The Legend of Wooley Swamp

What ever happened to nuance? Jabberwocky is being spewed up by the left and right as they try to drag us into their Wonderlands. This blog charts a path out of this swamp of simple truths and false certainties. And from time to time, it'll be a place for more light-hearted musings.

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Location: Palms - L.A, California

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Zlatan's Midsummer Night's Dream

This pundit knows who'll be making the meatballs next time
(text reads: "Old Swede, they're tasty")

Today, it's Midsummer. On this day the moon and stars are aligned for Swedes, showing the opponents the way to premature retirement in Valhalla. It is also the day of the Maypole Dance.

In less than 18 hours, it’s GAME time: Sweden takes on Germany back at the Munich Allianz Arena. To remind you, we were there for the Tunisia-Saudi Arabia game and it sure looked like just the place for an epic battle.

The German media continues to hyperventilate about moose, kippers, meatballs, IKEA, Volvo while coming up with lame anti-Sweden songs sung to the tune of Abba's hits. Funny as is "ha ha", but at least der Spiegel is on to something with this piece:

Thankfully the German tabloid Bild is on hand to assist today, and offers a handy appraisal of Sweden's top players by comparing them to household items commonly found in IKEA. "Ever had problems with the instructions for your new piece of IKEA furniture?" asks the paper. "Bild explains how to take the Swedes to pieces!" And, if the German players follow the Bild assembly instructions to the letter, then they'll surely throw a spanner in the works come Saturday.
Take the bearded Olof Mellberg for example. He plays in defense, so obviously Bild thinks he most resembles a gnarled wooden cupboard -- or "Defensive Cupboard Olof" for short...

(click here to read the entire piece, scroll down past the sex part....)

Finally, the German coach Klinsmann upped the ante by calling a potential defeat “a catastrophe”. Dunno about that – going to Valhalla has its advantages, sire!

Swedish Fan Foretells Great Victory while drinking
Giant Danish!? Beer. Kudos: Erin T.

It will be sad to see the hosts go home, I mean stay here, but it’s the way it has to be. Enough trash talk: here’s my take on a sad discussion about which strikers should play up front for Sweden.

Everyone from fans to ‘experts’ in Sweden wants Marcus Allbäck to play. Yes, the guy who never scored for Hansa Rostock or Aston Villa. Conversely, they want to see Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the bench. Yes, one of the most gifted players around (watch the videos on, the kind of guy who puts fear into the heart of the German defenders. The same defenders who had Allbäck for breakfast all last year. So what explains this irrational thinking?

Lots of theories abound in the Swamp’s mind. It boils down to Allbäck supposedly being a team player, more ‘Swedish’ (yes, he is blond too….) I’ve heard enough from Swedish commentators over the years and read a media analysis of the Swedish attitude to Zlatan to say there is a more than a measure of discrimination here.

When this Swedish-born son of a Bosnian father and Croatian mother first emerged on the stage, he was the future of the Swedish game. Simultaneously, he became THE symbol of diversity – that Sweden like France, with Zidane, Henry, Thuram et al, was now emerging from the mire of ethnic chauvinism. Sadly, that assessment is wrong.

When Zlatan plays well, when he signed for Juventus Turin, one of the best teams in the world, all the experts beat their chests for “Zlatan the Swede.” But when he doesn’t, he’s called “temperamental” and “not part of the collective” or "enigmatic". Puh-lease. Other more individualistic players on the Swedish team, i.e. the ethnic Swedes, are simply not held to the same standard. And when Allbäck failed to score for umpteen games in a row that was somehow ok.

Zlatan after scoring the goal against
Hungary that put them in the World Cup.

What can I say? Zlatan HAS to play for Sweden to have a chance. He shot them all the way to the finals in the first place. Talk about amnesia!

No matter, there are fools everywhere, Zlatan doesn’t care. He’ll still score that goal and off Sweden goes. May the Maypole dance comenceth.


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Friday, June 23, 2006

World Cup Trash Talk

NOTE: Please check out the Swamp later today, a new post featuring Viking War Paint is in the works. For now, it's off to the game! Go Tunisia...I mean, Ukraine....ehhhh....

The First Round is almost over and we’re back in Berlin to catch the Tunisia-Ukraine game at Berlin’s rather infamous Olympic Stadium. While we’re still supporting Tunisia, we kind of hope that Ukraine pulls through. That way we get an extra day in Berlin and get to watch Spain play France, South Korea or Switzerland in Hanover. Otherwise we have to ship out early on Monday and go all the way to Cologne. Confused? Don’t worry, it’s all about how the teams finish in each group.

Frenzied Fans Watching Cote D'Ivoire-Holland

In other news, it’s all about the trash talk! Ahead of the Sweden-England game, various English media outlets engaged in some friendly ribbing. And some were just plain pathetic, read this ‘jewel’ from an expat Swede, who having found paradise as a “little Englander”, now writes for the xenophobic Daily Mail. From the land of the midnight sun to bottom-feeding and lapping up warm beer….way to go!

Well, that didn’t work, now did it? Regardless, the German media are now engaged in the kind of campaign they usually deplore. You see, whenever England face Germany, the Brit media goes even crazier than in that Sweden article above. And the Germans get very upset, especially when the war somehow gets mentioned.

Now that Germany is bound for their own Teutonic Valhalla (i.e. Munich) tomorrow, confronted with the mighty hammers and feet of Thor and Zlatan, they are trying to talk the trash since they can’t walk the dawg.

Sweden is being lambasted as the land of IKEA Kickers and Knäckebröd Men. Oh yeah, and home of the moose attacks (they got that one wrong ). This from a country that lets a crazed bear run loose and then employs supposed FINNISH! bear experts to chase it down! (CLICK HERE for that wacky tale!) Gott im Himmel!

(Relaxed) Fans of all Ages, (c) Akko

A quick look in today’s Bild Zeitung, Germany´s tabloid reveals that Germany has a plan on how to try to avoid their impending doom. Read that here. It´s in German, but the graphics tell the tale and smack of desperation. "You think you can take us? You need a *(&%army to take us…."

Finally, yesterday was another glorious day as tons of pundits had to place more orders of humble pie. Both Ghana and Australia progressed out of really tough groups (as the near brilliant Cote D´Ivoire should have done). So you’ll be hearing things like “not highly rated” or “surprising underdogs”. Whatever. Ghana dominated against the Czechs last week, just like Australia controlled the game vs. Croatia yesterday. We are not talking about flukes here.

So while I was saddened by the U.S. exit, and disgusted by the refereeing, Ghana definitely deserved it. At least some face paint (thanks Leeza, and, yes, that's Jimi James in the background) cheered people up - and probably riled some fools!

And there's always the beer…does it ever run out in Germany? NO!

Skål, Cheers and Prost! Go Ghana, Australia and Sverige!


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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Tunisia, Tunisia (and silly pundits)

The World Cup is just over a week old and the Swamp has finally found the breathing room to file a report. It’s a beautiful morning in Füssen, Bavaria and I’m enjoying one of the nicest hotel buffet breakfasts ever. The town is located near one of the most famous castles in the world, Neuschwanstein (i.e. the Disney Castle.) The castle was definitely worth seeing, but it will forever be associated with the World Cup since it’s where we saw Ghana trounce the Czech Republic.

Now, this is sweet on so many levels, where to begin? For one thing, it was deserved. That might not seem so sweet, but after 10 days plus of listening to pundits wax "xenofoolery" about African (and Asian) teams' – yes, they are almost always clumped together – lack of organization and patience, this game should seal their yappers at least for a while.

For once, they HAD to comment on the soccer: the heavily favored, supposedly superior Europeans – almost never clumped together – were taught a lesson in attacking football. And mark my word; the Czech Republic is a good team.

After that game we headed back here to Füssen, checked into our hotel and headed out in search of a place to watch the second game of note: the U.S. vs. Italy. Another ‘underdog’ up against a European team that could only avoid winning due to force majeure. It ended in a rather unfortunate tie....The U.S. deserved better.

Read this story to see how smoked up the Italian coach was. A team like Italy, who claims to aspire to greatness, “underestimates” the country that pushed Germany to the brink in the 2002 quarterfinals? The Swamp was there on that late June day in Ulsan and saw with his own blurry eyes.

Hello? What is up with the anachronistic, caught-in-a-worm-hole, alternate reality thinking of these pundits? If I know that Ghana and the U.S. can win, why do they so dearly cling on to their bags of clichés and insufferable nonsense? If they only acknowledged that this might happen, they wouldn't seem so pathetic when it inevitably does.

Non-traditional footballing nations, i.e. those outside of Europe and Brazil/Argentina, have been making an impact for decades; yet the Rip van Winkle experts seems to have woken up to their playing at this level only yesterday. I could offer you a list replete with countless stupidities uttered by these characters. Instead, I’ll summarize it in this way:
  1. If an outsider team LOSES, it is due to deficient tactics, bad coaching and eager-beaver amateur/naive players BUT

  2. If the coach is a foreigner, i.e. from a former colonial power (e.g. Togo, coached by a German, Cote D’Ivoire/Tunisia by Frenchmen) then it’s definitely just the players’ fault AND

  3. If these players are not amateurs but well-paid professionals, they can’t be called amateurs, so “spoiled” will do. NOW

  4. If the outsider team WINS it’s either due to a pure luck, a conspiracy, food poisoning incurred by the opponents or a combination of the three.
And finally, features about the outsider team are usually NOT about sport, but about “exotic” things like witchdoctors, kids playing with rag-balls, the “traditions” of the countries etc.
No doubt, stereotypes always have something to them and thus you could have similar stories about e.g. France or Argentina. But somehow you never do. Wonder why….

I'll be returning to Berlin in a couple of days and will try to file a couple of somewhat more lucid reports. After attending tomorrow’s game between Tunisia and Spain, I’ll be able to comment with more authority on the Cup itself.

Who am I really cheering for? Read this and ponder....

But as you can probably tell from the photos, it’s all about Tunisia…for now.


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