Zen and the art of football

When historians chronicle the Rafa Benitez era of Liverpool FC they may want to name it after the best seller, ‘œZen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’. As Rafa sat, in Zen-Buddha pose, cross legged on grass, with a half smile on his face, you could be mistaken for thinking he was the teams spiritual advisor. His favourite word in his first two years here was ‘œmentality’ and the penalty takers in Istanbul were chosen firstly due to ‘œcharacter’.

The choice of Bolo Zenden was unexpected by most fans, and wasn’t met with screaming enthusiasm. But then, most fans can be forgiven for not having the Zen-Rafa quality of looking into the future. As Rafa sat smiling, Bolo Zenden, the multi linguistic player who gets on with everyone in the squad and exudes a quality in keeping with his Zen name strode up the the penalty spot as though he was on a Sunday stroll, and stroked the ball effortlessly home. Meanwhile, ‘œsick note’ Robben, exaggerator of the shallow dive, looked like he was walking into a psychiatric clinic, but, I am getting ahead of myself.

Come on! Did you really think new would lose this one? We haven’t lost a Champions league semi final for 42 years and, even then, the ref (who admitted it himself) was bribed by the opposition! As for Chelski, they have lost three in four years!

The key battles:

Agger verses Drogba

aggerAgger never missed a moment to express what he thought of the theatricals of Drogba. He did his job confidently and extinguished Chelskis main hope of scoring. He never allowed Drogba to turn and when he went deep went right with him not allowing space or time to run at him like last week. And, of course, the great strike into the bottom corner for the all important goal – obviously something that had been worked on on the training ground all week.

Mascherano verses Lampard

mascheranoThe advantage Mascherano has over players like Mikel or Sissoko is that he is small. When they go hard into the tackle, most players fall to the ground. Mascherano is more like a terrier who bites your leg and wont let go. He doesn’t cause as many fouls, but he wins just as many, if not more, balls. The advangtage he has, apart from his endless running, is his range of passing: From the short practical, to the sugar sweet 40 yarder. Oh yes, and he keep Fat Frank out of the game too.

Kuyt verse Terry

kuytHe isnt the target man that Crouch is, but that doesn’t stop him trying to get to high balls. He chases and harries, but that still doesn’t hamper his work as a striker. It was once said that Liverpool’s best ever defender was Ian Rush. Dirk Kuyt seems to be following his good example. It seemed only fitting that he sank the winning penalty after his endeavours which included beating Cech but not the cross bar, and scoring a wonderful dissallowed goal.

Reina verses Cech: A touch of class

reinaAs Reina descended the steps, his hand reached up and touched the ‘œThis Is Anfield’ sign. A touch of class, which was matched by his activities on the pitch. Like Cech’s save from Crouch, Reina also made two crucial saves, and had done so in the away leg too. But he came into his element in the penalties. Here he exceeded his opponent.

Rey Rafa verse Moan-io

The self appointed special one against the publically excepted special one. Moanio’s self believe that all Chelski had to do was keep lobbing long balls to Drogba, and sooner or later he would score, was a bit too simple and underestimated Liverpool. But, that is a hole of his own digging. If you want to call a club the size of Liverpool small (what does that make Everton?) You are asking for trouble. Still, as Rick Parry says “I guess when you’ve invested £500m it’s a fantastic season to win the League Cup.’ And you cant buy history. And what is he left with anyway? 500 mil for the League cup? Is he going to demand another 500 mil or more. You can only play eleven players at the same time, and he cant fit many more stars in his squad than he has now. It appears to me that they have reached the furthest point they can go.

Rafa, though, just gets better. Two Champions league finals in three years. What Rafa has built up in the last the years would win the approval of Shanks himself.

Set pieces

Strange how fate often provides: Bemoaning the lack of penalties Chelski get awarded, they tolally bungled the five they were given yesterday to the point where they only needed to take three! And two of the men brought on late in the game to take them failed. And really, Robben as the first taker!


If we trust in history, and we have a lot of that, and if Rafa’s wife doesn’t mind the pun, Rafa and Athens is a perfect marriage. Athens is named after the Greek mythological godess Athena. She was the godess of civilisation, wisdom, weaving, crafts and the disciplined side of war. Athena’s wisdom encompasses the technical knowledge employed in crafts, but also includes cunning intelligence. Her name is derived from Greek meaning ‘œfrom god’s’ ‘œmind’ (nous). She was often accompanied by the goddess of victory, Nike. Her most famous temple, the Parthenon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

This description reminds me of Rafa: Tactically cunning. Master of his craft. Admired by his players for his spot on tactics and his amazing ability to foretell how ofther teams will play. ‘œfrom the god’s’ is of no doubt to red fans: I daily thank Sir Bill and Sir Bob for sending him to us in our hour of need. And as for nous, his chess playing brain displays all that and more. We arent actually sponsored by nike, but he is certainly accompanied by victory. As for the Pathenon: Building starts on it in a few weeks. The new stadium will hopefully be on of the wonders of the footballing world, to fit the team Rafa is building: The wonders of the modern world!