FOOTIE

REIGNING SPAIN!

By Olu Alemoru

Euro 2008 final fan.

Labanter’s Mad-for-it-Manc and The GOONER joined Spanish and German fans as they took over SM’s The King’s Head and Barney’s Beanery to witness a tense match, won by a touch of class from Scouse striker Fernando Torres.

In the 33rd minute Torres raced passed a seemingly stagnant Philipp Lahm to smartly lift a Xavi through ball over German keeper Jens Lehman.

Spain had dominated play from the kick-off and the always dangerous Torres had hit the post with a header when he rose to meet Sergio Ramos’s cross on 22 minutes.

One goal down, the expected German onslaught didn’t materialize in the second half and marshaled by the brilliance of Marcos Senna and Cesc Fabregas, Spain missed a paella (ooohhhh) of good chances to do real justice to their dominance.

It might be worth putting a few bob on the Spanish for the next World Cup in South Africa!

PLAY IT AGAIN, ERIC

By Olu Alemoru

All reverence aside, “Looking for Eric,” iconic British director Ken Loach’s homage to Manchester United’s French footballing star, Eric Cantona, might be considered a comic gem for the ages.

Of course, as a Manchester-born fan whose idolized the club all his life, one might be drifting into dangerous hyperbole so I’ll bring it back to say it’s an engrossing movie and all sane people should immediately get on the blower (phone) to order it from IFC Films On Demand.

Written by frequent Loach collaborator Paul Laverty (“Carla’s Song,” “Bread and Roses,” “The Wind that Shakes the Barley”), the film is actually about two Erics; the mercurial but controversial striker who graced the English Premiership in the early to late ‘90’s and Eric Bishop (Steve Evets), a working class postman who invokes his idol to turn his miserable life around.

As a quick preamble, the reverence that Manchester fans have for their adopted Frenchman, who was signed from their then division rivals Leeds United, cannot be understated.

Witness one of the fans’ most famous chants:
What a friend we have in Jesus
He’s a saviour from afar
What a friend we have in Jesus
And his name is Cantona

However, middle-aged Mancunian postman Eric Bishop would kill to have a sniff of that kind of glory.

Beset by panic attacks, Bishop can’t concentrate on his job and is at a loss on how to control his two teenage stepsons, Ryan (Gerard Kearns) and Jess (Stephan Gumbs), after his ex-wife up and left.

Meanwhile, he’s crushed by the guilt of knowing that 30 years ago he was the one who did the dirty on Lily (Stephanie Bishop), walking out on the love of his life when she fell pregnant with their daughter Sam (Lucy-Jo Hudson).

Now Sam is about to graduate from University and she needs to help from both her grandparents to help look after their granddaughter while she focuses on upcoming exams.

In other words, Bishop will have to meet up with the woman he has not been able to face for all those years, all the while being treated like a doormat in his own home as the two lads treat him like a skivvy (servant) only there to get their meals and pay the bills.

As thoughtless as he is, Jess, who spends hours watching video games, is at least academically-minded, whereas Ryan, who favors getting drunk and high and watching porn videos with his loutish friends, has also taken up with Zac (Steve Marsh), a psychotic, local villain.

But luckily for Bishop his fellow Manchester United-obsessed workmates rally to his cause; first by pitifully trying to tell him funny jokes to cheer him up and then by having Meatballs (John Henshaw), the self-styled leader of their crew, chant positive affirmations round at Bishop’s house.

Thus, the other Eric channels the aura of the great man and later when pilfering some of Ryan’s weed, the Frenchman appears and like in Woody Allen’s “Play It Again Sam,” begins to impart truth and wisdom to bring his namesake back from the brink.

Cantona, who retired from football in 1997 for a new career as an actor (“Elizabeth”) and producer, plays himself with some aplomb.

Noticeably thicker than the lithe, balletic, athlete who bestrode United’s Old Trafford turf like a resplendent peacock, Man Utd and football fans in general will delight in revisiting some of his great and not so great moments.

Along with the sublime artistry of his goals, there was the infamous dismissal where he Kung-Fu kicked a fan who had abused him as he was walking off the pitch.

The incident resulted in a nine month ban, but his poetic response at a press conference cemented his philosophical reputation: “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea. Thank you very much.”

With that he got up from the table and left.

And although the Manchester faithful seemed to know instantly he was talking about the media waiting for him to fail, the assembled journalists scratched their heads in confusion.

But then again, how could they be expected to understand the genius of the man we dubbed “King Eric.”

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