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Monday, March 19, 2007

TDH returns to La Bombonera!

On Sunday morning, two of TDH's friends arrived in Buenos Aires from the US. As it happened, Sunday was the only day during their trip that they'd be in Buenos Aires while a local not-River team was playing at home. So TDH made a call, and within an hour tickets were delivered to the football-hungry trio, who were having lunch at a sidewalk table outside a local restaurant.

To La Bombonera they went. It was a perfect day that made a pretty good setting for playing football (TDH prefers gray and cool to warm and bright). The trio took their seats in Sector K; of course, down here in Argentina, everyone's in Sector K. Sitting directly above La Doce - and thus not being able to observe their madness - was mitigated by shade from the intense sun, as well as a prime view of Diego's box.

In the second half, there he was, leaning out above the pitch and smacking the glass wall in rhythm with the supporters' chants. He's putting on weight again, and his beard's a little gray. By that time, it was already 4-0 Boca. Gimnasia La Plata were caught flat-footed with three goals in the first 10 minutes, then the pace slowed a bit as the fourth - and Martin "El Loco" Palermo's third - came in the 15th.

That eight-minute hat trick must have been one of the fastest in league history. Palermo netted a fourth in the second half, poaching from a teammate's miss just minutes after failing to finish an easier chance. Overall, he was deadly inside the box, but the knock on him was all too true - whenever he had the ball at his feet outside the box, whenever he had to pass, it was a disaster.

The opposite was true of Riquelme, Riquelme, RIQUELME, RIQUELME!!! whose tally of sweet moves handily exceeded that of the other 21 players on the pitch put together. Every time Boca went forward, he got the ball. Every goal, therefore, went through him. When he tried a run into the box, of course, it had to end in tears.

On the way out, a few blocks from the stadium, traffic stopped and a few guys jumped out of their car to knock on the window of the sleek black Mini in front of their clunker. "Diego, Diego, una firma!" they shouted, and indeed the ostentatious silver chains of the maestro could be seen gleaming through the dark tint. On the next block, the window actually came down - but then the Mini and its two decoy doubles split up and raced away.

Lately, TDH's friends have been saying that supporting Independiente is intolerable, and TDH must change to Boca. Riquelme, they say, is reason enough. But TDH glibly responds, "Rolfi [Montenegro] es mi Riquelme." And when Rolfi races into the area, he's not just having a laugh....


Oh yeah, and there was some other football on Sunday... not worth mentioning.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

To a screeching halt

Damn that away goals rule. TDH was tragically prescient as we crashed out of the only tournament we still had a chance of winning. What more is there for TDH to say? It's the same old story. We have good players, except for defenders. We could even keep them healthy, if we had a Milan-style fitness regime. No wonder Fatty Ronaldo went there happily, and Fatty Ronaldinho may be on the way.

How can these long-sought changes finally be effected? Does TDH have to buy the bleeding club?


Friday, March 09, 2007

Don't get too excited

Okay, TDH was watching on ESPN GameCast as our lads took it to AZ, and sure, it seemed to be going so well. Everyone loves to put four past the opposition, even if you give up a couple in the process. But no, soon enough it dawned on TDH. This was not such a great result.

Call it UEFA math. A 4-2 victory is actually worse than a 2-0 victory, thanks to the away goals rule. That's right, it's not much different from a puny 1-0 scoreline. If AZ win 2-0 or 3-1 in their house, they go through. Sure, it's nice to know that Obadiah is still wreaking havoc on defenses from across the continent, but come on - where the hell is our defense?

TDH was a little puzzled to see Roeder sending Carr, Taylor and Bramble out into the backline. Where's Edgar? Is Bernard too fat to slot in at rightback as per once was usual? TDH wants answers....


Meanwhile, the big guns were duking it out in fairly boring fashion this week. Bizarrely, the Merengues' trip to Munich was the most entertaining tie of the matchday. And TDH had to admit to being a bit surprised when Ballack came up with the big score for the Billionaire Boys. It's weird, seeing Ballack, Drogba, Lampard, Shevchenko and Robben celebrating together... and not for winning every game by three or four goals. TDH must ask yet again: Are these guys just over the hill, or is The Special One really not so special?

If Liverpool ever get their finishing back, they'll win this tournament. Mark TDH's words.


TDH also has a question. How come so many players for Bayern have faces like rodents? Are they the ugliest team left in the Champions League, or does Manure have the stranglehold on that title? I'd pit Hargreaves, Sagnol and Salihamidzic (or maybe Makaay or Kahn) against Neville, Rooney and Ronaldo (or maybe Scholes?)....

Thursday, March 01, 2007

EXTRA: TDH meets England's bête noire!

It took a couple of big coincidences, but tonight TDH ran into the man England fans love to hate.

Yesterday, while enjoying a stroll down the street in Buenos Aires, TDH was hailed from behind. It turned out to be an old friend from university, someone TDH hadn't seen for years, who's now a television producer in Los Angeles. She invited TDH out to the flashy Faena hotel for drinks tonight.

TDH, as it happened, had never been there before, partly because it was all the way across town, partly because TDH has had fully enough of Philippe Starck. (Haven't we all?) But two friends of TDH happened to come by this evening, and by chance they offered a ride and dinner at a restaurant right across from the Faena. So off TDH went.

And there, as TDH was sitting by the pool wearing La Seleccion's long-sleeved jersey from Argentina 1978, in walked a man with a sharp suit and a flat-top haircut. He even smirked as he saw the shirt. It was, of course, the coach of the current Argentine champions and the player who got the $250 Million Man (sound effects, please) sent off in the World Cup: Diego "Cholo" Simeone.

El Cholo sat down with two buddies at the next table, a table meant for six or eight. Within seconds, three bog-standard porteña women (read: leggy, long-haired goddesses) walked over and asked if they could take the rest of the seats. Where did they come from? This was no mingling bar. Later, a taxi driver explained to TDH, "Oh, you just call a number, and they come...." Well, duh.

TDH waited until the check came, then took the pen and asked El Cholo to sign a paper coaster. He did, with his surname, nickname and a big smile when TDH said, through clenched teeth, what a pleasure it was to see him there. Dirty player, nice guy? Grrr, he did play for Racing, but maybe someday TDH will forgive him for all his footballing sins....