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French League 1 Kit Preview 2011/12

3 Aug

This weekend kicks off what is sure to be a thrilling season in France. After Lyon’s selfish display of seven consecutive league titles from 2001-8, the past three champions have been different and a fourth this season would be no surprise. Luckily, League 1 has always boasted an exceptional array of club names. You could probably string them all together as a sentence and trick a women into thinking you are romancing her with French ballads. The names reek of prestige and entitlement and only reinforce the childish preconceived notions of most American citizens. And yet, that is what makes them so excellent!

As for the kits, most people would consider them walking billboards with the amount of sponsors present. Be that as it may, the designs are some of the most creative and head scratching in all of Europe. Whether you like the kits or the football, League 1 is a must-see.

Here is an in-depth breakdown and rating of all twenty teams and the shirts they will wear for the 2011/12 campaign.

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France sponsors want their money back – Part 2

8 Oct

As reported a little over a week ago, three of the main sponsors of the French national team were demanding compensation for the repulsive behavior of the team during the World Cup while donning their logos. As if that was not embarrassing enough, the situation has only worsened.

Now, everybody wants a piece of the FFF. All twelve of the team’s sponsors have agreed on a payment scale in which “there will be bonuses and penalties based on results and image,” according to FFF vice-president Noel Le Graet. The sponsors can reward a 10-15% bonus if the team starts winning games and, in the process, conducts themselves like normal, civilized, human beings. If not, they will reduce their contributions by the same amount.

Does this not hark back to your childhood? I remember my mother offering me cookies and sweets when I behaved well. Obviously, time-out in the corner resulted from being a brat. This is exactly what has transpired in France, and it is so pathetic yet hilarious all at once.

If you act like a baby, you’ll be treated like one. Come to think of it, I’d throw lots of money behind a Toddler XI to beat this current French squad any day of the week. Then the sponsors would pull the plug on France and the new fad in world football would be Pampers!

It could happen ya know…

More trouble with the French squad

5 Oct

There is never a dull moment in the soap opera that is French football. This time it involves two well-known trouble makers – Karim Benzema and Lass Diarra. The Real Madrid duo arrived late to Clairefontaine where the French team is preparing for European qualifiers against Romania and Luxemburg. This came after Laurent Blanc had already postponed the deadline twice.

Blanc was understandably furious with both players who claimed to have missed their flight. He didn’t buy it:

“If you miss your flight from another country, you will obviously be late. We are professionals and therefore must make sure we arrive on time for any flight. Benzema did not play in Real Madrid’s match over the weekend, so there’s no reason he should have arrived late.”

Poor Blanc – a proven and successful manager who will no doubt bring the French team back to glory at some point. But not with these classless bums at his disposal. They have zero respect for the manager, the squad, or the institution. Self indulgence and individualism seem to be their only virtues.

When asked if the two would be sanctioned, the manager responded by saying:

“We already have players suspended. We’re not going to throw stones at our own house.”

HA!! In other words, he unfortunately has no choice but to play the pair since France has limited options and CANNOT afford to lose either of these games. Otherwise, it seems like he probably would have sent them home. And the last thing Blanc needs is more turmoil to tear apart the French team as he tries to rebuild it.

France sponsors want their money back

29 Sep

The principal sponsors of the French Football Federation (FFF) – Adidas, GDF Suez, and Crédit Agricole – are pissed off at the French World Cup team. Most sponsors expect their clients to represent them with professionalism, dignity, and integrity. Unfortunately, none of those endearing qualities can be attributed to any of the 23 men in South Africa over the summer.

Now, the three sponsors would like to be reimbursed to the tune of €4.5 million (I’m surprised it’s not more) for unwillingly being the face of the French insurrection. This marks the very first time a country’s major sponsors have asked for compensation of their investment.

A spokesman for GDF Suez issued the following remarks:

“We are outraged by what has happened. It is a lack of respect for everyone, and something we have never seen before. We well henceforth examine all contracts [with the FFF] through 2014. We cannot ignore what has happened here, as it is very serious. The French team have completely defaced the sport and their country.”

Tell us how you really feel. If I were them, I’d completely pull out of the deal completely. Adidas is doing pretty without this, as are the other two major corporations. And if they aren’t, find a different team since nobody in their right mind is clearing time on their schedules to watch the French national team compete. You’re probably getting less exposure with that team than you would with Slovenia or Lichtenstein.

French airline offers Ribery prostitute discount

21 Sep

Passengers on Corsair were offered an end of summer deal – buy one ticket and get the second 50% off. In fact, one of these exclusive coupons was named after Franck [Ribery] and his 18 year old sex pal, Zahia (prostitute not included). The coupons read as mock quotes from four different couples, saying the following:

“For that price, I’d take Zahia” – Franck

So if I use that coupon, does that ensure a prostitute will be seated next to me? Or does it mean I’m the prostitute flying to a client? Corsair is the airlines on which Ribery flew the now famous escort to meet him in Munich for evenings, and afternoons and mornings I would imagine, of scarface passion. Not a bad marketing ploy at all.

The airlines has since removed the advertisement and France’s most overrated player is now demanding an apology. Fat chance buddy. Nobody owes you an apology for making light of your sex-capades with an underage girl. This is the price you pay for committing adultery. It sucks, but at least your wife hasn’t filed for devorce yet!

If for some reason you forgot what Zahia looks like, or you want to be refreshed, take the jump.

Imagine sitting next to her on a plane?

You’re BANNED!!

17 Aug

Some time ago, a couple of rotten fruit prompted a revolution and covert operations to unsettle the source of the problem. Defiance and manipulation attempted to disrupt Joe’s fruit market in an effort to teach him a lesson of how to properly manage his product. Of course, peaches and plums aren’t always the best comparison to real life drama, but in this instance their telling tale brings a shocking resemblance to recent events in France.

You could say Nicolas Anelka was the rotten peach during the World Cup. Perhaps Evra was the plum. Poor old Raymond Domenech was Joe. Just as Joe was targeted as the source of the bad tasting fruit, so too was Domenech accused of creating a bitter taste throughout the French camp in South Africa. “I don’t make the peaches, I sell the peaches.” Just like Joe, Domenech stood firm in his defense, and could never have anticipated the foul-mouthed vitriol Anelka spewed out of his mouth in the locker room, and the subsequent strike by the players.

At the end of the day though, just like Kramer and Jerry, the villains got what they deserved. “You’re banned!!” Thus said Joe, and now says the French Football Federation.

In an official statement on their website today, the FFF handed down the following bans:

“Nicolas Anelka is sanctioned with an 18-game suspension from selection for the France team.”

“A five-game suspension from selection for the France team has been issued to Patrice Evra.”

“Franck Ribery will have to serve a three-game suspension.”

“Jeremy Toulalan is punished with one-game suspension.”

“The commission takes note of the explanation provided by Eric Abidal, who has not been sanctioned.”

Wow. I couldn’t be more pleased with this outcome. For Anelka, this spells the end of his international career playing for France. At 31, 18 matches covers at least 2-3 years leaving him an old fart when reinstatement is possible (assuming the manager even considers taking him back). Evra, as captain and ringleader of the summer shenanigans, should have received more in my mind. Although 5 still rules him out of a couple European Championship qualifiers and his absence will be felt.

All in all justice was served, and the most rotten of fruit will now wilt away on the sidelines. Nobody is bigger than club. And surely no one man or team is bigger than country.

The Future is Now

2 Aug
Congratulations to France who on Friday won the European U19 Championship in Caen over Spain by a score of 2-1. Dominated in the first half and trailing by a goal, the French came out a different team in the second half…at least after the first 4 minutes. The 3 before that included 2 guilt-edged chances for Spain who should have sealed the championship. However, France remained composed and equalized in the 49th minute against the run of play on a splendid goal from Gilles Sunu. France wouldn’t let Spain play their game by pressuring and harassing anyone with the ball. It ultimately paid off as Alexandre Lacazette headed home the winner in the 85th minute to claim France’s 7th championship.

Good for France. Seriously. After what happened at the World Cup, they deserved something to be proud of. 20,000 strong filled Stade Michel d’Ornano roaring on their home team with every touch. Any way you look at it, this was a breathe of fresh air for French football, and more importantly, it was the kids – the next generation – who did it.

How important is winning such a tournament? Perhaps only time will tell. These kids are still extremely young and have important years ahead in their development. Unfortunately, it is likely that many of the players will not feature for their clubs and national teams in the near future. They’re still only between 17-19 years old. There is a slight exception to the rule though…

Spain. Now I know I’ve waxed poetic about this country’s football unceasingly. But look at the facts. They’ve won this tournament four times since 2002. Of the players who won those four championships, seven were members of Spain’s World Cup winning squad last month. Of those seven, five started in the first game against Switzerland and three started the final. One, Iniesta, won the whole thing for ’em. Another, Torres, won them the European Championship in 2008.

Of the other finalists in that time frame, 12 total since 2002, seven players represented their country in South Africa. That’s eight more squads of about 18 players a piece and they could still only equal what Spain has produced alone. It’s an alarming trend that has now begun to leave the rest of the continent, and the world for that matter, in the dust.

What Spain does better than any other country is wean the 17, 18, and 19 year old players to ensure they continually develop at the highest levels. How? To be honest it’s quite simple. They play. Regularly.

The Spanish team that lost to France the other day had a couple kids who are already making news. Iker Muniain made 26 appearances for Athletic Bilbao last season netting 4 goals, and is one of Spain’s most promising youngsters. His first goal against BSC Young Boys in a Europa League qualifying match made him the youngest player in history to score a goal in a top league or tournament (16 years 7 months and 18 days). Marc Bartra, a strong and physical center back, made his debut for Barcelona in February. Of course there’s Sergio Canales, who has already signed for Real Madrid. Don’t forget about Danny Pacheco either. There’s a good chance he’ll leave Liverpool for Real Sociedad to get more playing time.

These kids are playing in arguably the world’s best league and producing. They are not warming benches and waiting.

Another reason for success is the unique makeup of the country’s domestic league. In most countries, the B teams play each other in friendlies and tournaments – almost like intramurals. In Spain, however, the B teams actually play in the top leagues with the best of the rest. Barcelona’s B team plays in the second division along with Villareal B. In the third division, you’ll find practically every other B team from the first division. (I know you’re thinking, what if Barcelona B wins the division? They can win it but they won’t be promoted. The first team and the youth teams cannot play in the same division). Can you get any better experience than playing alongside veteran professionals and the best talent on the planet?

I don’t mean to belittle the French players, or the other participants in this tournament. Many are just as gifted and talented as the Spaniards. But signing contracts for big clubs, especially in England, will do nothing but ruin their careers. Training with the best won’t make you the best. These kids need to play, and play often.

Spain’s manufacturing system continues to produce gems. I would bet that many of the players from Friday, especially the ones I mentioned, will be starting in a World Cup somewhere down the line. It seems ludicrous to make a statement like that about teenagers. Unfortunately for everyone else trying to dethrone Spain, it couldn’t be any more accurate.

FIFA’s Hypocrisy

29 Jun

I guess it was a only a matter of time before you heard this rant of mine. I was only waiting for a good opportunity to bring it up and in light of recent developments in France, this is a perfect time.

It revolves around football’s relationship with governments – or rather their attempt to distance themselves from it. As I’m sure you all followed the disgraceful exit of France from the tournament, you no doubt heard that President Sarkozy asked for a review of French football and was even planning to meet with Thierry Henry to discuss the Nicolas Anelka fiasco. Not surprisingly, big bad FIFA intervened the other day and has warned the French government of interfering with football affairs with the risk of being thrown out of future tournaments.

FIFA’s stance is quite simple – government and football are separate, independent entities. Article 13.1.(g) of FIFA’s laws explains that national federations are obliged “to manage their affairs independently and ensure that their own affairs are not influenced by any third parties.” The laws go on to dictate that third parties, “include politicians, governments, states, media, etc.” As the governing body for world football, these laws pertain to the continental confederations as well.

Since football and politics go hand in hand in every single country on this planet (except the United States of course), these types of laws are necessary to prevent interference from the highest levels. They were enforced in 2008 against Iraq. Greece, too, suffered in 2006.  Even Iran faced a suspension. While I applaud FIFA for having these statutes in place, it’s not enough. At the end of the day, FIFA (and the WTA for a time) backs off the BIGGEST issues around. Oh the hypocrisy…

Euro 2012 Qualifying Draw: Held on February 7th in Warsaw, UEFA (Europe’s governing football body)selected the 9 6-team qualifying groups to compete for entry into the 2012 tournament to be held in Poland and Ukraine. Prior to the draw however, UEFA took it upon themselves to publicly fix the draw. Due to political issues, Armenia and Azerbaijan could not be drawn against each other nor could Georgia and Russia. Sooo wait a minute. Let’s say Armenia and Azerbaijan were drawn in the same group. And then the Armenian government said it wouldn’t play in Azerbaijan – well then from what we know wouldn’t that result in a suspension???? Of course not. UEFA are cowards.

Which brings me to the issue at hand – Israel. As you can no doubt see here, Israel is geographically part of the Middle East and greater Asia. For years Israel competed in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) – qualifying for the 1970 World Cup and winning the Asian Cup in 1964. They came in 3rd place at the next Asian Cup which was held in Iran. Then, of course, war broke out in 1973. Emerging victorious yet again, Israel would eventually send a team to compete in the 1974 Asian games in Tehran. However, this is where things started to unwind. Kuwait – and every other Arab state in the tournament – refused to take the field against the Israelis. Rather than dock Kuwait points or suspend them from the tournament, Israel was booted by the AFC not simply from the Asian Cup but from the entire confederation.

As a result Israel was forced to, and please excuse the obvious metaphor, wander the footballing wilderness. For a time in the 1980s they competed in Oceania with the likes of Fiji and New Zealand. They were also given a chance to qualify for tournaments via Europe. Then in 1994, UEFA granted Israel full membership into Europe.

Fairytale ending? Not quite. It’s time for a change. It’s time for Israel to return to where it belongs in Asia. We are only talking a couple games a year – if that. If Kuwait or UAE or Bahrain or Iran won’t agree to play Israel in a qualifying game for any tournament, then THROW THEIR ASSES OUT OF THE COMPETITION!! I mentioned above that Iran was suspended at one point – that’s because Mahmoud Ahmadinejad put his own man in charge of the national football federation. Well if that same Holocaust-denying idiot would be the man to put his fist down to say Iran won’t play Israel, then issue another suspension! Dock points! Forfeit games!

If a country can’t guarantee the safety of the Israeli national team, then FIFA must step in. Why, after clamping down for years against government interference, does FIFA do nothing about this?

Just think about the repercussions of throwing Iran (4 WC appearances including ’98 and 06′) or Saudi Arabia (4 WC appearances – ’94, ’98, ’02, ’06) or Qatar (bidding to host a World Cup) out of competitions because of refusal to play Israel.  You really think the public wouldn’t mind? I promise you they would take to the streets.

In the meantime though, we’re left with a fool’s hope. Until Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA, grows a sac and makes some serious decisions (not least of which is allowing video replay), Israel will be left to fight it out with the big boys of Europe and miss endless opporunities of success in Asia. Why can’t Blatter step in and make a decree? He’s Swiss. Go figure…

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