The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.

We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.

Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.

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A Weekend of Slouching Toward Bethlehem

An interestingly bent one-way sign.

It’s Friday, which means it’s almost time to get out your navigating shoes and set off, with a gleam in your eye, through the noisy city streets of the football matches to come. You don’t know what you’ll see or how the days will change you, but you can at least take a look at some maps before you leave and try to figure out a route that will help you make it back home. I’ve been looking at…

  • Reading v. Man Utd: Reading give up goals like late-career Star Trek actors give up dignity. And they’re playing the Premier League team voted most likely to transform spontaneously into the thunderbolt of Zeus (you can look this up). And they have two players out at the African Cup of Nations (Man Utd have 0). All signs point to this being one of those games where everyone gets a little too excited about the fact that the teams combine for eight goals, even though the final score is 7-1 and the match is over before halftime. (Saturday at 3pm GMT; 10am US Eastern time)
  • Newcastle v. Bolton: Normally, I would expect this game to feel a lot like watching a man take his socks off so he can wash them in a motel sink (you know, frustrating and a little sad? Do you ever feel that way about soccer?) But this time it’s the site of the second coming of the Geordie Messiah, Kevin Keegan, who may be in his third day on the job with a squad belittled by injury, but who has surely already shaped them into a fluid attacking unit capable of passing for Brazil in a blind taste test. Yeah, I know, but I’m going to watch it anyway. (Saturday at 5:15 pm GMT; 12:15 pm US Eastern time)
  • Ghana v. Guinea: The actual match of the weekend. Like many of you, I’ve been following the build-up to the African Cup of Nations with the help of Daryl and his cronies at the World Cup Blog, and I can’t wait for it to start. A lot of the time, we think of globalization in football as a sinister force that makes Vietnamese children need to own Arsenal t-shirts, but a few years ago no one outside Africa was interested in this tournament, and now I think most football fans are excited for it no matter where they live. People are picking their teams. For the record, I’m leaning toward Angola. (Sunday at 5pm GMT; 12pm US Eastern time)
  • Atl├ętico Madrid v. Real Madrid: I’ll probably skip it in favor of the action in Ghana, but you could do worse than seeing two of the top three Spanish teams play one of the most ferociously observed derby matches in Spain. If this match had a personality it would be that of a man in prison who sat alone at the table thinking about a crime whose exact nature was known to only the wisest old inmates. (Sunday at 6pm GMT; 1pm US Eastern time)
  • Inter v. Parma: For the same reason that I’d watch the Venus of Urbino play Parma, if Parma was who she was playing. (Sunday at 7:30pm GMT; 2:30pm US Eastern time)

What about you? Which matches are looking forward to? I’d love to hear your thoughts about the games you happen to watch, so don’t be a stranger if you’re out on the sidewalk and happen to pass by the comment box.

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A Weekend of Slouching Toward Bethlehem

by Brian Phillips · January 18, 2008

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