That's Something You Don't See Every Day, Chauncey

Watch me pull a rabbit outta my hat!

Ah, distinctly I remember.

Posted by kozemp on July 19, 2012

Remember Muzzy Izzet?

He was a Turkish international who played for Chelsea way back in the day and spent most of his career at Leicester City. After Leicester he spent three injury-wracked years at Birmingham where by all accounts he produced nothing particularly noteworthy, except for what I still remember eight years later as the single greatest handball in the history of soccer.

I have tried and failed to find video of this play but believe me when I tell you: it was truly, truly spectacular. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was in November, I was at the Dark Horse, and I was walking out of the Rigger Bar past the brand-new big-screen television that had been installed the month before for an England-Wales World Cup qualifier. (My attendance at the Dark Horse for that specific game, I recall, was required by certain parties as a shibboleth to prove that I “actually” liked soccer.)

I was walking out of the bar when I glanced at the television. Everton had a free kick maybe 25 yards from the Birmingham goal. Thomas Gravesen – sweet zombie Jesus, I can’t believe I still remember it was Thomas Gravesen – lined up over the ball and took a very nice free kick that looked to sail over the heads of the wall and slightly trouble the Birmingham goalkeeper (whose name, sadly, I cannot remember). It looked like it was going to do this until, possibly entering a dissociative state and believing he was playing some other sport, Muzzy shoved his arms up in the air, hit the ball square with the heels of both hands, and pushed it over the crossbar.

It was as perfect a set as you would see on any volleyball court. Unfortunately, it happened in a soccer game.

Everyone in the bar stared at the television. Everyone in the stands stared at the pitch. It was a moment of perfect, stunned silence on two continents. The ref walked over to Muzzy, pointed to the spot, and showed him a red card with a bewildered look on his face that clearly said, “what the fuck were you doing?”

It is, to this day, still one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen in sports, and it takes the cake from Luis Suarez as the Greatest Handball Ever because while Suarez was simply cheating, Muzzy Izzet genuinely appeared to lose his mind for a second there.

I am reminded tonight of Muzzy because walking back to my car from PPL Park tonight, between the corner at the stadium road and the church where I park, I sent a message on Twitter to a friend of mine.

I wrote, “Has there been a change to the Laws of the Game that visiting players at PPL Park can use their hands?!”

This is twice in a week now and it’s starting to get really, really irritating.

I’m not going to say that the handball witnessed in the closing stages of tonight’s friendly with Aston Villa was close to as bad as Muzzy’s famous set, but is the second time in seven days I’m sitting here talking about a Union game and the most important part of it was a terrible refereeing decision.

The Union won a free kick on the edge of the Villa penalty area in… late in the game, I want to say maybe the 82nd minute or so. I’m not entirely sure how the Union actually won the free kick – we were on a careening late run towards the Villa goal, because as we know the the Union’s new MO is to only actually play soccer in the last 10 minutes of the game – but there it was all the same. The free kick right on the edge of the area, just inside the post.

Part of the reason my memory of this free kick is somewhat distorted (i.e., I cannot remember when it happened, who won the foul, or who took the kick) is what happened ON the free kick.

The ball was kicked.

The ball flew at the wall.

One of the Villa players in the wall flung his arm at the ball and knocked it away from the play.

It was a clear, deliberate, obvious handball by defending player in his own box. It may not have been as spectacular or ridiculous as Muzzy’s handball against Everton, but it was no less blatant. This should have been the easiest red card and penalty the referee had ever issued.

Play continued.

Sitting in our seats more than 120 yards away, Nick and I saw this clear as day and both screamed simultaneously, “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!” Tom, in his Aston Villa shirt, more demurely muttered, “wow.”

Now, again, don’t get me wrong. Just like the Cup semifinal against Sporting last week, the Union did not lose because of a poor refereeing decision. Well, bad refereeing decision. Well, atrocious refereeing decision. It may not necessarily have been the worst soccer game I’ve ever seen, but it was definitely flirting with the top 10. We put out what was mostly a youth side, Lambert rotated his squad players and his youngsters in and out as well, and the quality of play on both sides could generally best be described as “terrible.” And that’s fine. It was a mid-season friendly for us. It was a preseason tour game for Villa. No one is expecting an all-time classic. And we lost because Nathan Delfouneso scored a really, really good goal.

It does rankle, though, that our undefeated run in exhibitions against foreign sides ended this way, where by rights we should have had a chance to at least tie it up late in the game and keep our unblemished record. Yeah, it’s just a friendly but… pride, you know? It’s not just a terrible U2 song.

JLK

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