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The absurd Frenchman
French skipper Raymond Domenech is, perhaps, the perfect stand-in for his country: he is the most ridiculed manager in international soccer — and easily the most entertaining.

Domenech famously decided to keep winger Robert Pires off the team because the player was a Scorpio. And the coach (Aquarius, with Virgo rising) has little patience for Leos, either.

“When I have got a Leo in defense, I’ve always got my gun ready,” he once said. “I know he’s going to want to show off at one moment or another and cost us.”

The coach’s caprice has not gone over well with astrologically challenged players. But Domenech has managed to piss off even those with more favorable charts.

Once accused of treating star midfielder Claude Makelele, who was born in Africa, like a “slave” by “forcing” him to play for Les Bleus, Domenech replied: “He’s the slave and I’m the slave driver. I crack the whip and he comes running.”

When his French team defeated Portugal in a 2006 World Cup semi-final match, he reportedly shouted at the Iberian squad, “I fucked you! I fucked you!”

And after a miserable showing at the Euro 2008 tournament, the manager used a post-match press conference to ask Estelle Denis, the mother of his two children, to marry him. She was none too pleased.

There was likely more tension on the home front this past fall when former porn star turned art-rocker Catherine Ringer released the hit single “Je Kiffe Raymond” (“I Fancy Raymond”). Among the lyrics: “If he attacked my penalty areas, I would be without defenders.”

Sadly, the coach seems to be without many defenders of his own these days. The French Football Federation has named a successor who will take over after the World Cup.

But at least Domenech seems to understand the feelings many have for him — and his countrymen: “I sometimes think that, if I had to put up with me,” he once said, “I would probably hate me, too.”

Sneaker attack
North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il seems to have made a fetish of the state secret. The latest mystery, all the rage on the blogosphere: the identity of the company sponsoring the North Korean soccer team.

We can rule out a few outfits: it won’t be Adidas (which is the official sponsor of 12 World Cup teams), Nike (nine, including the Yanks), Puma (seven), or smaller companies Brooks, Umbro, or Joma (one each).

But which company has actually won the honor of sponsoring one of the world’s most despicable dictatorships? That’s less clear.

A Web site called North Korea Economy Watch is reporting that Erke, owned by Chinese sporting-goods company China Hongxing Sports, will be the sponsor. (Erke sponsored the North Korean Olympic team in Beijing, though the North Korean athletes refused to wear the Erke logo, angry that the logo would get equal billing with the North Korean flag on their uniforms.)

My Football Kits, a British soccer collectibles site is reporting that the jerseys will be made by Basque manufacturer Astore, which also makes the kits for Spanish club team Real Sociedad.

And nysportsjournalism.com is reporting that the North Koreans will be wearing Pirma, while various other collectible fan sites are convinced that they’ll be outfitted by Hummel, a former sponsor, and have posted photos of the team in Hummel gear (though there are no dates on those photos).

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