17
Mar

Budweiser releases first promo for ‘Rise As One’

As anticipation builds for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Budweiser released it’s first television spot entitled “Believe As One,” centered around the six-episode soccer series “Rise As One.”

Airing on FOX Sports 1 on March 25, “Rise As One” will showcase some of soccer most memorable and incredible tales in the run up to this summer’s extravaganza.

Click here for more information on “Rise As One.”

21
Feb

Trecker’s Travels: 411 on the London Underground

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LONDON

Down the street from where I’m staying sits one of the busiest train stations in London. The Camden Town stop is one of the Underground’s oldest and deepest stations, and handles an enormous amount of traffic. On a sunny weekend day, you can barely cross the High Street for the crowds, and it seems like a wave is coming at you, babbling in multiple languages, all heading for the shops and Camden Locks.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the London Underground lately by dint of spending so much time on it. It is hot, crowded and faintly miserable. It is also utterly indispensable: in my case I’m 15 minutes from Arsenal, about 30 minutes from Shoreditch, and never further than 45 minutes from any stadium in the city limits, save perhaps Dagenham and Redbridge.

Camden Town’s stop — not to be confused with the Camden Road overground stop about five minutes north — is so busy that it closes up shop to departing passengers on weekends. When that happens, you have to clamber down a steep 96-step spiral staircase. If you go down an extra set of steps at the end of Platform 2, you will find yourself in an air-raid shelter that was used during World War II. Doctor Who fans have seen the shelter: Tom Baker prowled about it in the 1977 episode “The Sunmakers,” — I’ll give you an extra mark if you name the other sci-fi series in which it made a cameo.

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12
Feb

Trecker’s Travels: East London’s much-needed humor

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LONDON

Green Street, the approach to the Boleyn Ground at Upton Park, has a famous clock outside the Tube station. The message is grim: it reads “DON’T KILL YOUR WIFE/LET US DO IT.” It’s for a launderette, and it’s sold with typical East London humor.

There’s a lot of that around here, and the area needs it: Upton Park is in a ragged part of London, clogged with shops offering mobile phone unlocking, open-air fish markets and halal eateries. And the football here’s not offering much relief.

West Ham is an immensely proud club, fallen on some difficult times. Nearly 120 years old, they have bounced back and forth between the Premier League and the Championship in recent years and are currently locked in a fierce relegation battle. Tuesday night, they were in a classic six-pointer against an equally poor Norwich side, hoping to put a bit more distance between themselves and the drop.

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Off the field, the Hammers have been a bit more successful. Owned by two veterans of London’s now-faded pornography industry, David Gold and David Sullivan, West Ham have inked a sweet deal to move out of their aging ground and take over the Olympic Stadium in nearby Stratford. For a mere $26 million, they will get to take over a stadium that is expected to cost nearly $310 million to retrofit for football. In addition, they announced on Monday that they will sell their old grounds here to a private developer, in a deal that has been reported as worth nearly $120m. Not a bad bit of business.

Not everyone is happy about that, mind you. Tiny Leyton Orient, currently trying to clamber out of the third division, sits in the Olympic Stadium’s shadow. They fear their tiny stadium on Brisbane Road simply won’t be able to compete, and they have a point, but they have lost several legal challenges to West Ham’s tenancy there, and as it stands, the matter is settled.

The funny thing is that West Ham might not be far apart from Leyton in the tables next season. Their fabled “Academy of Football” is referenced with heavy irony these days and with just seven points separating the eleven teams trying to stay in the top-flight, they have a brutal run-in ahead of them. In the final weeks, the Hammers will play both Manchester sides, Liverpool and three London derbies (against Palace, Arsenal and Spurs). They are currently 4-1 to go down the chute.

Leyton, on the other hand, sit in third in League One and have a realistic chance of going into the Championship. They are hardly world-beaters and rely too much on a single player — defender Romain Vincelot, a steely defender who begins most of their play out of the back — but they aren’t half bad, either.

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The fact that these two clubs on opposite trajectories — one wealthy but always soggy; another plucky but well-scrubbed — might meet next year is a bit of an irony. What would be even better is if the two were in the same division come 2016. One will be playing in a taught ground that barely seats 10,000. The other might be rattling in around a 54,000 seat stadium. And both are likely to be far away from the top-flight.

7
Feb

Trecker’s Travels: Weather, transit strikes paralyze London

LONDON

Welcome to England. Half the country is underwater, and the other half is stuck indoors. Deluged by gale force winds and soaking rains, and besieged in the capital by a series of transit strikes, London had the feeling  of a ghost town. It’s Ballard’s Drowned World.

The rain has been falling since last July and show no sights of letting up. It is no joke, even though the satirical magazine Private Eye went to street this week with a picture of a scuba diver on its cover and the tagline: “Environmental Minister Visits Somerset.” Brighton’s old west pier has collapsed under the waters and the south-west coast has suffered enormous damage. The rain tracks between London and Corwall at Dawlish, repeatedly referred to in that deliciously English manner as “one of the world’s great railway wonders,” is now kindling. The waves over Penzance dwarf those at Malibu.

Such things normally wouldn’t bother the City very much — but wait! A series of Tube strikes, have paralyzed much of the London’s subway system and forced everyone out of the stuffed hellholes of the Underground into the teeming mire. The strikes are over a so-called “modernization” plan, which in fact would close all the ticket offices and put a number of folks out of work. The administration’s rationale is indeed questionable, but the union’s cause was not helped when pictures of workers taking naps behind the glass at the ticket windows made the rounds on social media. That, and the fact that the roads around London were utterly impassible.

Now, the English do love a good complaint. There’s even ritual whingeing here: one of their cherished traditions is the so-called “question time” in Parliament whereupon men in rep ties bray at one another while their parties trade crude insults. This week, while the South drowned, the moaning was about the number of women on display in the Tory Party. This seems like a perfect one-two: miserable weather, miserable governance.

Yet the prevailing attitude here seems not one of complaint but of exhaustion. There’s not even much energy for the Olympics — a hot topic of conversation in the States, but merely something in the ether here. People seem to just want to get home and put the fire on, and who can blame them?

This has affected the football matches as well, with the lower league in particular feeling the pinch. The pitches are terrible — which isn’t unusual for this time of year — and that many of the games have been flooded out, which is. Reserve matches around the city were postponed, and the conference game up north at Kidderminster was called off. Teams have also been unable to travel to the games, while some places are quite literally underwater; others have been hit by buckled tracks and washed away roadbeds.

On my way out to Liverpool this morning, with 80 mph winds expected to sweep the capital, I passed a lonely greengrocer setting up his stall. His newspapers remained bound in plastic, and a bunnet of soaked local strawberries fetched a pound. The good news, according to him anyway, is that all this rain means better berries. That might be wishful thinking, but I got some. They weren’t half bad.

16
Jan

Man United lines up moves for Hamsik and Lucas

Manchester United boss David Moyes has been spotted throughout Europe watching a number of teams in action eying up some of the continent’s best talent. Rumors circulating say that he’s keeping close tabs on Paris Saint-Germain star Lucas Moura and Napoli’s Marek Hamsik who would be important signings if United are to mount a credible title charge.

For this rumor and more transfer gossip, click here.

24
Dec

Premier League giants Chelsea close on Guarin deal?

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Chelsea appear to have been big admirers of Guarin for some time and it looks like they may finally be getting their man. The Stamford Bridge outfit don’t appear to be short on midfielders but with the Colombian’s instrumental performance in the Milan derby he could’ve just won over manager Jose Mourinho. 

For this story and the rest of Tuesday’s transfer gossip, click here.

21
Dec

Juventus look to Manchester United’s Nani

With the January transfer window nearing questions again are starting to emerge about Nani’s future at Manchester United. This time it’s Juventus who are linked with the tricky United winger, however under David Moyes, he has enjoyed a run of games in the side and might command a higher transfer fee. To follow this rumor and many more, click here.

26
Nov

Landon Donovan joins FOX Sports 1’s Champions League set

This week, U.S. national team record goalscorer Landon Donovan joins Fox Soccer’s UEFA Champions League broadcast as an analyst on FOX Sports 1. But first, he answers a few questions about his foray into television.

FOX Soccer: What draws you to TV commentary?

Landon Donovan: “I’ve always had an outside interest. I’ve watched from afar and always thought it was something that would be enjoyable. As most of us are, I can be pretty opinionated and sometimes I see things on TV and I go, ‘Oh, I wish they would have mentioned that’ or I think ‘The viewer would have wanted to see that.’ While I understand it’s probably not easy, it’s always something that I’ve had an interest in so when this opportunity came up it was something I wanted to do.”

FOX Soccer: You’ve been talking about wanting to do television commentary for a year or so, maybe even longer. You’ve been saying you want to better educate the public. What do you think you can add to the conversation?

LD: “I think we’re at a point now where people watching our game are thirsty for more intimate knowledge and that’s why guys like Warren [Barton] and Eric Wynalda, [Brian] McBride, you see Kasey Keller and Taylor Twellman and [Kyle] Martino, all these guys can add an insight that a lot of the commentators couldn’t in previous years. I think that people understand the game better now, people are more connected to the game than they ever have been in our country. There’s still a lot of insight and a lot of intimate details of the game that people I think would really enjoy hearing our thoughts about.

FOX Soccer: With all respect to the guys you’ve mentioned, you’ve seen and done more than any American soccer player ever. Do you think that adds a dimension for the viewer?

LD: “I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of different experiences, played in all sorts of different competitions and against many high-class players so I’ve been able to see the game in many different ways, in many different scenarios. I think I have a pretty good understanding of what happens and why it happens and why certain teams play certain ways and all those finite details. I look forward to sharing that with people.

FOX Soccer: Why the UEFA Champions League?

LD: “The timing was good. FOX was very proactive about having me. I’ve made it clear to my agent and a lot of different people that this is something that I’m interested in and FOX really took the initiative to give me an opportunity. If you’re going to do a broadcast it doesn’t get much better than the Champions League and I’ve been really looking forward to it.

imageLandon Donovan hopes to add some “forward thinking” to this week’s coverage (Image: Thomas Hautmann/FOX Sports)