clean sheet. Much of the merit goes to the Argie 'arquero', Joaquin, deputising for the travelling Edu and perhaps inspired by his similarity to Ricardo La Volpe (see picture below) when he was the keeper of the 'Taladro' in the '70s, put in a solid performance, covering for some lack of concentration by his defenders.
The X Men started the game in a 'summer mood', or 'modo verano', which got on the manager's nerves. It took them almost 20 minutes to score against an opposition who were both overweight and overwhelmed. So, after 15 minutes enlivened only by what could already be a contender for goal of the season, and Ale's header from his own half which their keeper parried over the bar with some acrobatic kilograms drama, the gaffer made a brief appearance on the pitch only to shout at the ref and annoy the opposition while trying to wake up his own team. "I didn't like that 'pachanga' atmosphere", he said later to the press.
Scared by the possibility of the manager again storming onto the pitch, the X Men scored quickly, and dominated the second half, showing composure and some neat moves. This game saw the debut in the blue shirt of former Wimbledon maestro Alessandro Filizola, one of the two summer signings of the X Men, and ended with five different X Men on the scoresheet, including the wizard Basselinho. In the press conference after the match, an Argentinian journalist asked with some irony if this was the largest win obtained by an Italian manager ever, forgetting that the same manager had already guided the X Men to another 6-0 victory last year, against La Gaceta. 'With press like this it will be very difficult to stay here as long as Sir Alex Ferguson,' retorted the manager.
X Men (2-3-1): Joaquin; Gudi, Ale (1); Rodri, Cris (1), Iain (1); José (2). Subs: Fil, Mark, Basselinho (1)
XMen 1 Canal+ 1
It was hard, it was painful, it was great. After a hard-fought 1-1 draw the XMen qualified for the second year in a row for the quarter-finals of the Madrid Media League.
The afternoon was cold, wet and lucky for the XMen, who entered the pitch without their Pichichi, José, and went away with the vital draw after seeing the opponents strike the post three times and having saved at least two goals on the line. The XMen went 1 up thanks to a free kick from Ale midway through the first half and conceded in the second half to end with a draw. The team was classy for the rest of the match, bar some desperate defending and repeated long balls to the lone striker. Sid saw a fantastic shot go just a palm-width outside the post, and then came the 'Gordon' moment for Edu, the Argie keeper. Barassi, like Banks before him, went down, down, down to his right to put a strong hand to what looked to be a certain goal.
Save of the tournament, and thanks to it and the whole team's performance, the XMen's campaign goes on. The first game of the quarter-finals takes place on Monday.
The XMen XI:
Edu - 'Gordon' Barassi saved the day and the league of his team. Not only with 'that' save but with an unbelievable all-round performance.
Goyo - Our winter signing has been improving match by match, and yesterday put out a Kaiser's performance. Ezequiel would be proud of his dad.
Gudi - Another strong performance, his presence being vital in a tight defensive game.
Sid - Debilitated by a nasty stomach bug, gave everything (and more) first on the right then as a striker. Courage and passion.
Ale - Our white Rijkaard did everything. Attacked, defended and scored. He was here, there, everywhere. The former Wimbledon man had a Crazy Gang performance, guiding and supporting the team through a troubled land.
Iain - Calm, composed and put in some great shots. Always there when needed, a solid performance in a solid season.
Rodri - Our utility Basque started as Toquero - fighting, running his heart out trying to annoy the defenders - and ended as Amorebieta - kicking, pushing, fighting. But not getting sent off, so better than the Athletic defender.
Bassel - The Lebanese striker had his best game since he was discovered by the XMen in the prolific Al Jazeera youth system. Dangerous up front, solid in defence, he saved a goal on the line and ended exausted.
Filippo - According to what he said in the press conference the Italian was ready to bring himself on if things were going very well or very badly. With the game open, he opted to employ his controversial tactics on the bench, being capable, once again, of getting on his opponents' nerves in the heated finale. One yellow card and one assist when he swapped Rodri's and Sid positions.
After a couple of years' absence I can announce that we have a new team in Madrid.
'We' in the sense that the spirit will be the PFFC spirit, in spite of the name being different this time. I didn't resurrect the brief, partly glorious and no doubt eventful PF Madrid, but enrolled a team in the local Media League that will start on the 17th of January. We couldn't play in PF shirts, because all the equipment is provided by the league.
The name of the team is The X Men, because the Spanish ID of almost all the players starts with an X, which stands for 'extranjeros', foreigners. We were briefly called Bloody Foreigners FC.
We have 18 players at the moment, of 8 nationalities. England and Argentina are the most represented, rolling back the years to Ardiles and Villa's Tottenham. There are two Spaniards (we accepted them because they were part of PF Madrid, and they're pretty good), a Basque, two Frenchies, an Italian, a Chilean refugee brought up in Germany and a Lebanese.
We're all journalists, because this was the requirement, and again here we have a great variety: TV, written press, radio, agencies. Al Jazeera, the Guardian, ESPN, Gazzetta dello Sport, Reuters, AP, Suddeutsche Zeitung, and RTL (French radio) are just some of the names represented.
I don't know all the players so I can't tell you if we will be any good. What I do know is that the level of the league is very demanding, with a lot of former footballers signed by the various teams. We've asked Paulo Futre, Paco Buyo (Real Madrid keeper), Higuain's father (former River Plate), and Forlan's brother but they all said no. I'm still trying with Ronaldinha, former wife of Ronaldo (the real one, not the avatar that plays for Madrid at the moment) but my Galactico coup is not going well...
I'll keep you posted, ciao for now,
A foggy day and an easy easy game to start the league with: we created tons of chances and didn't conceded a single shot in the first half. Already 3-0 up in the first 10 minutes, thanks to goals from Mike (fantastic double 1-2 with Tama), Sid (great ball laid on by Mike) and Joaquin (strong shot from 15 yards), we struggled to get the fourth, but that arrived with a fine intervention by Bassel on a corner shot at the end of the first half. In the second half a bit of showing off, three good saves by Eduardo, who came in for JL in the interval, a brace for Tama, finishing off first a great move that involved almost the entire team and then a pass from Chris, and the opposition goal just before the final whistle.
We started with a 3-2-1: Jean Louis; Sid, Gudiño, Rodri; Tama, Joaquin; Mike. Christophe, Bassel, Edu and Mark also played their part. Do to the overbooked squad I opted to do my Capello act but showed a little notebook in Mourinho's style where I put down a kind of minute by minute.
We created 40 chances! 6 goals, one bar, one post, 16 shots paired and 16 wide. And we entertained the public with some classy 'Barça' combinations.
Below is a picture of the team. Unfortunately we can't use PF shirts, this is why we're not using the PF name.
7 nationalities, including the Basque country, on the pitch.
Ciao from Madrid
The revenge was taken. Almost 12 years later, and without knowing it, Dani Garcia Lara, football name Dani, 36 years old, brought up by Real Madrid, a Champions League medal winner with Barça, league wins in Spain and Greece, five-time international with Spain, tore apart that glorious Lazio scarf that I bought and proudly wore in Birmingham during the last Cup Winners Cup final that Lazio won against Mallorca 2-1. I was an Inter fan on loan to Lazio to please the missus, Dani was a Mallorca player. At Villa Park Dani gave troubles to a back line compose by Pancaro, Nesta, Mihajlovc and Favalli, scored one goal to equalize Vieri's goal, but didn't lift the cup cause Nedved put one behind Roa at the end of the game.
Today Dani scored 3 goals, driving his team to a comfortable win against a very depleted X Men squad. Only two of our seven starters in the curtain-raiser of the league could make it to the pitch today, and despite the bravery and the great effort of their replacements, the opposition proved to be too strong. We started losing our bench, occupied with a clever coup by the opponents, and after that we couldn't fight back. With players scattered in Mallorca at the wheel of Contador, in Barcelona to talk to Xavi or at the Bernabeu to listen to the lanky words of Adebayor, the eight X Men, plus the on-rushing Mike, despatching himself at the very last minute from the Real Madrid stadium, entered the Canal pitch.
We started with Jean Louis in goal, Martin, Mark and Andy Scott at the back, the Argies Damian and Joaquin in the middle, Bassel upfront. Mike and your scribbler on the bench. No Spaniards today, and 6 nationalities. They put us immediately under great pressure, they hit the post, Jean Louis started his long string of amazing saves, Mike came in for Bassel, Dani scored a brace. I decided to come on for Joaquin and simply placed myself on the traces of Dani, in front of the defence for my swansong. Just hoping to cancel both of us from the game. Things went according to plan for a long while, Damian scored a glorious goal a la Van Basten, almost from the line, left of the goal, and we ended the first half 2-1 down.
They were passing and passing and passing, we were running and running and running, hoofing the occasional ball up to Mike, who was more lonely than a solo singer in a deserted pub. We started swapping players, roles and showing very tired legs. They continue to swap balls from one end to another, shaking us like a thin tree with us panting behind with the tongue well out. We hung on until the 16th minute (out of 25) of the second half, when Dani decided that it was time to go. He asked for the ball in midfield, had a quick look at me, politely waved goodbye and off he went, dribbling the scribbler, another X Man and then coolly finishing with an angled shot where Jean Louis couldn't reach it. Sipario.
I stopped my shouting and applauded the great move that led to the 6-1. Unlike in Birmingham, there was no chanting for me: Dani was so fast that I couldn't even stop at the end of the game him to tell him this story. But.
But we showed character, willingness, strength and unity, until our legs kept us going behind the swinging opponents. We did our best, it wasn't enough. The same thing that happened to Dani 12 years ago at Villa Park. Revenge was taken, but there'll be other times...
The second defeat in a row for the X Men was a question of distraction, excessive respect and lack of fighting spirit. Under a wonderful sky, certainly more blue than Fernando Torres, we entered the pitch with good spirit and bad concentration: this time we defended our bench but forgot to do the same with the ball and after 20 seconds we were 1-0 down. This advantage gave tranquillity to the TV chaps, who quickly got possession of the ball and started the trademark Spanish tiki taka. Possession that was fairly sterile, but impressed and tired the Xs.
None of the teams create much but to show our difficulties in terms of creativity and proper use of the ball we had our first shot on 14 minutes. This was followed by three more X shots, all wide. These timid but positive approaches woke up Canal+ and Jean Louis had to make a double save just before our best move of the game led to an equaliser. In the 19th minute, Sid pulled the strings of a counter-attack calling Joaquin's pass to Mike. The curly-haired striker was found in space by the beardy X man with a diagonal pass from right to left and, despite an elbow that landed on his nose, he coolly finished with a diagonal ball going in the other direction and into the net. Celebration was loud and bloody: the manager on the touchline went berserk, Mike went off with his nose bleeding. Antics and heroics.
Again a great goal, like Damian last week. And again we looked quite comfortable on our laurels, and in three minutes there were two good saves by JL and another goal for Canal+, helped by a faulty movement in defence. Just before halftime Sid tried an acrobatic volley from Gudino's free kick but sadly the ball went over the bar. Against Marca TV we resisted 16 minutes before conceding the vital third goal, here we reached minute number 20, when the super JL couldn't stop a great shot from the edge of the box.
This ended a contention in which we played a modest second half, staying in the game thanks only to an amazing string of impressive saves by the X Man with gloves and a French accent: special mention for the great strength and reflexes shown on two close-range powerful free kicks taken by Diego (a Spanish journo from Cuatro TV, not the Argie from Villa Fiorito). In the second 25 minutes we didn't create much, we showed little spirit and looked far too respectful of the good team we were playing against.
Thus ensued a long 'tirade' by an irate manager about the lack of electricity, fighting spirit, will and competitiveness. Memories of a similar episode in Regent's Park ten years ago emerged. The sky was still blue, Fil's thoughts black, X Men's faces red.
X Men: Jean Louis;
Sid, Gudino, Iain; Chris, Damian; Mike.
Subs used: Bassel, Joaquin, Mark, Andy S.
After two consecutive defeats in which the X Men scored two goals but conceded nine, the distraught manager thought he had nothing option but to climb the stairs. He nervously knocked on the boardroom door and cried for help. "We need a striker", he put it in Mourinhoesque terms, hoping that his cry would be heard by the rich men upstairs. With the transfer market window wide open, the directors took a swift decision. They had to free a place in the 18-man squad, so they had a few words with Mr May, the Andy who never replied to the team emails and, with an amicable agreement, ended his lucrative contract. The guy looked relieved, he'd been feeling the pressure of wearing such a shirt, and the board moved on quickly. The first steps to secure the services of the 'pichichi' of the 2010 season in the Liga de los Medios, Mr Sanchez, had already been taken in the press room of Valdebebas, so it was quite easy to make an agreement with the prolific José, who was a free agent after his former team, La Sexta TV, had been dismantled, at the Bernabeu during Real Madrid's thrashing of Real Sociedad. Once his signature was obtained the race started to get all the papers ready for the X Men's fourth game, due to kick off less than 12 hours later. Working around the clock the board contacted the Liga and submitted all the necessary documents. Once again the 'statuto' of the X Men was bent to sign a Spanish player, but 'Realpolitik' prevailed: the press close to the club and keen to string investments was happy, and so were the fans. Plus, the former Philosophy Football Madrid players' quota in the team is now up to five (José, Tama, Fil, Sid and Gudi).
On Monday at 2pm José was officially signed and got his number 1+8 shirt. With Perez on an authorised scouting trip to Venice, Sanchez was immediately drafted into the first 7, and took the pitch up front alongside Jean Louis (goalie), Joaquin, Fil and Dami (a creative Argie duo combining with the out of form no-nonsense Italian), Chris and Tama (strong midfield). Four nationalities represented in the X Men starting 7. Against the men in blue there was a bunch of ultra-right writers, attached in various ways to La Gaceta – a joke of a newspaper, positioned in the political panorama on the right of Generalissimo Franco. A tight mentality and and open defence, as the result will show: the third defeat in three games for the team that Mr Lowe suggested should be contain only right wingers.
The past and present ideology of the opposition inspired a philosophical rage of the Blues that started well, and the X Men never took their feet off the gas. Our own Adebayor presented himself in style. The X Men won a free kick two yards out and José banged it in beyond the reach of the fat, though quite agile, keeper. The first goal was followed by a classy shot from Tamames and a scorcher from 20 yards from Joaquin. At halftime it was 3-0, with Gudiño, Rodri, Paul and super Bassel already helping out with some changes. The X Men started the second half seriously and were quickly 5-0 up thanks to another goal from José (plus two off the woodwork) and a free kick that the manager wanted to be taken by Bassel but that was instead kicked (in some style to be honest) by the greedy Joaquin. The left-footed Lebanese deserved his reward and finally slotted home the sixth goal.
From the touchline meanwhile there were some strange suggestions, like trying to injure the opposition's hands (normally we try to kick ankles or knees) so as to impede the Gaceta reporters from writing for a while. It didn't happen, although the petty and nasty men in white were trying everything to irritate the Blues: they were crying since the first minute (unheard by the ref) and managed to kick Tamames, Gudi and Chris with silly fouls even when they were 4-0 down. Tama produced the best sentence of the day: "I can't argue with you, cause you're tonto" and Jean Louis prevented the Gaceta boys from scoring even a single goal. First clean sheet of the Liga, 6 points in 4 games, next up the Democratic radio Cadena Ser, in 10 days. No political battle there, but a more serious opposition, on and off the pitch, for the X Men.
Recent signing José Sanchez showed why he was last season's 'pichichi' by scoring all four goals as X Men battled back from 3-1 down to claim a hard-fought 4-3 victory over Cadena Ser, who finished with six men following the sending off of their number nine, Antonito Romero.
It was not the prettiest of performances, but X Men battled hard until the end to secure a win which could prove crucial to their hopes of finishing near the top of the standings.
With 'Mister' Fil away scouting out a possible summer training camp in the Algarve and Tama finally unable to make the match due to work commitments, X Men - playing in borrowed white shirts as the opposition were also in blue - started with a line-up of Jean Louis; Joaquin, Gudi, Rodri; Chris, Mike; Jose, with Mark, Bassal and Andy on the bench.
X Men started well enough but it was Cadena who drew first blood in lovely English conditions (a bit windy and a bit chilly) when X Men lost possession in the centre of the pitch and their midfielder raced forward before firing in an unstoppable 20-yard shot.
X Men got back on level terms when Joaquin's superb cross from the left was headed in by José, but the men in white soon found themselves 3-1 down as Cadena scored a second after again stealing possession in midfield, before then netting a third with a rising shot from the edge of the area that flew into the net off the top of the far post.
At that stage it was looking bad for the X Men - who were indebted to another top-class performance from Jean Louis in goal for keeping them in contention - but José pulled a goal back just before half-time with a good turn in the area before firing a low left-footed shot under the goalkeeper.
Perhaps influenced by the conditions, X Men, with the wind at their backs, decided to play a more direct game in the second half and looked to find José as often as possible. This was proving a problem for the Cadena defence and José won a free-kick on the edge of the box which led to X Men equalising. Gudi's initial effort was blocked by the wall, but the rebound fell to José who smashed in a half-volley to complete his hat-trick and make it five goals in two games since being snapped up by Fil.
José was not done yet, however and, after Cadena had been reduced to six men when Romero was shown a straight red card for leaving his foot up in a challenge on Gudi, who quickly made his feelings known to his opponent, the former La Sexta TV man produced another fine finish to earn X Men the points.
After the final whistle Romero continued his rant against the referee and Gudi, who admirably kept his cool as tensions rose, no doubt content with helping X Men record their third win in five games.
After losing the legal battle against Real Madrid and seeing not less than 3 quality X Men (pichichi José, dynamo Tamames and twitting Sid) obliged to swap Madrid's jamon for Lyon's paté, the Blues board observed the gaffer fighting to reshape the squad after some late pull-outs that complicated the route to what was the first vital game of the season. A win would have meant the team progressed to the 'good' group of the next phase, where 6 out of 8 teams will reach the quarterfinals.
Just a few hours before kick-off Iain was downed by family problems, Gudi announced himself as a 'doubt' for work reasons and at 12.35 (kick off at 14.00) the name of Jean Louis flashed on the screen of the gaffer's mobile, who answered in sheer panic mood. The flying French was not accusing any kind of unbearable pain but announcing the pull out of his compatriot, Chris, because of work commitments. Fil called Scott the Scot who showed great team spirit by accepting the late call-up.
With a strong wind, bright sun and the usual blue sky the X Men entered the pitch with Jean Louis in goal; Martin, Gudi and Rodri at the back; Joaquin and Mike in midfield; and Bassel upfront. Before the start the gaffer took the strong Mike Perez aside for a quick 'psychological boosting chat'. Thirty seconds into the game the PA man was found by a neat pass alone in front of the goalie and almost avoided the contact with the ball. Clearly Fil's words had worked miracles. Luckily enough a few minutes later the curly striker had managed to erase the motivating tips of the gaffer and coolly finished a great Argie move, orchestrated by Martin on the left and Joaquin on the right. Fil entered for Martin, Andy Scott for Bassel, and the first one hit the bar with a looping strike from distance made vicious by the wind. In Italy we called it 'tiro della domenica', or Sunday shot, a 'try your luck' version of the Sunday roast. The shout of 'unlucky' was heard in the Canal Isabel II stands while the scribbler was already thinking about a wild celebration.
The first half ended with the X Men in the lead thanks to the usual great saves of JL, brave in a couple of 'sorties' and strong in other occasions. "The result doesn't tell the truth" was the correct vision of ESPN analyst Mr. Ainstein. "You're right Martin, but I keep it anyway", answered the gaffer with a bout of cynicism. The X started with the same Men who entered the pitch, wasted a glorious chance with Joaquin, conceded a soft goal but with another great move, again of Argentinian flavour, went in front with Mike's second of the day. Just before the goal Fil decided to bring off Bassel to invest Andy with a white-Diarra role in front of the defence. The move paid off and the sore-line smiled on the X for more than half of the second period. The Blues were also helped by the temporary absence of the lanky striker who had been torturing them up front. A Spanish version of Angel Di Maria, with spaghetti legs capable of any sort of tricks, including a nutmeg with the back-heel to the disoriented and humiliated scribbler. The 'fideo' came back to the pitch and immediately caused havoc once more. No less than three X Men failed to get a grip on a loose ball in midfield and, with the defence wide open, Vavel equalised. Martin came off for Fil and the first thing the gaffer saw was a strong shot passing through his legs to make it 3-2 for the opponents. The X Men went up to look for the draw and were caught by a long ball that 'Spaghetti legs' headed backwards anticipating Jean Louis' exit. A 'golazo', with the opponent complimented with fair play by the gaffer.
The game was over and the calculator came out: Vavel now has 9 points like the X Men, but is virtually over them cause the first rule in case of being level on points is the game between the two sides. Next Monday, at 2pm CET, if they want to reach the 'good' group the men in Blue will have to win against As, the second best team of the group that has a game in hand and could already have qualified, but could also be risking elimination. In any case, a very hard game. The worst-case scenario will see the International side play the second phase in the 'bad' group, where only 2 teams out of 8 will reach the quarter-finals. "It'll be difficult, but not everything is lost", declared the gaffer after a long hot shower attending the press in a new and immaculate white bathrobe. "We have the qualities to beat As and you have to remember that this is a new, young, inexperienced team. The learning process will be long and sometimes will bring unpleasant afternoons like this one, but I firmly think we still have a lot to say in this league".
On Friday night 14 people dined together in the basement of restaurant La Mucca, gathering round the four sides of a huge rectangular table that looked like an 11-a-side pitch. Half of the X Men squad was there and enjoyed the night alongside five girls, including two pregnant women and a French sister. The thin pizza slices moved quickly and precisely across the wooden field in what was a neat passing game, the manoeuvres getting more and more fluid with the hard work of mojitos, beers and rioja down the flanks. For the first X Men dinner the gaffer opted for a no curfew soirée and was rewarded for his benevolence three days later when on a breezy but sunny afternoon the X Men gathered again. This time it was at the usual venue of the Media League, Canal Isabel II, for the last and decisive game of the first phase. A win was needed to enter the the second half of the season in the 'good' part of the table, the group where 6 out of the 8 teams will progress to the quarter-finals.
With Tama, Chris and Andy missing the gaffer had to find a new 'pivote', the pivotal defensive midfielder. The chosen man was Sid, returning to the squad after back problems and Real Madrid coverage. The man who could fill Upton Park with his twitter followers was man of the match, scoring the first goal and offering a five-star performance. The X Men started with Jean Louis in goal; Joaquin, Fil and Rodri in defence; Sid and Mike in midfield; José up front. On the bench sat the Ainstein brothers (Martin and Damian) plus Iain on his second appearance. Fil was only deputising for Gudi, stuck at the Palacio Real with the Highness duo of Juan Carlos and Sofia giving away sport prizes. The blond stopper arrived seven minutes into the game when the X Men were already 2-0 up. After some brilliant dribbling and an angled shot from Sid, José had scored his seventh in three games with the usual thunderbolt from a free kick. With the only self-imposed danger (Filippo) already on the bench the X Men looked reassured and never looked back. They got two more goals before half time from José and Iain, and that was the perfect cushion for the second half to be played against a strong and tricky wind. Jean Louis confirmed his spectacular form with three great saves, one from an incredibly close-range header, and Iain got his second of the day to make it 5-0.
As on Friday, the team showed great spirit, solidarity, composure, order and flair, creating many other chances and never sitting on their 5-0 laurels. The first phase of the tournament was closed in style with four wins and three losses, 25 goals scored and 17 conceded. Now the tough part of the season will start: that pizza will have to be passed even more quickly. And in an alcohol-free environment.
The X Men's hopes of pulling off an upset against high-fliers Marca, current title holders and the only team capable of winning all seven games of the first phase, were briefly lifted before kickoff at a sunny Canal pitch when news leaked out that several of the opposition's best players were absent, including former Boca Junior keeper, the Colombian 'Mono' Montoya, and the 2008 five-a-side World Cup finalist, Brazilian Daniel Ibañes.
However, after a battling first-half performance in which the Xs restricted the respected Spanish daily's team to a 2-1 lead, a combination of fatigue and the gulf in class took its toll and the brave X Men went down 6-1.
Marca may have been depleted but they still fielded some very strong players, particularly the young(ish) number four who ran the show, Xavi-style, in the middle.
The X Men were forced to chase the ball for long periods as their opponents produced some flowing moves and it was only a slew of superb stops from Jean Louis and some cool-headed defending from Gudi that prevented a wider margin of victory.
Marca took an early lead but the X Men struck back when José's powerful free kick clipped a defender before crashing into the back of the net.
A furious gaffer made his feelings known to the referee after he failed to penalise a high Marca foot that nearly decapitated Gudi in the buildup to their second goal, but X Men were reasonably pleased not to be further behind at the break.
The second half was a different story as the wheels came off the merry X Men bandwagon.
The pick of Marca's goals came from their fuzzy-haired photographer (Pablo, best known as Valentino for his incredible Rossi lookalike), who lashed goalwards a left-foot drive that even Jean Louis was powerless to stop, and their classy number four, who scored with a beautifully executed chip near the end.
José cut a lonely figure up front at times and was unable to penetrate Marca's well-drilled defences, while Mike probably had the best effort of the second half when he forced their keeper to save low down with his legs.
The X Men now have a week's break before their next outing, a chance to take stock and recharge batteries for what will no doubt be a challenging season. Onwards and upwards!
X-Men: Jean-Louis; Sid, Gudi, Rodri; Chris, Mike; Jose. Subs: Martin, Damian, Iain.
Plus Filippo, Bassel and Gregorio in supporting roles.
After having broken the nine-year-long Mourinho unbeaten home run on Monday, three members of the historic team that won in Valdebebas – 'Wagner' Lowe, José and Gudi – entered the Canal pitch for the X Men. After the drubbing received by title holders Marca in the first game of the second phase and the postponement of the second game, the X were looking for their first points against a fairly unknown team, Qué!, representing the free press. A brief scouting report by Rodri (and the ref...) made it clear that they had only one outstanding player, a tall guy pretty sure of himself.
With the team on the pitch nice and early, the Gaffer asked for concentration and determination. With the absences of wonder keeper Jean Louis and a few others we entered the pitch with Barassi in goal, Damian, Gudi and Rodrigo in defence, Lowe and Lehousse (that's Chris) in midfield, the in-form José (on the score-sheet on Monday against the Mou team, when he beat the Special One, acting as a goalie in his father's memory, with a precise penalty) up front. On the bench with the injured Gaffer were Martin, Bassel and the Scott. Second game of the season for the Argie keeper, who after appearing in our first outing was then always left out by the Gaffer, and first start for the younger of the Ainstein bros, Dami, preferred to the tactically anarchist Martin in a familiar dispute for the right back position.
With their best man on the bench Qué! was soon under the X cosh: the Men controlling most of the possession with flowing tiqui-taca style. Ball rarely wasted and never at the feet of the opposition, plus our lethal weapon, José, ready to bang in two quick goals with a couple of precise thunderbolts from 15 yards which gave the keeper no chance. By now a rather nervous Gaffer had already started to exchange words with the lanky talented opponent, irritated by the general unpleasantness of the moaning opposition, and José's second goal was celebrated with a loud bit of Mourinhesque teatro. They got a goal back thanks to a defensive mishap but José scored again to make it 3-1. Seconds before half-time the ref awarded the opposition a penalty for a foul clearly comitted outside the box: up stepped the lanky moaner, down went Barassi to save and quickly launch the counter. His long ball left José with only with the keeper to beat but the ref blew his whistle, to the incredulity of the men in red (only for today).
The X Men had lost composure and possession in the second part of the first half and the story went on after the interval. Barassi made some outstanding saves before Chris dispatched another goal for 4-1. And when they pulled one back, José was again at hand to re-establish the three-goal cushion. The last goal of the day came very late and didn't perturb a spirited performance by the X, perhaps a bit shaky at stages, not able to chill the game, but overall always with at least a two-goal advantage.
A tight match, an intelligent ref, three shots off the post, and a very unusual result.
On the hottest day of what 2011 so far the X Men entered the field with their heads wet and some unacceptable stylistic mishaps: shorts of different colours, unwatchable short socks, a shirt that looked like it had been bitten by a few hungry rats. The innate elegance of the Gaffer was gravely insulted, and two of the style traitors were relegated to bench (a decision taken before they had changed, but the message given was that it was a fashion-related move, more than a tactical decision).
We started with JL in goal; Damian, Gudi and Rodri at the back; Sid and Chris in midfield; José upfront. On the bench: Martin, Joaquin and Mike. The opposition, a bunch of youngsters who apparently work for the website Vavel.com, didn't have their best player, a lanky and skilful striker, but fielded a solid goalkeeper, a few slightly thuggish faces and a Kyrgiakos double. Vavel beat a depleted X Men side in the first phase coming from behind in the last moments of the game. Looking for revenge and a victory that would have meant a great step towards the quarter-finals, the first X touch of the game was an assist to the opposition striker who, luckily, wasted a glorious chance. The gaffer had only asked for concentration and his pre-match talk had clearly made its way through the X's minds.
The game immediately looked to be a pretty close affair. Chances were few and far between, neither side dominating, and there was a tense sense of 'who scores first wins'. Vavel hit the post, Jean Louis made two good saves and when at last they looked to have scored, the ball hit the fat bum of their worst player and went out of play. The X were suffering from the intense pressure produced by these young opponents, but looked solid at the back and potentially dangerous. The difficulties in playing the ball on the ground from behind led to an abuse of the 'pelotazo', or long ball, with José isolated and controlled by one of the thug-looking guys: a tattooed skinhead Atletico fan who put up the best defensive performance I've seen so far at the Canal pitch, preventing our 'pichichi' from scoring a single goal in a match for the first time in the season.
The best X move of the game came towards the end of the first half when a string of neat passes led to a perfect cross by Joaquin: José attacked the ball, anticipated his pit-bull but headed the ball just wide. Early on the same José saw his best shot of the day coming off the post. Unlucky!
Before and after the interval the gaffer decided to use Mike in place of Chris in an attempt to gain more power in attack, and, betraying his Italian credentials and upbringing, fielded two attacking full-backs (Damian and Joaquin) in what looked like a very offensive side. This move paid off: the X enjoyed a good phase with the opposition never to be seen in JL's box.
This was followed by a tense and eventful last 10 minutes, in which the International side started to suffer from the heat, lost their composure and almost the game. First a Vavel shot wide of the post was awarded as a goal by the ref. Gudi went mad, the opposition bench started a cheating celebration, the gaffer entered the pitch in silence, and cooly explained to the ref that the ball went out. I have witnesses (of my composure, not of the wide shot). The ref followed the gaffer to have a word with his 'assistant', basically a ball boy that sits on the touchline, and after a few tense moments awarded a goal kick to the X Men. The opposition didn't protest much, they knew it wasn't a goal. They looked sure to score just seconds later but JL was the equal of the lobbed shot and Sid did his part by kicking away the rebound from the goal-line. Then Vavel hit the bar with a powerful shot from distance and the X Men were happy to come away with a point that leaves them fourth in the table, with six teams progressing to the quarter-finals. Another step has been taken in the construction of this newly created side.
(The gaffer was too dispirited after this match to write a report.)
In what the local press presented as the real encounter of the day in Madrid, and certainly not just a curtain raiser for the Champions League Clasico programmed at the Bernabeu five hours later, the X Men gathered at the Canal pitch with the mission of troubling high-flyer Canal+ before launching the demonstration for the footballistic freedom of their companion Tamames, once again deprived of a game in the sun by his vicious Real Madrid employers. The X Men entered the pitch with a solidarity T-Shirt that carried "Free Nelson Tamames" on the chest but the emotional message wasn't enough to secure any points.
Another defeat, against another very good opponent. Once again the X Men came close to glory and went away without points but with some good impressions in their bags. The gaffer changed the system from 3-2-1 to 2-3-1 and started with Edu Barassi in goal, Sid and Rodri in defence, a very positive and never stopping Chris in the middle flanked by the "tio Albertos'" brothers, Damian and Martin Ainstein, José upfront. One and only one recommendation was made prior to kick off: not to concede a goal in the first five minutes. Mission accomplished: we held the TV men for eight minutes before they scored with a brilliant pass-and-move combination between Uzquiano and the lethal number 15: orange socks, fast feet, vicious tongue, silky skills. He'll be our tormentor.
Canal+ had no subs but made up for the absence by keeping the control of the ball, making the X Men run behind la 'pelotita'. The X wasted energies but kept cool heads and, five minutes later, drew level with Rodri's first goal of the season, an intelligent correction in front of goal of Chris' shot. Then it was Edu's time to show once again that we have two great keepers, saving twice from number 15. The first half ended with a good shot from José. Andy and Iain had already come on, Joaquin was ready to follow.
After another great palmed save by Edu and an unusual shot with José's forgotten right foot, Canal scored again. The X had started the second half with composure and calm and kept pushing for the second equaliser of the afternoon. José came close again but in the 19th minute a defensive mistake allowed number 15 to establish a two goal cushion for 'el Plus'. That lasted just a single minute: José was at hand to score his 14th of the season, assisted by Damian, who had a wonderful game on the left flank. With seven minutes to go the X went forward to chase the draw and were soon caught again by number 15 on a counter-attack that the brilliant Sid couldn't stop. The game was over, but without complaints: a strong performance against a team who have won all their games bar one (a draw against top of the table TVE) was not sufficient to get what would have been a great point. In the second half Canal created four chances and scored three goals, keeping possession and getting the X Men tired and frustrated.
Now the X won't play for a week, preparing for the first ever three-sided match held in Spain and the first ever European tie for the Madrid team against Philosophy Football FC. Then in the following week there'll be the last two crucial matches of the second phase: on 9 May a must win against bottom of the table BBVA and then on the 12th a six-pointer against As. Then the third regional X Men dinner will be served on a terrace. Meat on the cards, more news on that soon.
Following his infamous accusation that BBVA had bought the media league's referees (and why not?; the fucking banks own everything else), 'Lo Speciale' was banned from the scene of this crunch clash. A huge must-win game against, suspiciously, BBVA. And without political prisoner Tama, still incarcerated in his Bernabeu cell. 'Lo Speciale' was suffering too under lock and key. Stuck at home, all he could do was arrange his wife and children, including recent arrival and future X-Woman Emma, in chairs in front of him and repeat constantly, in a high-pitched, whining voice: "por que?"
Or so it seemed. They couldn't keep a good man down. 'Lo Speciale' thought about hiding in Chris's laundry basket but then decided it wasn't such a good idea - he would probably come out of it the wrong colour and covered in holes. Luckily, he had another cunning plan up his sleeve: he sent a Blackberry message to Sid and Rodri, outlining another tactical masterclass.
"Feeling terrible, can't make it," the maestro's message said, as 'Lo Speciale' gained another advantage with yet more brilliant mind games. "We start with JL, Rodri and Gudi in def, Sid and Joaquin wide, Chris in the middle, José upfront. Bassel change on the flank, mark change for Rodri in defence. Chris could be late, if he's late, Sid starts in the middle and Bassel and Joaquin wide."
The plan had just one flaw: it was rubbish. And so were the X Men, despite a sneaky quick free-kick from José giving them the lead. With the wide men scared to leave opponents behind them, they dropped deep, effectively making it four at the back. A huge gap opened up in the middle, with José stranded and lonely up front, running round on his own and winning lots of free kicks by the clever tactic of stopping and looking sad at the ref. Chris had no chance of filling a hole the size of Iran and almost as dangerous. Even the introduction of Mark and Bassel could not change the game.
The onslaught was horrific, so was the play on a dry pitch and with a terrible bouncy black ball. Somehow, though, the X Men survived. Three times, BBVA hit the post. At half time something had to change. Karankah took over, no longer listening to his master's voz (the voice of the puto amo), and the X Men went to three at the back, two in midfield and José up front. Karankah must apologise here for not turning more to Mark and Bassel but the game was close. Which is more than can be said for his control. The X Men at least plugged the gap a bit (now it was only the size of Wales) and, for a moment, they created a chance or two - one of them woefully wasted by Sid.
At the other end, another post and a goal, while France's famous feline Jean-Louis was in typically sparkling form. Gudi and Rodri too had to rescue the side more than once. But, despite largely playing like the culo, and sweating like a whore at confession, the X Men hit two more, through José and Chris. 3-2 it finished. And this time it was the poor bastards from BBVA asking: "Por que?"
Por que? Porque WE ARE THE X MEN!!!!
(With this win, the X Men have qualified for the quarter finals.)
The first in a mini-series of 'Clasicos' against As saw El Mister opt for a clever deception plan, fielding the 'reserves' on Thursday, and resting some of his big guns for Monday's quarter-final.
Edu was standing tall in goal, Joaquin, Mark and Andy were patrolling the back line while Sid and Iain were looking to provide the bullets for X sharpshooter José, who has the league's 'Pichichi' award within his sights. But that sixteenth goal proved elusive.
As won the first mini-battle, avoiding having to wear the 'petos' as both sides turned up wearing blue shirts, and the X Men had to don red bibs – an extra layer that wasn't entirely appropriate considering the temperature.
It was an evenly balanced opening period, both sides knocking the ball around nicely. Alfedro Relano would have choked on his pencil at a miss from his boys when their striker volleyed over an open goal from close range.
José and Iain had chances at the other end, but the half ended with the scores level at 0-0. However the timely arrival of domesticated dad Fil at half-time, complete with baby daughter Emma in her pram, provided the impetus the X Men needed.
Throw on Bassel, said the boss, drop José back into midfield, and Bingo! X-Men were in front.
José squared for the Lebanese Lion on the edge of the area ... first he went one way, then the other ... and squeezed a shot in off the post.
Unfortunately, As quickly levelled when Edu thought he was an England goalkeeper for a moment and fumbled a ball in the area, allowing them to equalise.
Little by little, X Men dropped deeper and deeper as the Madrileno sports rag pressed.
There was a spectacular goal-line clearance from Joaquim, Rodri flung himself in front of another effort, the ball crashed against our post twice, and Edu pulled off a flying save to touch another shot on to the crossbar, the bearded one more than making up for his earlier aberration with this spectacular effort.
Andy's attempt to win a penalty in a one-on-one with their keeper lacked theatrics and guile, and happened about a minute too late, but the referee was not fooled.
The X Men just lacked a little precision and maybe directness going forward at times, but our opponents will be none the wiser come Monday's showdown!
"Never take into account the possibility of succeeding – only the impossibility of failing". This was the first of two Don Winslow-inspired messages from the gaffer ahead of the quarter-final against AS.
The third Clasico of the season, with the X Men winning the first 5-0 when the opponents were already qualified for the second phase, and the second one ending 1-1. "Only one team will stay on, goodbye", was the last tweet posted by José Luis a few hours before the game to a few members of the opposition. It was the perfect conclusion of the #mindgames started by Sid a day before. A 140-character battle serenely won by the inspired tweeting of the X Men.
A few other battles were won before the start of the game: the gaffer pulled a great ace out of his smart Armani jacket, arriving at the pitch in an impeccable sartorial condition – in defiance of the scorching sun – and with Javi Tamames. The midfield maestro was literally sneaked out of the Bernabeu under the cold vigilance of Jorge Valdano and Paul Breitner, there to discuss a possible loan of Tamames to Bayern Munich.
The introduction of Tama into the commune dressing room upset the opposition, that had been cleverly led (via Twitter) to believe that our 'cerebro' was once again not available. "Surprise surprise, Tama is here with us." Then the X Men easily commandeered the right bench, the 'lucky' one, and refused to wear the red bibs, already used in the match against As of last Thursday and considered chromatically confusing. Such determination off the pitch was soon matched on it.
The X started with Jean Louis in goal, Gudi and Sid in defence, Rodri, Tama and Chris in the middle, José upfront. The whole squad bar Paul, busy writing about Hulk, was on the bench in support. An amazing act of discipline and love of the camiseta. Capello's famous 'espiritu' was flying high.
The game itself was a cagey affair. The X started well, passing the ball, gaining three corners in rapid succession and controlling the opponents with composure. In the second part of the first half the correspondents lost possession and endured a brief period of sufferance. As missed a couple of good chances with the X sleeping but the 'bloody foreigners' survived. Damian had been the only change of the first half, when he entered on the right for Damian. At the beginning of the second half Rodri came back for Tama, with Chris moving to the middle, but Damian was to prove decisive: the Argie robbed the ball in midfield and served a perfect assist for José, who was moving towards the top left corner of the box. The La Sexta man controlled with his only foot and unleashed a diagonal shot that went into the far corner. A great goal, and after just 2 minutes of the second half the X were in front.
Both teams knew that the team which scored first would have a great advantage, but almost an entire half was still to be played. Tama came back in for Chris, and in the middle of the half the game was won. First the Real Madrid presser won a ball in midfield and quickly launched the counter looking for José. The striker started a diagonal run from right to left with a defender trying to encourage the man marking the X pichichi, shouting: "He's left footed, he's left footed." To no avail: José armed his cañon and scored his second of the day, the 19th of his great campaign. The gaffer went mad, shouting repeatedly: "Yes, he's left footed, and you can't stop him." That was on 15 minutes; less than 60 seconds later Tamames decided to repay the audience with a fantastic solo goal, running 50 yards of the pitch and unleashing a great shot for a 3-0 lead.
The last 10 minutes of the game gave another demonstration of the great class of Jean Louis who, talking to journalists after the match, announced that his French club has not renewed their loan to the X Men, so he'll be returning to his native country as soon as next week, straight after the end of the Madrid season: "But I want to leave with more silverware in my crocodile suitcase," said the flamboyant French goalie. "Winning the Three-Sided medal just gave me more hunger." In the press conference the gaffer confirmed the absence of Tamames for the semi-final, and the expected change between the posts: "I'm not changing my policy cause it's a semi-final. Today I played Jean Louis; on Wednesday it'll be Barassi. Tama? He'll be in Murcia with Real Madrid. I don't want to create problems here, I know that Real's friendly is for a good cause (Lorca's earthquake, ndr) but the facts are there to be seen: Tama just played for us in 3 out of 17 games. Por qué?"
Ah, the second Winslow message? "We only have to consider the action. So just think about the success, because the failure needs no thoughts to be fulfilled."
The X Men got it. And made history.
A bench was won, a semifinal lost, but what a game by the X Men!
Less then 48 hours after their brilliant win over As the X Men were again called onto the Canal pitch, for their 16th game of the season. They had to face one of the best sides of the tournament, TVE, unbeaten in the second phase and enriched by at least five great players. They had to do it without the experience of Tama (not released by Real Madrid), the strong smile of Martin and the lucky camera of Bassel.
The X Men's spirit was flying though and they immediately made it clear to the TV men that they would have to face problems if they were to get to the final. It was Barassi's turn in goal; in front of him were Gudi and Sid, with Dami, Chris and Rodri in midfield and José up front. The X first half was almost perfect. TVE had most of the possession but couldn't create much in front of a disciplined and strong defence protected by Chris, running for two, strengthened by Gudi, in his best outing of the season, helped by Sid, Rodri and Dami, who were impeccable. José was working hard and trying to exploit every single pass arriving from behind. The X produced the best two combinations of the half, with neat and flowing passes completed by good strikes, and were saved twice by Edu. The River Plate fan was dreaming of a final against former Boca Juniors keeper 'Mono' Montoya (Marca's goalie), and first parried a strong low shot from distance and then made a superb save with his hand sending the ball onto the bar and out. The first half was almost perfect – only almost, because on 23'25", with 95 seconds left on the clock, TVE, increasingly nervous and surprised by the solidity of the X, managed to score. Seconds before, Iain, on for Damian, had a great shot saved by the TVE keeper.
The X men showed great character and 2 minutes into the second half created a glorious chance: Dami was one on one with the keeper but his diagonal shot was saved. TVE started the second part with most of their best players on the bench, but the Blues couldn't score. Then disaster struck. Rodri won a ball in midfield but the ref gave TVE a nonexistent free kick. A big mistake by the ref, followed by a big mistake by the X. They were still protesting, no one went onto the ball, TVE took the free kick two yards out of position and with the ball moving: two passes and a goal, 2-0.
The gaffer decided to take risks: off came Damian, in went the half-injured Mike, up front, with José moving to the left. The attacking move paid almost immediately. In previous games during the season the X had shown limitations in character when they were trailing. Not today. They created a good chance for Chris and then José found his 20th goal of the season, with more than 15 minutes left on the clock. Game on! But not for long. With the Blues pushing forward to chase the draw TVE launched a great counter to make it 3-1 in no time. And a minute later a mistake in midfield by the Blues led to a 4-1 lead for TVE.
The game was over, and so was the X Men's tournament. But what a team, what a season. Recruited in a few days and constructed week after week, this team composed of a bunch of bloody foreigners and enforced by a few valid local players, players mostly unknown to each other, has become the talk of the town and the real surprise of the tournament. "It has been a great pleasure to share these 4 months with these 17 friends," said the gaffer in his press conference after the match. "We learnt a lot and next year we'll be back to fight for the title. I want to thank all the players for their effort, their commitment, and their patience."
PS: The funniest moment of the day happened minutes before the game. The Blues wanted at all costs the 'lucky' bench, the right one. But apparently the Whites too had the same intention. Before the semi-final the pitch was being used by some youngsters, with female friends sat on 'that' bench. The gaffer got closer and closer, attacking the plastic seats from the left. Meanwhile TVE was getting a lot of players on the other side, advancing towards the bench in numbers. When the youngsters had enough and stopped their game the gaffer did a 'butragueno' and in no time was sitting upon the bags of the chicos. TVE had no time to react, and the bench was conquered. The men in white were surprised and started to moan, with the gaffer turning a deaf ear (and laughing his heart out at the super-silly situation). The first battle was won; the second, almost.
It's with great pride that I announce the birth of Philosophy Football Madrid (for the record the actual DOB is 19th of March 2007). I enrolled a team with this name in a 7 a side tournament here in the Spanish capital. I have a name, I paid 54 euros from my own pocket, but I don't have a team yet. I have started the recruitment campaign from scratch, first inclusions include Giacomo's cousin, Giulio, the Danish goalie that played with the Legends here in Madrid, a former schoolmate of mine from Rome the Guardian journalist Sid Lowe, but it's still early days and my skill on the International football market is going to be tested severely. Fussy Spanish are also hassling me with proper registration cards, with picture and passport number (Hackney Marshes style...), but I desperately wanted to start my own PF adventure here so I'm ready for the burocratical challenge tooo. We have 3 games guaranteed, and our debut will be on Saturday 22nd of April (if I'll have the players...). I'll keep you posted.
Ciao from Madrid,
The team is shaping up. After an hectic week on the transfer market in the Spanish capital I have now completed the registration of 12 players. It's a 7 a side tournament, but I need at least 4 more players. Till now I have 4 Italians (including myself and Giacomo's cousin, Giulio), 5 English 2 Spanish and a Dane. Tomorrow at Valdebebas I'm posed to sign a few more locals. A Swedish guy that had applied has then decided not to follow up and withdrawn.
He has lost the chance to play alongisde Miss Rourke, my most prestigious coup as a scout ever. Last Monday I went to Real Madrid tv to record a program that (incidentally) is shown duiring the week in Great Britain (Real Madrid tv is on Sky, watch out for Extra Time). One of the English guys that I signed, Joel, told me that Claire wanted to join the team. I thought it was a joke, but he insisted. "She's surely better than me". So I took notice and I got her email. While talking to Joel, it emerged that Claire played for Doncaster Belles, and left to come to Madrid.
I'm still not sure if the macho Spanish culture will let her play with men, but if they'd say no, I think we're in for a good philosophical fight. I've never seen her play, so I don't know how good she is. But she's 22, thin, and apparently fit. I think we can shock the opponents and score a couple of goals in the first minutes only with her presence on the pitch.
Now I have only one final doubt: where is she going to have a shower?
PF Madrid 7 Optica Roma 1
Another sunny and easy morning for PF Madrid. We beat Optica Roma 7-1. A team of youngsters (mostly 18 years old), with no guts, passion, malice, nothing. Went for the salts at halftime already 5-nil up, and played with no gas in the second half. It looks like this is an easy League, hopefully not so easy. Needless to say that I DIDN'T get onto the scoresheet, my best (and only) effort being saved by the keeper, plus a couple of one-twos with René Ramos ending with the ball skidding miles away...
PF (3-2-1): Serrano (known as 'latigo', whip in English, for his pungent and bitter comments on Radio Marca); Sid (the Guardian correspondant doesn't know who's Pasolini..., with this he'll never wear a PF shirt), Gudiño (our opponents were phisically scared by our Big Brian, honestly a gentle giant), Fil; Roberto, Joel (another Englishman working at Real Madrid tv); René (the sulky brother of Sergio Ramos). Bench: Javi (my teammates forced me to cheat bringing an extra player as cover, despite him not being registered. I didn't want to and I was right given the opposition).
Goals: Roberto 1, Javi and René 3 each.
Next Saturday we're not playing, back on the pitch the 10th of November,
If I'm not wrong one year ago you were here in Madrid. Great memories.
Another victory for the Spanish Thinkers, so it's now 4 in a row, and 4 out of 4. We won 8-2 starting very well and suffering a kind of come back when the opponents scored with the Blonde Big Brian lying on the floor injured to make it 4-2. We thought they were kicking the ball in touche, but they decided to stop the play putting it in our net instead. A re-interpration of fair play. Nothing serious though, without their worst element (that's myself, blocked by a strong flu) PF Madrid displayed some wonderful football and now await the big match. Next Saturday we'll play Tancitaro, the team that have beaten us in our spring debut (5-2), and, most of all, the only other team in the League that have won 4 out of 4. Leadership at stake on the Breogan (fake) grass.
PF Madrid 8 Los Ultimos de la Fila (literally, the last ones in the queue) 2
PF Madrid (3-2-1): Danish Mikkel; Guardian Sid, Gudi BBB, Sun Eric; Matilla, Roberto; Rene Ramos
The oldest of the Ramos brothers scored 5 goals, then a few hours later went to the Bernabeu to watch his younger brother netting the third in the 3-0 of Spain against Sweden. Other goals from Eric, Roberto and Matilla.
When we went to play in Bra for the Slow Foot tournament, we were looking for a keeper. The Gaffer alerted his trusted Italian scout (myself) and I spread the voice between the usual suspects (Luigi, Lele, Matteo, for geographical reasons I had to rely on the Italian net) for ideas and suggestions. Normally in these situations the first thing you look for is a 'true philosopher'. But this time in our long debates I thought we should do something different, trying to find a woman ready to defend our goal.
The Gaffer brilliant tale on our Bra tour (available on the PF site) explains very well what went on behind the scenes in those hot and in some ways frustrating days (we couldn't get hold of our first choice, Eva Russo (great goalie of the Iatlian national team suspended for doping after testing positive for cannabis who went on to become an actress), then Torino didn't allow their keeper to join us, for example).
Finally we got Valentina. A joy for us and protagonist of the controversial episode of the day in Bra. A female version of Kieran, spiky hair, slim, blonde, smiling, she really happened to be a true philosopher.
Yesterday I was in Malaga, to cover the charity game 'Friends of Ronaldo' vs 'Friends of Zidane'. And know what fat Ron has decided to do? To copy us, inviting Marta to play alongside the men. Marta is Brazilian and plays in Sweden. She was voted player of the year by Fifa in 2006. Before the game, the commentator of Sky Italia called me to get the line ups. In the first version I had, Marta was there. So I told him that Ronaldo had copied our idea, and he promised to say that live, telling our story in Bra. He's a good friend, and likes PF.
But... Marta didn't show up. Cause, even for Ronaldo, it's easy to try and copy PF ideas, but it's then difficult to realize them. The Phenomenon should have called the Gaffer for advice and a word or two on scouting and recruiting.
Aston Birra 0 PF Madrid 3
Another sunny day in Madrid with the kick off at midday granting a warmer game than the previous one.
Playing against one of the best team in our (to be honest quite poor) league: Aston Birra, that's Aston Beer, but with the Italian word gets closer to Aston Villa...
Down from 9 to 7 in the brief space of two sms, here we are, limping and panting after the brilliant 2-2 of the day before in the 'derby de la prensa', or 'press derby', the usual game between the journos of Real Madrid and Atletico's. We (that's Real's press) came back from 2-0 down and René hit the bar with a late penalty that would have given us the win.
Sid, injured in the last two months, played 30' in the derby and was again on the pitch this morning. For myself two games in two days are definitely too much, Joel got injured after 15' and stoically fought until the end, Roberto was kicked badly midway the second half but stayed on. For a good part of the second half we were basically playing in 5: me and Sid just hanging on with experience and luck, the other 3, the Whip, Eric and René, playing outstandingly. We ended the first half 2-0 up and after surviving a storm in the first 10 minutes of the second we scored our third and then fought hard to keep a clean sheet, with Miguel the keeper saving everything, including a penalty for Sid's handball.
Personally, these are the games that give a reason to all the hard work I have to do on and off the pitch. On: running behind youngster that could be my sons. Off: running behind teammates that are too young not to go out and have a 'few drinks' on Friday night. And remember that the Spanish drink at least like the English. Only, they smile more and 'aggro' less. To see the team gelling, fighting, moving, running, enjoying, shouting all together gives sense to (almost) everything. To see the hard work of the more modest players contributing to the great results reached through the skill of the most talented ones really shows you the meaning of the word team.
So if the winter in London looks long and cruel, if you think that Willesden is far away, that you're tired, annoyed, fucked in any way, think twice. And get onto the pitch with a red PF shirt on. You'll feel better later on. That could be a month or a year on, cause these are inspirational feelings that stay with you for a long time.
Hope to see you soon (and we have real chance of doing that apparently)
PF Madrid (3-2-1): Miguel the Whip; Sid, Fil, Eric; Roberto, Joel; René, Ramos (Eric 2, René 1)
PF Madrid 3 Tancitaro 'A' 1
In our little Scottish league, the day of the Old Firm finally came. After having charged the boys with a few sms during the last ten days, we found ourselves at the Breogan pitch for the 11 am kick off. I had also called the organizer of the league asking for the best possible ref, and after having obtained lenghty assurances, we found on the pitch the ref that basically cost us the game in the first leg against the same team, someone that doesn't like us and makes no effort to hide his feelings.
With Matilla in Paris and Tamames working at Real Madrid, we had 9 men able to play. But Sid was flying in at Barajas at 10.05 after receiving his doctorate in England the day before and catching a 6.45 flight to Madrid, and Gudiño, the Blonde Big Brian, was having a late fitness test after his two months absence for a recurring hernia problem. Also to mention the notable effort of Big Brother René, who came from Sevilla to play the 'Clasico'.
Despite a 40 minutes delay of Sid's flight we entered the pitch with The Whip in goal, Sid and Eric on the wings, Gudi in the middle of the defense, Roberto and René in midfield and Jose upfront. Me and Joel on the bench with Gregorio. No trace of the two wonderful wags that had accompanied René in the previous game. To make things worse, they were subbed by a couple of Gitanos friends of the Ramos family. Unfair for those who were warming the bench...
We decided to play fair without calling unregistered stars to strenghten the team for the Big One, but the opponents decided that fairness wasn't their bread and butter for that day. They entered the pitch with at least two unfamiliar faces, a keeper (very good, ça va sans dire...) and a powerful defender, with, as I pointed out to him at the end of the game, had thighs 'too big and muscle shaped for this league'. Apparently he was a professional of the 5 a side league. And he smiled at my joke at the end, admitting the cheat...
And this fellow with Rummenigge-like muscles introduced himself to our league by curling a free kick into the net at the first attempt, after just a few minutes.
We were very nervous. Silly Eric was playing despite being injured, repeating 'Im' fine, Im' fine' after every mistake, Jose was caught by his own personal illness, the 'raulitis', something that make the striker come back to his own box to look for the ball, leaving noone upfront and wasting an enormous amount of energy, BBB was worried for his hernia and with a lot of pounds more than a couple of months ago was regularly outpaced by the skillful opponents, Roberto was moaning against everyone.
Despite all this, we didn't lose composure and relying, as always, on the skillful shoulders of the Big Brother, we manage to score twice before halftime: first with a solo effort of René, second with a great pass of Rob for René who had his shot blocked by the keeper onto the path of the upcoming Sid. We also played in 6 for 5 minutes for an absurd sin-bin for Roberto for a tackle in midfield. Not even a foul, not even in Spain, never mind in England.
The interval was hilarious: Roberto started to argue with Eric and Jose. More than an argument, almost a fight. And we were winning! He had a point though: after a couple of minutes into the second half Eric finally admitted to himself that he wasn't for playing and he left way to Joel. We scored a third, again with René, and could have scored more.
But because we have to play attractive football, a few chances went begging cause of nutmegs, back-heels, flick and other unnecessary (to the Italian concrete eyes) tricks. And we end up suffering a bit, Tancitaro pressuring and shooting, with Miguel agitating his whip with the usual maestry. I entered the pitch with 10 minutes to go as Jose had to go to work, and did no damage.
To cap a wonderful day we couldn't leave the pitch without a classic handbags scene. The last kick of the game was actually a 'patada' from behind directed from an opponent to the delicate ankle of BB René. The Sevillano didn't like it, and while the ref was whistling the end of the game Mr. Ramos had to be restrained by the powerful arms of BBB. Gudi looked like a blonde octopus trying to stop a little piranha in reaching his objective, his arms/theet swinging towards the opponent. Around them the atmosphere was calm and relaxed, with people shaking hands. This making the fighting scene even funnier.
René tried and tried to get his revenge in similar fashion to the argument he had in Madrid with Tamber, but his intention to reach the opponents bench was frustrated too.
So we won this vital game, but it won't be enough to win the league unless Tancitaro lose points somewhere (given for granted that we won all our remaining fixtures). The rules say that with the same number of points comes into account the goal difference of the two games: we lost 9-4 (it was 8-4 but the same ref put it down as a 9-4, then said 'sorry, but I can't correct it now') and won 3-1. So we're trailing by 3 goals and that's it.
Both us and them have to play a couple of 'tricky' games, let's hope that they can lose or draw one.
Ciao from Madrid,
PF Madrid 7 Don't even remember their name 2
I know it has been a black Monday over in London, so to cheer you up I tell you a nice story from Madrid.
On Saturday we won 7-2. Not playing exceptionally like the week before: we entered the pitch a bit softly cause we knew the opponents weren't that good. Mistake. The result was blocked for a long time in the first half, then finally our super couple upfront Jose the Raulista and René the Andalus started to score one after another. On 4-1 we relaxed again. The opponents scored, and then scored another one, but, amazingly, the ref didn't see that the ball had crossed the line. It was a good metre in! Obviously, on the same counter we scored. From 4-3 to 5-2. Cynical. The 'chavales' or young boys in Spanish, rightly started to get nervous and gave us a few 'patadas' or kicks, a surprise in this mild league. On of this kids walked deliberately on my right foot (the half half half decent one) and to ease the awful pain I was feeling I decided to punish him in an unusual (for me and my standards) way.
I went up in their box and wait for a long ball from Gudiño. I saw the ball oofing, then starting his descent in my neighbourood. "I'll flick it", I said proudly to myself. I'm giving the back to the goal, on the penalty spot. I go for the flick, but I'm late. The ball hits me on the lower part of the back (no, not the ass...) and goes in leaving the keeper stranded. I decide for composure in the celebration, but I'm mobbed by the team mates. It's 6-2, it'll end 7-2.
We have 3 more games before the end of the tournament, and 2 of them are tricky for us and our contenders at the top of table.
PF Madrid (3-2-1): Mikkel; Joel, Filippo, Lorenzo; Roberto, René; Jose. Plus Gudiño
Ciao from Sevilla,
PS: and cheer up!
A match report is not enough for a sensational end o f the Madrid league, so watch this space, I'll keep producing in the next few days.
FRIDAY NIGHT, 7th of March
Frantic negotiations on the eve of an important game leave me without a keeper. In this little Scottish league tomorrow we travel to Edimburgh to face mighty Hearts. That's the Naranja Mecanica, or Clockwork Orange in Spanish, one of the two third-placed teams. We have to win to keep the pressure on Tancitaro, who, two hours before us, are entertaining Aston Birra, the other third force. I go to bed praying for a defeat of our rivals, and praying for myself too, obliged to wear the gloves tomorrow and play in goal. The to Michaels had this to say. Spanish Miguel: always ready to come up with the most common excuses, but offering them like there were as new as the latest Beckham haircut: "I went to the doctor and he recommended two day of absolute rest". Danish Mikkel was more honest: "My mother in law is over, and Africa (his wife, not only with a curious name, but also pregnant) has other plans for me than playing football". I insist with the Dane (s)meichel, he gives everything in a discussion with mighty Africa, and comes back to me almost crying: "They (lovely Africa and his mother) having a proper go at me. I shouldn't have insisted, we're in a pre-crisis situation". I feel sorry for him, I apologise for my insistence and grab the gloves. I'll play in goal.
SATURDAY MORNING, 8th of March
We should be 8, we're down to 7. Our Blonde Big Brian has to work, so he pulled out. This leaves us with me in goal, Sid, Roberto and Joel in defense, Javi and Lorenzo in the middle, René upfront. Javi is the Real Madrid press officer, midfield maestro. But Roberto is not at ease in defense, and with myself between the sticks it's guaranteed we'll suffer. Firs bad news of the day: Tancitaro had beaten Aston Birra 4-3, risking the draw at the end, but surviving. We start. The young opponents have most of the possession, and score soon with a diagonal shot I can't stop. Not a 'golazo', but certainly too much for my short lateral reach. I'm worried, and rightly so. We are not playing well upfront, and I have to save a one on one with an opponent with bravery and a slice of luck. Seconds before halftime, we equalise with Javi. We move Sid in the middle of the defence, Lorenzo on the lmeft, Joel on the right, Roberto in midfield. And they (not we) decide to go for the jugular. I don't understand the tactic, we have time to score, and the outcome is a classic: they score a second with a brilliant move. My desperate attempt to come out of my line ends up upending Sid (!). It'd be a clear penalty if he wasn't my teammate. Then I'm touched by some inspiration, and in quick succession I save another one on one and tip against the bar and to a corner a powerful shot from distance. The scare finally produces the effect we hoped: René draws level, then scores the 3-2. It's minutes before the end, and my celebration is wild. Their kick off, we score the 4-2. Before I celebrated alone, now I decide to join my teammates. I'm still halfway through my way back to the goal when I see the ball entering my net. They've kicked quickly and score from the central spot. One minute left, 4-3. We hang on, and we win.
Their captain comes to us vivid and says: "Whatever the result, you'll lose this game". We don't care, we win, we celebrate, we sing. We had a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful game today. Full of spirit, class, determination, intent, bravery, cojones (balls for you).
Saturday 8th of March - Around midday
The game has finished. The celebration is short. The ref is in his car, around him the captains of the Clockwork Orange and of Tancitaro. I feel something strange is going on, so I approach the car. This lovely guy from Tancitaro, Santiago, has waited for 3 hours to offer a lifeline to our opponents: a small piece of paper that says that René has been suspended for the handbags that followed ensuite our brilliant win against Tancitaro three weeks before. "Agresion altamente lesiva", says the piece of paper, that's GBH; more or less. And the suspension duly follows: one year and a half. Yes, this current season plus the full 2008-2009 one. Not a single blow was traded. Not a punch, nothing. Just a few menaces, and some attempts to reach tho opponent frustrated by the imposing figure of the Blonde Big Brian. The ref saw it differently, and described accordingly: to read his words you'd think that a nose was broken, blood run, a rush to the hospital due, and a call to the police ensued. No. We left the pitch together, and after the match me and the Whip went to see the ref. He didn't tell me anything, despite me asking, 'everything ok?'. He said 'no probs', and cowardly avoided to raise the question of Rene's behaviour. I'm enraged with the stab in the back received from Tancitaro: the guy joking and saying they want me in their team as a keeper and then presenting the document not to us but to our opponents. I grab the piece of paper from the ref's car and pass it to René. The outcome is obvious. He ran towards the young captain of Clockwork Orange and throws it right to his face, accompanying it with a few nice words. He doesn't react, also beacuse his teammates, now aware of what's going on, don't like his behaviour. In the meantime Santiago has disappeared. The complain won't change their position in the table, nor the one of Tancitaro.
The league doesn't have a website, nor send emails or sms. The only way you can discover your fate is going to their clubhouse. Every week.
Saturday 8th of March - Around 2 pm
Bsck at home, it comes to my mind that I have the phone number of Santiago. I prepare myself, then I launch myself in a long tirade in Spanish. A few insults, and a few concept about sportmanship and his awful behaviour. What a miserable life you must live, I tell him, to act like this to win a Mickey Mouse league you were going to win anyway. He's very sheepish, my words creeps in his silly head. I hang up. After a while he calls back. I don't answer. He calls again. I don't answer. He changes his mobile, I see a new number and answer. "I'm terribly sorry" he says. "I feel awful, how could I have done something like that? I should have told you first. When I realised what was going on I had to leave cause I was ashamed", and similar. "I want to help you, please, let me help you". So now we have a ridiculous situation: the guy who's just fucked our season is begging to help. I know we won't achieve much, but I agree with him that he'll go to plead our innocence in front of the 'comité', the jury of league, on Monday.
I'm off to Barcelona for the Barça-Villarreal game...
Monday morning - 10th of March
Spain awake more democratic than ever thanks to the second win of Zapatero, but the mind of our league is not set on the same lengthwave. Santiago calls me on my way back from Barcelona: "I went to the jury and explained what happened. They didn't change their mind about the suspension of René and most of all about the game of Saturday. You're going to lose it". Santiago adds that the Liga chief, Eloy, is open to talk. 'A tomar por culo', I think, fuck you all.
Friday at noon - 14th of March
The end is looming. I finally manage to speak with Eloy and he confirms what Santiago told me: the ref has the last word and we'll have to demonstrate that he declared something that didn't happened. It's not enough for the Liga that the supposed victim of the GBH is ready to testify that he wasn't even touched. And cause we have used a suspended player, we have now 0 (ZERO) points in the table. I tell him that on the Marca site (the main sport paper in Spain, that's Marca) we still have the same points, running co-leader and second in the table. "That's not updated".
I'm also struggling to field a team for tomorrow morning, when we should play at 9. So I take my decision: we quit the league. I print the page with the table 'not updated' and send an sms to my players. 'That's it'. I receive many calls and messages all in the same mood: 'Well done'. The point is that with a family and a busy job I can't find the time to argue with this kind of people. Once the ref has written his false report without even alerting me that my player could be in trouble, we enter a territory where no negotiation is possible. Previous useless discussions with league organizers in Rome and London confirm my opinion. I'm too old to fight with this nonsense. I call the opponent's captain for tomorrow match and tell him we won't be at the pitch.
Saturday, 2 pm - 15th of March
The impossible has happened: Tancitaro drew with the 'spill the beans' Naranja Mecanica: 4-4. We beat them 4-3 the previous Saturday with me in goal, before being reported and lose all the points. I knew that was an heroic game, and I was right. So, finally, Tancitaro have dropped points: with 2 wins we would have been champions and progressed to the next phase. We feel like moral winners, but the table says now that we are last, rock bottom with -2 points.
Theorically I still have the idea to go with Roberto to speak to Eloy to get the ban to René at least reduced. But I won't enroll the team in the cup that's starting in April. We'll look for another league. And we'll keep fighting .