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20 March 2009 ~

The draw for the final stages of this season's Champions League took place in Switzerland this morning. The BBC's website, as you would expect, covered the event in detail and as befits the national broadcaster, they have emboldened the names of the English representatives. So what, exactly, are they trying to tell us about Chelsea?

Badge of the week
Kalmar are the champions of Sweden and their badge has an element of the alpha male about it. While many may see a blamelessly bright-coloured football, I myself see an image that haunts me to the depths. A few years ago, on holiday in Iceland, I patronised a native swimming baths with hot springs annexe. Unfortunately I had neglected to pack my sports shorts, a capacious and flexible garment that allows the wearer to appear almost half-dressed while temporarily trapped in a mostly-nude environment. Instead of correctly retiring to my hotel room to unravel the format of an Icelandic game show, I accepted the establishment's offer of an item of their own swimwear. I was shocked and appalled to be handed an incredibly small pair of red Speedos that seemed to shrink in my very hand to the size of an adult oak leaf. Padding paunchily around the pool I was advised by my companion to stop being so self-conscious because I would never see these people again. In that case, how come I see one teenager's face – an expression that hovered dizzily between incredulity and contempt – whenever I close my eyes? Wearing Speedos in public is worse than being naked as they accentuate the areas they purport to conceal. The Kalmar club crest may seem perfectly natural to some (and if you can wear a pair of Speedos without a care in the world you are probably reading this by mistake), but all right-thinking people have had a bad experience with this leisurewear atrocity and will be feeling the same icy chill at this image. Cameron Carter

Further to the recent comments about footballers wearing wigs, the Ipswich team of the early 1980s feature in the Sky Sports series Time of our Lives, to be broadcast next week, which includes the following anecdote from Eric Gates.

"I've always had long scruffy hair. One day one of the lads said 'I bet you a tenner you won't wear this'. It was like a Rod Stewart wig. I thought 'I'll have a bit of that'. I put it on and ran out. I actually played for 15 minutes and nobody knew. It was only when I went to the touchline and took a throw in that I took it off. That's when people started laughing because they realised I had a wig on. I won my tenner."

Does anyone have photographic evidence that this really happened?
from Tom Lines
"This is the best football-related headline I’ve seen for a long time. The story is well worth reading too. I especially like the bit where the pilot describes the unlikelihood of Blackburn Rovers perpetrating a terrorist atrocity on his aeroplane as a 'privilege'."

Long Players
The Glorious History Of Football’s Full Length Recordings

Musica de Futebol
Various Artists (Mr Bongo Recordings, 2002)
Pelé, inevitably, graces the sleeve of this compilation that covers seven decades of football-related or football-inspired Brazilian recordings. It's a little unfortunate that the picture is taken of him sitting on the artificial surface of Giants Stadium, New Jersey, and he's wearing a New York Cosmos kit, but he's propping up a guitar, so that's a good enough connection. He dominates the songs and the commentary clips too, including Arakatuba's excellent instrumental Pelé, and Jackson do Pandeiro’s 1974 eulogy Pelé The King. The booklet helpfully translates the songs in full, so you can enjoy lyrical oddities like 'When Mengo lose/I don’t want to have lunch/Or even dinner' on Joao Nogueira’s Ruby And Black Samba, or 'I’ve learnt that the happiness/Of a man who is in love/Is like the false euphoria/Of a disallowed goal' on Joao Bosco’s Disallowed Goal. Best of all, though, is the consistent quality of the music, which would nicely warm up any World Cup viewing party involving the five-times world champions – the lively rhythms should make up for the samba-free, Dunga-inspired 0-0 draw that would likely follow. Ian Plenderleith

from Mike Innes
"Yokohama FC can reasonably be described as the AFC Wimbledon of Japan. Formed in 1999 by fans of Yokohama Flugels after their club was effectively abandoned by sponsors All Nippon Airways and taken over by rivals Yokohama Marinos, Fulie – as they're nicknamed – started again in the largely semi-pro and amateur Japan Football League. After two years, Yokohama FC moved up to the second tier of the J-League proper, where they played as a mid- to lower-ranking side until 2006, when off the back of a rock-solid defence led by giant Scottish defender Steven Tweed, Fulie sealed a shock promotion to J1. The second match of the 2007 season was the long-awaited grudge match against Marinos, which brought an incredible 1-0 win for Yokohama FC. That, however, was far and away the highlight of the club's year and they played out almost the entire season rooted to the foot of the table, even suffering the humiliation of an 8-1 hammering by their rivals in the return match. But what Fulie supporters do have are the memories of that triumph over the Marinos – and now, the opportunity to watch their team through a nice shiny pair of official branded opera glasses."

Mike has a blog about The Mighty Squirrels (Omiya Ardiya)

Craig Burley's Wikipedia entry includes a forthright analysis of his media career to date.


WSC Trivia ~ N0 57

We forgot to mark an anniversary last month. In February 1995, WSC launched GoalNet, which billed itself as "the first UK-based online service for football supporters". To access it you had to "set your communications software to 8 start bits, one stop bit and no parity, then dial 0171 251 5455". Goggles and flame-resistant gloves were also required. It offered an online library of results, stats, football computer games, newsfeeds, pictures and graphics, plus a message area "where supporters can argue, question, debate, report and spread rumours about clubs, players, TV coverage... the worst overcoat seen in the press box and the most unlikely places a goalkeeper has been arrested in the early hours". The service was free to users for the first few months, then was to cost (ha!) £19 a year. GoalNet was so ahead of its time that it even folded before the first dotcom implosion.

A mine of information constructed from sticker cards

Juan Lozano, Belgium Panini Espana 82
Juan Lozano was one of the most highly rated midfielders in Europe in 1982 and Panini clearly expected him to play in that year's World Cup but he was never capped. He was born in Spain and moved to Belgium with his family as a teenager in the mid-1970s. After he made a big impression with his first professional club, Beerschot, there was a clamour for him to be called up to the national squad. But he had not yet acquired Belgian nationality and his application was put back after he spent a year in the USA at the Washington Diplomats. He returned to Belgium in 1981 with Anderlecht and was a key figure in their side that won the UEFA Cup in 1982-83, after which he went to play for Real Madrid. Lozano had gained some political support for his bid to become officially Belgian but his return "home" was taken as an indication that he had given up on playing for the national team. He was voted Belgium's player of the year on his return to Anderlecht in 1986-87 but his career was ended shortly afterwards by a broken leg.

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