¡Qué sorpresa!

“What a surprise!”

Recently, I had a discussion about the competitiveness of the English Premier League in comparison to Spain’s La Liga.

I don’t deny that in European competition, Spain has definitely had the edge of late. English teams have been disappointing. But I feel no weird nationalistic shame because of this, much as I take no weird nationalistic pride when Man U or Liverpool (and did Chelsea get one too recently?) win anything in Europe. I’m not a fan of European football. I only watch it for the Heineken adverts, to be honest.
No, that’s not what I was talking about, not the inter-competitiveness of the two leagues; I was referring to the intra-competitiveness. The weekly bread and butter stuff that gets those teams into Europe in the first place.

And for that, there’s – if you’ll excuse the expression – no contest. Because each and every week in Spain looks like this:


Barca, Real and Atletico winning by four, five and six clear goals respectively. “¡Qué sorpresa!”.
Unless of course you like that kind of thing. If 3 matches each week with lots of goals but wholly predictable results are your thing, then great: La Liga is your church. But some of us want more than just wondering who’s going to finish fourth each year.

Yes, the EPL had its “Big 4”, but it’s now actually a “Quite Large 6” and it could even be extended to an “Above Average Size 7 or 8”. None of those 7 or 8 clubs is guaranteed to beat any other on any given day. Especially not by 37 goals or anything. That’s what makes it so exciting. 

Compare that with Spain where there’s a massive gulf between the Big 3 clubs and everyone else: the last time anyone other than those three finished in the top trio was 5 years ago, when Valencia scraped into 3rd. It’s a three-way dominance which makes La Liga so very boring.
Look, I mean, I’ll watch it if I’m desperate. It’s still football, but jeez: I do actually have to be literally desperate. A live La Liga match will even lose out to Total Wipeout, and that’s shit. 

If you enjoy La Liga – aside from those six competitive matches they have each season – do you also take great joy in watching Germany playing Gibraltar and stuff like that? Pleasure in seeing Southend Girl Guides Second XI away at Bayern Munich? Rapture at anyone versus Sunderland – utter non-contests?

People are strange, hey?

Wine Whine

French Farmers are at it again. Only bettered in the violent protest stakes by South African Students and Turkish Taxi drivers (I just made that last one up for alliterative purposes really), they’re not happy about the alleged “unfair competition” from their Spanish counterparts over the Pyrenees.

And they are protesting by hijacking tankers full of imported Spanish vino, before doing… well, before doing this:

Sensitive viewers may want to look away now.


and this:


Ninety Thousand Bottles Full…. Ninety Thousand! That would have made for an awesome weekend…
Sweet jesus – will somebody please think of the children?

They’re annoyed that the regulations governing the Spanish winemakers from just over the border apparently aren’t as strict as those imposed on the local Frenchies.

“If a French wine maker produced wine with Spanish rules, he simply wouldn’t be able to sell it,” said Frédéric Rouanet, the president of the Aude winemakers’ union. “Europe’s all very well, but with the same rules for all.”

Sounds very much like the Namibian Sand Protests of 1997.
And the governments in question had better watch out, because first off, there’s history here:

Wine makers in southwestern France are notoriously hot-blooded and even have a shadowy “armed wing” called le Crav – the Comité Régional d’Action Viticole –  that has conducted various commando operations over the years [including terrifyingly recently], even laying explosives at “enemy” wine distributors it feels are not supporting local produce.

Outrage over such fraud led to the region’s first and most deadly wine riots in 1907, when hundreds of thousands took to the streets in Narbonne, and six people were killed when the army opened fire on the protesters.

And second off, this is just the start of their planned action:

Rouanet said the tanker hijack was “just the beginning” unless their demands were met, threatening action in the nearby port of Sète against the import of Italian wines.

“We will continue until we’ve proved that the illegal traffic of wine is going on. We are going to protect our consumers. You can trace our wine from the vineyards to the bottle and those same rules should apply to all.”

Because Italian winemakers are seemingly up to the same sort of dirty tricks as their Iberian counterparts.
And, while the French guys’ actions may be horribly depressing to watch, if what he says is true, then you can kind of understand the anger and frustration.

Still though… No. Just no. There must be some other way.

Another great night out

It’s the first rest day of the 2010 FIFA World Cup today and fans all over South Africa – if not the world – will be wondering what to do this evening. I’ll be heading down to Kalk Bay for some inspirational seafood, but I’ll still be anxiously looking around the restaurant for a big screen, just in case FIFA has got it wrong (it’s been known, really) and there is actually a game tonight.

Last night my dad and I hit the fan walk (sorry, The Cape  Town FIFA Fan Walk™) out of town for the last time (at least for him, as he’ll be watching the rest of the tournament some 6000 miles… away in Sheffield) for the Spain v Portugal Round of 16 game.
I think this would have to sneak in as a close second to the Holland v Cameroon game in terms of good quality, enjoyable, watchable footy that I’ve seen in Cape Town during this World Cup.
Spain were fantastic – spreading the ball about with consummate ease – and have definitely cemented themselves as joint favourites with Argentina and Brazil to win on July 11th. Portugal were woeful – like England woeful – and Cristiano Ronaldo was a huge disappointment. Which was nice.

Here’s one of the fire jugglers on the Fan Walk on the way home after another great evening.
The rest of the evening’s photos, including one of a German goalie on the phone and Katrin Müller-Hohenstein’s splendid bottom are here.