The RGSOAS Review of 2013

2013 will forever be remembered as the year that immediately preceded 2014. Memories of this year will be taken to the graves of those who died during it. But what about the rest of us? As we discard the inconsequential riff-raff, allow Ruud Gullit Sitting On A Shed to select the most enduring moments of the year, to be forever sealed within the amber of our collective consciousness, one day to be used to make some sort of crazy dinosaur theme park.

* Luis Suarez finally realised he’s a terrible man after a perspective-altering cancer scare, when mistaking a drumstick lolly he had left in his trouser pocket for a tumour. He sought to make amends for past sins by constantly eating at Nando’s and offering his ready-stamped loyalty cards to strangers. He owes his successes on the field this season to the surfeit of energy gained by eating peri-peri coleslaw each day.

Totally benign

Totally benign

* Bank manager face template and passing fetishist Xavi pursued a bizarre sideline as a noir detective in Xavi: Possession Cop. With Barcelona finally ceding their prestigious spot as everyone’s favourite football team, their midfield metronome changed careers in stylish fashion, devoting himself to romancing broads, lamenting his past mistakes and inscrutably fiddling with blinds in darkened rooms while sippin’ whiskey.

All possession. All cop.

All possession. All cop.

* A ball boy ended up in the news for failing to do his job. Eden Hazard’s poor attempt at Eric Cantona-style notoriety saw the Chelsea Belgian tamely toe-poke Swansea’s top Ball Circulation Operative, Charlie Morgan. The football world reacted with approximately 70% outrage and 30% amusement, otherwise known as ‘The Michael McIntrye Ratio’. The incident saw the dreadfully inept teen thrust ungainly into the world of minor celebrity, as lucrative offers of television work came his way. He was last seen being ejected from a branch of TK Maxx, for failing to return a Christmas gift properly.

Silly sausage

Silly sausage

* West Ham manager Sam Allardyce attempted to gloss over his club’s lack of strikers by singing the songs of A-Ha in a surprise concert. The rotund beast caused controversy during his Upton Park gig by not playing Take On Me. The shock omission served as adequate distraction, but ultimately caused unrest among supporters who love 80s nostalgia just as much as they love their dear ol’ mums.

Stupid man

Stupid man

* RGSOAS caused a stir by rooting through the bins of cuboid-headed spokesbloke Adrian Chiles, and discovered a notebook containing a collection of his horrible punchlines.

Unwarranted thumbs-up

Unwarranted thumbs-up

* Documentary film The Class of 92 offered some startling insights into the legendary batch of child prodigies that effectively kept Alex Ferguson and his wife in horse racing and dildos. Manchester United’s celebrated youth team told their stories armed with a montage of the 1990’s, which inevitably featured the two clips that every such 90’s montage always features – Noel Gallagher schmoozing at Downing Street and Tony Blair playing head tennis with Kevin Keegan. The film received glowing reviews, with the revelation that forgotten man Terry Cooke was actually one child sitting on the shoulders of another child all along stunning critics. However, most of the attention was attracted by the twist ending, which saw Nicky Butt ruthlessly massacre Eric Harrison’s extended family before turning the gun on himself, prompting Pele to demote him to his second favourite player of all time.

Senseless massacre

Senseless massacre

* Barry Plapp finally broke his silence on the role he plays in maintaining the posthumous legend of Brian Clough. In a revealing interview, he told Fisted Away how Clough’s widow Barbara pays him to devise fresh anecdotes about the formerly-witty, now-dead football management personality.

Nobody ever says fuck you.

Nobody ever says fuck you.

* The twin worlds of football and Guy Ritchie films were saddened to hear of the news that Vinnie Jones had developed cancer. However, in another shocking career reinvention, Jones was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for finding a cure for the notorious illness and reason for 60% of charity fun runs. In his disturbingly graphic acceptance speech, he revealed that he “simply squeezed the very bollocks” of the dastardly Nan-thief. It is not yet known whether his discovery will earn him a place in the celebrity section of WWE’s next Hall of Fame.

Jones gets sent off at WWF Capital Carnage. Not even a joke.

Jones gets sent off at WWF Capital Carnage. Not even a joke.

Xavi: Possession Cop in ‘Pass Pass Bang Bang Pass Some More’

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Marvel at the thrilling adventures of classic noir detective Xavi: Possession Cop

Noir 1

I was playing with my blinds when I got the call. I liked the way the shadows played on my face as I fingered their folds, adding dark and slanty intrigue to my curious mush. I was curious as to why I had yet to attach the blinds to my wall, as it would be easier to play with them that way. I was also curious as to why my chief was calling me so late.

“We need our best man on the case, Xavi. The mayor has been running deep with the mob, gotten his fingers in one too many calzones, kapeesh? His wife’s been kidnapped, and you’re the man to find her.”

Italians. You always gotta peek under the sauce to check that it’s pasta, that’s what I always say. I told my chief that, but he said a calzone is really more of a folded pizza. I got dressed and turned up at the station so we could shoot the breeze. The chief was chewing down paper cups of coffee, which was absolutely the wrong way of drinking coffee. I didn’t correct him on his error, and asked him for more details.

“All we know is that she’s somewhere downtown, between 42nd and 3rd. Or 3rd and 42nd, we can’t be sure. We haven’t got an exact location, but we suspect she’s in one of these buildings.”

He showed me a map with four buildings circled. Together they formed a crudely misshapen defence that would be easy for a man like me to break through with some solid, patient passing. A younger man than me, anyway. Like me, for instance, when I was younger. I didn’t know if I had such a big case left in me anymore. I no longer had that burning ambition that drove a wedge between me and my wife. When she left me she asked me where I wanted to be. I said I’d always been aiming for top spot, that one perfect through-ball.

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“I remember the first time you told me that. You were just one pass away from top spot when you met me. Don’t you see, Xav? You’ll always be just one pass away.”

That was the last time I saw her. She always used to say there was a third person in our marriage. A guy called Jack Daniel. After she left me, that left just the two of us, and neither of us were planning any trips to IKEA anytime soon.

“Hey, you gonna quit reminiscing or what?”

My chief was angry. I’d been writing my memoirs at the most awkward times, but I didn’t want to forget any of my hard-boiled, heart-broken prose as it occurred to me. I returned my notebook to my pocket.

“Where’s your gun?”, asked the chief, chiefishly.

“A friend’s looking after it for me.”

“A friend?”

“A cop.”

“A cop?”

“A cop.”

“A cop? A friend? Dammit, Xavi, cops don’t have friends, they only have other cops. So you definitely can’t have a friendcop. Here, take mine.”

He handed me a gun. The cold, smoothness of the barrel reminded me of the tensile surface of a football inflated to regulation size. That would be my weapon of choice. It always had been. The chief’s attitude was always ‘shoot first, ask questions later, maybe shoot again later than that if the questions didn’t go so well’. Me? I pass first, ask questions during. I find it confuses people.

“And Xavi? I need you to go long-ball on this one – no short passes. You gotta follow the book on this one! It’s my ass on the line here!”

I didn’t care. Sure, my methods were unorthodox, but they got results, as virtually all unorthodox policing methods tend to do, for some peculiar reason.

Later that night, as I found myself kicking footballs at buildings in search of the mayor’s wife, I realised that I was getting too old for this shit. I knew that my game had never been based on pace and the first yard had always been in my head, which meant I could expect to retire later than most of my peers might. Basically I was just tired. Eventually, some broad sees me, asks me what I’m doing.

“I’m here to chew bubblegum and pass a football around. Actually I’m just here to pass a football around.”

I turned to the broad, and I placed a face to the voice, which came from the head of my ex-wife, Jan. Not the wife that had just left me, another one. I don’t know why I kept getting new wives, I clearly didn’t enjoy them very much. But we spoke about old times, caught up on the new. She’d holed herself up with a guy from the wrong side of the tracks, had some beef with some notable Italians. I probed a little, playing neat one-twos with her, until she gave me the information I needed. She pointed out a building hidden in darkness, two blocks down. Big Petey ‘Little Petey’ Bareso had been seen coming and going. Up to no good I shouldn’t wonder. I thanked Sheila, which angered Jan, because her name was Jan and not Sheila. I told her to shut up. I had a mayor’s wife to find.

I jogged two blocks, and found the door open. I climbed the stairs quietly, following female cries for help. There she was, the mayor’s wife, tied to a bed, trussed up like a Christmas turkey. I musta had a thing for kidnapped women, because she was one hot hostage. I told her this and she liked it.

Laura

“I knew you’d find me. You’re the best cop in the city.”

“Eeeh, I used to be, kid. Not anymore. It’s all about the Wilsheres of the world now. I’m a spent match. A busted flush. Old news.”

She seemed to enjoy the way I pronounced ‘old nooz’ in a kinda Noo Yoik accent, because before I knew it she was bouncing down on top of me like a toilet plunger in a bowl, trying to push out all the shit within me. The failed marriage. The job. The mob. Everything. It was a sad orgasm, but not without its charm. I thanked her sweetly, but needed to get her out of there. She just wanted to talk. Typical broad.

“Xavi, do you fall in love with all of your clients?”

“Only the ones that look like footballs, toots.”

“What about me, do I look like a football?”

“Not even a little bit.”

“Your ex-wife did.”

“Don’t bring her into this!”

“Don’t let Adidas Tango change you. She just wasn’t right for you. Can’t you ever see yourself marrying again?”

“No dice, babe. I’m married to the game. The game of treating the crime game like another game. The game of football.”

Before I could light up a smoke in cool celebration of my hip rejoinder, a mob stoolie burst into the room holding a gun. I quickly counted his fingers. He had all of his fingers, so I knew it was likely he would shoot. As the mayor’s wife screamed in post-coital mortal terror, I did what I had to do. I’d do it again if I had to. I passed the ball, with perfect weight and precision into the feet of this guy, this hired gun. It seemed like everything had been leading up to this moment. Everything I’d ever done wrong in my dirty, stinkin’ life could all be undone with one pass of the football, and it was perfect. It was the perfect through-ball that I always knew I was capable of.

The guy looked at the football, confused. It didn’t seem to work.

He then shot three times. Three bullets – one for the ball, one for the mayor’s wife, one for me. As the lights dimmed, I could only see the carnage left before me, and could feel the salty warmth of grief rolling down my cheek. The last thing I was to ever see on this earth, and it was a travesty. Shot to ribbons in her prime. Once so beautiful, so graceful, and now motionless. That football had one day left to retirement. Blackness enveloped me, like a really big black envelope, and I slept a sleepy sleep…

~

The first face I saw when I woke in hospital was the chief. He had something for me, but it sure as hell weren’t no bag of grapes.

“The mayor’s wife is dead! You couldn’t resist playing one more pass, couldja? What do I always tell ya? Don’t get emotionally involved, Xavi. That ball doesn’t love you, it’ll just get you killed!”

His face softened, like a moist cake left on a warm windowsill.

“Dammit, Xavi. You’re the best damn possession cop I ever had. But she’s dead. You hear me? Dead! She’s not living anymore! Whenever the quacks let you outta here, the first thing you do is you see me. You hand in your gun, your badge, and your sense of tactical sophistication. My department has no room for mavericks.”

And just like that, he walked out on me. Just like everybody else does. Seems there just aint no room for a washed-up maverick no more.

Xavi_noir_2~

Get your X:PC t-shirts here, you goddamn nogoodnik.

A Fraction Of The Whole: Samuel Okunowo

Celebrating the game’s minutiae, one tiny fragment at a time

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You probably haven’t heard of Samuel Okunowo. If you had heard of him, it’s likely that you’d forgotten anyway. Currently playing in his native Nigeria for Sunshine Stars FC, he had a front-row seat for an iconic goal whilst playing for Barcelona, as Manchester United’s strike partnership of Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole reached its dizzying zenith.

You probably will remember this next bit. Roy Keane rolls an innocuous pass infield to Yorke, who allows the ball to run through his legs for Cole. The men then exchange a one-two that is as devastating in its speed of execution as well as its sheer simplicity; such an easy thing to do, and yet not, like any true act of genius. The finish from Cole is typically cool, with the sort of ruthless inevitability typical of those rare moments when the opposition would probably stop to applaud if their pride could allow it.

Okunowo adds some memorable punctuation to this moment, cast as he was as the slapstick fall guy. Yorke’s return pass reduces the young defender to a picture of befuddlement, as he struggles to comprehend what’s just happened. As he spins on the spot to contemplate his uselessness, he throws his arms to the heavens in a gesture that could be attempting to say many things, chiefly among them, this: “Just what in the hell is goin’ on here?!”

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The gesture itself is barely perceptible unless you’re looking for it, but once you notice it, Okunowo’s flailing arms are remarkable. He turns from Cole to Yorke and back again, and is left with blood so twisted that he seems to be literally grasping for something to maintain his balance; like a weak swimmer reaching for the side of the pool, this is a man well and truly out of his depth, and has probably forgotten his towel as well. Until Carles Puyol should decide to turn out for the blaugrana in a pair of rollerskates, Okunowo will surely retain the title he secured that night of Most Frank Spencerish Barcelona Defender.

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It may seem harsh to castigate the man’s lack of sangfroid given the extraordinary telepathic skill that had unpicked the defence, but it’s interesting to note his subsequent career path: loaned out to Benfica the next season, CD Badajoz the season after that. Greece, Romania, Albania, Ukraine, the Maldives and England’s Waltham Forest would eventually take their turn in playing host to a career heavily stalled by injury. After leaving Barcelona he would only achieve appearances in the double-figures just once in his career.

There lies a perverse sort of glory in this. Who knows what might’ve become of Okunowo, once trusted to start a Champions League game between two of Europe’s most storied clubs, had he not been plagued by injuries. If he does nothing else in his career (something he appears to be well on his way to achieving) he will at least be able to say that he was caught in the eye of a perfect storm, as a fleeting but fabulous partnership reached it’s perfect peak of destruction. And while he was powerless to stop it, he managed to contribute to the spectacle with his sheer hopelessness, which for so long remained concealed by the brilliance which spawned it.