Jose Mourinho Goes One-on-One with Steve Nash

Loyal Backpost reader and budding politician the Colorado Keeper pointed this out to us when it broke a few weeks back, but, because the Backpost Intern is on post-grad holiday in Iceland, and our head is like a sieve, we are just getting to it now—even though we’ve done two Jose Mourinho posts in the last few days. Ha. Ha-ha. Sigh.

No worries—better late than never, because this is a good one:

After watching Inter Milan hold on with 10 men to beat Barcelona in the Champions League semifinals, two-time NBA MVP and avid soccer fan Steve Nash posted the following to his Twitter account:

“The eleven to reach the final for Inter are: Butt, Yashin, Banks, Zoff, Maier, Tomaszewski, Zubizarreta, Schmeichel Clemens, Higuita, Chilavert.’’

Oh, snap! But wait, no Friedel or Keller, or your countryman, Onstad?

So, a funny tweet (someone needs to come up with a better word for that) from a high-profile athlete criticizing Inter’s defensive style in that semi. Hey, they were down to ten men—against Barcelona—what did you expect, Steve? But we digress. This joke would be shared among Nash’s Twitter followers that got it, and that’d be the end of it, right?

Not when the Special One is involved. Jose got wind of Nash’s comment, and felt the need to address it, in an interview with the Times of London:

When I read comments by many real football people they understood how well we played that game and how much credit the players deserve. When I read some comments from some, I don’t want to say stupid people . . . For example, I read a comment from one of the best basketball players in the NBA, Steve Nash. He was saying that Inter could play that game with 10 goalkeepers. Fortunately, he plays basketball. He understands nothing about football.”

Nash revisited the matter on Twitter on May 16, writing,

“Oops I must’ve hit a nerve. Don’t worry Jose Mourinho I’ll bring you a case of wine to Madrid next season and we can make up!”

The feud appeared to wrap up amicably on May 20, when Mourinho offered an olive branch at a Champions League press conference:

”It is nothing. I hear he is a good man. There is no problem. I didn’t like what he said, but he is a great player and he can have his opinion.”

(Next up: Bill Belichik takes time out to address Didier Drogba’s critique of the Patriots’ 3-4 defense.)

Tip of the hat to the CO Keeper, and now:

A Bonus Steve Nash Story:

This one involves a friend of Backpost–let’s call him Dave–who is not the biggest sports fan in the world, as you’ll soon see.

You may know that Steve Nash spends his summers in New York City, where he plays a lot of pickup and rec-league soccer (the Suns are apparently okay with this).

There is a regular pickup soccer game at the East River Park (ERP) in lower Manhattan most summer nights and weekend afternoons. Dave lives in the neighborhood, and often plays there.

A few summers ago, right after Nash won his second straight NBA MVP trophy, Dave is playing at ERP, and there’s a guy in the game with longish, light brown hair who Dave says exudes a real surfer vibe. He’s also a very good player, so Dave keeps getting him the ball.

He–the guy–does stay out of the fray a bit, never challenging for 50-50 balls etc., but when he gets the ball at his feet, he’s very good, so Dave keeps knocking it to him. Halfway through, they’re taking a break and Dave goes up to him:

“Hey, you’re a good player. What’s your name?”

“Thanks. I’m Steve.”

“Hey Steve, I’m David. Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you.”

The game resumes, and after a little while, Dave notices that a bunch of little kids from the neighborhood have gathered to watch the game, all of them pointing at “Steve.” At the end of the game, the kids swarm around “Steve,” asking for his autograph, and getting their picture taken with him.

Dave walks up—and this is a direct quote—and says, “Wow, I’ve never played so well here that kids wanted their picture taken with me! What was your name again? Sorry.”

“Steve.”

“Alright, Steve. Great playing with you.”

And off goes Dave on his bicycle, only mildly curious as to why all the kids from the neighborhood are still clamoring for a picture with this Steve fellow.

Yeah, that was Steve Nash, and Dave had just played an hour of pickup soccer with the reigning NBA MVP—without knowing a thing about it.

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Champions League Final on Fox: Tracking Back

The fact that this past weekend’s Champions League final was televised on Fox—not Fox Soccer Channel, but regular network-TV Fox, home of Bart Simpson—at 2:30 on a Saturday afternoon, is something of a landmark moment for soccer in the U.S.

We may have missed it (we’re out of it like that), but we haven’t seen this much noted anywhere. At the opening of the telecast, the game was touted at the lead of a promo heralding Fox’s upcoming broadcasts of the MLB All-Star Game, the World Series, Super Bowl XLV (that’s 45, right?) and the Daytona 500. That’s elite company, on the U.S. sports-broadcasting landscape.

It was not so long ago that you had to find a pub with a satellite hookup to watch the Champions League final in the U.S. Now here it was on network TV, in weekend-afternoon prime time, and we were in the studio with Curt (I will mispronounce “Bayern” and half the player names I mention this afternoon) Menefee, Eric Wynalda and Bruce Arena (who has a voice made for print journalism, btw). This was unprecedented stuff.

Then there was Wynalda’s pregame commentary about the all-English refereeing corps for the final. Let’s break it down, Fire Joe Morgan–style (click here and scroll down for FJM goodness):

Menefee asks Wynalda if the fact that the refereeing crew is made up of Englishmen will make a difference.

Wynalda (heartily): I think so.

Easy Eric, you’re plunging headlong into questioning the refs’ ethics here.

Wynalda: I talked Arjen Robben and he said he was happy because he knows them all.

Now you’ve dragged Robben into the potential accusation. Where are you going with this?

Wynalda: I don’t know what that means.

Way to pump the brakes. But you’re still dangling something out there. What’s your next move?

Wynalda: They’ll do a great job.

Ah, just reverse field altogether and cut your losses. Wise move. But you may have set a record for wading into and out of controversy in the space of four sentences.

Anyway, the game itself was a good one. Two well-taken goals by Diego Milito and yet another trophy for the Special One, who’s now poised to go to Real Madrid—and the BBC, starting June 11:

But we have to give it up to Mourinho—his track record is solid gold. Still, the UN Security Council is drafting that policy, as we speak.

Question of the Week

If Inter Milan beats Bayern Munich tomorrow to win the Champions League and complete the triple of Serie A, Italian Cup, and Champions League titles, will the United Nations need to adopt a policy of containment w/r/t Inter coach Jose Mourinho’s ego?

Discuss in the comments.

That game is on Fox (not Fox Soccer Channel) at 2:30 p.m. EST.

Other games of note on TV this weekend (all times EST):

Saturday, May 22

Blackpool v Cardiff, Championship Final, Fox Soccer Plus, 10: 00 a.m.

Toronto v New England, MLS, Direct Kick, 1:00 p.m.

Seattle v San Jose, MLS, Fox Soccer Channel, 3:00 p.m.

Turkey v Czech Republic, International Friendly, Fox Soccer Plus, 6:00 p.m.

Houston v D.C. United, MLS, Galavision, 8:00 p.m.

Chivas USA v Real Salt Lake, MLS, Direct Kick, 10:30 p.m.

Sunday, May 23

New York (MLS) v Juventus, International Friendly, Fox Soccer Channel, 1:00 p.m.

Kansas City v Columbus, MLS, Direct Kick, 4:00 p.m.

Enjoy the games.