Thursday, July 27, 2006

Profile: The Childhood Hero

For some reason, they decided to send him to Al-Azhar. At the time, the prestigious school, connected to the Fatimid mosque, was a viable destination for Arab scholars seeking higher education, but probably not very suitable for one of his background. It is unknown how many “classes” he attended there, or whether he was ever seen near a mosque. Nevertheless, following a persisting traditional fascination with titles, the minute he headed to Egypt, he was declared a “Sheikh”. He tells the story of the waiter who seemed to be getting more confused with every round of drinks that the “Sheikh” and his party ordered, until he finally snapped in a playful yet angry Sudanese accent: “Daa Shikh Aih Dah ? (What kind of Sheikh is that?) SHEIKH STELLA??!!”. Stella is the local Egyptian brew.

Naturally, his stay in Egypt built and shaped his political character, which helped him play a significant role in the struggle against Zionists upon his return home. Of course, this landed him in the jewish occupation jails and torture chambers. In her book (With My Own Eyes), Felicia Langer dedicates a section to parts of his story under the title (A Communist under Interrogation). He was eventually issued an order of expulsion and kicked out of his homeland, but that was not all what he has lost.

The story goes that one method of “interrogation” was to lock the him up in a pitch-black cell for days, followed by sudden direct exposure to the bright sunlight. The repetition of that practice, his medical history of eye problems, and a few hard blows to the side of the head left him blind. Next to giving up life for a cause, giving up eyesight has to be a close second.

He would settle in Syria for the next couple of decades, but when he visited his family in Amman, it was an occasion worth celebrations. Everyone wanted to get his “blessings”. Daily family gatherings for lunches, dinners, afternoon visits were held to meet and greet him. The best part of any of these get-togethers was when he brought out his Oud. Even little kids will quit whatever they were doing and gather around the blind old warrior to listen and sing along for the struggle, the country and the freedom.
Katyucha was by far everyone’s favorite. Once he teases the crowd with the first few notes, the anticipation grows, until the crowd explodes in unison, in deep voiced Russian: “Rastsvetali yabloni i grushi...”. Clapping starts slowly and escalates in speed and intensity. The verses would alternate between the Arabic and the Russian lyrics, and the voices will get a little louder for “شعبنا الابي لن يقاوم وطنا اشاده لينين: our tenacious people will not resist the country Lenin built” and louder for “قدسنا كانت هي الضحية قدسنا كانت هي الجريح:Our Quds is the victim, Our Quds is the wounded”.

In the mid-nineties, and following the Oslo agreements, the Sheikh, his wife, and his daughters returned home. It must have felt great to return home after years of struggle and estrangement. He put some documents together, contacted some Palestinian Authority parasites, forged some signatures, hired a lawyer and sold his mother and brothers' properties and LAND in Jericho and (Al Quds).
He lived happily ever after.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Mailbag (I)

Abu Shreek responds to the first batch of essential inquiries.
Caution: If you suffer from ADD, feel free to print it out. It makes for great bathroom reading.

I am a 24 years old single male. An alarming number of my buddies are getting married. How am I supposed to deal with the situation?
Wa7eed, Amman, Jordan

Completely boycott any and all of these (ex)friends. Limit the interaction with them to the occasional phone call. You don’t fit in their new social structure anyway. You will find yourself in multiple socially awkward situations and stuck in a bunch of uncomfortable conversations. Remember, this is not a betrayal to the friendship, after all this now-married guy is not the same college buddy whom you spent your days hanging out with, aimlessly driving around, chasing girls, and playing cards. He is now “domesticated” (not to say neutered), and being around him will drag you down and kill your game.
When you end up with absolutely nobody to hang out with (usually happens around 27-28), you know it is time for you to get married yourself. Then you can start exchanging family visits with all of them, talking about the good old college days while complaining about the high prices and the traffic, but don’t forget to bring a case of Classic Butter cookies and a house warming gift (an exquisite vase or a blender).

What was the best/worst excuse you ever heard for missing a midterm in college? A friend of mine came to class right after the test ended and showed the instructor that his watch was 2 hours late, and he thought that he arrived to take the test on time. The instructor made his decision to fail him the test mainly based on the stupidity of the idea.

My friend Anass, a seventh-year senior at the time, told our “Mechanical Vibrations” professor that he could not attend the first test because he had to spend a couple of nights in jail. The reason: “Lagoo fee dabett il Honda klashenn wa ana tayye7 3al Karak” (They found an AK-47 in the trunk of my Honda on my way down to Karak). He had documents to prove it.

Have you heard that prince Bandar bin Sultan gateway mansion in Colorado is up for sale for a mere 135 million dollars?
Harry & Lloyd, Aspen, Colorado

God bless the prince and the Saudi people who allow the righteous Royal family to anally rape them collectively, constanly and literally. But the real question here is:

Did you that according to Forbes magazine Most Expensive Homes section, Donald Trump mansion holds the current record price at 125 million?

Did you know that the CNN news anchor was laughing when she read the piece, wondering who needs 15 bedrooms and 16 bathrooms?

Did you know that the real estate agent (Joshua Saslove) who is shopping the thing around is the president of the Aspen Jewish Congregation?

And this last question is directed to the Bin-Ladens-cave-dwellers and all the fake bearded idiots who support them: Don’t you think that directing your efforts against the Royal blasphemy at home, in the land of the Two Holy Mosques, should take some priority over targeting innocent civilians? Or is it OK as long as you are on their payroll?

If we historically track back the phenomenon of the popularity of Arab female singers, based solely on their looks and their sexual subliminal messages, with complete disregard to any vocal talent, who can we credit for creating that recipe for success?
Nancy Lover, Amman-Irbid.

I think good looking women were always a part of Arabic music. I remember lots of the eighties pop singers featured a belly dancer in the background.

In his mega-hit (Noor il Ain) Amr Diab featured Miss Lebanon at the time (Nicole Bardaweel) as a back up dancer, and although her wardrobe was not revealing, it was a new thing in the early nineties. Later, Hameed il Shaerri and Hisham Abbas in the video (Aiani: La kan Al khatterr) featured another Lebanese model (Nicole Saba) who lately launched her own music career (and I use the words music career very loosely).
Najwa Karam had some sex appeal to her, especially when she sang on stage wearing dresses that revealed some cleavage. Clauda Shamali could be my first memory of a singer whose looks and wardrobe contributed more to her success than her actual music. (More on her later).

The Lebanese era followed. Nawal Al Zoghbi (her nip-slip poster was a best seller for years), Pascal Mashaalani, Elaine Khalaff… and a bunch of other Lebanese female singers emerged, all relying on a certain level of good looks and “soft” word delivery to achieve stardom. However most of them had a certain level of talent or worked with composers that made their songs acceptable and enjoyable. Their wardrobe was still relatively conservative and showed minimal skin. Ghassan Rahbani (another musical genius and a pioneer) put together the first Arab “Girl-band”. He gathered four random good looking girls (replaced almost annually based on circumstances), and had them cover remixed Lebanese folkloric songs. The (4 cats) idea was brilliant: the music was enjoyable ( at least the first two albums), and their second video (Ya Naseeni), that featured the four cats on a camping trip, was a must see at all time for every teenager. However the idea of sacrificing “sound” in favor of “sight” was established.

Elissa appeared in the video (Biddi Doob) simply wrapped in a white bed sheet. Elissa was referred to as (Um Al-Sharasheff (Ms. Bedsheets)), since in her next two videos she was wearing the same wardrobe (but this time she is submerged in a pool!) and in third video (Bitgheeb Bitroo7) she was rolling in bed sheets with Ragheb Alama. Still her music is very good and innovative, and the same can be said about Nancy Ajram, even though she uses and extra sexy “soft” tone in her voice, and usually appears in revealing clothes in her concerts.

So, in conclusion, I want to give the credit to the queen of trash (Haifa Wahbi), who set the blueprint for the version of music that is absolutely repulsive, yet she remains successful for all the wrong reasons. Hundreds of talent-less, unsuccessful model wanna-bees and night club singers from across the Arab world flooded the airwaves. Haifa’s music is absolutely irritating and there is no way the biggest (Tistik-tistikk) fan can withstand it. The ratio between her fame and the actual value of her “work” could not be justified and this guarantees her the (dis) honor of this credit.

As for Clauda Shmali, around 1996 my friend Kais got us free tickets to attend a concert as a part of (Al F7aiss art and culture first annual festival). The concert featured Lebanese one-hit-wonder (at least at the time). Clauda had a decent voice in the same mold of that of the more successful Najwa Karam. She was definitely overweight, yet deliciously curvy, and her hit song (Tontorni ala ghalta) did not have an actual video, but was shot on a cheap stage with a green background, where she shook lightly in her very short, dollish red dress.

The clay (dirt) soccer field was divided in 4 sections, three facing the stage, and a fourth in the far back designated for "singles". Big mistake. 20 minutes before the concert began the “singles” made a collective charge towards the front seats, in what we later referred to as the first revolution.
Riot police quickly contained the situation, and the singles were assigned the right section of the front seats. Each of the three sections had a wooden tower for the TV cameras flanked with a metal pipe carrying a big stadium light. Clauda appeared on stage wearing a tight blue suede dress that was later described by a daily newspaper “exciting and stimulating to the crowd”. Momentarily “singles” began climbing the camera towers and the camera man had to be protected by 3 policemen who kept swatting down the climbers. The climbers were hanging on the sides of the tower for a better view. The concert had to be interrupted a few times to break some fights that resulted in clouds of dust coming from the right section, while the tower swung (obviously there were fights for “position”). The PA announced that this is a very serious situation and the lights next to the tower are of very high power that can cause a fire if it is short-circuited. Eventually the inevitable happened and I looked to my right and through the rising sand storm, I noticed that the tower no longer stands there, and the pipe carrying the lights is shaking violently. A guy quickly snatched the mic from Clauda and started yelling: “ sitteen alf sham3a ya nass, karetheh, ra7 iseer karetha, sitteen alf sham3a, ra7 nin7araegg: 60,000 Watts, people a disaster is going to happen, 60,000 Watts, disaster, we are all going to burn”. The worst part is we did not get to listen to the hit song since she was saving it for the finale, on the bright side we did not burn.

How can anyone in his right mind follow baseball? Stop being an idiot. You are not from Brooklyn, so stop supporting pseudo-athletes who are taking more steroids than beef cattle, change the freakin channel.
Mohammad, Your Roommate.

I sympathize with you, and I have no problem taking criticism for my passion for (American) football and baseball. I understand the frustration toward a sport that:

1. Takes an average of 3.5 hours to finish a single game, and features 162 regular season games per team.
2. Involves minimal athletic action that appeals to the casual spectator.
3. Involves athletes that look tremendously overweight and out of shape, who are constantly chewing sunflower seeds and spitting, chewing tobacco and spitting and touching themselves and spitting.

I admit this sport is not for everybody. But Notice that:

1. You either follow baseball or you do not, there is no middle ground. It is not one of those sports that you can catch a game once every couple of weeks, enjoy it and move on. In order to enjoy the experience of a single game, you have to be familiar with the overall picture.

2. Baseball is one of the few sports that could provide you with 95% of what happened in a game through its box score. You can keep up with every team on day to day basis by simply reading the newspaper. Now, once you get a chance to watch that “once every couple of weeks” game, you will be familiar with the players and their stats which will make watching the game enjoyable.

3. Speaking of stats, baseball is a sweet treat to anyone who appreciates numbers. The whole game is numbers-based. It generates stats for every action on the field (as well as combinations of them) that accurately evaluate performance nad describes action, and believe it or not, statistical models have been built to simulate the game. The science of sabermetrics, Bill James and his abstracts is a fascinating phenomenon, unmatched by any sport.

4. Baseball is the only active league during the summer, unless you want to watch WNBA games or follow crappy reality TV and trashy Hollywood movies.

5. The game needs way more skills and effort than what may appear to the naked, unskilled eye. Running down and catching flyballs, making bullet-speed throws with crazy accuracy across long distances, hitting a homerun (rated as one of the hardest 10 things in all of sports, in the same lines of the quadruple jump twist in ice skating), all these are athletic tasks that are harder than what they appear. Not to forget t the art of pitching (which requires its own post).

6. As for baseball and performance enhancing drugs, this is hardly news. Unfortunately the league office chose to neglect the issue even though it was evident to the sport faithfuls since 2001. I don’t think it affects the drama and competition level of the game (the reasons I follow sports in general). More importantly, at a certain professional (or even semi-pro) level in sports there is no “clean” athlete anymore. Every star athlete is on some kind of performance enhancing drug or supplement, and the labs that make these drugs are always ahead of the efforts of detection. A simple example is Human Growth Hormone (HGH), allegedly popular among different athletes. HGH is undetectable in urine and most pro sports player unions refuse to provide blood sample for testing. Even the IOC who uses blood samples admitted that the tests they have are not effective enough in detecting HGH. Not to sound like I am defending cheaters (remeber there was no rules against the use of PED in MLB), but I choose to take baseball at its face value, as entertainment.

Where do you stand on the latest Israeli atrocities in the Middle East?
Con(fu)cious, Arabia

What gave you the impression that I am an expert on the strategic conflicts on the east side of the Mediterranean? Plus, Didn’t I make it clear that I only take irrelevant and insignificant questions that mirror my existence?! I feel a propaganda-like tone in your question anyway, that contradicts the overall agreement of Neutralization. Neutral towards the “escalation” to protect the accomplishments and establishments. Neutral to protect the booming economy and to maintain “middle ground” (a.k.a playing on two ropes with an American safety net).
7abeebi, the outlets are full with “answers” from experts, analysts and average Joes. You can’t check your email without running through a slide show of torn apart bodies (by the way, who decided that it is acceptable to pass around pictures of the disfigured bodies of our martyrs ?!!), you open your browsers and instantly two articles by Naom Chomsky and another three by Carlton Fisk pops in your face. And here is a song to answer your question.
Please reconsider your question and don't ask it again.

For everbody else, your questions are welcome (

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Review: The Best Kept Secret

Khaled Al- Haber: 30 years of excellence, an artist for this time and every time.

Abu Shreek was flipping through the channels around the year of 1999 when he stumbled across a concert on the Lebanese satellite channel LBC. The lead vocalist was a different- looking guy, with a shaggy afro hair, a thick mustache and an acoustic guitar hanging on his chest. A Palestinian flag around his shoulders and an ecstatic crowd singing along every lyric, while waving red, Lebanese and Palestinian flags. After listening to a couple of songs, Abu Shreek was instantly hooked and could not listen to anything else for the next three years, despite the fact that nobody around him shared the passion for this artist extraordinaire.

Khaled Al Haber (خالد الهبر), a fierce young fighter on the frontlines alongside his Palestinian and Lebanese comrades against the Zionists in 1982, and an enthusiastic artist whose patriotic and love songs, dedicated to his comrades, his hometowns and to the sites of the heroic battles, fueled the passion of the resistance. His harsh voice and his innovative tunes (one of the few to introduce Jazz themes in Arabic music) turned out to be not very appealing to the musically-challenged and theme-ignorant casual Arab fan, but that won’t divert him from the artistic path he committed to, even if it meant obscurity. In a time when prostitution musical “art” does not require more than a cheap exposed thigh in a pornographic video to achieve instant stardom, Khaled has 30 years of musical excellence, yet remains relatively unknown among the incompetent masses! Abu Shreek was very happy to find out the Khlaed was the guest on an Al-Jazeera satellite channel program called Doroob (Roads) under the title (Khaled Al Haber: In the shadows of fame).

It is always hard to find his albums, even online. Abu Shreek finally found some of his work on (thanks to jameed “propaganda” links), one of the few probable homes for Khaled. ( is an excellent forums site that features a library of valuable books and literature, among other great things). Please browse through this valuable collection of songs (unfortunately in real player format). Abu Shreek does not wish to force his musical taste on you, but these are a few of the songs that he related to and enjoyed.

Min Zaman Kteer (A long time ago): This song is also known as (Sindyaneh 7amra), one of his most famous songs and a fan favourite that is usually recited along word for word in his concerts.

Abu 3aj2a (Mr. Mess?): A song about one of his extra enthusiastic comrades with an up beat that reflects the attitude of this personality.

Shallal Moosee2a (A waterfall of music): A musical masterpiece describing an Arab woman in details alongside a beautiful tune, Khaled’s voice here could be kind of tough on those who are not used to it yet. (Another version without vocals is available in his album (Ma3 il Wa2tt Btinsa (you will forget with time).

Al 7arb il Qadema (The coming war): The ultimate song to describe the current situation.

Rana and Rula: Two different songs about two young ladies that made me envision every troubled/loved lady being named Rula or Rana.

Nasheed il 3ommal (The Anthem of the Workers): A song Abu Shreek yelled walking through the streets of Amman, hoping that of every construction worker, every taxi driver and every working hand living the daily struggle, to have a better day.

Ghiniyyeh 3atiffyyeh (A love song): Dedicated from Abu Shreek to the all the lady “comradettes”.

Each and every song of his work is a classic, and this is only a sample.
Khaled Al Haber is one of three people Abu Shreek would like to meet in his lifetime. He is definitely on the same level of all the greats who employed music to relate to the issues of the abused and oppressed average Arab and his major struggles. On behalf of those who apprecaite his work: Thanks.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Abu Shreek: Absent

Abu Shreek two weekly posts will not apear in this space this week and will return next week with a Q&A mailbag.

Feel free to mail your questions to (, regarding any issue (preferably highly irrelevant), and adequate replies to the worthy ones will be considered.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Profile: The Autocratic Democracy

In order to have a legitimate “opposition”, isn’t it necessary to have a “government” in the first place?

When a totalitarian regime faces a crisis, it always manages to re-invent itself. When a population wakes up one morning and realizes that the majority of it cannot afford bread, and suddenly recognizes that what was supposed to be a “state” economy, a local currency, a central bank with a treasury reserve had been transferred to overseas bank accounts, it becomes necessary for the regime to offer concessions and compromises. That is how a general elections and a parliament with seats, podiums and a little bell is born. This is when the long-lasting emergency laws are finally lifted. And people rejoice. They forget that they were robbed, humiliated and neglected and dash frantically to the closest voting box. “I am a Citizen, and I vote. Long live democracy”.

Democracy implies that: “Public figures who are not involved in the decision making process are not held accountable and are free from responsibility. Whoever does not govern is not subject to questioning”.

The early results were not very promising. After all, not too long ago, that same voter was detained and (…) , when he tried to embrace a political ideology and join a party, (back when he could afford to eat, he really considered political activism), and this voting citizen was neither accustomed nor trained to deal with the tricks and games of the sneaky politicians. But it does not matter, as long as the first step was taken, eventually the “process” is going to grow and improve.

Fast forward 17 years later, and the situation is beyond surreal. The products of the once-promising, ever-evolving (dissolving!) democratic process was not similar to those who proceeded it, THEY WERE THE SAME. Literally the exact same. The same opportunistic regime parasites and mercenaries who doubled as “policy-makers” then, sneaks from the backdoor now, and assumes the similar (secondary) role that instigated the reforms in the first place!! Same exact names, same exact roles, just new titles. And this time it is all legal and they have a law to prove it (of course, it is a law that they themselves passed, but this is how democracy works, right?). Even Benjamin, who never expects anything to change anyway, thinks that is TOO much.(Note: could not resist the Orwellian reference)

Democracy implies that: “The authority figure and the decision-maker is not a god. If the governor was a god, it would be called a “theocracy”. Since the governor is not a god he is subject to misjudgments and his decision making must be questioned.

So, in order for all the elements of the democratic process to be visible, there is a need for a national, intelligent, and objective opposition. The opposition is going to enlighten and educate the population, it is going to fight against oppression, it is going to take stands, organize (peaceful) demonstrations and assure transparency....But "opposition" against who? Against a government that is going to last for 12-14 months at the most, or against a prime minister who is as interchangeable as an oil filter? Or should the opposition challenge a historically incompetent parliament that is a mere extension of the "instantaneous" governments. Who forms that opposition? Is it going to be from inside that same incompetent parliament or is it going to be lead by the “educated elite” whose main concern is either to be promoted to the “parasite” level and get a piece of the pie, or is more than satisfiedwith a royal invitation to attend the opening ceremonies of the new parliament cycle?

Democracy implies that: “In a “young” democratic process, major decisions could be still influenced (made) by an individual major authority figure. The governor gains such a status from the inherited longevity of his previous autocratic system. The familiarity, respect and the track record achieve a level of political and social status that is hard to overcome, and continues to have a dominant effect over the constitutional process and its reforms”.

Unfortunately, the process continues to regress steadily. The situation needs to be addressed beyond formality conferences, Dead Sea forums (go figure), or “national” meetings held under outdated and void clichés like “one for all and all for one”. Until a complete re-evaluation process, that will not shy away from addressing “the elephant in the room”, is arranged, all those blabbering about a government-opposition clashe, national political agendas, political parties, political reforms and political developments, can take a break and recognize that it is all insignificant and IRRELEVANT.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Straight Shooting (III)

A few more thoughts on WC'06 and the best and worst from the cup.

After 63 games, the beautiful game proves once again that the quality of athletic performance on the field is as exciting as watching grass grow. Yet it remains addictive. Low scoring, slow play, timid attacks, suffocating defenses and excessive bookings, yet the drama of the event and the occasional all-time classic (Italy/Germany) always manage to overcome that, and make the world cup experience worth it. BUT the unacceptable thing for a true fan is questioning the integrity and credibility of the game. One can complain about the referees and their questionable judgment calls (and, as always, there were more than a few hasty ejections, penalty kicks, offsides…), but the minute one start speculating the involvement of bribery and behind-close-door deals, it is time to re-evaluate things. Why would you as a fan invest emotionally (and even financially if you are into gambling) in a game you do not trust? If English fans are in any doubt that the Argentinean referee had a hidden agenda against their team, they can switch to watching WWE, at least they know it is rigged in advance.

-Within the same lines, a “veteran” sports columnist concluded somehow that Beckenbauer and Blatter have reached an agreement where FIFA helps Germnay win the WC’06 in exchange for Beckenbauer not challenging Blatter for the FIFA president position, up for elections soon! How does a leading newspaper in Jordan publish such garbage? (Rhetorical question to Addustour daily).

-The one thing that the English fan can really complain about is the way penalty kicks were taken.Rule 14 Penalty Kick: Art. 4 states that: "Once the kicker starts his/her approach toward the ball, he/she may not interrupt his/her movement. Failure to kick the ball as specified shall result in a rekick". The literal intrepretatiois that the mere act of a stutter step or not a clean, smooth movement to the ball will be a rekick. If you look back at the last Penalty kick taken by Cristiano Ronaldo (and maybe 2-3 other kicks before it), the execution of the penalty kicks can be questioned.

-A quick summary of another snooze fest:
Argentina controlled the ball for most of the game and overtime. They had a mental lapse around the time their keeper hurt himself flying carelessly after a cross. Two quick substitution for Argentina and they are confused between the minutes 72-80, when they give up the tying goal. Germany’s substitutions were much more effective anyway. The most exciting part of the game was the post game fight and the German celebration (Bowling), which looks even more ridiculous now, since the guy who rolled the imaginary ball was Frings who was suspended for punching Julio Cruz during the fight.

-Speaking of GER/ARG: Beckenbauer and his new (kind of hot) wife looked very depressed before the tying goal. They had that look on their face like they cannot find the Viagra bottle on their wedding night. I could not get that image out of my head, even when Germany scored and they looked happy, calm and completely satisfied.

-For all those Italy fans that think their team played a perfect game against an inferior Ukraine team, check out this sequence of events from the running diary:

57’ Buffon makes a miraculous save. He is face to face with Gusiev and he manages to block Gusiev blast. Zambrotta miraculously clears the rebound shot right at the goal line. Ukrain has outplayed Italy so far in the second half.

59’ Italy scores on a cross that is border line offside. Toni in a position that could have been called either way, but he scores his first goal in the cup and celebrates by shaking his hand next to his head. If you play in your first cup at the age of 29, maybe you are not that good in the first place. Montella and Delvecchio think Toni is better of playing club soccer.

62’ A big shot by Ukraine bounces of the cross bar. Ukraine is still surprisingly contending.

68’ Zambrotta makes a great run from the left side and creates another goal. Game over.

The point is that until the semi finals none of the 4 teams have shown anything special, or not even played a single dominant game, where they completely outplayed their opponents. (Except for France who could not beat the Swiss and Korea but dominated Brazil worse than it did Togo, but that is a different story).

-However, Italy/Germany was the marquee game of the WC’06. An instant classic. Even without the two last minute goals, the game featured high quality play and constant action throughout the 120 minutes. There was no stretch more than 5 minutes without a shot on goal or a scoring opportunity. Italy played their best game in 16 years, and everybody on their team (maybe except for Toni) contributed and played at a great level. (just think of the Iaquinta heel to Gilardino who sends it back on a misdirection pass to a charging Del Piero who misses wide left in the 23’ of the overtime). Germany played a almost as good, and had their scoring opportunities by Podolski and Schneider, on balls set up by Klose who found some gaps in the Italian defense. But they were either too late to pull the trigger or Buffon was there to make some timely and miraculous saves. Games like this one is what make the world worth watching.

-As for FRA/POR, that was a good game to a certain point as well. It was really high tempo in the beginning until the French scored on that penalty kick. Now, keeping up with the “referees are bad” theme, and after consulting a group of soccer experts including former collegiate soccer players, the judgment was that the call was legitimate and correct. After Zidane took a Socrates(BRA) like PK and buried the ball in the back of the net, France slowed the game down and protected their shaky keeper who has conceded (only!!) two goals so far. Portugal had some last minute semi-chances but was shut down completely by the French and advanced to their second final in the last three world cups.

BEST AND WORST lineups of WC'06
-The anti all-star team features the disappointing, underachieving and overrated players, who either disappeared during the games, or could have helped their teams much more if they stayed home:

GK: It is hard to single out a terrible goalkeeper from this world cup. Most keepers did a decent job when they could, and a few of them committed more than one mistake, or directly cost a team a game. The award goes to Cristian Mora(ECU) because he ridiculously painted the flag colors on his cheeks like a female fan and hence caused his team a chance to beat England through bad karma.

DF: Cafu and Roberto Carlos (BRA) looked gassed with nothing left in the tank. Puyol (SPA) looked lost against France and Zidane made him look really bad on a few plays. Heinze (ARG) the Man U "star" made multiple mistakes and almost cost his team the game against Mexico (he should have been ejected). Neill (AUS) had a good world cup but he caused the last minute PK against Italy. Ooijer (NED) should not be making his WC debut at the age of 34 and costing his team the game because he cannot close on a striker inside the box.

MF: Ronaldinho (BRA) did not show a single moment of anything. Rena (USA) the team captain does not belong on a field and he turned the ball over in front of his goal costing his team the game against Ghana. Ali Karimi (IRA) the Bayern Munich star who used to have a really nice touch on the ball, completely vanished. And the most overrated player, and the player who touched the ball twice in his last two games Mr. Spice Girl (ENG).

FW: One cannot go wrong with an all English front of Rooney (ENG) who was not impressive in anything he did, and Crouch (insert joke here). Sweden played much better with Ibrahimovic(SWE) on the bench. Van der Vaart (NED) was supposed to be the next big thing for Holland and he might have broken a record for most minute played without touching the ball. The whole squad of Serbia&Monte Negro was really a no-show,( and their steel defense gave 10 goals in 3 games), but they were supposed to have a guy nicknamed (Batman) who was the top scorer in the Dutch league and plays for Chelsea. Kezman(SMN) world cup accomplishments include a red card and the stupidest facial hair of the tournament.

Coach : Van Basten (NED) picks the starting line up and Carlo Alberto Parreira (BRA) draws the plan.

-The all star teams has those who showed world class skills, enthusiasm for the game, constant action and eventually carried their teams to achievement:

GK: Buffon(ITA) he is easily the most confident goalkeeper out there, even before his Germany superb performance. He came with key saves and allowed one (own) goal so far in the tournament. Ricardo (POR) Also allowed a single goal (and apenalty kick) and his performance in the PKs against England earned him a spot here.

DF: Miguel (POR) has completely shut down Robben against Holland and provides good offensive support from the right side. On the other side Sorin (ARG) is easily the best at his position. Cannavaro (ITA) leads a solid Italian unit. The English played some good defense especially against Portugal and Ashley Cole (ENG) represents the unit here based on his effort to save a possible early goal against Ecuador. Grosso (ITA) appears here if for nothing else, for the two game winners against Germany and the PK against Australia.
(Honorable Mention: Van Bronckhorost (NED), Thuram (FRA), Marquez (MEX), Lahm (GER), Terry (ENG)).

MF: Figo (POR) and Zidane (FRA) are the main reasons their teams reached the quarter finals, it is great that they came out of retirement. (Same for Nedved (CZH) who had a great world cup, but cannot be on the all-star team since his team did not qualify). Maxi Rodriguez (ARG) was more of a factor in midfield than his more known teammate Riquelme. Vieira (FRA) carried his team for two games and is still very active especially on defense. Gattuso (ITA) could be the best defensive midfielder in the cup. It could be a stretch choosing three midfielders from France, but I cannot ignore Ribery’s effort and constant motor, just because he has a Dr. Evil scar (car accident when he was two), he definitely belongs here.
(Honorable Mention: Ballack (GER), Essien (GHA), Van Persie (NED), Kaka (BRA), Hargreaves(ENG), Perlot(ITA)).

FW: Very few quality strikers in this cup. Klose (GER) is an easy pick. Cristiano Ronaldo (POR) plays behind the sole striker in Portugal’s scheme but he is very active up front and has a good touch on the ball. Another spot here is awarded to the most unknown good player in the cup Jaziri(TUN) who had a goal that could be considered the best volley play of the cup and had a great assist to tie in the last minute against Saudi Arabia. Tunisia in general had a solid squad that could have been in the second round if not for the referee mistakes.
(Honorable Mention: Robben (NED), Torres (SPA), Podolski (GER))

Coach: Guss Hiddink. The only coach in the world who teaches fun to watch "total-football" play.