It still hasn’t sunk in.
Have you heard of marginalia? Sounds pretentious, but my made up definition is simple:
Writing notes in the margins of whichever book your reading.
It’s a note taking system practiced by some of history’s greatest minds. And a practice I resisted.
Ink up a book?
Soil the pages?
Question the author?
I couldn’t. I wouldn’t.
But then, back in 05’, I bought a book I couldn’t put down. A book that opened the tent flaps on European football. The book was:
In Beckham: Both Feet on the Ground, Becks shares a story of watching Eric Cantona train:
Evernote wasn’t around. Pocket didn’t exist. But I needed to remember. Needed to be reminded that even Eric Cantona, Old Trafford myth, made time to sharpen his Katana.
I’m doing it.
I stole a highlighter from my mother’s desk drawer and lit up the page.
Ok. It wasn’t marginalia full blast, but it was a start. To this day, when I see Beckham spine out on my shelf, those highlighted pages come back to me.
I’ll always remember, Eric made me do it.
First French football hero? You guessed it. Fabien Barthez.
Goalkeeper was the first position I was attracted to. It’s natural when you grow up playing basketball and you can’t do five keepie-uppies.
Goalkeepers seemed so heroic, living knights of the round table. Diving hands first into danger to save the entire team. They even wore superhero costumes, kits unlike anyone else on the field. Draped in jerseys colored in Broccoli green, Sunflower yellow, even 80s pop star pink was an option.
Keepers though, were demi-gods. Peter Schmeichel, Ollie Kahn (did anyone call him Ollie to his face?), with their sculpted shoulders and grizzly bear paws were BC Olympians. Out of reach of us eighty-six-pound mortals.
Then there was Fabian Barthez.
He scraped in at six feet. And closer resembled a grocer, filling the bins with vine fresh tomatoes early Saturday morning, rather than a top-level goalkeeper.
But Barthez, with his Copa Mundials and number 16 shirt won the Champions League with Marseille. Lifted the World and European cup with France. He even won the league with Manchester United.
Zidane treasures him. When asked which player from the 98′ team he’d add to the current French side, he replied “Barthez”.
I don’t remember any spectacular saves Barthez made. I can’t recall a press conference where he charmed anyone. I’ve never saw him lift a trophy.
None of these things made Barthez my hero. He was my hero because I could see a little of myself in him.
I’m trying to remember when I started crushing on French football.
Was it World Cup 98? Zidane’s double headers in Paris?
No, that was my first exposure to the French team, but I was supporting the Seleção. The Nike commercials, the Canary Yellow kits. El Phenomenon.
I had no clue. I couldn’t comprehend Zidane’s composure on the ball. I didn’t appreciate the roulettes or dragbacks. All I saw was a balding forty-four-year-old midfielder head two bullets past a cardboard cut-out of Taffarel.
Yeah, those blue Adidas kits were dope as hell but our relationship was still years away.
Oh, I remember now. London. It all began in North London.
P.S. I learned later that summer Zidane was only 26 years old. His early male pattern baldness brought me great comfort later in life.
Bilesa’s return flamed out, but Marseille rebounded with Rudy Garcia. Garcia is no “El Loco” in style or manner, but he’s won Ligue 1 against all odds, with Lille. Garcia took over a side that was 12th in the table. Since then Marseille has lost only two, climbing to 6th. Gomis has ten goals in nine. And Saki, Rolando, Hubocan and Fanni have developed into a formidable back four.
Missing out on John Obi Mikel to China is a blow but, if Frank McCourt ponies up the Euros for a Dimitri Payet return some of the skepticism around his investment in the club may dim.
Could Marseille finish top four? Not this year. But a Europa league place would restore dignity to a wayward season and awaken hope in the Velodrome faithful.
Dante’s gotten love. Balotelli the headlines. But it’s Seri, the Ivorian Ant-Man who’s Nice’s indispensable player. Leading Ligue 1 in assists the man’s range of passing and mobility are the keys that ignite Nice’s engine. If he stays healthy and Nice win it, he should be Ligue 1’s player of the season-and off to a bigger club. How Nice copes with Seri’s absence during the African Cup of Nations will determine if the Ligue 1 championship finds a home on the French coast.
Monaco. Home of world class Grand Prix, no income tax and attacking football. Attacking football? Yes. Attacking football. Sure, in the past Leonardo Jardim’s Monaco have been accused of parking buses and inducing yawns. However, this year’s edition has 49 goals scored. Top for all of Europe’s major leagues.
Falcao’s 11 goals have been a welcome resurgence and Guido Carrillo’s 7 has already surpassed his total from the previous season. Jardim’s new tactical approach has ensured Ligue 1 is well within reach. Manchester City await in the round of 16 and a semi-final place in the Coupe de la Ligue keeps the treble in play. Will Jardim alter Monaco’s approach to appease the trophy gods? Or will banging Gs’ remain?
First half efficiency.
Nice didn’t have much possession in the first half, but when they did, they played it forward with purpose. Two chances. Two goals. Wylan Cyprien’s inside of the foot free kick curler was sublime. And Clea’s team leading 10th goal of the season, splitting Brazilian bookends Silvia and Marquinhos sent Nice’s travelling support bonkers. The lead didn’t last, but two goals at the Parc des Princes could cement Nice’s belief that Ligue 1 is theirs.
A Goalkeeping Folktale.
I love short goalkeepers. They’re creatures of folklore who defy modern norms. Yoan Cardinale is Ligue 1’s short shot stopper supreme. His slick hair and modest height resembles an office intern or the produce lead at your local grocer, not Nice’s number 1 netminder. Yoan’s bobble on Kurzawa’s cross may have cost Nice three points, but his earlier double save on Kurzawa and Cavani may have preserved one. Cardinale isn’t the keeper to lead Nice to the title, but it’s hard to root against him.
Favre brought Balotelli on in minute 75 searching for a late winner. Football’s main maverick has matured both on and off the pitch under Favre scoring goals and not playing game boy on the bench. But the performance was classic Balotelli. 20 minutes played, a few world class touches, a shot from 35 yards out and a yellow card.