Monday, July 23, 2007

A Very Very Long 2nd Half

A classic. 3-2 down and the long second half just about to finally be ended by the whistle perched in the referee's lips. Looking at his watch, counting the reaming seconds between FCディナモ and a moral inspiring first win. The heat and humidity were sapping, the floodlights dimming, the game ending and then....and then little Yasu DEH's midfield maestro hurtled down the left wing outpacing a couple of defenders, and cracked a sumptuous left food shot from the corner of the box that smacked past the keeper at his near post. Parity. Oh what joy for DEH in a game that at half time looked ominously like being 'another one of those games'.

The game was played at Hatsukaichi Soccer Park on astro turf and under floodlights. All three being new to both David and Jaime (the only gainjin playing) and DEH FC. We arrived early to make sure we arrived on time, and after abandoning a potentially dangerous short cut, arrived by taxi with an hour to spare. A highly entertaining match was in place and we enjoyed watching the 2nd half whilst hoping that the rest of team would turn up with substitutes to spare, as it was still mightily humid and Jaime had played golf earlier in the day.

After a small fright, DEH indeed would indeed play with 3 substitutes, both Jaime and David volunteering to sit out the 1st half to offer piercing tactical observations to the team's play. It didn't really work. As half time approached DEH was 2 down and looking somewhat forlorn. They trudged off and after a bit of obvious comments on how to improve the second half (i.e defend better) Jaime and David were ready to enter the fray.

The first thing to remark was it was bloody hot. Dry blue shirts were soon darkened by the outpouring of sweat. The second difference was the team had a bit more "umphf" thanks, one has to conclude, to the more aggressive style of the English contingent.

The 2nd half began at pace and didn't let up, DEH knew an early goal would give them a real boost. After a couple of useful attacks, the ball broke loose in midfield, before ending up at Jaime's feet. He looked up at the keeper and despite being closed down lofted a perfect 35 yard chip over the flailing keeper and in the net. Game on.

The equaliser came soon after, but not before a missed penalty by Yousuke. As he had been felled in the box, Jaime the usual taker, inquired what Yousuke wanted... Unfortunately Yousuke's shot brushed the outside of the left post. Yet DEH was not despondent for long as a beautiful low fizzing cross was turned in by Hide. Joy....

...Followed by immediate despair. From the restart FCディナモ went and won a free kick which was dispatched beautifully past the DEH keeper. The team strove and the FCディナモ goal was repelling wave after wave of DEH attack. Jaime hit the post from a side-footed ride foot shot outside the box, the keeper scrambled a couple of last gasp saves (once a bit illegally) and it seemed that fortune would be heartless creature. Then, just when the half was 50mins old and finally seemed to be over, up ran Yasu and a wonderful rapturous scream of triumph reverberated around the empty stands.

David, observe the sweat drenched shirt...

Jaime looking rather pleased under the lights

Thursday, July 19, 2007

For Eri, The Cock-Eyed Mahjong Queen

Death: A Poem

Nor dread nor hope attend
A dying animal;
A woman awaits her end
Dreading and hoping all;
Many times she died,
Many times rose again.
A great woman in her pride
Confronting murderous men
Casts derision upon
Suppression of breath;
She knows death to the bone
Woman has created death. *

By William Butler Yeats

On Monday the cock-eyed mahjong players received the very sad news that Eri had succumbed to cancer she had fought valiantly for over a year. The last time she came to mahjong was at the Christmas Prize giving and she looked well. Alas it was not to last.

*I hope that I might be allowed some license with regards the small alterations with the wording of the poem above.

“Winning at mahjong is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.”

American football is by the large a mystery to me, mostly the team names are what I can remember on a good day, but even then the frequent relocation of teams to different cities can make even that simplistic detail erroneous. So it wouldn't be my favoured topic on Mastermind.

Like most British kids who spent their younger school years in the 80’s my first interaction with American football, or Grid Iron as it was labelled, was through Channel 4’s coverage. Overnight, kids would come to school and announce they would support “the Dolphins...Giants...the Raiders...”.

For a while, seemingly a couple of years Grid Iron was popular in a sort of lets-play-something-different-at-lunchtime-instead of sockball*... I can only really remember 2 lunchtimes, and it even then the games really turned into touch rugby as we had no idea what the rules were.

So, American Football has not made much impact on my sporting life, except for one coach in particular – unsurprisingly it is Vince Lombardi. Lombardi’s name has been attached to many memorable quotes, the most famous being “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”. He seems to be credited with being the first “modern” sports coach. Any football coach wanting to sound deep spins out a Lombardi quote, or if trying for more kudos knocks out a quote that he “has just recently read the Lombardi biography...”. So, unable to find a title for this entry, and wanting to sound intellectual in a sporting kind of way, I thought a quick Lombardi quote search would divulge some results. The result is the top of this report.

As for the mahjong, well after a rather sedate beer garden and after losing 2 of the gang for different reasons the remaining 5 retreated back to my domain in Mitaki for mahjong, beer and sleep (Tim).

Three highly enjoyable games were played which threw up only 1 constant – Neil’s departure from Cock-Eyed MJ ended in triumph. As one American ascended, t’other wilted under the pressure and returned to the bottom of the MJ table. One other unexpected result relegated that Celtic Tiger Ray to the red, his seemingly steady climb in the black was abruptly halted.

Amazingly considering the hours of play and the fact that most of us had been imbibing a constant trickle of alcohol since 5:30pm, no chombos or yakitori were committed. There were no big hands either mind you, a few sneaky 1 tile riichi, but hey it makes it far easier to concentrate!

As dawn broke over the Mitaki hills the 3rd game ended and Neil’s 4 day visit back to the land of living had resulted in 13.5 hours of mahjong play and he left for his return visit to Miyazaki with 180 yen burning a hole in his pocket. It was good to see him.

The final reckoning:

Neil +81 +9 +13 = +103
Jaime -23 +38 +58 = +73
Kenyon -32 +9 -26 = -49
Ray -26 -56 -45 = -127

*Sockball was a ruse decreed on high by my middle school headmaster, a large old man who had a likening for smacking small children on their buttocks for any tiny infringement of the school rules. Despite no classrooms being in range of a 10 year old’s shot, all footballs & tennis balls were banned from the playground to protect the school’s windows. So, we used to role up socks and tights into a ball like shape and kick that around. It was great when the weather was dry...but this being England that wasn’t a very likely event during the winter months and sockballs would tend to unravel into a soggy soaking mass. At this point a game of British Bulldog was usually started. Ah happy days. Well except for Hedgehog the headmaster...

Friday, July 06, 2007

How strangely will the Tools of a Tyrant pervert the plain Meaning of Words!

There is an old sports saying that is often wheeled out from time to time, "the table never lies". The premise being that at the end of any season, the champions are the best team and the last place is reserved for the worst. Now, of course, in the myopic world of the football fan, the table often lies - quite blatantly especially when through some horrid twist of fate the season ends up tragically wrong. This happened to my own team, when Leeds Utd (like thieves climbing through your house window late at night while you are nursing a sick relative in hospital) stole the league championship. Still, I suppose considering the present circumstances I shouldn't bleat too much...

Ahh, but I digress. Last season Watford, Charlton and Sheffield United were relegated from the English Premiership, they finished in the bottom three and were pitiful to watch at times. Justice done then? Well, here is the snag, another team should have been relegated (actually, if my opinion counts for anything - right out of the entire football league!) for not just breaking league rules, but smashing them with a sledgehammer. They club cheated, they lied and through their deliberate deceit they are about to gulp the new sugary sweet TV deal at a mere £50m a season. The official Inquiry revealed that key members of the West Ham board willingly and purposely concealed and misled the Premier League. You don't need a law degree to conclude that is bollocks.

The much heralded "best league in the world" English Premiership has once again shown to be stupid and what is more they don't give a damn. Clubs are being bought up left and right by persons whose accumulation of their vast fortunes are somewhat questionable. Or, and I still can't work this one out, being 'bought' by American tycoons who don't actually pay any money from their vast pockets. Clubs are being straddled with debts that are ludicrous.

One of the goals of the Premier League when it began in 1992 (oh and by the way, football did exist before then, though Sky TV like to pretend that it isn't the case) the league would be structured to help the England national team...yeh that REALLY worked! The game is actually struggling, crowds are down as fans have been priced out, the number of English players in the top league has dwindled to such an extent, if this was rainfall in summer severe drought warnings would be in effect.

But back to the matter in hand. The Premier League has accepted that lying, cheating and in pilfering is fine - as long as you say that you are sorry, very sorry and you promise to cross your heart and hope to die that it will never happen again. No PlayStation for a week and reduction of your pocket money and let that be a lesson to you!

"I cannot accept, your canon that
we are to judge pope and king unlike other men,
with a favorable presumption that they do no wrong.
If there is any presumption, it is the other way against holders of power ...
Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. "

Lord Acton

Top Quote: Samuel Adams