Monday, May 21, 2007

Athens Glory - Part II

With the Euroleague Final Four has just been concluded, it's time to focus our attention in (probably the one that we've been looking forward to every year) the UEFA Champions League Final. It’s been a while since we have seen Albicelestes lifting the trophy. The last that I could remember was Fernando REDONDO (2000) and Santiago SOLARI (2002) with Real Madrid. We had some other players who were runners-up such as Roberto AYALA and Pablo AIMAR (Valencia), Hugo IBARRA (Monaco) and Hernán CRESPO (AC Milan).

Now despite the fact that there is a huge historic significance in this final, I'm not going to waste my time in giving you details pertaining to the teams that will be playing on the 23rd of May, as I believe that you may be able to obtain most of those details from your local daily. Instead, just like most of our blog's loyal readers, I'll focus on one particular character that will play in this final.

Even though the title of this article says it is Part - II, I'm really praying that this will not be a sequel to Part - I. Please not this time.

Life Can Be Tricky

Ever wonder what is it like going to bed at night without even knowing what does the future holds for you. Well it happened to me before. 7 years ago I was jobless for 8 months just after I finished high school. At the beginning it was fun (I did watch the entire Euro 2000 without even missing a single match!!!) but as times goes by you began to worry a lot. Well I guess Jefecito (Little chief), would've had the same experience before. Over the last 12 months he was jumping from Buenos Aires (in between Germany) to Sao Paolo to London to Merseyside.

I was first introduce to JAVIER during the 2004 Copa America but never realized how great he was until a few months later during the 2004 Olympics. He was part of an army battalion lead by General El Loco BIELSA, with a mission to go to Athens and win Argentina’s first gold medal in almost a half-century. Upon their arrival until the very end, they swept everything the came along their way without even receiving a single blow. This achievement allows JAVIER and his class of 2004 to be immortalized as Olympian Gods, a legacy that will live forever. The critics will have their say, stating that we were too strong for our opponent but so was Mark SPITZ, Nadia COMANECI or even Sergei BUBKA for that matter. The most important factor of his arrival was that finally we have a natural successor to El Cholo (Diego SIMEONE) in our national team.

With big clubs such as Real Madrid and Arsenal standing in line to get his signature, a local football pundit by the name of Shebby SINGH was asked at that time on who did he thought was the best between Patrick VIEIRA, Roy KEANE and Claude MAKELELE on ESPN Football Focus, and to my surprise he answered, "In my opinion, the best defensive midfielder in the world right now, he is aggressive, he is strong and he is Argentinean and his name is Javier MASCHERANO".

Well that was all back in 2004, since then big things did happen both on and off the pitch. If I had the chance to play Michael J. Fox’s character as Marty McFly from Back To The Future and given the opportunity to go further into time and come back to tell all of you what was going to take place in JAVIER’s career and life, NO ONE is ever going to believe me. In case you’ve forgotten, let me summarized it for you: -

- Big move to play for Corinthians in Brazil alongside with fellow Olympic gold medallist Carlos TEVEZ

- Never had the chance to shine in the land of our great rival as he was on a long term injury. Nearly missed the World Cup

- Returned just in time and played amazingly in the World Cup

- After the World Cup, returns to Brazil. Nightmare begins with the arrival of new Corinthians manager Emerson LEAO.

- After months of speculation, together with national team colleague and Corinthians team mate Carlos TEVEZ, joins West Ham on a controversial deal, just before the transfer window closed.

- From one nightmare to another. He is often left on the bench while a half talented player like Hayden MULLINS was running like a clown on the field.

- And when the opportunity came, got bitten off by an opponent (Jermain DEFOE).

- Rumours about a transfer to play in Serie B with Juventus (which didn’t go down well with some of us here)

- Interference from FIFA due to some pathetic rule, to allow him to play for a third team in a single season (Corinthians, West Ham and Liverpool).

- Did not receive call up for the National Team in recent friendly matches.

If there’s anything else, please feel free to add

Ok, big things? Well, they were big things but not the way that we would have wanted to hear. As a matter a fact I even came to the point to tell myself that it looked like we needed to wait until next season and hope JAVIER finds a new club to rediscover his old form before he can return to the National Team. JAVIER is not likely to be the darling of the media or any forum or discussion among Albicelestes supporters unlike MESSI, RIQUELME or VERON. But his importance to the National Team is always indispensable. Lets go back to 8th of June 2005, when Argentina hosted Brazil in the World Qualifying match and see how he dismantled RONALDINHO in that 3-1 victory.

At this point, anyone in JAVIER’s shoes would have needed an archangel to come and rescue him and guide him towards the right path. And it came in the form of Rafa BENITEZ. But still I had my fair share of doubt on how was RAFA going to fit him in, since there were GERRARD, ALONSO & SISSOKO fighting for the central midfielder position.

Most football critics (especially Ex-Liverpool Steve McMAHON, another pundit on ESPN Football Focus) weren’t that keen on watching JAVIER arriving to Anfield Road, as they felt it would have meant that RAFA would have pushed GERRARD to the right, rather than play him in central midfield. And why change a winning formula when SISSOKO is doing a fantastic job (as we’ve seen in the Champions League encounter against Barcelona) in the center of the field. Well the same football pundit, on the same show, who a few years ago mentioned that JAVIER was the best defensive midfielder in the world argued that his arrival would allow both GERRARD and ALONSO to help in attack and “It is a DISGRACE to compare Javier MASCHERANO to someone like Mohamed SISSOKO”

Yes! I do agree on why should they change a winning formula but there is no harm in enhancing it. Which is exactly what RAFA did. In return JAVIER has given a 120% committed performances (as witnessed in the Champions League semi-final clash against Chelsea) and perhaps, I my opinion, it was the main reason why Liverpool is now about to play another Champions League Final. AND THIS IS ALL HAPPENING IN 2007.

Having seen the way JAVIER played during the last few months, has given me some hope and inspiration that life is like a journey, walking in a dark tunnel on which at the end of it, there will be light shinning upon you.

But that journey is not complete yet. JAVIER will make a full cycle back to the same city that got his talent noticed three year ago by the whole world. Only this time the stage and the stakes are much more different.

The most ironic thing for me about this Champions League final is that two years ago, myself, Alwin and a few other crazy Albicelestes supporters were watching the game at a local coffee house (it was 2.30 AM here in Malaysia!!!) and we were chanting all the way for AC Milan (because an Albiceleste scored 2 goals, you know who!). And just when we were on our way home after the game, we just couldn’t believe the fact that someone like Djimi TRAORE, JOSEMI, Antonio NUÑEZ, Florent SINAMA-PONGOLLE were now lifting a Champions League trophy!!!

Now you’ll learn to understand what that sub-title for this article is all about. Tricky indeed.

Now, before I end this article, I would like to dedicate a simple memo to some good people out there. Here it goes…

To all Rossoneri supporters,

Please don’t get me wrong here, as 2 years ago, just like you, I was a happy man by half time, shocked after 90 minutes, depressed after extra time and just lost for words after the last penalty shoot-out.

Call me whatever you like but for most of us who read this blog, on the surface we might be red, black, brown or whatever colour it may be but our heart is always BLUE & WHITE and that’s all that matters.

Come 23rd May, there will be one man with a blue & white heart who I personally feel he deserves the medal the most as he completes his journey and see that light at the end of that tunnel. And when he walks into that pitch, HE WILL NEVER WALK ALONE, as behind him there are millions of BLUE & WHITE DIE HARD like me that will be cheering for him. And he is JAVIER ALEJANDRO MASCHERANO

I can truly understand what are you’re feelings right now and from the bottom of my heart I sincerely wish you all the best of luck my friends…but not in this final


Soyderiver said...

Well written and said, John. I too will cheer on Javier. Vamos Argentina y vamos Javier!

johnny said...

A porteno friend of mine emailed me tonight that he heard Chelsea had offered 30 million euro for Carlitos. Nooooooooo !!!! Don't do it Carlitos !!!!! Anybody but Chelsea !!!!

Seba said...

Sensational stuff, John!

You make any neutral feel like they have to support Javier MASCHERANO all the way!

I'm ready to watch him chasing every AC Milan player that come near him and really supporting Liverpool's defense AND attack in what is one of the most crucial positions in modern football.

And he can do everything that is required to a central midfielder these days.

What's even more important, he does it with a heart the size of his head!

VAMOS JAVIER! PONGA HUEVOS CARAJO! (this is something that has no translation to English or to any other language in the World! If you want to know what HUEVOS mean -in the football slang-, just watch MASCHE play and you'll know everything.

You can also watch an old tape from the time when SIMEONE wore the Albiceleste!

And Johnny...don't ever mention the words Chelsea and TEVEZ in the same sentence! PLEASE DON'T!

johnny said...

Noooo ! Now I read online that is a $80 million US offer ! Say it ain't so ! Somebody get Carlitos on the phone ! Go to Spain Carlitos ! You HATE the Premier League !

John said...

NBA News…

Carlos DELFINO’s Detroit PISTONS won their first match in the Eastern Conference Final against the Cleveland CAVALIERS by defeating them 76-79. Not much action from CARLITOS as he only played less then 5 minutes only manage 2 rebounds.

Anyway I would like to share with all you something that came across my mind while I was in the midst of doing this article. On the radio, it was the sound of SCORPIONS singing on their classis hit “Live Under The Same Sun”. It was then I realize something that connects all of us here.

Regardless whether you live in the freezing North Pole, in the scorching Sahara dessert or if it’s raining heavily at your place or any part of the world for that matter, at the end of the day just go out and look up. You’ll find that we do live under the same blue & white sky and the same sun.

Take a look closer you’ll find that in the world, only two national flag that contains these elements. And if you look even harder enough, there is only ONE national team that embraces this element gracefully.


Mal said...

Come on Javier. Win it for us tomorrow night. He may be blue and white but after Wed night he'll be red all over. Then he can ring Carlitos on Thu morning and tell him to fly over to Anfield and sign for LFC.

Ashley Gray said...

This match is a tough one for me. Being English, I should support Liverpool, but I never enjoy seeing the Reds win. I can imagine the endless boasts if they claim their sixth European Cup.

I just hope it's a good game


P.S. Thanks for your message Seba about the Argentina squad. Unfortunately I had internet problems and couldn't post until yesterday - and there were loads of new Copa America stories to get on top of. 35 days to go!

Seba said...

Mal, I sincerely hope that if Carlitos is to stay in England, he goes to Anfield Road.

I think it is the English club that is more suitable for him. Not because your style of play, but because the nature of the club itself. Their history, their supporters.

Look at Carlitos career and see that he was a perfect match for both Boca Juniors and Corinthians, the most popular team in Argentina and the second most popular team in Brazil -after Flamengo- (1st in Sao Paulo). Teams known for their massive support and their obligation to always GO FOR IT! GO FOR THE WIN, NO MATTER WHERE YOU PLAY.

That's his kind of attitude. So I think it'll go all to waste if he goes with Mourinho. He'll end up sitting in the bench, surrounded by millionaires that sometimes care about playing football and eventually will be fed up of seeing complacency and arrogant people all around. Let alone the supporters...

It'll be my worst nightmare if Carlitos goes to Stamford Bridge. I'm feeling like starting a campaign: "CARLITOS: JUST SAY NO!".

Ashley, don't tell me about count-downs! Here at the PanAm Games they are driving me crazy with work and we are a little less than 60 days from the start.

I've seen your blog and the latest news. There is a lot of info these days. I'm writing this from home and I'll soon leave to go to work. I can comment from there in your blog. But not here on mine! Isn't it ironic???

And John, that was the whole idea about our national flag! Mr. Manuel BELGRANO (hence the name of that First Division club from the beautiful province of Córdoba) had that in mind when he designed the flag. Just like you did, he took the sky as inspiration.

And on June 20, we celebrate our National Flag Day.

Mal said...

I agree with you about Carlitos Seba. I think everyone over here has been really impressed with his attitude. He'd a perfect fit at Anfield where players like Gerrard, Carragher and Kuyt are favourites for their never say die attitude. We showed it two years ago when we were 3-0 down at half time in Istanbul but we kept going. Tevez would do the same from what I've seen.

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