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Maybe it's time to give Alpay a break.

Beckham abuse demonstrates nasty nature of European soccer.

Spoiled Arsenal and Manchester United players made fools of themselves.

Debate heats up over Blackburn breaking Liverpool bones.

Little nations make world soccer compelling.

Reyna sought brighter future by choosing Manchester City.

Hooliganism is back in England and going high tech.

More than enough Ronaldos to go around.

Can Chelsea buy its way to happiness?

Howard's ascent will have positive effect on American soccer.

Oceania gets raw deal from FIFA.

England must beware of the Turks.

Man. U. takes the bucks, Real gets the prize.

Man. United banishing Beckham? Only in a world gone mad.

Howard faces difficult challenge if he joins Manchester United.

Wolves celebrate return to the big time.

Beckham drama waiting to play out.

West Ham relegation brings a sad day to a proud club.

Van Nistlerooy is lethal despite the snubs.

Where are the British at Bolton?

Oh, cruel world! Beckham to U.S. is a revolting thought.

Goalkeepers: Soccer's unfortunate necessity.

Champions League is good, but it's not the World Cup.

Dutch can't win World Cup, but are a boon to their clubs.

Reyna is resigned to a season in England's First Division -- but only one.

Trickle of Chinese players to Europe could become a flood.

When a cap is more than a hat.

Goggles are Davids' most glaring feature.

McBride's charmed stay with Everton is nearing its end.

Football excellence is just a distant Scottish memory.

Soccer addicts have plenty to watch on TV these days.

French invasion proves to be boon to England's Premier League.

The naked truth about Nike.

Mad Brit Diary

Roberto Carlos has no match among the world's defenders.

(Saturday, October 25, 2003) -- Is there a finer defender in the world today than Roberto Carlos? The Brazilian ace can defend, tackle hard, blaze up the flanks at amazing speed, hit a good free kick and score amazing goals. He also has the hardest left foot in the game.

Italian defender Paolo Maldini, 35, is no longer the player he was. Brazilian Cafu, 33, still plays well. Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand might be the most expensive defender in the world, but Carlos rules. He just keeps on going, and always with a smile. They say at Real Madrid he breezes through training joking and laughing with Ronaldo.

He also maybe the most irritating player to play against. Carlos will waste time, but demand his opponents to take kicks quickly, and he spouts his fair share of trash talk. His free kicks are a little overrated -- David Beckham has a far higher conversion rate -- but what defensive wall would want to face a Carlos blast. There are many good defenders but few can attack and make overlapping runs like Carlos.

The world got to know Brazil's great attacking defender back in June of 1997 in an exhibition tournament, Le Tournoi de France. It was there, in a game against France that the 5-foot-6 dynamo hit what has been called the Greatest Free Kick Ever. Carlos hit the ball with the outside of his left foot. The ball bent like a banana around the French wall and past goalkeeper Fabien Barthez. Since then, most soccer fans have written Carlos down in their best 11 in the world list.

Last year, Carlos should have been given the Golden Ball Award as the best player in the world, but it went to his fellow countryman, Ronaldo. It's tough for defenders to win those prizes, but there again Carlos is much, much more than a defender. He can run the 100 meters in 10.6 seconds and his throw-ins go over 30 yards. His shots have been recorded at 75 miles per hour. Not bad for a player with small feet. And his crosses from the left are near perfect.

After playing with the Brazilian club Palmeiras of Sao Paulo, Carlos moved to Inter Milan for $5 million in 1995. A year later, after picking up some good points in defensive-minded Italy with Inter Milan, Carlos moved to Real Madrid -- Inter sold him for less than it paid to buy him -- where the more open Spanish game appealed to his attacking style. Carlos hasn't looked back. He has won three Champions League titles with Real, and a World Cup with Brazil in Asia last year.

Now he may be looking towards a move to the English Premier League. The Real Madrid superstar has been linked with the Chelsea. It's been reported that Chelsea had offered Carlos a contract worth $6 million per year until June 2010. Not bad cash.

Since Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich took Chelsea earlier this year, he has forked out more than $142 million on players in his quest to wrestle the title away from Manchester United and Arsenal. Carlos, 30, says he is happy at Madrid and wants to honor his current contract, which expires in 2005. But one has to wonder whether the man with the giant thighs, who likes red Ferraris and Rolex watches, will be tempted by the big cash offered in England. After all, Carlos is no longer a youngster and this could be his last chance to make some dough through a big transfer move.

(Recently, he scored a lovely goal in England when Brazil defeated Jamaica in a friendly at Leicester City's Walkers Stadium.)

Carlos gets his confidence and strength from his family and his faith. His father was a player who he loved him dearly and Carlos was raised as a devout Christian. All the Mad Brit can say is: Carlos, please come to England.

The mailbox

Tom Emerson writes: "MB, I don't think the Germany-Iceland game was a friendly. It was a Euro '04 qualifier wasn't it? Not as good as the kinds of ratings the U.S. women pulled in the 1999 Women's World Cup, but wouldn't the U.S. men love to be able to say that they pulled the same ratings for a qualifier against Honduras as the U.S. women do in a Cup final! Given how rough some of the play in the U.S.-Germany game was, I think the women are moving more in the direction of the men in terms of physical play. Gamesmanship is probably headed that way as well."

(You're right Tom, the Germany-vs.-Iceland game was a Euro qualifier)

Magiclamp2u says: "Josh Harper wrote regarding the bad refereeing during the Women's World Cup and I can't agree more! I attended eight matches and honestly, in EVERY game, there were all kinds of bad calls. THE bad call for me was in the Germany-USA match where German keeper (Silke) Rottenberg took out (Tiffeny) Milbrett in the box without getting so much as a whisker on the ball. I feel it totally turned the tide in that game.

"I am not saying that reffing lost the Cup for the U.S., it was still up to the Americans to step up and get some goals, but rather that bad reffing was highly prevalent in the course of the entire Cup. The above was just an example. The free kick awarded to the Germans against the Swedes in the final was equally bad. There were just too many bad calls for my liking. Instead of having only the 'best' women refs in the tourney, they should have had the best refs PERIOD in it. I am a woman and am all for equality, however, in an event as important as this, that comes around only every four years, you want the games decided as best and as fairly as possible and I don't think most of these referees deserved to be calling these games."

Lonnie Barton writes: "Thank you very much. And not to 'kiss up' or anything, but I think Becks (David Beckham) is a heck of a player too and people just like to bust his chops cause he is so popular and they are just jealous. I figure that unless I'm better than someone, I really have no expertise to decide if they are good or not. I play and there's no way I could mark him or Mia (Hamm) for that matter, so how could I criticize them? Thanks again and I enjoy reading your column."

Jim McCully says: "MB, gotta weigh in on (Eric) Wynalda's comments regarding the WWC, in particular (about) the U.S. women. As the games got tougher, only Hamn really looked like she could play with anybody. (Joy) Fawcett performed well as cover, but the U.S. defense as a back four really relied on the holding midfielder to provide balance and possession to play out of the back. That was a limiting factor in being able to commit to six into the attack, and the team never looked like they wanted to send seven with confidence. Way to many long balls -- the team has really deteriorated in their ability to play the ball through opposing teams. (Julie) Foudy and (Kristine) Lilly did not belong out there for the minutes they got.

"Either the current coach can't control the players or she can't develop a style that the players trust. Too bad, they probably could have been more competitive with a younger mix, allowing the veterans to 'share the glory.' Instead, the veterans seemed to 'hog the story.' "

Kevin Heald wrote, "Dear Mad Brit, perhaps in an ideal world, tensions over soccer would not escalate to the point that one player would lose his job because of an incident in an unrelated game. But isn't that exactly why we fanatics are fanatic about this specific sport? A Turk who plays in England separates from his English team for instigating a fight (in which no one is injured) with a Brit who plays in Spain. Brilliant! This tops the South Korean who was fired from his Italian team for scoring the winning goal against Italy thereby knocking them out of the World Cup. At least in that situation, even if it goes against all capitalist impulses, there is a shred of logic. But this is not about logic.

"Passion rules the day. We watch beauty merge with passion to create art in order to transcend the mundane inanities of our lives. Beauty without passion is simply entertainment. And soccer is no mere entertainment. Yes, it's great to watch a home run in the bottom of the 11th inning of a tied game between a storied rivalry, but at the end of the day does anyone lose their job over it? (Well, perhaps the manager, but you get my point.) Hopefully Turkey survives the playoff, makes into Euro '04 and, if God is a soccer fan, plays England for the final! Huzzah."

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