Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Curious Case of Manuel Almunia

Arsenal's goalkeeper is English. But only according to his passport. "For me, Manuel Almunia is Spanish" - Fabio Capello. So, Deco (who was born in São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil) isn't Portuguese; neither is Pepe (born in Maceió, Brazil); world cup winner (with Italy, the place of birth of Capello) Mauro Camoranesi was born an Argentine, and according to the England boss, will die one. Before we go any further, let's call this what it is: xenophobia.

I recently met an Englishman at a sports bar in Montreal, and after ordering a second pint of "the black stuff", I turned to him and asked if he thought Almunia should be England's goalkeeper. He quickly replied:"Of course not." Why not? - "He's just not English mate!" - But his passport says he is... -"Yeah but..." Thank you, no further questions. You just wanna go to South Africa with real Englishmen wearing the Three Lions shirt. It doesn't matter if they lack talent. Now I get it.

So, in a time when everyone, even Germany is opening their borders, the English are closing up their minds, and their chances of making it anywhere at the World Cup. Because no one wins a Mundial with keepers like Robert Greene (in a relegation battle with West Ham), or David James (in a relegation fall with Portsmouth). Joe Hart is okay, but he's no Manny Almunia. The true question remains however, whether Capello was bullied into his current position on the matter by the idiotic public opinion created by tabloid wannabe-reporters, or is he simply an old-fashion Italian who believes naturalization should be the affairs of terrorists, and spies only? He said he already knew who his number 1 will be, come June. That was before the almost-perfect performance(Zlatan's first goal was his fault) Almunia had against Barcelona in the first leg of their UCL clash, preventing a 8-2 thrashing of the Gunners at home against the Reigning Champions of Everything. "For me, Almunia is Spanish". Shut up old man! I want Steven Gerrard to lift the Cup! I will not survive watching John Terry cry on a pitch one more time. It's way too pathetic.

Almost no one in Football spoke on the matter, and the few ones who wrote about the Almunia case, rapidly dismissed the possibility of him representing England. "because he's just not English, mate". Shut it young lad! He is! Ask the Foreign Office! And the first thing an international coach has to do: choosing the best 23 players holding a passport of a nation (preferrably the same one for all 23), then picking out a leader (or captain) for these men (Let's not talk about that other fiasco - Terry).

Manuel Almunia is by far the best goalkeeper in the world eligible to play for England. And he's not England's keeper. Because, even though he is eligible, he sorta isn't. Get it? Neither do I.

England is not going to win the World Cup. A costly keeper mistake will sink them in the quarterfinal, again. I'll try (and fail) to drink my sorrow away. And, when I'm pissed drunk crawling on the floor, I'll lift my head, smile and think: "I bloody told you so".

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