Global Game Time: De Gea, Rooney, Messi, Ronaldo and That Back-Heeled Penalty
Five Football Stories From Around the World
From the brilliantly intimidating atmosphere of the Britannia Stadium in Stoke to the heavy humidity of RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. to the hothouses of Barcelona and Real Madrid, the global game gave us plenty of talking points this week. From offside Twittering to the tragic loss of a young player with imagination and verve, let’s take a look at some of the stories that have piqued the interest of soccer fans worldwide.
David De Gea Should Assert Himself
David De Gea is settling well as Manchester United’s new goalkeeper, but he needs to learn to jump with a leading knee up. I’m not suggesting he go the full Harald Schumacher, but unless he learns to command his area, teams like Stoke will always try to put the frighteners on him. Besides, as a goalkeeper, he’ll always get the ref’s protection.
Darren Fletcher revealed that the new No.1 had been prepped all week with video nasties of Stoke’s tactics. As Delap launched his bombs and Crouch and company crashed goalwards, De Gea stood tall against the onslaught. He again proved himself a talented shot-stopper: The save he made from Andy Wilkinson's first-half pile driver showed lightening reflexes and a strong hand.
But De Gea now needs to make a statement of intent.
It’s just a matter of time: the skinny kid from Madrid will eventually fill out the shirt of Schmeichel and van der Sar.
Tweet, Tweet: Rooney’s off the Teamsheet
Sir Alex Ferguson hates Twitter. The Old Trafford boss can’t understand why players wouldn’t rather read a good book from the library. Sir Alex retired to his hotel room last Friday night—presumably to read the latest bestseller on American political history (his subject matter of choice). Meanwhile, the rest of us were learning something he didn’t really want us to know.
Wayne Rooney was not in the hotel. He was at home nursing a hamstring strain. Or as his wife Coleen helpfully Tweeted, he was home with her watching a Beyoncé DVD. So Saturday’s opponents, Stoke City, had plenty of time to reconsider their game plan. Mrs. Rooney soon got a message from her husband’s workplace to think before texting in future. Presumably the message wasn’t Tweeted.
United missed Rooney’s creative spark against the spirited Stoke side. Meanwhile, his brother John, a New York Red Bulls player, still wants to represent the Republic of Ireland rather than his native England. Now when that happens, let’s hope Coleen Tweets us first.
Hat-Tricks Are This Season’s Superstar Statement
Hat-tricks are suddenly all the rage.
Wayne Rooney has scored three goals in consecutive games in September. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi each scored hat-tricks this weekend.
The Argentine wizard dazzled against Athlético Madrid: In the 26th minute he outfoxed the Madrid defense before bending the ball inside the post. Then he waltzed across a line of bemused Atlético defenders and shot across the goalkeeper. In injury time he ran onto a delightful Villa chip and shot between the legs of Courtois from an acute angle. It was his second La Liga hat-trick this season.
Not to be outdone, Cristiano Ronaldo posted his second of the season against Rayo Vallecano.
But most impressive of all was the three-goal treat from D.C. United’s Dwayne De Rosario against Real Salt Lake in MLS. DeRo showed his aerial strength with a flying header in the 22nd minute. Next came a magnificent right-foot shot from outside the area. He completed his hat-trick on 31 minutes with a swerving 30-yard free-kick. It took the Canadian just 9 minutes to notch his second hat trick of the year.
Football: Only a Game?
The UAE footballer who made us all laugh with his widely YouTubed back-heeled penalty against Lebanon has died in a car accident. Theyab Awana was killed when traveling back from training with his club Bani Yas. He was just 21.
Awana was widely criticized for “not showing respect” at the time of his outrageously improvised penalty. The same nonsense was trotted out when Manchester City’s Mario Balotelli tried a back-heel from open play in a pre-season friendly against the L.A. Galaxy.
Awana’s sad death should remind us that football, for all its competitiveness and corporate wealth, is still just a game. Sport is supposed to be fun. Players and coaches need a sense of perspective while working in the sport that thrills so many worldwide.
Meanwhile Bayern Munich’s Brazilian defender Breno has been arrested on suspicion of arson after fire destroyed his home. Earlier last week came the shock resignation of Schalke 04 coach, Ralf Rangnick, due to exhaustion.
Last year came the awful tragedy of the suicide of national goalkeeper Robert Enke, 32. Four years ago, the richly talented Sebastien Diesler quit football after struggles with injuries and depression. In his own words, he was not cut out for the harsh business of football.
The Referee’s A…Confused Man These Days.
There’s no consistency in refereeing. Score a goal, whip off your shirt for a celebratory twirl and you’re guaranteed a yellow card. Yet at the weekend we witnessed the Chicago Fire’s Dominic Oduro celebrate his first-half goal against the New England Revolution by removing his boot and performing a “hot potato” goal dance. The dance was a hoot—a well-earned bit of fun for a player enjoying the hottest streak of his career. This was his 11th strike of the season. But what’s the difference between removing one item of sports gear and another?
FIFA and referees should lighten up on goal celebrations, and tighten up the offside rule that causes such mass confusion, and which denied Manchester United a clear penalty against Stoke for handball…not to mention a thousand other confused calls this weekend.