Tim Howard — heroes do not necessarily triumph

Click to enlargeAP Photo

Tim Howard’s stunning performance against Belgium in Tuesday evening’s epic last-16 contest in Salvador was the talk of the US yesterday after his remarkable, bloody-minded refusal to let the ball past him in the 90 minutes of normal time captured the hearts of sports fans Stateside.

But its true significance may take years to gauge because the preformance, and the reaction, may prove the tipping point which confirm the US as a real football force, establishing the sport as a real rival to American football and baseball.

Howard may have eventually succumbed in extra-time but as the New York Times put it yesterday morning: “All around the country, from coast to coast and through the nation’s belly, sports fans of every kind were inspired by the performance of a soccer goalkeeper. In a loss.”

Howard’s performance was the best statistically by a goalkeeper at any World Cup since 1966. The Everton man made a record 16 saves according to Fifa, starting as early as the 40th second when he denied Divock Origi after the Belgian striker broke through. That was one of four stops in the first half but it was after the break, when Belgium turned up the heat, that Howard came into his own and the American captain transformed into a footballing Captain America. He made eight saves in a gripping second period to keep Belgium at bay – leaping high to paw away two Origi efforts, while using his feet and legs to block a series of low strikes.

It was only with substitute Romelu Lukaku running at a tired American defence in extra-time that his resistance was broken; Lukaku, his team-mate at Everton last season, set up Kevin de Bruyne before lifting one over Howard himself. If Lukaku’s first action at the end of the match was to embrace Howard, it is a feeling shared by millions of Americans.

The goalkeeper’s heroics went viral on the internet in the hours that followed, with the hashtag “ThingsTimHowardCouldSave” inspiring pictures of the 35 year-old rescuing Bambi and the swimmer from Jaws. US vice-president Joe Biden tweeted: “Proud that our guys, just like our country, never gave up. Tim Howard – most valuable player in the World Cup.”

RTFA for more details about the whole team. We’re getting there. Nice to see we can catch up with the rest of the world in an area with social value. Lifetime sports can be a passion for spectator as well as participants.

Thanks, Mike

Tim Howard Rules! – FA Cup Final will be Chelsea v. Everton

Credit: goal.com photogallery

A hard-fought semi-final between Manchester United and Everton came down to the Toffees winning courtesy of Tim Howard’s heroics in goal. It took double overtime and a penalty shootout to decide the match.

Tim Cahill blew the start-up shot for Everton; followed by U.S. National Team keeper Tim Howard not only stopping Manchester United’s languid Bulgarian, Berbatov; but, Rio Ferdinand, as well.

Tough match, ground out by the defensive backs of each team.

Now, the final will pit Blue against Blue. My heart has to go with the Toffees.

Hamburg fans stay loyal past the final whistle

Do they have a coaches corner?

Supporters of a German football club are the latest to be invited to extend their loyalty further with the opening of a cemetery reserved just for them. Hamburg HSV has opened a specially designated cemetery within earshot of its Nordbank arena where fans can be buried in club colours on a football stand-shaped lawn reached via a goal-shaped entrance.

The idea for the cemetery, which can take up to 500 graves, came after repeated requests from fans wanting to have their ashes strewn on the pitch of the Bundesliga club, or like Everton fans, buried beneath the penalty spot.

But as the scattering of ashes is illegal in Germany, the concept of offering burial plots close to HSV’s stadium was born.

The club has given licences to several undertakers who could carry out “HSV-recognised” burials, including the singing of the club’s anthem, Hamburg My Pearl, and stonemasons who would chisel gravestones to suit the fans’ wishes.

I’ve a mate or two who are Celtic fans who would love to go out in this style.