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Thursday, July 13, 2006 - 01:53 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

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Zidane, Outings, Absolado

Contentious penalty audaciously chipped by ZZ into the underside of the crossbar with shades of Hurst, Materazzi the so-far Innocent (who gave that spot kick away by brushing against Malouda) redeeming himself with a towering header; Both goals paled into insignificance compared to The Headbutt that Shook the World (with slight embellishments). Surely a final with everything.

Too bad about the soccer.

Italy demonstrated that corners could be tremendous assets to a team drilled in them, as each one almost seemed worth half a goal to them. France were fast - or rather their youngsters, and Henry, were fast. But nothing came of all their work, and the close shaves amounted to an Italian free kick that drifted just wide, and a superb Zidane header that Buffon responded to with the only world-class save of the night.

They defended in numbers and attacked with flair, and when the penalties came both Buffon and Buffoon (as Barthez is lampooned, with some justification) showed themselves by far a certain Ricardo's inferior. Buffon, nominally the consensus best goalie to be found, guessed wrongly for all five French attempts. Only David Trezeguet failing to emulate the more illustrious Zidane's cheek raised him to the pantheon of World Cup-winning keepers.

But of course, the 2006 finals will be remembered for none of this, mundane as it really is when lined up next to its earlier and greater peers - the fine vintages of a vanished time when teams actually beat other teams in open play, and not at twelve yards.

So, why, Zidane? Summaries on his act are aplenty, but an answer is not yet forthcoming. Followers of the sometimes less than beautiful game will realise that its true geniuses are disproportionately... volatile. For each Pele, there is a Maradona, a Cantona, a Rooney and now a Zidane.

Jean-Louis Murat was quoted apropos in the New Paper. "Nobody knows if Zidane is an angel or a demon. He smiles like Saint Teresa and grimaces like a serial killer."

Such temperaments are common in artists in any field, and while they should not be given special dispensation, the fact should not be conveniently forgotten either. In life, the bad often has to be taken with the good. And whatever may be remembered of Zidane, he went out on his own terms, and stood at a line of his choosing. The Algerian owed France nothing, as he returned from a quiet twilight to push his unworthy successors along a path he had once beaten for himself.

It would seem more satisfying for Zidane to have shrugged off whatever was said, smiled back and have the last laugh with the trophy under his arm, elevated to be part of the new Holy Trinity - Pele, Maradona, Zidane. But we are not him. It may be that he shares Roy Keane's sentiments relating to his disabling tackle on Alfie Haaland. "I would do it again."

For some men have a honour that has its limits, crude to sophisticates but true to themselves. And when it is in danger, they may sacrifice all for it, though the world laugh at them; Zizou, was it your mother, your sister, or your country? But could it be so smeared by a spoken word, that you had to put your head forward in its defence? Youngsters who admire him, do not be blindly turned on him by the media. Instead, look past the violence on the surface, and perhaps you may uncover a deeper truth, beyond a society that abhors a deserved punch to the chin but endorses deceits if covered by technicalities in law.

Then again, maybe he just lost his head.

When the man himself finally speaks, if he ever does, we will know. And if it was in fact gamesmanship that brought the Italians their fourth World Cup, then it is a prudent reminder that the fastest do not always win footraces.

In balance, the event was worth disrupting sleep rhythms for. There will also be some extra memories, those of hopping home bare in one foot in the wee hours after the sole fell off my right sandals (always the right foot!), of cats lazing and prowling at void decks, of the camaraderie shared in watching others run and kick far away, even as personal preferences and monetary considerations dictate that we hope for dissimilar winners.

So it's finally over, and I've even managed to diversify my time in that period. One eight-ball pool match with my cousin, which ended about even. He remarked afterwards that I did not employ the three-point contact with the cue at the two ends and the chin. Something to remember for the next time, though there was one bank shot I was immensely satisfied with.

Then a meetup with my secondary school friends, ostensibly to watch 4:30, but which proved so unpopular a choice that we went for Thank You For Smoking, which turned out to be a smart, funny film. It is indeed easy to sympathize with the protagonist, even though he unabashedly hawks a product that he admits has killed more than Attila and Genghis combined. For he does what he does, not just to pay the mortgage, but out a desire to help the vulnerable and despised, the sweatshop owners, the landmine manufacturers, the baby seal clubbers of this world.

Well, as in soccer, if you put enough spin on it you should eventually score. One of the pivotal moments for me was when the character explains to his son the key to winning arguments. Even on indefensible points, just refuse to meet the other guy directly ("That's not what I'm talking about!" "No, but that's what I am talking about.") and prove him wrong - you don't have to be right yourself. And oh, turn on the charm and politeness.

Its scandalous how it even works, but that's that way the cookie crumbles.

Let's see, there was another dinner-cum-window shopping gathering, a pastime to which I do not frequently engage in, at least when the purchasables do not hold any interest for me. But it inspired me to finally get a decent pair of soccer boots, that my loyal New Balance sneakers may be spared the ignominy of a lifeless object having sole separated from body, as happened in a particularly hot field soccer session earlier in the holidays.

My first (and so far only) pair was, if I remember rightly, a run-of-the-mill Topper bought in Primary Six, and that did not last too long anyhow. I did some perfunctory research after making an appointment with a friend at Queensway Shopping Center, the Sim Lim of soccer products. I concluded that one could play on grass with flat soles more reasonably than on concrete with studs, and thus set my sights on the indoor variants.

Good reviews were hard to come by on the Internet - it was only after the purchase that I found decent ones at the Bigsoccer equipment forums - so I generally had zero idea on what exactly to look out for. I ended up being sold on an adidas by a shopkeeper with a bad leg, but who appeared to know his stuff from customer feedback, and who just as importantly gave discounts, according to my friend.

Initially I had set my eyes on a silver model, but was told it was an older make and not available in my size. I was recommended the newer version, and tried them on. They fit snugly, gave okay touch and felt durable - that was all I needed. I requested the black and golds. Not in my size, sorry. What about the full crimson? Also none left, sorry.

Come on, size ten feet aren't that large.

So that left me a choice of blue/white or full metallic blue, neither exactly to my liking. They were a bit too shiny and tacky for my style. Looking at the entire selection, I was wondering if any company actually made normal black ones, when I noticed a white/red/black colourway. I knew that keeping the white that way would be a problem, but it was still better than the blues by some margin.

Here they are, at twenty dollars less than list price:

"Asymmetrical Loop Lacing for Better Ball Contact"

Picked up matching black and red socks while leaving, still in the dark over exactly what I had bought. I knew it was an adidas, of course, as are my adizer RC running shoes and mini-ball, but that was it. And oh, it was made in Vietnam. No other clues on the box or shoe.

So it was back to Google, and after about an hour (including sidetracks) I finally made a positive identification: An adidas Predator Absolado IN, Champions League edition. And I also learnt a lot more about soccer boots in general.

Proceeding linearly down the name, the Predator line was first conceived by ex-Liverpool player Craig Johnstone in 1986; Since then, they have updated it every so often, once every two years since 1998 at least. According to adipredweb, the best authority I could dig up, the line started with the Predator I and II, then the Touch, Accelerator (1998), Precision (2000), Mania (2002), Pulse (2004) and finally Absolute (2006).

Then, what's an Absolado? It turns out to be a knockdown version of the "real thing", which means no kangaroo leather and authentic rubber vamps like the professionals. In fact, it's the third tier, being constructed out of synthetics. Between Absolute and Absolado is the Absolion, made of calf leather. Heck, they wear well and kangaroo skin would make next to no difference compared to improving my own fitness. And kangaroos are kinda cute too...

The equivalent for the Pulses were the Pulsions and Pulsado, while the Manias had the Manics and Manados. The IN means indoor, which translates into a flat, non-marking adiPRENE sole, which as a bonus means it can be worn as normal sneakers. Other options are TS (Turf Shoes), which have slight ridges, and SG (Soft Ground)/FG (Firm Ground)/HG (Hard Ground) which are studded for grass fields.

Why Champs League edition? Guess its due to the star patterning on the black parts.

Can't wait to try them out for real. Now that I know, perhaps I could make a habit of buying boots one cycle behind current fashion, the potential price drops seem tremendous. The smell of new boots is indeed addictive...

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