max grieve

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On technology, empathy, and ref-cam

We can shoot video with a pair of glasses now. With the same pair of glasses, we can also translate languages, search the Internet, find directions, and send text messages, if we are willing to pay $1500 and look a little foolish. I can’t vouch for their optical capacity. It seems like the future, but today. It’s all too fast, but we’re here.

It seems strange, then, that it’s taken until now, the point at which we can search the Internet using a pair of glasses, to strap a camera to a referee’s head to see what they see, but that is now happening in Super Rugby, in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The footage is extraordinary and, perhaps most importantly, brings out a sense of empathy for those in charge of the game.

Referees suffer deaths of a thousand angles. Any given decision is shot from ten different viewpoints, but the referee has only one. Forget negatively weighted boots and impossibly spherical balls. Strap a camera to Howard Webb’s head this weekend as he goes out to handle Manchester United and Chelsea. There’s a real advancement. [Words by Max Grieve]

T-Minus Blackout

10.00am: Nothing

11.00am: Nothing

12.00am: Harry Redknapp seen in car

01.00pm: Nothing

02.00pm: Berbatov released from cage; the world smiles

03.00pm: “Andy Carroll is a valued player for Liverpool Football Club”

04.00pm: “Reading are closed for business, nothing in nothing out, Reading are closed”

05.00pm: Kaka to Reading

06.00pm: “We have agreed a fee with Mars for the sale of Andy Carroll”

07.00pm: Harry Redknapp still in car; now eating butter with a tablespoon

08.00pm: Walcott runs; crosses; goal-kick

09.00pm-09.08pm: News on world events (bus crash kills thousands; New Zealand sinks)

09.08pm-10.00pm: Nothing

10.00pm: Messi does something amazing

11.00pm: AC Milan agree record fee for Nicklas Bendtner; Italy burns

11.59pm: Michael Owen sits in corner weeping; strokes his BBC Sports Personality of the Year 1998 award

MIDNIGHT: Universe gives up; implodes. Only Harry Redknapp remains; eating butter

Max Grieve

Nicklas Bendtner is still alive!

Are vertical stripes thinning or fattening?

By Max Grieve

Since arriving in Turin dressed like Alan Partridge, Nicklas Bendtner’s time at Juventus has been as action-packed as a night spent watching every one of the Die Hard films during a lightning storm with all the windows open. His request for the No. 10 shirt, then-recently vacated by Alessandro Del Piero, was promptly turned down due to concerns that he could be too good and overshadow its previous holder, so he humbly accepted the No. 17 instead, agreeing that it was best for everyone; not least and most importantly himself. 

Bendtner has had a flying start to his career at the Juventus Stadium, making one appearance as a substitute in the 80th minute in a 2-0 win over Chievo Verona – that’s where Romeo and Juliet is set! He had one shot, then left the field with the rest of the players once the game had ended. Club coaches have remarked on the Danish striker’s weight; an issue which Bendtner has acknowledged, and is working to resolve. In response to claims that he is “fat”, Bendtner tweeted ‘Overweight? Yeah it’s really horrible, will need 4-5 months to get going. Ha ha,’ demonstrating a clear shift in his attitudes towards a humanly acceptable work ethic. 

Juventus have an option to buy Bendtner at the end of the loan period, and one man at la Vecchia Signora believes that it’s an opportunity too good to pass up. 'Nicklas Bendtner is the best striker in the world. Of course Juventus would like to have Nicklas Bendtner stay at the end of the season, as would any club,’ said Bendtner.

A blindfolded boy with his hand in a pot: in favour of penalty shoot-outs

By Max Grieve

Imagine this for a moment. In little over a month’s time, England, having finished as runners-up in their group at the European Championships, are playing Spain for a place in the semi-finals. Roy Hodgson’s men are literally filling the face of the goal; Gerrard instructing a human-tetris formation between the posts and the bar — and it’s working. Spain, like Barcelona and Bayern Munich before them this season, are struggling to take advantage of their overwhelming dominance. Somewhere else, Gary Neville gurgles in delight. The whistle comes; then sounds again as the two sides begin extra time. There are no goals.

Germany await the victors in Donetsk, and with no way of separating the teams, a 14-year-old boy is called onto the field, his eyes blindfolded, and asked to draw lots. The stadium is plunged into a deafening silence. After a moment, the boy holds Spain’s name above his head, and the artists in London begin photoshopping Hodgson’s face into a root vegetable for the next day’s front page. England are out; Spain are through. And they were so close.

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Sideburns fade and fall

By Max Grieve

It’s as hard for me to tell you this as it is for you to read it, but it wouldn’t be right for me to keep it from you until you’re older, harder, and have a greater control over your urge to take out your anger on government buildings and public art. Alessandro Del Piero isn’t entirely happy. I’m sorry to have taken an axe to your satisfaction with life.

It’s not complicated. Simply, Sydney FC aren’t very good, and Del Piero is. The Italian is cutting an increasingly frustrated figure – he could be playing for a poor team in Qatar and making millions more. The A-League is curiously competitive, and has already seen seen four different championship winners in its eight-year history, though the success of the major cities, Melbourne and Sydney, is vital to the greater success of the league – even more so now, given the international coverage that Australian football has been receiving since Del Piero’s arrival. While he has been one of the most watchable players in the league this season, Sydney are diving to new depths of mediocrity.

“Put a sh*t hanging from a stick in the middle of the stadium,” said then-Real Madrid coach Jorge Valdano in 2007 of Rafael Benitez’s Liverpool, “and there are people who will tell you it’s a work of art. It’s not: it’s a sh*t hanging from a stick.” There are no such delusions as to what Sydney FC are presenting to the league and the watching millions.

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Dear Mister Henry

Manchester City are winning trophies, and that’s annoying for anyone who isn’t a Manchester City supporter. Chelsea have won trophies too, which is annoying for anyone who isn’t a Chelsea supporter. Manchester United, damn it all, have also won trophies, and nobody likes them either – let’s get past the fact that everybody hates everybody. I can point to Barcelona, to Madrid, to Milan and to Paris – at least, I will in the next year or so – and will be able to say that all those clubs have won trophies. Better ones than the Carling Cup, too – y'know, proper ones that people care about.

And even then, I can point to success that isn’t marked by a hunk of metal. Finishing fourth is brilliant. There are those who might say that finishing fourth is as good as finishing eighth, tenth or fifteenth – if you’ve not won the title, why does it matter? – but you’re a smarter man than that*. The Champions League, whether you’ve reached it from second, third or fourth place in the league, is the zenith. 

Other teams are doing well, even winning things, because they’ve spent money. You’ve got enough, so why don’t you as well? Jump off the bridge because everyone else is doing it. It’s clear that Financial Fair Play, or even the mere threat of it, is a joke – that said, we’ll be laughing like hell if all this comes off and you were right.

Weirdly, you’ve got to spend money to make money, which you can get considerably more of if your club is competing in the Champions League, and not that secondary tournament which, wonderfully enough, is having a final in Amsterdam this year – get along, if you can. Financial sustainability is a good thing, but there’s little point if it’s being achieved by spending nothing because you have nothing. The inability to scrape together an extra £2m for Clint Dempsey is pathetic, and can’t be helping the manager. 

I like you. I’d quite like for you to do well. More than anything though, with the exception of an unbeaten streak to the end of the season, I’d like for you to buy someone in January. Someone good.

Or you could bring in Michael Owen. I’m easy.

Max Grieve

*I hope to Christ that he is.

Let him walk

Such is the spectrum of attacking breeds in football that it is difficult to define a striker – or any player with an inclination to attack from an advanced position, given the modern interpretation of what a ‘striker’ is – as simply and definitively being of one nature or another. 

That is not to say that we won’t try, and we do – if we might generalise for the sake of the argument, we might conclude that there are two types of attacker.  There are those who appear indifferent to the people moving around them; unimpressed by the boom of the crowd; detached from the rest until the ball comes to them, and then they will shoot or pass the attention off to the side – they’d rather look impassive and enigmatic than be bothered by a ball at their feet. They’ll make something resembling an effort to score, but they wouldn’t dare be seen running after a long ball over the top.

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ofishul staytmunt

deer lawyol suppawter,

i am orfully sawry, but i haf too tell yoo that i am leavink tottingham hawtsper. i haf to thank yoo awl four sum grate yeers at wite heart layne, we had a lot off fun i think. it was good too be in the champiuns leeg and i liked going to italy two times. when i look back on my tyme at totennham i haf nothing but god memmorys, eggsept for tooday. 

i look like a corpse dredged from the thames, and i’m looking to continyou to davelop my appeerance in that resspekt. i ragret leeving the club in sutch a mess – esspeshally becoss the boys bale and modrich and van der fart will probabblie leeve now. i thort i wood be manajer off england but roy is that now, so i am going to katar as soon as i can sort out how much monie i will get from this disarseter. danyel leevy and me had a fight so he decided that it was best for me to go and i compleetli agree wif him, but if he stil wanted me to stay i’d be up for it, altho i’m not desparat or anithing.

the end

rittin by harry “I can’t spell and I write like a 2-year-old, and this is a genuine quote" redknapp

Munich 2012: as it could happen

The following is a prospective minute-by-minute report of the yet-to-be-played Champions League final. It represents one conceivable series of events out of many others.

Pre-match: It’s all kicked off, but not in the literal sense! Michael Ballack has strolled between the two lines of players, whispered something into both captains’ ears, and all of a sudden there’s a full-on melee! Petr Cech has slammed his helmet square into Manuel Neuer’s chest, Dider Drogba and Bastian Schweinsteiger are involved in some sort of Greco-Roman contest, and Mario Gomez is standing over the whole thing with his arms folded, quiff alert, laughing maniacally. What a start!

News: We can confirm Ballack’s words. The former Chelsea and Bayern midfielder spoke to Philipp Lahm first, telling him in German “he said you look funny”. Ballack then turned to Lampard, speaking in English this time, and told him that Lahm had alleged that he, too, “looked funny”. In an instant, the two are at each others’ throats. 

Not long now: Drogba and Schweinsteiger have been sent to the stands, where they appear to be continuing to wrestle. As happens when a pawn reaches the other side of a chess board, the referee has decided to allow each team to choose one of their suspended players to take the now empty place. After no deliberation whatsoever, Chelsea elect to reinstate John Terry to the centre of their defence, whilst Bayern pick Holger Badstuber.

1 min: Both sides shake hands, and finally we’re off! Rather than promote Torres to the starting lineup in Drogba’s absence, Chelsea are playing with ten men, and the Spaniard takes up his place on the bench.

GOAL! Bayern 1-0 Chelsea (Robben 1 min and 22 seconds): Ribery picks the ball up out wide on the left and jinks inside to find Robben square. Robben nutmegs Terry and shapes to shoot, but it’s all an elaborate ploy to nutmeg the poor man again! He does so, then duly scores.

2 min: Terry has a worried look on his face. Di Matteo looks pained, but that may be because Roman Abramovich is crouched behind him, slowly twisting a corkscrew into the Italian’s spine.

4 min: Chelsea are yet to touch the ball, and Bayern are settling into a familiar pattern. Pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, out to Robben who tries to get in behind the left fullback, and then a curling shot to the far post.

6 min: Robben just did it again (see 4 min). 

7 min: See 6 min.

9 min: EVENT INVOLVING CHELSEA! They’ve given away a free-kick; David Luiz hacked Robben to the floor after the Dutchman went past Terry for the umpteenth time. It’s becoming embarrassing for the England international; this match and his career. 

11-72 min: More of the above.

73 min: Here he comes! Torres has risen from the bench, and is making his way past the attractive Chelsea physio to stand beside the fourth official. This is really happening! He’s about to play in the Champions League final!

74 min: There’s been a horrible mistake. The fourth official was flashing the attendance to the crowd – a rare but permissible use of his electronic board – and Torres caught sight of the numbers 3 and 9. He will not be replacing Ashley Cole, rather there are 69,939 spectators here tonight.

75 min: The attendance is 69,939.

GOAL! Bayern 2-0 Chelsea (Terry 77 OG): You’d almost feel sorry for him if you didn’t know that he slept with his teammate’s girlfriend, parked in a disabled bay and has a court appearance regarding alleged racism hanging over him. Kroos swings in the corner; Cahill attempts to clear but finds Terry has inconveniently positioned his face in the way, and the ball rebounds into the Chelsea net past a hapless Cech.

79 min: The Bayern players must be feeling whatever the German word for deriving pleasure from another’s misfortune is. A streaker has run onto the field, and kicks Terry right between the legs. Gomez jogs towards the scene and stands over Terry, laughing maniacally. Say what you like about his unorthodox playing style, this has been a consistent performance from the striker.

82 min: CHANCE! If he had any, Di Matteo would be ripping his hair from its roots. Lampard is put through on goal by Kalou, but has struck his own player on the line! Wouldn’t you know it, it’s John Terry again! He has been everywhere tonight.

90 min: There will be five minutes added on.

WALLOP! Bayern 2-1 Chelsea (Sheringham Mata 90+1): It’s a goal! It’s a Chelsea goal! Neuer rushes out to meet Luiz, who is playing as a makeshift striker, but the German is too slow, and the ball pops up for Mata who skelps it over a flailing Badstuber on the line. It’s on!

OH! OH! OH! Bayern 2-2 Chelsea (Solskjaer 90+2): That’s right, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has scored for Chelsea! Roman Abramovich, as it happens, sacked Di Matteo and replaced him with Solskjaer as the darkness closed in on Chelsea’s European dreams. The Norwegian brought himself on as Chelsea broke forward, and has scored an absolute wonder of a 2-yard tap-in to draw level! Torres has fallen asleep on the bench.

90+4 min: Chelsea are looking to win it now. They’re playing a one-two-six formation, with Bayern positively rocked by this late comeback.

PENALTY TO CHELSEA: As Mata holds the ball on the edge of the box, Philipp Lahm has an uncharacteristic rush of blood, and headbutts Gary Cahill! The referee awards a penalty and sends Lahm to join the wrestling in the stands. Drogba appears to have eaten one of Schweinsteiger’s hands, but the bout continues.

HE’S MISSED IT: John Terry steps up to take the deciding penalty, but his standing foot slips, and he ends up on his back like an unhappy tortoise, while the ball smacks against the crossbar! The ball, meanwhile, was hit with such unnecessary but typical-of-Terry power that it sailed the full length of the field, and into the Chelsea goal at the other end! We’ll have to check the rules on this one.

90+5 min: It’s a corner, apparently. According to the laws of the game, if the ball rebounds off the woodwork, travels the length of the field, and enters the kicker’s goal, a corner kick is awarded. What a let-off for Terry.

GOAL! GOMEZ WINS IT FOR BAYERN: The corner is floated in, and Mario Gomez rises like a salmon to nod the ball off of his magnificent quiff to win the final for Bayern! The Allianz Arena erupts. Solskjaer is trying to rally his men, but they know it’s finished. Gomez rushes to Terry’s side, and laughs maniacally. What a humiliation this has been for an English defender.

IT’S OVER! BAYERN MUNICH WIN THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE AT THEIR HOME STADIUM! CUE AN ALL-TOO-FAMILIAR PITCH INVASION, IN WHICH SOME LUNATIC COULD FEASIBLY STAB A PLAYER OR SOMEONE ELSE!

The trophy is waiting to be lifted: The Germans are wiggling their fingers over the cup, but as Lahm moves his hands to lift it, John Terry swipes it away! He’s making a run for the exit, and appears to be making a good go of it.

Bang! Terry’s been shot: He falls to the ground, clutching his boot. He appears to have actually been shot in the foot! Everyone scatters: players are making for the tunnel, spectators are digging up the field, and a swarm of police have descended upon a man in the stands.

Chaos: They’ve found the shooter! Terry is limping away, though no-one seems to want to help him. We’re trying to get the name of the man who felled the brave, morally questionable defender, but details are hard to come by in the midst of such chaos. 

It was Rio Ferdinand: Thankyou for joining us. Enjoy the actual final.

Max Grieve 

 

Showers over Kiev

The divine conspired against me, and the Dutch were out. Considering myself to be some distant descendant of Nostradamus, I prophesised a meeting at the last with the Spanish, whereupon the representatives of a nation of bullfighters and the unemployed would emerge victorious. 

Alas, a man whom almost nobody had ever heard of – and I submit that he was largely unknown to the Danish populace too – scored in Kharkiv, and the Dutch were plunged into the darkness. Undone by Michael Krohn-Dehli, they were subject to further humiliation by Mario Gomez and Cristiano Ronaldo, three men who share a common trait: they all have an “i” in their names.

Cracks spread along the dam wall, and a vicious water burst forth. Karim Benzema will not have scored the most goals at the European Championships in 2012, unless Mario Balotelli chooses to change his name before the first whistle sounds in Kiev. Portugal, much to my chagrin, failed to fail themselves in the group, and came within an inch of a crossbar and a post from killing off the infuriatingly perfectionist Spanish juggernaut. The less written about the French, the better. At least Roy Hodgson kept his promise, and departed without considerable fuss. 

It is with a greater appreciation for margins that I make my final prediction. Tonight, the Spaniards will pass, and the Italians will do the same, though likely not as often as their opponents. Spain may play with a forward, or they may play with Fernando Torres. Italy could line up with three, four or five in defence. Both sides will shoot, and one side might score. If not, the laws of the game dictate that the match will be extended by a half hour, and the referee will allow as much. If two hours have elapsed and neither Italy nor Spain have crept ahead of the other, the match will be reduced to shots from 12 yards, during which someone might score, someone might not, and someone will win. 

The weathermen have gazed into their crystal balls, or whatever the meteorological equivalent happens to be, and warn of sunny skies over Kiev for the final. As the match is due to begin in the evening, I might go so far as to contend that the skies will be clear, rather than dominated by the light of some distant star, but they will not listen. I had predicted, with some certainty, that the Netherlands would arrive in Kiev tonight as challengers to the throne, yet their parts are scattered across southern European seaside resorts, Amsterdam, and likely Manchester, now the centre of the world. By some greater power, and a particularly amusing swing at the air from Robin van Persie, I am wrong.

They say otherwise, but I think it will rain.


Max Grieve

Et tu, Robin?

Wenger and his apostles sat at the table set up in one of the function rooms deep within the Emirates. His arms were spread wide; a result of years of wild indignation at outcomes of incidents he had not seen. Beside him were twelve of his disciples; eleven having walked with him for the past ten full moons, the other Emmanuel Eboué, who had a habit of showing up to these things.

And as they were eating, Wenger spoke. “Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.”

And then, because my knowledge of the bible is limited, we’ll pretend that the Dutchman thrust a knife into Wenger’s back – “et tu, Robin? "– and danced away, arm in arm with a suitably giddy Sir Alex Ferguson.

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Més que un football blog

I went to see a film called The Hobbit. It was set before a whole bunch of other films which had already been made, but were supposed to be after this film that had only just come out – this serious chronologial blunder only furthered my irritation, having already discovered that my assigned seat was two or three rows too close to the screen. The projection was also fuzzy, but I pushed on.

The film starts with Tim from The Office being played by an old man, and then after a few minutes by Tim from The Office. There is a dragon for a bit, but we don’t get to see it. To be fair, we do see its eye, but that happens at the end of the film, which is about halfway through the story. Then Lucas from Spooks comes along, doing less shooting than he did in Spooks, and about the same amount of being temperamental and antisocial, except with a beard.

Bilbo Baggins, seen here with Dawn from The Office.

There is a lot of fighting, fighting and also fighting, and a man behind me laughed, so some of it must have been funny. They go walking in New Zealand with some other people who have beards, and then the film ends. There will be two more films in which roughly the same thing happens, stretched out over a cumulative nine hours of your life which you’ll never get back.

It’s hard to say quite what The Hobbit is in the sense that it is a film, although one thing that most critics, including myself, are entirely agreed on is that it is definitely a film. Two and a half stars.

- Max Grieve