Soccer in Random Places: The Dangerous Book for Boys and the joy of practice


With libraries and bookstores closed I’ve returned to my own shelves. During a session of pull-any-book-off-the-shelf and read game, I stumbled on this excerpt from The Dangerous Book for Boys.

Titled: The Rules of Soccer, it reminded me of the joys of practice.



Soccer is the example, but the idea of practice, daily practice, applies to any discipline:

It’s an old, old phrase, but “practice makes perfect” is as true today as it was hundreds of years ago. Natural-born skill is all very well, but it will only take you so far against someone who has practiced every day at something he loves.


Further reading:

How I practice at what I do – by Tyler Cowen

People who have not yet succeeded but maybe they will – by henryeoliver

Learn Like an Athlete – by David Perell

Pick-up Soccer Journal: Entry 01.18.2020


We’re playing at a different location today.

After two days of rain the sun is finally showing face. I drive pass the Radha Krishna temple, and the Montessori, hoping I’m not one of the last to arrive (first 22 play). Google maps? That rude bastard. He rides shotgun, but after every sub-division interrupts Andy Brassel’s commentary on Juventus’ historic 2003 semi-final win over Real Madrid.

I arrive on time, but as a group we’re late. Our back-up field is packed with weekend amateurs.

The diligent and disciplined have laid out their cones, set up their goals, and snatched up every free patch of turf.

We sit in the parking lot and argue which field we should play at now. From my car, I see heads nod. Some laughs are exchanged. Our Congress works like Washington’s – slow.

The majority come to an agreement and we drive back to the park we normally play at. The field waits for us, dotted with gulls spearing at worms in the wet soil.

A few of us run through some half-hearted old man stretches. Others chat about their midweek indoor matches. The fights that broke out. The incompetent referees. The games lost.

Alberto and Mo choose teams and we break off.

90 minutes of bliss ahead.


Football Links: Two Defensive Midfielders and Roy Hodgson


Casemiro is still fundamental to Real Madrid’s success. By Sid Lowe:

One day early in Zidane’s first spell as Real Madrid manager, Casemiro knocked on his door. He hadn’t played yet — five games had passed — and he wasn’t happy. Play me, he said, please. Zidane looked at him, told him to calm down and said that once he started playing, he would never stop. Zidane was right, so much so that it became almost a running joke. After one game recently, Casemiro was asked if he was ever going to rest. By way of a response, he offered that cherubic smile he has and said something about how he didn’t need it. Zidane didn’t think so, either. You only ever leave Casemiro out to ensure that you can put him in.

Wilfred Ndidi snatches the ball winning crown from Nogolo Kante. By Ryan O’ Hanlon

the tactical beauty of having an omnipotent ball winner player such as Ndidi in your squad is that he allows you to shove an extra attacker onto the field without losing much (if any) defensive solidity.

Roy Hodgson reflects on his time at Inter, and Javier Zanetti. From The Coaches Voice

Javier wasn’t even signed to be the big player he became – he made himself into that. He had an incredible professionalism and desire to make the very best out of himself. Whatever his coaches or fitness coaches wanted him to do, he was going to show he could do it.

An appreciation of Lionel Messi, from the Paris Review?


You’re standing in one place, one patch of grass on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Seville, playing a game, which is to say doing your job, which is playing a game. A ball floats in the air toward you. You’re in one place and you’re in all possible places. Your name is stamped between your shoulder blades. You turn your back away from the ball. We all know who you are. You balance yourself and focus. What you’re about to do has no name.

From: They Think They Know You, Lionel Messi. By: Rowan Ricardo Phillips. The Paris Review, February 26 2019

I love finding pieces on footballers from outside of traditional football journalism. Especially when a masterful writer can share a new vision.

Rowan Ricardo Phillips accomplishes a rare feat with his Paris Review piece: They Think They Know You, Lionel Messi. He helps us relish, treasure again, this moment where we still have the opportunity to watch Lionel Messi at the peak of his powers.

Rowan reminds us not to take it for granted.

Tightly bonded Leeds United

The boisterous knot of away fans, the intense running patterns, the knot of men in coats on the touchline: there is something collegiate and tightly bonded about Leeds, like watching a brilliantly well-planned travelling stag do unfold before your eyes.

Barney Roney describing Bielsa-ball at the Emirates.

From the match report: Bielsa-ball and Leeds run riot for one half before normal service is resumed.

A Barney Ronay match report on Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds?

I’ll take two please.