Saturday, December 27, 2008

12-27-08: Soccer Teams I'm Following

For about two years now I've been following soccer pretty closely. I record games to watch later, and will sometimes find myself watching even the most mundane, low-level game on TV. The reason: World Cup 2006. I was hooked, and wanted to see the star players play for their club teams. But I wasn't sure which teams to follow, or how closely.

I decided first off to pick a league to follow as the "primary league". The big club leagues in the world are The Barclay's Premier League (or English Premiership), La Liga in Spain, Serie A in Italy, Ligue 1 in France, and the German Bundesliga. I decided to stick to Europe, though the Brazilian League is quite good, but I can't find it on TV easily. Looking online and on the TV listings, it looked like the English Premiership would be the easiest to follow, though I do also pay some attention to La Liga and Serie A.

The task was then to pick a team to follow. Thanks to a great piece on Page 2 by Bill Simmons, I narrowed my choice down to three teams: Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, and Everton. Simmons picked Tottenham, but I wanted to give all three teams a fair shake. So, I watched a few matches on Fox Soccer Channel, and made my choice: Tottenham Hotspur. The decision came down to the fact that the captain of the Irish National Team, Robbie Keane, was on Spurs (though before this current season he moved to Liverpool).

Spurs (as they are known) finished fifth that season, which I joined in about halfway through. It was a very good finish for a team outside of the "big four" of Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Chelsea, who all had huge payrolls. Alas, Spurs struggled at the beginning of the 2007-2008 campaign, sacked (fired) their manager Martin Jol (who had carried them to two consecutive fifth place finishes) and hired Juande Ramos. Spurs struggled their way to an 11th place finish last season, but did win the Carling Cup (English and many other European teams play in various tournaments, or cups, during the course of their regular season). Unfortunately for Ramos, Spurs struggled even more at the beginning of this season, at one point being last in the league for a couple weeks in a row. Fortunately, they've begun to climb their way back up the table (standings) and are now currently in 16th. Not good, but they are out of the dreaded "Relegation Zone", in which teams who finish in the bottom three get bumped down to the second tier English Championship league the next season. Hopefully Spurs can manage a top 10 finish this season under new manager Harry Redknapp. Juande Ramos, fired by Spurs, is back in Spain managing Real Madrid, current champions of La Liga. Tough luck, I guess.

Tottenham Hotspur is, however, not the only team I follow. I admire the play of La Liga, and do consider it slightly stronger a league than the English Premiership. For the past six months or so, I've been following FC Barcelona. This is mostly thanks to "Barca TV" on Fox Soccer Channel, which shows a bunch of FC Barcelona matches. I think Lionel Messi happens to be the best player in the world, and the games are quite entertaining.

I'm also loosely following AC Milan, but not as much as the other two. The only reason why AC Milan is because my ex-girlfriend did a project in Milan a couple years ago during college, and when I visited her for Christmas (aren't I a great guy?) she spoke about AC Milan (she'd been to a game) and thought I'd like a team jersey. I said sure, until we walked into the official team store and saw the price. No thanks, I'll just watch on TV.

Unfortunately, I'm moving in less than a week and will no longer get Fox Soccer Channel... BUT... I found a bar in New Haven called Anna Liffey's that supposedly shows all sorsts of broadcasted games on various channels every week. I even joined the Anna Liffey's Soccer Club yesterday to receive weekly updates on games they're showing. What can be better than a pint and a football match? Come on, you Spurs!

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