Football & Other Religions
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Football & Other Religions
Anfield is Mecca, Fenway the Promised Land, and Trophies are heavenly
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Scooped by Christopher Gardner
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Is Liverpool on the ups or on the outs? - ESPN FC

Is Liverpool on the ups or on the outs? - ESPN FC | Football & Other Religions | Scoop.it
Christopher Gardner's insight:

Rarely can I say 'Told you so!', and though I just said it (see last spring's scoops on state of LFC) I'll try to do what The Reds are trying to do and move on.

Having watched Liverpool a dozen or so times this season (including their sultry, steam-cleaned, but not quite dreary performance in Baltimore in July), I am struck by how nicely they play between the boxes and how ineptly they play within them. No one can complain about the lack of chances the attack creates − just how few of them threaten the opposition's goal. Liverpool are not too bad at shutting down opportunities of their opponents either, though one can rest assured that if that opposition gets three chances, at least one of them will go in (To a shocking degree, Reina pulls off the amazing saves while seeming to trip on his own shoelaces on some rather routine strikes).

As Mr. Bennet so nicely puts it here, splurging "$135.4 million on the gruesome quartet of Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam" continues to act as a corrosive compound on the club. To make matters worse, the one player to show striking improvement in the last few weeks of last year's campaign, Carroll, was loaned off to West Ham (True, he is injured, but his modest club sits one place better than that of his previous employers. I'd recommend getting him back in January, but who's asking me?). Henderson & Dowling contine to suck up the side's energy and opportunity like black holes. Adam seems both better-than-competent and frustratingly ineffective once he's a few yards away from a penalty spot.

I completely agree with Bennet's derision of the reality show "Being Liverpool" and the branding/catchphrases Warrior seems to have imposed on Anfield: "We come not to play" sounds like something one of my freshman students would write in an essay trying to explain the motives of Bismarck in 1869.

But what is truly worring is how Brendan Rogers often talks and acts like he doesn't know better. Anyone who has a general comprehension of the offsides rule knew that Liverpool could − at best − win a Europa place outright (rather than have it gifted to them by an even more inept run-in by another club come April). The Rogers would look at the rickety frame of his side and pronounce it ready to stand up to the whirlwinds to be found at Stamford Bridge, Highbury, White Hart Lane, Old Tradford, City Ground, or even the Stadium of Light seems sophomoric − especially for a manager touted as wiser than his years. Moreover, it all smacks of airing dirty linen (while claiming it's clean) which was something the successful Liverpool never did (Nor does Man.U. today. Sure Sir Alex has made some terribly expensive mistakes, but he keeps the discord in the clubhouse and moves the Verons and Nanis along in good quick time.)

And so Reds fans the world over await January to see if we can bring in meaningful goalscoring talent. Do we have a long-term strategy to convince younger talent to launch their careers at Anfield with opportunities for near-future glories? I still think keeping Rogers is far better than replacing him (and Pep Guardiola won't be moving to Merseyside anytime soon), and FSG sending strong signals to that effect would help. Do we have the money to get a proven goalscorer? Perhaps, but why on earth would a Van Persie or a Ba want to take anywhere from 5 to 12 steps down the League Table to wear an away strip that looks like one must have a bib to catch the drool as one stands exasperated in front of the opposition's goal wondering why the ball is in the stands?

As I rant, LFC sit ninth from bottom. On any one weekend, with wins & losses going just right, the Reds could fly to 8th from top. Given the runaway power of the top 3-4 sides, no one will jump that gap. Unless Messi's contract extension at the Nou Camp was just a ruse while Henry and Werner negotiated a trade, tough to see how Liverpool could get much higher even than 7th or 8th. More likely, take down the sign famously touting "This Is Anfield" in the club house (which must make most sides heave a sigh of relief nowadays!) and replace it with one announcing: "We come. We might also play."

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Liverpool reject Carroll approach

Liverpool reject Carroll approach | Football & Other Religions | Scoop.it
Liverpool dismiss Newcastle's bid to sign striker Andy Carroll on loan, with a view to a permanent move.

Embarrassing all around: Liverpool buy him for insane amounts of money. He doesn't settle in until right at the end of the season. Liverpool's new manager wants to go in a different direction (presumably, away from Reina's goal). And Andy's old club only want him back on loan. Scoring in League Cup, FA Cup Finals and a lovely header given him by his own Liverpool colleague Steven Gerrard at the Euro 2012 hasn't seemed to raise interest in him.

Poor lad. Poor Liverpool.

Reina might get a shutout if we play against him, though.

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UEFA EURO - Spain-France – UEFA.com

UEFA EURO - Spain-France – UEFA.com | Football & Other Religions | Scoop.it
Europe's football website, uefa.com, is the official site of UEFA, the Union of European Football Associations, and the governing body of football in Europe.

 

The 2012 Euros have been a real pleasure thus far. Even the Greeks managed to score twice against Germany (though I'm glad to see them out− of the tournament, not the Euro).

France has won this competition twice (1984 and 2000) and beat Spain in both tournaments to do it. If they beat Spain tomorrow, I think they and Germany have to be favorites. But it will be a tall order for Les Bleus. Lord knows they are much improved since 2010's embarrasment of egos and mediocrity in S.Africa, but they looked rather tired−playing with a certain ennui−when losing 2-0 to Sweden. True, Ibrahimovich scored what might be the goal of the tournament, but really the French never looked interested. True, they were through as long as they didn't concede more than 3 goal, given their previous successes. But taking one's foot off the gas only to get the motor back up to speed on the next lap can be really difficult. Unless Benzema makes his presence felt up front, which he has seemed loathe to do thus far, the French are likely to struggle to make chances for themselves. Which is true of almost any team that takes on Spain: They give you one or two shots over the 90 minutes, then pass amongst themselves until you are in a stupor. Without David Villa, Spain do not have the same rapier cut they had two years ago in S.Africa. Thankfully, the French don't have the same team either.

It could be one of the classics of a fine tournament. It might be dreary chess match through a crowded midfield. If the latter, I fear the French will go down 1-0. If the former, it's anybody's game. For those who enjoy crisp passing and fluid team movement that doesn't simply expect the Ronaldo or the Rooney of the team to score the goal, the winner of Saturday's match ought to be your favorite for the rest of the tournament.

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Liverpool silent on Dalglish rumours - ESPN Soccernet

Liverpool silent on Dalglish rumours - ESPN Soccernet | Football & Other Religions | Scoop.it
Liverpool have declined to comment on the future of manager Kenny Dalglish on Tuesday, amid rumours the Scot could be set to part company with the club.

And so the revolving door continues: players complain about managers' rotation policies, managers rotate in and out of position as fast as players, fans bemoan the entire process but still buy the latest replica jerseys that get a redesign every couple of years just to keep the money moving.

No Luddite or Socialist me, but let's look at the facts. Not once but thrice Sir Alex Ferguson has rebuilt Manchester United. Same for Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. Both have won the Premiership or been in European tournaments pretty much every year of their tenureships. Most other clubs are run like most people run their Twitter accounts: chasing the next trending topic for a day or two until they forget what they were going after.

I was pretty sanguine about King Kenny's arrival last summer: his first wave of success as a manager at Liverpool came largely thanks to the construction of a great side by his predecessors (Bob Paisley & Joe Fagan). And they managed the club for over a decade between them.

IF Dalglish leaves Anfield, what happens to the $140million worth of players he bought who gave him about 8 goals in toto? What manager would want to arrive with that millstone around his neck? Even if we must part with Kuyt−and frankly we should sell others to keep him in red−we still won't have money to buy. And I'm not sure we have the management talent to know who to buy (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0l2QsNAgh68).

To end on an optimistic note, though, Liverpool's owner John Henry bought the Red Sox in 2002 and never notably wavered in his effort to build a two-time World Series side, nor has he really panicked as the Sox are performing about as well as Liverpool. He might be just steady enough at the helm to keep Liverpool from compounding its errors. Maybe the Yanks will have to come over and save the Brits yet again.

 

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ESPNsoccernet: Home

ESPNsoccernet: Home | Football & Other Religions | Scoop.it

Appalling. Liverpool never looked interested, and most of the lineup were not regulars who might have earned places on the field going forward if they had a bit of ambition. A squandered mess. I have longer-term hope in K.Dalglish's management, but the club really must take stock of its roster & its ambitions. Next year will be a washout as well, based on today's evidence. Even if 7-8 'regulars' were rested for Saturday's FA Cup final, Liverpool fans must be unnerved by today's 'performance.' Certainly, LFC have no depth to worry the likes of Spurs, Newcastle, Arsenal, or Chelsea for that coveted 4th Champions' League place next year.

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Amid Controversy, Muslims Revive Old Jerusalem Pilgrimage Route

Amid Controversy, Muslims Revive Old Jerusalem Pilgrimage Route | Football & Other Religions | Scoop.it
JERUSALEM -- After decades of shying away from an ancient pilgrimage route, Muslims are visiting Jerusalem to pray at Islam's third-holiest site, the revered Al-Aqsa mosque.

As a teacher of pre-modern pilgrimage (and crusades), I am always intrigued by the the rise and fall (and rise again) of pilgrimage destinations. I also wonder of the political motivations & tensions of this return to the mosque on The Mount.

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Pep Guardiola to part company with Barcelona - reports ESPNSoccernet

Pep Guardiola to part company with Barcelona - reports ESPNSoccernet | Football & Other Religions | Scoop.it
Pep Guardiola is set to part company with Barcelona at the end of the season, according to reports on Thursday evening.

The pressure at the Camp Nou (and the Barnebeu) for players and managers is certainly incredible. But what is disturbing about decisions like Pep's is that we demand instant gratification and we demand constant gratification. Hundreds of professional clubs want to be like Barça, but the club loses two matches (albeit really important ones), and everyone's mad and the manager feels the need to leave. Many reporters have commented on the fact that if Pep (and Barcelona) is going to be one of the best, he simply will have to rebuild and reinvent. Ask Sir Alex at MUFC, whose teams have been written off two or three times in his managerial career−usually just before they win another piece of silverware.

Here's hoping the griping and the departure of such a stunningly successful manager don't bring put FC Barcelona into a tailspin that takes a decade (or more) to correct. Just ask any Liverpool fan...

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Steven Gerrard: Liverpool will finish in the top four - ESPN Soccernet

Steven Gerrard: Liverpool will finish in the top four - ESPN Soccernet | Football & Other Religions | Scoop.it
Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard is confident the club will finish in the top four this season and earn a place in the Champions League.

 

Well, the year-round football season can not be denied. Some exciting stuff at the Olympics already, and the opening ceremonies haven't even happened yet (US women down 0-2 come back to defeat France 4-2! Spain's men lose 0-1 to a rampant Japan!). And tomorrow this reporter gets to see his beloved Liverpool FC play live for the first time since 1992. The Reds were shadows of their former selves 20 years ago as well, though they notably improved over the next decade thanks to youngsters like Steve McManaman and Michael Owen.

And now a player I much admire and who embodies something of the Shankley 'Pool of the 1960s and early 70s claims Liverpool will climb from 8th to top-four in this upcoming campaign. I admire his optimism−something a captain must have at this embryonic stage of the season if his side are to get anywhere. I mean, what else can he say about it?

In the two matches Liverpool have had on their US 'tour,' they have scored but twice in a 1-1 draw and a 1-2 loss. So far, so much like last year.

But what also was in evidence was indeed a 'new' approach to playing that Gerrard credits new manager Brendan Rodgers for bringing to the side. I put the word in quotes because the quick passing that Rodgers wants to instill looks rather like Liverpool in the days of Jan Molby, Sammy Lee, David Johnson, et al. The difference was that we had an Ian Rush and/or Kenny Dalglish who could be trusted to put the final shot on target, if not in the back of the net.

The touring Reds are hardly the strongest Reds: Suarez is on Olympic duty, Gerrard has yet to step on the pitch, even Carroll has not been involved. But the new kids, sporting absurd numbers like 38 and 55, really don't look too bad: even as they try to overimpress and make everything happen in one or two plays, they make some incisive passes and (praise be the spirit of Anfield!) always seem to be looking toward the opposition's goal. No more mucking about as Henderson and Downing shudder in fear as to whether to pass the ball square or back. Or simply save time by giving it away.

It's all a pre-season money-spinner for European clubs to come here (or go to east Asia), and they are not prepared to waste anything important with their domestic and Euro leagues beginning in 3-5 weeks. No fixture is more absurd than Liverpool vs. Tottenham on a Saturday afternoon in July in Baltimore (heat index ca.105o−Lord knows what it'll be like in a stadium bowl!).

But I'll be there reminding my team that they'll never walk alone. If a true goal scorer steps forward (or, better still, a couple of players share the duties), we might have a sniff at a top-four position. I do think the football will be more entertaining, more optimistic. But I can't help but sense that Liverpool FC won't so much win a top-four position as someone else (Spurs again?) will have to cede it to them.

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The Donetsk aftermath: Ronaldo takes no penalties.

The Donetsk aftermath: Ronaldo takes no penalties. | Football & Other Religions | Scoop.it
How will Portugal's penalty failure impact its biggest star?

I've never been much of a C. Ronaldo fan. I'd pick him for my team, of course. But I wouldn't turn to him in a pinch, when the team really needed something special.

Yes, this past year his goal-scoring exploits in Spain's La Liga were sensational, and Real Madrid would not have outrun Barca for the title without them. But if you look over his goal-scoring career, what he mostly does is score a hat-trick in a 6-1 victory. When his teams (Man United back in the day, Real Madrid, or Portugal) need to get that one vital goal late in a hard-fought 0-0 match, he's usually wide to the left apparently contemplating his hair.

Take Portugal's semi-final loss to Spain yesterday. It was a dull affair (Lordy, I thought I was done watching Liverpool-style football for a few months!), and CR7 was hardly at fault for that fact. But nor did he make much of an effort to change it. Spain's substitutes certainly did, and Portugal were probably thrilled that extra time lasts only 30 minutes, as Spain's Pedro and Fabregas looked like they would double-handly defeat their Iberian rivals given a bit more time on the pitch.

Then came the penalty kicks. No one likes them, except Americans who have never watched a football match carefully. Players know that their best efforts are reduced to one kick that might be an inch or so from bust or glory. And this round was no different as the fourth Portuguese kicker hit the underside of the crossbar but the ball came back out, whereas the next Spanish kicker hit the inside of the upright but it went in.

And CR7, presumably the 5th kicker of 5, could only watch. Should he have gone earlier? Does it make sense to save him for the 5th and likely final kick? Yes. And No.

I have been involved in 3 significant shoot outs in my meager career. I and many of my fellow players have said the same thing: the first 2 kickers are, in fact, under the most pressure. If either misses, the sense that the team can't catch back up is overwhelming. By the 5th kicker, usually, someone has missed and that player has watched the keeper and seen his teammates deal with the absurd pressures. Thus IF CR7 were the 5th, he was side-stepping the most pressured part of the series.

"But what if the coach drew up the list?" you might ask. "Is it CR7's fault that the coach trusted enough of his players to make the 5th kick critical to Portugal's success, thus putting overwhelming pressure on the marquis player?"

Fair enough, and as of writing, we don't know what the kicking order was or who set it up. But look at what CR7 did after the goal by Fabregas sealed Portugal's demise. He stood alone, stared off into the middle distance of failure, and pleaded with/cursed the Fates about the outcome. But that was a Captain's Armband I saw him wearing throughout Portugal's campaign, no? Any consolations for Alves who had just missed? Any shared tears with goalkeeper Patricio, who saved Spain's first penalty? No, just CR7 standing like a Colosus of Donetsk and exuding an attitude of "But I'm the one who is to be hero! I am the player the world wants to win this!"

As the colosus fell in an earthquake, will CR7 collapse after his non-participation in Portugal's tragedy? Probably not, but I would hope the experience would make him rethink his relationship to his teammates. He's too smart to think he can win championships, even matches, on his own, but he gives every indication is only just that smart.

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Kenny Dalglish parts company with Liverpool - ESPN Soccernet

Kenny Dalglish parts company with Liverpool - ESPN Soccernet | Football & Other Religions | Scoop.it
Kenny Dalglish has parted company with Liverpool.

Well, John Henry & Fenway Sports Group slightly surprised this fan. As I noted yesterday, I always thought Dalglish's reputation as a manager was rosily colored by his reputation as a player. Nevertheless, Liverpool FC (whether management, ownership, sponsors, fans, players...) are simply too fickle to be serious contenders for the Premiership in the near term. Even the nouveau riche at Man.City have shown greater stability when Mancini was criticized last year for fielding an ever-cautious side even against weaker competition. And now they are champions.

Liverpool have shown throughout the season that they will not be serious contenders for the league next year either: They lost or drew so many matches to sides far below them in the table. And remember it took penalties to beat Championship side Cardiff City to win the League/Carling Cup in February. Our disinterested performance for the first half hour of the FACup Final (even after conceding a soft nearpost goal) was, I fear, a sign of where the club is: competent but aloof, ready to pass square through the midfield to avoid making any mistakes, everyone hoping someone else steps up to win the match (a la Gerrard in 2005-2007). The loss of Kuyt will only make things worse, though even I have admitted that Carroll has looked promising in the last month of the season (rather like Liverpool looked promising the last half hour of the FACup Final).

A melancholic end to a tawdry campaign. Let us say no more about it and pick things up in July when Liverpool are at Baltimore's Ravens' Stadium (I'll be in the Kop end offering full-throated support!).

For those players still capable of standing, the European Championship starts in Poland & the Ukraine in a fortnigh!

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Liverpool run out of time in English FA Cup Final vs. Chelsea

Liverpool run out of time in English FA Cup Final vs. Chelsea | Football & Other Religions | Scoop.it

The first half was (recently) typical Liverpool: dull and disinterested. I've been moaning about A.Carroll all season, but full credit to him. He changed Liverpool's outlook when he came on in the last 30 minutes. A stunning goal, and a well taken header that was about a 1/2-inch from getting us to Extra Time.
The fact is, Henderson, Dowling, and Spearing are just not up to top-flight football. They drag down the movement through the attacking midfield by making either too safe passes or by losing the ball through some really poor touches. We won't get much for them, but we need to sell them and look for a couple of promising younger players a bit under the radar (Mr. Henry should recommend 'Moneyball' for Kenny's summer reading). If they at least had moments of brilliance (even Suarez was not too imaginative today, but when he loses possession, at least he's moving forward at pace when he does it).
And my last word on Liverpool this season, is that I'm not that sure Kenny Dalgish is up to it either, unfortunately. He has needed to shake up the team lineup since November and never really done it. He needed to shake up the lineup today at halftime and didn't do it until another 15-20 minutes had passed. He just seems too devoted to players (see the list above) who he bought but who never really looked like they could ever rise to the occasion. Carroll certainly did today, but each game he has scored (a whopping 9 times for about $50 million dollars), everyone gets excited that 'this will be the game that turns him into a great player...' So I'm not holding my breath.
Liverpool's last two league matches are likely to be a couple of painfully dull 0-1 losses, but if the three stooges stay off the pitch we'll have something to look forward to come 28 July against Tottenham in Baltimore.

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DailyNewsPix - Photo Archive of the New York Daily News

DailyNewsPix - Photo Archive of the New York Daily News | Football & Other Religions | Scoop.it
DailyNewsPix is the New York Daily News' online photo database where you can search and buy photographs for professional licensing and personal use.

A beautiful collection of 'Golden Age' baseball from the NY Daily News, when New York City had dozens of newspapers and three baseball teams with three meaningful constituencies.

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Liverpool at Fenway − Too perfect!

Liverpool at Fenway − Too perfect! | Football & Other Religions | Scoop.it

I didn't start this Scoop.it Page with such a game in mind, but it's the culmination of the sporting aspirations of yours truly (If only it were the European Cup Final, á la 1985).

Already seeing Liverpool FC in Baltimore, but probably can't pull this one off...

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