The 7 profiles of Eurobubble football players

As I explained in an earlier post, futsall in the Eurobubble is a matter of life and death. Participating in a Eurobubble futsall game reaches the same level of PR skills required to attend drinks afert a Commission’s cabinet meeting. Like in every networking event, you can always identify some profiles that usually go around these ones:

The David Beckham model

Super expensive brand new Nike shoes (110€), latest FC Barcelona shirt (90€) (they all support Barcelona of course) Puma socks of their national team (30€) with Adidas lacets to keep them tight (10€) and hair holding string (price unknown/depending on the area).

The David Beckhams are those who spend as much as a PSG player in clothing (for a futsall game). They come to the game in a suit on a Sunday pretending they just had a business lunch while they actually wore it to get people to ask them “Why are you dressed like that?” For them, every accessory is fundamental: from the bag, to the  shower slippers to…SHIN GUARD??? Seriously, shin guards???

They bring girlfriends to the games cause they need somebody to look at them but unfortunately they pretty much all suck at football. Typicallly they have moderately paid jobs in leadership and business management consultancies.

The Balotellis

The pitch is booked for one hour, not two. Nevertheless, every team has its latecomers, those for whom the bus is always late, the metro is always on fire and the traffic light is always red. They always make you start playing 4 vs 5 and if you get angry at them they lift their shirts saying “Why always me?”

They gather hatred from everyone and they know that a Pepe-like tackle is about to come onto their ankles. They work for the European Associations of Whatever or the European Think Tank of Nobody Cares About it. Badly paid. Couldn’t care less about you.

The Gazzas

gazza_gascoigneThese are the best. Eurobubble football games are usually during the weekend and whether it is on a Saturday or a Sunday, you will always have someone coming to the pitch at 5.30PM smelling of Bacardi and Coke.

For early hours games, these guys are likely to come directly from St. Gery or Spirito Martini. They usually display incredible skills, dribblings, amazing passes…for about 4 and half minutes when they collapse to ground asking for a durum with Samurai sauce. They are stagiares with a bright future ahead of them in politics.

The Ibrahimovics

95% of the times, teams don’t have a goalie. In this case you either rotate the goalie or the fattest dude has to pay his toll unless he starts getting on salads. However, you always have an Ibra in the team. Somebody that doesn’t give a damn about it and, strangely, his shifts between the posts always last between 15 and 30 seconds after which they shout “Hey I’ve been in the goal for an hour!”. They tackle to the limit and push you like in a Taekwondo match.

They love politics and they are mosly MEPs assistants for some really unknown guy of the Federal European Party for Extreme Application of a Political Doctrine. Continue reading “The 7 profiles of Eurobubble football players”

Futsal in the Eurobubble: the thin line between life and death

This article was also published on The Eurobubble

I remember when I was in university how easy it was to organize a football tournament. You ask people to make teams, someone brings a ball and the winners get to troll the losers for the rest of the academic year. As simple as that.

Well, things sort of change when you play football (mostly futsal) in the Eurobubble. In the Eurobubble, 5 a side football is a matter of life and death. It’s a strict religion. It’s not just a game among friends on a Saturday afternoon. It’s something that will have a significant impact in your career and winning will open new opportunities in front of you (FALSE!!)

People get seriously mental about this tournaments. First of all, a committee (yes, a  committee) is set up for the organization. Basically, these are the Platter and Platini of the Schuman/Arts-Loi area. Then, these great masters decide the “rules and regulations” of the tournament and once these are public, there is no coming back. When I talk about rules and regulations I literally mean a document which is sent out to all teams. THIS IS NOT A JOKE. See below

Rules

When Eurobubblers talk about their futsal tournaments it sounds like they’ve played a Champions league Final. I remember a friend of mine telling me about the strategy they put up to win the touranment of an institution: “We put a tall German girl in defense. She just finished her stage but she could still play. Then, we controlled the game with our wingers. Two great Belgians accountants (one Francophone and one Flemish) with experience in policy making and we focussed our attack on an accurate Swedish forward with a PhD in European maritime transports law. So many good memories…”

The truth is that pretty much everyone in the Eurobubble really, really suck at football (including myself). The fun fact is that most of them play like they work: HR managers, are the safe defenders. The Zanetti and Puyol like. Those who always make the safest pass and never risk going forwards. Lobbysts play forward and make up a lot of stories about their skills but wouldn’t score even if a 5 year old was defending the goal. Policy officers play hard. They get the job done and don’t celebrate after scoring. It’s their job after all.

Finally AC Milan in Brussels

I had been  waiting that for a very long time.I have been away from Italy for over 8 years and have been waiting so keenly to see AC Milan coming to whatever country I might have been to. It finally happened on last 21 November when the Rossoneri played at the Constant Stock Stadium in Brussels against Anderlecht. I had great tickets for which I have to thank one of my dearest friends from my home village, Masa. By the way, you should listen to his music, he’s a terrific guy!

The first half was quite boring with Anderlecht having 2 clear opportunities to score while AC recorded most ball possession but with no real dangers to Anderlecht’s defense. The second half was a completely different story. Young talent El Sharaawi scores after 100 seconds. After that Mexes will score the most spectacular goals of this year’s competition and probably the best goal of his career. A bycicle kick out of the box that goes straight into the “sette” leaving Silvio Proto astonished.

The game re-opened after De Sutter set the score to 1-2 with the Belgians down one man following Nuytinck’s red card. The Bruxellois  needed a win to keep hoping for qualification and gave it all. This created more spaces for some very spectacular 10 minutes were newly entered Pato scored an easy 1 -3 at the 91st minute.

Thanks AC for the show!

Mussels, fries… and oval balls

A version of this article was originally published in Cafébabel

Belgian rugby entered new ground last 20th October when London Saracens played Racing Metro Paris in a Heinken Cup game at the Roi Baudoin Stadium in Brussels. The game (ended 30-13 for the London-based team) was designed to spread interest in the game and enhance Belgium’s status as an emerging rugby nation. Belgium has in fact become the 10th nation to stage a Heineken Cup match, but this is the cup’s first real excursion. Before, other than games in the seven participant nations were actually short, cross-border forays by neighbouring French teams.

Chris Ashton and John Smit, left, of Saracens, pose with Freddie Thielemans, the mayor of Brussels. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Prior to the game, Saracens President Edward Griffiths said that “the Belgians had always said that the best crowd would be for an English team to play a French side. The French speakers would probably support the French team and everybody else would support any team that played against the French.” But the majority of the attendees, swept along by the poundings of a lively brass band, were local, drawn heavily from the rugby community.The mayor of Brussels Freddy Thielemans is a big rugby fan and former player. He explains to  The Guardian how “part of the agreement was that more than 20% of the revenue would go into Belgian rugby. It had to be something that would leave a legacy in the country.” After the event, federation president Jan Coupe added that “rugby made a shift from amateur to semi-pro and is at something of a turning point,” 

Belgium’s rugby national team (also known as the “black devils”) in action against Poland. From Wikipedia

Growing interest equals growing performanceRugby union in Belgium has not been popular historically, but due to its recent international successes, it is a quickly growing sport going from a couple of thousand players to 28,000 in the last 10 years. Belgium are 23rd on the IRB’s rankings, which makes them the highest-placed country not to have played in a World Cup. Nowadays, more than half of the registered players are or teenagers or even pre-teens.

Expats in the scrum

Some of the many rugby clubs in Brussels have traditionally a more international orientation. James Parker, president of the Brussels Barbarians (where Freddy Thielemans used to play) explains that some of the local teams have foreign players while their traditions are based on Belgian culture. “There is no doubt that the cultural diversity of our club makes communication very interesting.” Parker adds. “It is definitely easy to see why negotiation betweenthe EU member states must be hugely challenging.”