Continuing with the soccer theme, and the long-running story of drawing every single one of my son’s shoes since birth (it’s an interesting tale), this is my son’s current football boot (aka soccer cleat in the US), the Nike Mercurial. He likes his Nike shoes. I wear a lot of Adidas shoes personally, I like their fit, he really likes the feel of the Nikes. He plays a lot of soccer, his AYSO Select season just finished recently with the Davis World Cup and he is now doing various soccer camps this summer. I’ll be back coaching in the Fall season, I’m looking forward to all the practices and planning. Anyway, sketching your footwear is a good way to record your life. I recommend it, for those of you who are in the ‘I’m not sure what to draw’ mood (I get in that mood a lot these days). You spend a lot of your life in shoes, they literally carry your weight and all your experiences. Your soul in your soles. As my mum always said, make sure you buy a good bed and good shoes, ‘cos if you’re not in one you’re in the other.
It felt like a World Cup game. I don’t want to talk about it. I’m just glad we got there, we really shouldn’t have even made it out of the groups. That quarter final against City with the late VAR screen ‘no goal’, that dramatic late goal at Ajax after being three down on aggregate, the fact we didn’t have a home stadium until late in the season, the fact we never bought a single player in a year and a half, it’s a whopping great achievement getting to the Champions League final, our first ever one, my beloved Tottenham Hotspur. It was a wild ride. The final itself was killed off by a dubious penalty decision in the first 30 seconds. Liverpool sat back and soaked us up easily, but both teams looked like they hadn’t played for three weeks. I had all of my Tottenham shirts, which number a good many, hung up around the house like a museum of football kits. I made a couple of banners of all the old home kits, we played the old Spurs music and watched old Spurs videos all morning. I never thought we’d actually win it, years of watching real World Cup games has taught me enough of that, but Liverpool have won it enough times. It would have felt better to lose to a non-English team really. Oh well. We can say that Poch should have done this or Harry should have done that, but at the end of the day it’s a football game and one wins, one loses, and there you go. That’s life. I had always said that if Spurs win the Champions League I would put on all of my Tottenham shirts at once and run around Davis singing Chas and Dave. Well the weather was in the high 90s so at least I didn’t have to do that.
I had a walk downtown that evening though, minus all the shirts, minus the Chas or the Dave. I just needed to sketch and have a pint, and hopefully it would be somewhere that wasn’t showing a replay of the final. I stopped into Uncle Vito’s, who were showing golf, and sketched the above before walking home. Oh well. At least Arsenal lost their final too (unfortunately it was to Chelsea), but that means no North London Supercup. Some other time maybe.
And here it is, the brand new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium! The new home of my beloved team. I have wanted to come and sketch the construction for ages, but never made it here until a couple of weeks ago – fortunately, construction has taken many months longer than the original optimistic plan, so I was able to get one sort-of in-progress sketch. The stadium is huge. It’s so different walking out onto Tottenham High Road and seeing it loom out, much larger than the old White Hart Lane ground. I wandered about taking photos, before settling on a spot to sketch on Park Lane by Northumberland Avenue. Lots of workmen in their hi-viz jackets, cranes still putting the panels onto the side. And then it was time to go into the new Spurs Shop, much vaster than the old one, and they’re even better at getting me to spend my money. One of the many things I did buy was the new book, The Spurs Shirt, an amazing (and very heavy) book covering the history of the Tottenham shirt. Very much up my Lane. When I was finally done, my backpack much heavier than before, I went off to my friend’s place in south Tottenham, for a fun night out in Stoke Newington.
After Tottenham’s historic home White Hart Lane was knocked down, the massive new modern stadium (with a retractable pitch, so that some NFL games can be held there) was built with an expected opening date of the start of the 2018-19 season. Maybe a few games in. Alright it’ll be September. Ok maybe not September, maybe a bit later. January? Hmm not January, let’s just say “coming soon”. In the meantime we have been playing at Wembley, waiting to move into the new home, couch-surfing in north-west London. Today, Spurs finally announced two test events, ahead of expected Premier League games at the new ground, with the expectation that our Champions League quarter-final will be, finally back home in Tottenham. Come on you Spurs!
It may not surprise you given my recent output that this is my current reading list. Lots of football books. Number 1 is John Devlin’s newest book, International Football Kits – the Illustrated Guide. Yes, very much my sort of thing! He details the history of many of the world’s football shirts from about the 1960s. It’s extremely comprehensive. Number 2 is The Football Shirts Book by Neil Heard. Billed as ‘the connoisseur’s guide’ it shows photos and stories of football kits from down the ages from the perspective of a total football kit geek and fashionista. St. Etienne 1981, Denmark 1986, Fluminense 1991, Ajax 1973, England 1990 (3rd kit), all the hipster classics. It’s a great read for someone like me. Number 3 is the biggest and heaviest but is totally brilliant, the World Cup Panini Football Collections 1970-2014 , which is exactly that – a reprint of every Panini sticker album from every World Cup since 1970. All complete. So many memories! So many dodgy beards. The Hungarian keeper from 1986. I still have my albums going back to Mexico 86, none of which were completed. Number 4 is The Mixer by Michael Cox and details the history of tactics in the Premier League since its founding in 1992. One thing I had not thought of was that it coincided with the back-pass rule being abolished, a rule-change which I remember clearly (and was very happy about) but caused lots of defensive headaches originally, but led to a development of the game toward one where defenders and goalkeepers had to be better ball-players. This is a good book, it does go a bit deep when we hit the late 2000s and early 2010s, when things were to me not as interesting, but the story of those early days of the Premier League (aka the Premiership) bring back some colourful memories: Cantona, Blackburn, Newcastle, Giggsy, long shorts and baggy shirts. Number 5 is Futebol: the Brazilian Way of Life by Alex Bellos, given to me by our Brazilian friends, and is a series of essays about different aspects of Brazilian soccer and life. I’ve only read one chapter so far but it’s an interesting insight into that country’s culture. I’m looking forward to reading it. Number 6 is one that I have been reading a lot during the World Cup, Do You Speak Football? by Tom Williams. He goes around the world and lists local phrases and terms related to football. For example, in Saudi Arabia the term “yaseed hamaam” – ‘to hunt pigeons’ – is used for when players hit high balls over the bar (therefore posing a danger to wildlife), while in Brazil the top corner of the goal is called “onde dorme a coruja”, that is, ‘where the owl sleeps’. It’s a really fun read. And fnally, the 2018 World Cup Sticker Album by Panini. Of course! We are nowhere near completion yet, about a hundred out. On with the World Cup…
The knockout stages of the Russia 2018 World Cup started yesterday. The first game was ridiculous, with France winning 4-3 against Argentina, Messi dropping his head while 19 year-old Mbappé turning up the speed. Kylian Mbappé, by the way, was born AFTER France won the World Cup in 1998. Incredible. Messi on the other hand just stood there after the final whistle, while various people came and tried to hug him. Portugal v Uruguay was a tighter affair with some good football – that cross-field pass from Cavani to Suarez, so that Suarez could cross it back for him to head home, was a thing of utter beauty, bettered only by Cavani’s superb second goal. I felt bad for Portugal, and of course out went Cristiano Ronaldo. I like Ronaldo, and particularly love the way he pulls his shorts right up when taking a free kick. This morning, we got up early again to watch Spain vs Russia. These early morning get-ups are getting old fast. I interspersed iot with watching the Formula 1, the Austrian Gran Prix, and somehow contrived to miss the best bits of both events. We did watch extra time, and of course the penalty shoot-out, and to our surprise Spain lost. Now I had originally predicted Argentina to win the World Cup, if you saw my long posts with all the kits, and that obviously didn’t work out, so I switched my prediction to Spain. Mystic Pete strikes again eh. So just to be safe and guarantee an England victory on Tuesday, I am predicting Colombia will win the World Cup, definitely for sure, they are gonna do it. Ok, so for today’s second game I parked myself on the couch and watched as Croatia and Denmark battled it out for a 1-1 draw. I sketched from the couch – see the picture above. In the distance you can see our paper mosaic flags. When a team is eliminated the flag is taken down. Above the TV, the official World Cup poster. And on the couch next to me, the Berlitz Engelsk-Dansk dictionary which I bought in 1995 ahead of my summer picking strawberries in Denmark. Yes I would wake up at 4am and pick strawberries on a farm in southern Funen, so you might say this isn’t the first time I’ve been up early rooting for Denmark. In the end it came down to a battle of the keepers, and though the Danes had the heroic Kasper Schmeichel, son of the Great Dane Peter himself (in case you missed it when the commentators mentioned it like a thousand times), the Croatian goalie saved one penalty more, and Modric and friends go through to meet Russia in the quarter finals. And I got another living room sketch out of it. It’s so hot these days I’m not sketching outside much.
So, the Group Stage of the World Cup is over. This chart shows each of the kits worn in those first 48 games. As you can see, red v white is popular. Almost every team wore both of their kits at least once. Some wore different combinations than expected; Colombia wore white shorts twice for some reason, rather than blue, and then blue shorts with the blue away rather than orange. France wore three combinations, none of which were blue-white-red (they will wear that in the next round against Argentina though). England looked good with the old navy shorts back. THAT Nigeria kit got a single outing before they went back home. As predicted, Croatia wore their away kit more than the home kit. That Mexico away kit looked bloody good in real life. The kit combinations were a bit bizarre – I had thought that colour-blindness was being taken into consideration, I know that UEFA have directives, but the fact that the first game was red (Russia) vs green (Saudi Arabia) means that they weren’t taking this into account at all (not sure why the Saudis couldn’t wear white). The games have been great – every team has scored and there have been some super exciting games, especially the finale of Sweden v Germany. Some hilarious moments, such as Michy Batshuayi kicking a ball into his own face in celebration, and that Iranian player whose name escapes me who tried to do a flip-throw but ended up with a sad roly-poly. Argentina were bad, Messi looks so downhearted, while Cristiano Ronaldo is well up for it, and a hat-trick against Spain is pretty impressive. Kane is top scorer so far, his last goal being being scored while he was at a cafe reading a newspaper and eating a croissant, when a ball bounced off the foot of his table and over the line; he will take it. VAR has been fun, controversial but on the whole pretty correct. My favourite thing now though is when players go down, they don’t wave imaginary cards now, they make the imaginary tv screen sign. As for my predictions, well I don’t think Argentina will win now, but they made it through. Germany didn’t top their group, unless you put their group upside down (I still can’t believe they are out), while Sweden were definitely no bottom-of-the-groupers, and nor were Japan. Croatia have been a big surprise. Ok, so the next round is up. I predict that Argentina will beat France and Portugal will beat Uruguay, to set up the Messi v Ronaldo quarter-final. However Ronaldo in the Uruguay game will get booked and will miss it. England will struggle against Colombia but will make it. England will of course just win the World Cup, that is obvious, now that Germany is gone nobody can stand in the way, right? No, Spain will win it, proving that to succeed, you just need to sack your coach one day before the biggest tournament in the world. Brazil look alright. I have no idea who will win it, but maybe this year it will be someone new. Regardless folks, after this very very exciting World Cup so far, get ready for the 0-0s and penalty shootouts because they are coming.
There is a new team in town. Well, a new football club. Soccer, that is. They are FC Davis, and have been playing for the last few months at Aggie Stadium, on the UC Davis campus. We have been to a few games already, starting with the 1-1 draw against the East Bay Stompers (yes, Stompers), who had one tall player that had a big bush of hair and scored a penalty (you can see him below). Many fans were making reference to him being the Lion King because of his mane, which I think he seemed to enjoy, especially when he scored; he was definitely their main player. Lots of the people attending I recognized from AYSO, being a soccer coach myself, and while it wasn’t a big crowd it was a fun, local atmosphere. The kids of course just loved rolling down the grass verges behind the goals, that’s what you do when you are 9 and 10. It was a bit confusing having the field play on an American Football gridiron – the soccer field was laid out in barely visible yellow marking, much wider than the football lines, and on one occasion at least a player took a throw-in from the wrong place. I was expecting a Mexican wave to start on the other side of the stadium, one bloke to stand up, then another person thirty seats away, and another even further, but it didn’t happen. The sun went down, and it got quite chilly, and the game ended in a 1-1 draw (or ‘tie’ as they prefer to say here).
The club have an interesting colour scheme of black, gold and white, though we only saw them play in white (with gold numbers on the back; the FIFA kit police would not like that). Their badge is a lion; I’m not sure the connection of the lion with Davis California but a lion it is. I’m sure the same can be said for other teams with lions in their badges too, such as Chelsea (no, that is from the lion in the arms of the local Borough of Chelsea), England (no, those are Richard III’s coat of arms), and Aston Villa (ah now that one has a lion for no reason other than lions are cool). Still it’s a more interesting symbol than, I don’t know, a bike or a cow (with apologies to Oxford United fans, and I know it’s a bull). The FC Davis lion is quite stylized though; my son thought it was supposed to be a monkey, so we now call them the Golden Monkey Lion Kings, and I am sure this nickname will not catch on. I also don’t think my new fan song “One Lion” will catch on either, a reworking of the famous 1996 Lightning Seeds / Baddiel and Skinner classic. It goes “One Lion on the shirt, Water-Tower still gleaming, Three months of hurt, Never stopped me dreaming.”
The next time I went they totally went and won for the first time at home. They played Napa 1839 (who very sensibly have a wine bottle as their badge; I wonder if their nicknames is The Bottlers? I don’t know but I already have a slew of potential headlines about them, if ever I have to sub-edit their match reports for a tabloid paper: ‘Napa Caught Napping’, etc and so on, I’m sure there are lots of good wine and bottle ones, ‘Napa bottle their opener’ if they lose their first game for example) (many apologies to Napa for this by the way, got nothing against you, it’s just these headlines would work really well in the British gutter press). So FC Davis won this one (there’s no way they’d get me to write match reports, I go off on more tangents than the Argentine midfield), and Napa sported a two-tone green outfit. It was a close contest, but when FC Davis scored the winner the goalscorer took his shirt off to celebrate with the roaring crowd.
The third and most recent game we went to was against FC Academica. I kept saying it didn’t matter what the score was, “it was academic”, but nobody seemed to hear me. This was a good game. Academica were pretty tough, and took a commanding 3-0 lead. But as it turns out, FC Davis have a a lot of lion’s courage in them, because they came in the last 20 minutes back to tie it up to 3-3, and really should have won 4-3 but had a free kick disallowed (I think VAR would have probably rectified it). It was a very exciting end to the game. I sketched as much of the match as possible (click on the image below to see in more detail). I haven’t had a chance to come to any more games but it was fun sketching them, hanging out with the family and friends and the players on our team, having pizza and beer, and it only cost five bucks to get in. Go Golden Monkey Lion Kings!!
Sorry, ‘Golden Lions’, that is the real nickname. If you’re local and interested, you can visit the FC Davis club website: https://www.footballclubdavis.com/