Through the Teeth for in the Flesh

I’ve become interested in football (soccer) recently. As a kid I was mildly interested, like most English children are. I inherited the sport. I also inherited my team, Chelsea FC. I remember going to a game or two with my Dad to see them play. Wether I requested to go or not I can’t recall. All I remember is being mostly scared. 40,000+ people around you is a nightmare for any introvert. It wasn’t too bad in the stadium. Everything’s organised and fairly controlled, despite the noise. It’s the ludicrous amount of people you encounter on your way. On the trains in particular.

Anyway, I went to a few games and slowly became less interested in football. Last year though I started playing Football Manager. It’s a simulation game that to most sounds as dull as Snow Plow Simulator. However, it has a massive audience and is amazingly addictive, even for someone like me who had been away from the football ‘scene’ for 5 years. I eventually wanted to see these data ‘players’ for real. (Well, on a TV screen) I wanted to put a face to a set of attributes and I slowly began watching TV football games more and more, consuming every game I could.

After a year of watching frequently on the TV I last week decided to go to a live game again. I decided to watch ‘my’ team. Chelsea. This is where the nightmare begins.

I go to > Tickets > Buy tickets online > Match tickets > Non-members. I see a game called “annual lunch”. Apparently it’s an away fixture. ‘Mmmm,’ I thought. ‘Never heard of that team.’ I click “buy tickets”. I’m presented with “£168”. ‘OK’ I thought. ‘I’ll try an unofficial site. It is a little odd I can’t buy tickets from the fucking Chelsea FC website though.’

I Googled around, but… nothing. Nothing as in ‘not one game’. No site was selling available tickets. I eventually found a website called viagogo. It appears to be a website where people, and presumably companies, sell-on tickets. I didn’t like the idea of that, it sounded dodgy. But, yeh, ‘I’m desperate.’ ‘Yes! Arsenal game! Arsenal game! Oh. £158 a ticket.’

I go back to I find my way to the membership page. It seems becoming a member for (at least) £42 you gets you more access to tickets. ‘Okay. Whatever. I don’t care anymore. I’ll do that I guess.’ I pay £48 for a two year membership for “tickets only” on their SSL-less shitty website and after a couple of days my membership finally becomes active. I log in with the password they sent me over e-mail. [They required a password when I signed up. Quite why I don’t know, since they reset it and send you their own chosen one anyway.] ‘Okay. There are more games available.’ It seems the only home game that isn’t already sold out is over a month away. ‘That’s a long time, but okay.’ I spend quite a while evaluating the seating plan attempting to get the the right seat. I call my Dad to make sure he’s off work that day. He is but complains, like me, about the price: £51 a ticket. (That’s over 50p a minute). I go to buy. ‘Mmm. So it seems I can only choose the stand where I want to sit, not even the section, or let alone seat. ‘Huff Whatever.’ I go to payment.

“You can only buy one ticket per member.” ‘One fucking ticket?!’ … … …

Seriously?! I completely understand a limit. They don’t want one member buying 30 tickets or anything silly like that. I also understand that Chelsea has a small-ish stadium for the size of a club it is. But they limit it at 1?! Say you’ve got an American friend to visit and he wants to see a Chelsea game. He has to become a fucking member to buy one single ticket just once?!

Maybe I am just over-reacting. However, I’m cutting my loses now and just getting away from this whole dirty rotten business. I don’t feel wanted and neither does my money.

Note: This seems a common problem, not just with Chelsea. I’ve attempted to buy many tickets this past week. I tried Bayern Munich and Ajax. I thought I’d turn it into a little holiday as my birthday just passed. But, Bayerns ticket site isn’t in English and Google translate is no good. With Ajax I can’t remember the specifics. The only thing I do remember from their buggy website is that I had to buy an overpriced buffet if I wanted a ticket.

I’ll probably eventually go see my local team, Watford FC, play. Despite being such a small team they had the best ticketing system. They were the only team where you could pick your actual seat. However, at the moment “there has been an unexpected error” on their site. Also, it’s powered by the bastardly Ticketmaster. Not good signs.

One day, some day, I’ll manage to buy a ticket.

October 22, 2011:
Look! An actual ticket for an actual football match!
Watford FC ticket


What’s next for Barcelona? Three ways for improvement

It has been a undeniably wonderful season for Barcelona. They have not only won three competitions but won over the hearts of many football fans. I certainly adore them, but do think there’s a little room for improvements and here are my (rather obvious) thoughts.

Improve the squad

This current team are constantly being called the greatest in the world. I disagree. I think they may have the greatest starting 11, but if you ignore those 11 and concentrate on the rest of the squad it’s actually rather weak. Barças rivals Real Madrid have a far superior squad with a very good reserve player in nearly every position. The Catalans on the other hand have an assortment of over priced aging players and various young Spaniards from Barcelona B that have occasionally proved unreliable.

Barcelona’s fabulous 11 is almost too much of a team. If one of them is missing the system is prone to breaking. In fact, the 11 didn’t even draw a game in La Liga last season. All draws and loses occurred when at least one backup player started. Of course it sounds obvious that a backup player isn’t going to perform as well as one from the first team and that’s to be expected. But the problem is that, as I said, the 11 rely on each other so greatly to function as the ‘best team in the world’. They are a mind-blowing system of players whose styles compliment each other in an exceptional way. (That’s why Lionel Messi scores almost half as many goals for Argentina as for Barcelona.) When a new player comes along they seemingly struggle to be part of that system. Even the youth (La Masia) players, raised the Barça way, occasionally stick out when alongside others from the 11. And the likes of Milito and Mascherano look alien alongside them. And this brings me onto my next point…

Shrewd transfer dealings

Maybe it isn’t surprising, considering their reliance on players coming through La Masia, that Barças purchases in recent years have often been so poor. But is is odd considering nearly every other aspect of the club is so well run. In just the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons they spent roughly €140 million on what many consider flops and €50 million on ‘good’ buys. That’s a terrible ratio and if you include wages and fees, they have wasted an awful amount of money in a very short space of time.

Barça also never seem to bag a bargain and are constantly over-paying. Whether it be for young, unproven players like Keirrison (20, €14M), Chygrynskiy (22, €25M) and Cáceres (21, €16.5m) or aged, experienced ones like Henry (29, €24M) or Milito (28, €17M) and Villa (29, €40M). Naturally, many would rightly argue that investing in young talent is a good thing as they are buying players at the right age, as their wage demands are small and they could be sold at a later date for a similar or greater price. But these young buys never seem to reach their potential and are usually loaned out and loose their value and demand before being moved on. This could be down to bad luck. But you surely can’t have €140 worth of bad luck in two years?! If it wasn’t for the financial weight of the club and the quality of La Masia graduates Barça could be in a very different position in the table.

Aside: does any one else think if Barça had Arsene Wenger as Director of Football they would be unstoppable?

Keep hold of Guardiola

Guardiola’s contract seems to be pretty much extended one year at a time season-by-season. Whether it’s his or Barças idea to do it this way I don’t know. All I know is that ‘Pep’ is often curiously self-deprecating. He insists he’s just steering a very talented ship. Maybe he’s just being humble, but I think deep down he doubts his own abilities. He may just believe he’s advising other managers players and playing with a system inherited from Johan Cruyff. Also, when asked about rumours of moving on to another club he seems open and flattered by the prospect and gives the stock ‘my contract runs ’til 20XX, after that you never know’ line.

He’s been at Barcelona his entire coaching career and most of his playing one and you would imagine that’d would breed the sort of man who would be inherently loyal. But it seems he’s certainly not going to be the Catalan Alex Ferguson and may likely be tempted to prove himself elsewhere.

Anyway, I believe Barcelona need to hold onto him. Not only for the the Ferguson-effect of stability, but of course because he wins trophies consistently. La Liga three times in a row and the UEFA Champions League twice. A sensational record! Just imagine if Bojan’s late goal versus Inter Milan in the 2nd leg of the semi-final in 2010 stood? He could of won it three times in a row by now!

Ignore the critics

Barcelona are loved by nearly all. Even the Manchester United fans seemed content to loose to such a brilliant team in the Champions League final recently. They are known as the good guys in football; financially secure and the best team in Europe. Maybe they should just keep doing what they’re doing! 🙂