Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What's the story (faded glory)?


(This appears in the Tuesday, February 26, 2008 edition of the Business Mirror)

the title was inspired by Oasis' great second album

by rick olivares

Another year. Another failure on the international stage. Their Golden Generation will be watching Euro 2008 from the telly unless they can’t stomach the sight of their international teammates and foes moving to the second most prestigious football tournament on the planet.

The English gifted the world with football but it took a Brazilian to not only lay claim to the title as its greatest player ever but to also give the sport its poetic nickname… the beautiful game.

Yes, Brazil. It counts among its greatest exports rubber, samba, bossa nova, supermodels, and football players.

But when you talk about England, if it isn’t the Royals, it’s the weather, London Bridge, and how foreigners overrun the English Premiere League. After sacking the lousy and divisive Steve McClaren, the English Football Association courted Brazilian Felipe Scolari, saw Portuguese coach Jose Mourinho cast his lot in the hat, before eventually settling on Italian Fabio Capello who last led Real Madrid to the La Liga title in 2006-07 to manage the Three Lions.

This makes for bad comedy, lads. The Bard may sugarcoat it, but I will not mince my words. English pride has been supplanted by money.

The best player on EPL-leading Arsenal, which has a distinctly French flavor owing to its manager Arsene Wegner, is none other than Spaniard Francesc Fabregas. If you think that Manchester United is winning because of Wayne Rooney then you’ve got another thing coming – it’s actually Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentine Carlos Tevez. Chelsea may have the dynamic duo of Frank Lampard and John Terry but this team won in large part to Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba. Liverpool may have its talismanic midfielder Steven Gerrard but it has been the presence of former Atletico Madrid and Spanish national player Fernando Torres who has carried this underachieving team.

The Hillsborough incident and being banned for five years from European competition cleaned up football in England of hooliganism, but it also cleaned up the domestic league of homegrown players. And will November 21, 2007 go down in English history as a day of infamy as the national squad composed of millionaires were ousted from Euro 2008 by Croatia when they needed only a draw to move on to the next stage? For the first time in 24 years where there will be no British presence in the tournament.

And former England gaffer Sven Goran-Eriksson has rubbed salt on the wounds of critics after he conspired with former Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to mastermind a revival in Manchester City.

Being a Liverpool fan, I’ve always been a fan of Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, and Steven Gerrard, but some of the team’s most prolific scorers have been Welshman Ian Rush and Scotsmen Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness. And now Torres is scoring like crazy.


Australia, which has less than half of England’s total population, has been doing far better in international sports than its mother country. The Socceroos, as the Australian national team is fondly known, beat England convincingly in the last time they faced off in the World Cup despite being way behind in FIFA’s standings. Makes you wonder if the point system FIFA follows is outdated, huh?

What’s wrong with British football? Does the team need stewardship by proven international winners like Capello or is a team composed of millionaires the football equivalent of American Dream Team wannabes who have been taking a beating by teams from Europe and the Americas? And what should be done to improve the state of their game?

1) To say that they’re composed of nothing but millionaires is a fallacy. The Italians, Germans, French, Dutch, even the African teams are comprised of the equally rich and famous. Save for the African, Middle Eastern, and Asian teams, the best teams in the world are all coached by their own countrymen.

How does an Italian effectively communicate “for Queen and for country” when he learned to speak the language from watching the BBC and English Premiere League games! Fabio Capello may be a winner but he is better off coaching a club team or Italy when Roberto Donadoni steps down.

And then again, they must choose a manager who is smart enough to field the right team. If Steve McClaren understood his team, he played Shaun Wright-Phillips on a muddy Wembley Stadium when the midfielder relies on pace to be effective. And equally stupefying is his move of benching Paul Robinson (of Tottenham) in favor of a relatively inexperienced Scott Carson (of Aston Villa) whose blunder led to Croatia’s first goal. While Robinson has been out of form for some time, he should have benched him much earlier instead of in a crucial match of which the result will resonate for some time to come.

2) There should be a limit to the number of foreigners plying their trade in the English Premiere League. Take for example Liverpool. After Gerrard, there’s Peter Crouch, Jermaine Pennant, and Jamie Carragher who are locals. There are four other lads on the team but they hardly get off the bench. So the English contingent is only 1/5 of the squad. And it’s not all the time that the four are on the pitch together.

This doesn’t guarantee success since you have to go win it on the pitch but you will develop more experienced and better footballers.

Whenever a player goes off to play for flag and country, the clubs usually frown on that because it could mean an injury to their “properties” and less chances to advance which leads to less people in the seats and revenue. It’s a money thing. Case in point, Ashley Cole and John Terry played a full match (in spite of reports of their being less than 100%) for Chelsea in the game immediately before the qualifier.

Maybe if the money is the language these players understand then maybe the FA should start paying them to play for England.

3) The top clubs’ grassroots development has begun to see the inclusion of young boys from other countries. These are the kids they hope to grow up through the system are expected to one day more up to the top flight division. Wow, not only are they disenfranchising the English in the top levels but they’re also nipping them in the bud before they even have a chance to grow.

4) Prior to the England-Croatia match in the Euro 2008 Qualifiers, the English media and some its players (Michael Owen in particular) made light of the team from the Balkans by saying that none of their players were good enough to start for England. “I read in your papers that no Croatian player would start on your team," said Vatreni (“the Blazers”) coach Slaven Bilic to English reporters. "I mean, seriously, wake up." Bilic’s team has three players currently seeing action in the EPL that helped pace Group E that counted Russia and Andorra in its ranks.

It’s been 44 years since the late Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst’s England won the World Cup. That’s like saying that the world has caught up to the Americans in basketball. It’s time that England woke up to smell the coffee that the world too has passed them by.

Oh yeah, they don’t drink coffee in the Sceptered Isle, right? No wonder.



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