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The Alfa Romeo Metaphor

  1. The Alfa Romeo Metaphor

    My Alfa Romeo is a metaphor for my life. When it's running, it's beautiful and powerful. The purr of the engine and the roar of acceleration are exactly what a car is supposed to sound like. When I bought it, I was living the dream. Serie A players live exciting and stylish lives. I had that for a while. Unfortunately, like my life, my Alfa spends more time broken down as I cannot afford the repair bills to get it running again.

    While I was still playing, I'd opened a restaurant. My financial advisor had me heavily invested in housing construction in Spain. I was making money hand over fist. Then the economy collapsed. The big Spanish development in which I was a partner stopped. Literally. It's three-quarters finished and some 2,000 apartments are still sitting there untouched. In the exact state the workers left them in when they walked away. As a result, I was over-leveraged. In other words, I'd borrowed too much at the wrong time. But I was still playing so I figured that I'd be fine. The restaurant went belly up a year later and I blew my knee out weeks after that. 2009 sucked. The doctors and everyone said I could play again, but I knew I couldn't. I was nearly a cripple before the ACL gave out. My knees were really that bad. In 2010, I had to sell my expensive apartment in the old part of Bologna to pay down some of the mounting debt. Then my wife left.

    The only thing I had left was the broken down Alpha.

    I'm only telling you this because I finally got a job. A real job. With prospects. I'll be able to get the Alpha running again. The nightmare might just be over. I'm looking out the window as the plane begins to descend into Sevilla. Beautiful, beautiful Sevilla. This is the second time I've flown into Spain this week. The second time into Sevilla, even. This time it's to sign the papers and become a manager.

    As you can probably guess, the first time was to interview. They showed me around the stadium and the training facilities. They were all very nice. Top notch to be honest. Apparently, I impressed them.

    But I'm not going to be the manager of Sevilla or Betis. No. Not me. I'm an American with Italian roots. Seriously, would either of those illustrious teams appoint an Italian (I hold dual citizenship) as boss? Let alone an American? Especially one with no international caps and no managerial experience. Well, aside from two seasons coaching the youth team for Bologna I've got no experience. I wasn't even the youth team manager, mind you, just a coach. My old club were kind enough to give me a job. It kept the vultures at bay. But barely.

    I'm going to become the manager of Cadiz. Cadiz Club de Futbol S.A.D.

    Cadiz is south of Seville on the coast. It's a major port. As a city, Cadiz is pretty cool. Completely surrounded by water. Everyone lives in a third of the actual city area. And it's packed like any large metropolitan city. The shipping yards and warehouses take up the rest of the waterfront. Oh, but the waterfront. It's got a heck of a beach. It's never cold. Not like northern Italy gets. It will be a lovely place to get my feet wet in management.

    Like me, the club is in rather desperate straits. They've been very open about their problems. They've got a mountain of debt and nowhere near enough income. If I bring in any players, they'll be for free or on loan. I've got a limited player salary budget and we're pretty close to it. I will be able to bring in my own staff. I'm hoping some of my old friends will want to join me in the beautiful Spanish sunshine. They are hoping I can get the team promoted. The expectation is that I get the team into the play-offs. The Secundo is brutal. The top four teams make the playoffs. The winners of the first round play-off for the chance to move to the next phase. There are four Secundo leagues. The winners from each group play-off are then paired up. The winners of the two-legged tilts get promoted. The losers then play two legs and the winner of that goes up. That's six or potentially eight high-stress matches at the end of a grueling season.

    The plane is at the gate now. Here I go to sign my life (or what's left of it I can borrow against) away...
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 20/12/2013 at 07:03 PM.

  2. “Flavio, Flavio, Flavio!” I yelled as I walked into his repair shop back in Bologna. “My luck has finally changed.”

    A dirty face topped with a dirty ball cap peeked from around a corner at the back.

    “What? you finally picked the Lotto?”

    “Not even, but fate has finally decided to stop giving it to me [expletives deleted],” I replied. “I got a job as a manager. I'm moving to Spain. Cadiz. I need to drive the Alfa down there day after tomorrow.”

    “And you want me to forget what you owe and fix your car so you can look good?”

    “Just the look good part,” I replied. “I will pay the bill. I can now. I’m employed. I mean not in these next few days, but they’ll eventually have to pay me. Regularly, even.”

    He smeared the grease, grime and dirt around his chin in thought. But I knew he’d agree. He sighed.

    “I’ll have it ready in the morning,” he said. “You better go, I’ve got a lot to do to get that thing running again.”

    I looked at my watch. It would be morning in Washington, DC. My Mom should know the good news. She needed to know that the light at the end of the tunnel might not be a train after all.

  3. Beautiful, sunny Cadiz

    "Paco, it's me, Enrico," I said.

    "How are you my friend."

    "Good. Good. I need your help."

    "Really! You didn't ... no ... but ... really? Who hired you?" Paco Leal stammered. Paco was the Keeper for Merida when Bologna sent me to Spain on loan. He was nearing the end of his career. Bologna figured that since I also spoke Spanish that playing in Liga Adelante would be a good learning experience. I lived with him. He taught me how to be a professional. He's also the first of my friends I had to call.

    "Cadiz! Just down the road."

    "No. I mean, yes. I'm so happy for you. Cadiz? That's fantastic. Cadiz."

    "I've just started driving The Alfa down. You're my first call. I told you you would be. Man of my word. I need an Assistant Manager. It would be perfect for you. You could even keep the villa. It wouldn't be that long of a drive every day."

    "Well, it would," he replied. "But by Mary it wouldn't be so bad. I've just been laying around since I left Sevilla. Tending my garden, reading, watching television."

    "I know. It'll be great. We can build something fantastic. You're in?"

    Silence.

    "Yes, Enrico, I'm in. Drive safe. Let's talk in a few days once you've gotten settled."

    "Ciao."

    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-04-11.29.55-pm.png
    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-04-11.30.29-pm.png
    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-04-11.31.33-pm.png

  4. interesting!!!

  5. They'd put me into a nice, small hotel in a quiet back street not that far from the stadium. Honestly, nothing is that far from anything else here in Cadiz. He'd given me the name of a real estate broker who could help me find a permanent place to live. I could only live in a hotel for so long.

    I had a list of addresses in the city to look at. I'd stroll around each neighborhood to get the feel for it before my appointment to look at the actual apartment. I notice my reflection in a shop window. My suit is nicely ironed and looks sharp. My shoes are shined. I know I’m a decade out of date and nobody in Milan dresses like this anymore, but I’m in Cadiz and I hope they won’t know. The breeze jostles my mop of ungainly hair. I’ve come to accept that it’s hopeless to try and do anything with it. My nose is the most prominent feature on my face. It was once aquiline, but has been broken three times and now makes several turns as it meanders down my face. While my stubble looked stylish when I climbed out of my Alfa Romeo six years ago, the morning light is not so complimentary.

    Several storefronts down the block is a barber. I decide that maybe the barber can only improve things.

    "Good morning,” one of the barbers says as I enter. There are two barbers and three other guys in the shop. One is getting shaved. “What can i do for you this morning.”

    “I just decided I had better get a shave,” I reply sitting in the open chair.

    "You are a wise man," the barber said. "Keep the bit below the lip?"

    "Yes, please," I replied. I'd had the soul patch for a number of years and rather liked it.

    "Are you new to Cadiz? Visiting?" he asked.

    "No, just took a job."

    "You are a businessman? Who is hiring in Cadiz?”

    They all laugh.

    “No, I’m a footballer,” I reply. I don’t know why, but I decide to lay it all on the table. “I’m your new manager. I just signed on to manage Cadiz.”

    "No ..." he stops lathering me up. He looks at me closer. They all do. "Okay ... yes. Come to rescue us."

    "You're the Italian, yes?" the man in the other chair asks.

    "I've got dual citizenship," I replied. "I'm also American. Born in the United States."

    They all nod and agree.

    "Where did you play, Italy, right?" my barber asks. "Which team?"

    "Bologna," I reply.

    They all nod and agree.

    "Your Spanish is good but sounds funny," my barber says.

    "I know, I learned it mostly from Mexicans playing soccer, but there's also probably some Ecuadorians. I worked with a bunch of them in restaurants when I was a teen. I did spend a season in Merida."

    "Ahh, Merida," they all say.

    My barber stares at me for a moment.

    “Your mop,” my barber exclaims, gesturing at my hair. "It's ... it's ..." his voice trails off. "It's got to go."

    "What do you propose?"

    "All gone. Shave it off. You're thinning a bit in the back," he tapped the crown of my head. "You'll never have to worry about hiding any bald spots that develop."

    I shivered at the thought of hiding my bald spot by gluing down long strands from distant parts of my head.

    "Do it."

    Here's quick pic I took on my cell before he finished shaving the bottom half.

    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-enrico.png
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 05/12/2013 at 07:54 AM.

  6. Very good read, look forward to more. Good luck.

  7. Great Story mate, there's some creativity in here! Suerte!


    (Although it's funny I started managing Cadiz just yesterday...)

  8. Meet the New Boss

    For anyone who works in an office, you can relate to my experience of meeting everyone at the Cadiz CF S.A.D training ground. I shook many peoples hands. I smiled and nodded. A lot. From the guy at the car park gate to the chef to the groundskeeper to the receptionist. I only remember a few people's name. I'll remember the rest over time.

    The training ground is on the mainland in San Fernando. It's called Cuidad Deportivo Bahia Sur. Obviously, real estate in Cadiz is so high that they had to have their training facilities elsewhere. What's funny is that it's right next to a mall. If players get the urge for junk food, they could walk over to the Burger King or some bad Chinese. There are things I don't miss about America. One of them is Burger King.

    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-05-08.36.39-am.png

    Margarita schedules everything. From the pre-season (we filled that out in my first afternoon) to the physicals all players undergo on their first day back. She's really the glue or grease that keeps everything functioning. She is memorable for her machine gun laugh. She's short and loud. Her laugh periodically rips through the offices as she bounds through it. She never seems to stop moving.

    "You need anything, talk to me," Margarita stated. "You need to know anything about anybody in the office, ask me. You need anything in Cadiz, I know how to get it."

    Herculio is the chef. Everyone calls him "Herc." I love Spanish food. I developed a taste for it during my season at Merida. The smells wafting out of the cafeteria are always sublime. I could gain weight working here if I'm not careful.

    Federico is the IT guy. He runs the website and maintains anything technological in the office. Everyone calls him "Efi." He gave me my iPad and installed some apps on my iPhone. He also programmed in everyone's number into my phone.

    I was not impressed with the physios. Their room was a mess and they looked like a sullen bunch. I have carte blanche to let anyone go I don't want around. They're gone.

    Most of the previous staff had left when the former manager took his new job. I've got a load of positions to fill. I get to hire six first team positions. This includes a fitness coach and a decent physio. Paco and I are going to have to decide what to do about the youth team setup. There are currently three guys running it, but I'm not sure they're all that good. The youth facilities here are really nice. So far I'm not impressed with the youth coaches. I can hire up to six guys for the youth setup.

    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-05-08.21.26-am.png

    It looks like the Chief Scout, the one and only scout, has spent far too much time sitting in the cafeteria. We'll see in the coming days how much he knows about the free and loan players we could get. Paco and I are going to have to wade through a ton of interviews to get all the positions filled.

    Paco starts in a few days once he's signed his papers.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 05/12/2013 at 03:52 PM.
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  9. Quote Originally Posted by pn91 View Post
    Great Story mate, there's some creativity in here! Suerte!

    (Although it's funny I started managing Cadiz just yesterday...)
    Thanks!
    Yeah, Cadiz are going to be quite a challenge. Not only do I have to get used to the quirks of FM14 (I've been playing FM12 since it's release date), Cadiz budget is horrid and I'm reduced to signing free or loaner players. It's the dang stadium renovations that are the problem.

  10. The sad state of Cadiz CF S.A.D.

    Now that I've sat down and really examined things, I've got to say that I'm going to have an interesting season. There is literally no money for new players.

    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-05-08.24.15-am.png

    I'm not complaining. Well, maybe a little. More whining than anything else. I came into this job knowing I had no money to spend.

    Chairman Manzano and the Board had decided to renovate the Ramon de Carranza. Construction is done. The new stadium is a gorgeous glass-clad structure. There is ample parking underneath. It now seats 25,000. It's a fabulous modern ground compared to the old one.

    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-carranza-2.jpg The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-14728547.jpg

    What I'm having to deal with is the fall-out from the rebuild. Cadiz still owes EU12.5 million. Monthly payments are EU542,000 per month. I'm no banker, but they somehow negotiated this as a no interest loan. Cadiz CF will be free and clear for the start of 2015 season.

    El Submarino Amarillo are going to need some luck to resurface out of Secundo B4 and back into Lega Adelante.

    But Paco is here and he's calling through a list of names he's come up with. We should interviewing some coach candidates over the next several days.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 05/12/2013 at 07:00 PM.
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  11. Interviews

    Paco and I have interviewed twenty five or so candidates. Honestly, I've lost count. We didn't interview anyone for Physio or for our fitness guy. Paco insisted on two guys. They were available and willing and they'll sign tomorrow. Zosimo San Roman will be in charge of fitness and Michel Roman will be our Physio.

    Here's our top candidates to whom we'll be offering contracts:

    Javi Garcia (no not the one who is still playing for Manchester City) will coach tactics. He played for Recreativo and Granada, but retired when Los Granadinos joined La Liga.
    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-05-09.28.32-am.pngThe Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-05-09.29.27-am.png

    Paco Llorente (he'll go by Llorente not Paco, can't have two Pacos) will be in charge of attacking. The former Real and Compostela player will be the only one amongst us with any international experience. We joked quite a bit about the one cap he got against Albania and the goal he scored.
    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-05-09.30.08-am.pngThe Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-05-09.30.32-am.png

    Alejo Indias will run the defense. He played for Figeures, Celta and Elche.
    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-05-09.25.40-am.pngThe Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-05-09.27.45-am.png

    Juan Vincente Peinado will be in charge of technical skills and ball control.
    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-05-09.31.24-am.png

    Knock on wood but hopefully, Director of Football Alessandro Gaucci won't have any trouble negotiating their contracts. I pray to God this is all settled in a few days. I have learned I hate interviewing.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 05/12/2013 at 05:24 PM.
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  12. In which I give the motivational speech that bombs

    I'm a bundle of nerves. Today the players arrive. The first team coaching staff is all set. Gaucci got them all signed. Furthermore, we hired a completely new coaching staff for the youths out of the remaining guys we'd interviewed.

    The players all did the baseline physical testing in the morning. We do this to establish overall health parameters and in case of any concussions. The idea is that we'll know if an injured player is back to full health or if a player needs a match off so that we don't dead legs in May when we hope to be in the play-off hunt.

    I have to say we're pretty slow-footed in defense and midfield. Then again, we're relying on some aging veterans to have one (or two) more productive seasons. Thankfully, we have some reasonable quick wingers and forwards.

    The other thing I notice is that we're short. And by that I mean not tall. We won't be scoring many goals from crosses or corners. No lobbing the ball into the box for Cadiz this season. I'll have to address this with a few free and/or loan signings.

    We all have lunch together in the cafeteria and then it's time for my big speech. I stand up and only need to wait a couple of seconds for the room to quite down.

    "For most of you, I'd like to welcome you to Cadiz. There are only five of you left from last year so it's very much a clean slate from which we begin. I'm really excited to be here. So are Paco, my Assistant Manager as well as Javi, Llorente, Alejo and JVP. You've already met Zo and Michel."

    "Cadiz are a big name in Spanish Football. We're going to be going for promotion this year. Our goal is to win Secundo B4 to qualify for the promotion play-offs. Everyone in Spain knows El Submarino Amarillo and we will make the fans proud of us again."

    "I played in Serie A for Bologna as a fullback. I know what it takes play at the top level. I want to see that kind of commitment from you. Have fun, train hard and we'll see the results on the pitch and in the win column."

    "I'm not much of a speech guy. Any comments or questions?"

    There was a murmur of agreement from some of the veterans.

    Abdoullaye Fall, a midfielder who'd been here last season shook his head and looked at the floor.

    "Yes, Abdoullaye?" I queried.

    "There are teams, good teams in the B4," he said in passable Spanish with a distinct French accent. "Settled teams without comings and goings like here at Cadiz. I think we don't know if we can aim so high. I'm not saying we can't make run, but I think mid-table is more realistic."

    That was not the reaction I was hoping for.

    "Thanks, Abdoullaye," I replied. "But if we all give 100% in training, give 100% in matches, we can do this. Many of you are experienced pros. You've been on some crap teams. You've been on some that came together and went on runs. You know what it takes. I expect you to show everyone else what we need to do every day to pull this off."

    There were louder murmurs of approval. Fall resumed looking at the floor. I'm not so sure that me talking went over all that well. It'll all be better once I get them on the training pitch.

    "Optional shooting practice with JVP otherwise, I'll see you in the morning."

    The players shuffled out. The staff and I stood around looking at each other.

    "Fall better be good or I want him gone," I said addressing Alessandro Gaucci, the Director of Football.
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  13. Training finally begins

    Not only are the central defenders slow, they're short and soft. This is not a good combination. As I watch them train, they never try to impress me with a thunderous tackle or anything resembling physical play. What are we going to do against a large center forward stampeding around our penalty box? I know the answer and I don't like it.

    Jose Maria Belforti is the best of the three. But he's only 5'11" and not that great of a jumper. While he's a pretty decent tackler when it's necessary. I'm wondering when he'll find it necessary.
    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-05-12.06.49-pm.png

    Fran Perez looks the part of a big, tall and rugged Spanish central defender. Except for he's a bit useless. Okay, I'm exaggerating. He has not inspired any confidence in me whatsoever.
    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-05-12.07.38-pm.png

    Josete is solid and unspectacular. He'll tackle, he'll play physical. He's the shortest of the three.
    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-05-12.08.20-pm.png

    The fullbacks are all good crossers of the ball. We'll have a solid attack from the back, that's for sure. Defending might be a wee bit iffy. But isn't that always a coaches worry?

    I spoke with midfielder Mikel Martins about transforming himself into a defender. He's not tall at 5'10", but he's a really smart player. It's obvious when he plays that he's brave, tough and understands when to play rough. He said he'd be willing to try.
    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-05-12.18.56-pm.png

    It looks like a basic 442 might be the best formation for this bunch. I've got a bunch of options for wingers. Martins, Josete and Mehdi Nafti will make great defensive midfielders. Our success this season likely hangs around the neck of Jorge Luque.

    Jorge is already pulling the strings in five aside games. His creativity and passing shine. He's one of the few hold-overs having transferred in last January.
    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-05-12.26.52-pm.png

    While several of the wingers can play up front, I've only got two out-and-out strikers. Airam and Aymen Souda will have to stay healthy for us to do the business and make the playoffs. Did I mention we're a short team?
    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-05-12.30.03-pm.pngThe Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-05-12.30.43-pm.png

    I must sign a central defender and a muscular forward.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 06/12/2013 at 02:29 PM.

  14. Very nice start mate, looks like it could be really interesting - I'll be checking back to see how you do!

  15. Loan signings to pull it all together

    I pulled my chair around Alessandro's desk so we could look over a few loan signing possibilities. First and foremost, we'd look through Udinese's and Fluminense's reservers and youth ranks. We are affiliated with them and it's more than likely they'd agree to a loan arrangement in which we'd be charged no fees and they'd pick up the player's salary.

    Cuz we're broke.

    Michael Vinicus Silva de Moraes, aka Michael, looked promising. He's 6'1", fast, good dribbler, good header and good finisher. This kid will be playing starring in La Liga some day. We'll gladly acclimatize him to Spain.
    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-05-02.41.21-pm.png

    Bruno Farias Araujo, aka Bruninho, looks like a promising midfielder. And if he likes it here, maybe he'll sign for next season; his contract expires next June.
    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-05-02.42.10-pm.png

    Looking through Udinese's ranks, Ricardo Chara looks promising. He's Colombian so the language won't be an issue. He's tall and a good header. Colombian defenders I've run into over the years have been pretty tough characters, so I'm hoping Ricardo will fit that mold.
    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-05-02.51.12-pm.png

    I leave Alessandro to work the phone and get these boys wearing Amarillo.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 05/12/2013 at 10:01 PM.
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  16. really nice story!

  17. Sundry details

    I imagined that managing a football club would be more time consuming. But here at Cadiz CF, there's no wheeling and dealing in the transfer market. At least not this year. I've got twenty two players on contract, but several are useless and the Football Director is trying to offload them.

    I told Alessandro to get rid of Abdoullaye Fall, Fran Perez (the useless, tall defender) and a guy who goes by Gato. He's a slow, untalented winger. I just don't need them hanging around and not playing. Fall turned out to be mediocre and with the initial impression he'd made with me, he was never going to get on my good side.

    I did have some other items I needed to take care of. I talked to Margarita about finding a yoga instructor.

    "You want to start taking the Yoga?" she asked.

    "Yes," I lied. It wasn't for me. But I didn't feel like explaining myself. I wanted the players doing yoga to increase their flexibility and guard against injuries. It's the latest trend that all the big teams are doing. I figure, why not at Cadiz?

    A half hour later, she had the names to two instructors and their class schedules.

    One was that evening so I dropped in. It was a little, nondescript storefront. I walked into the entryway and was confronted with a tie-dyed sheet separating the entry from the back. I peered around the sheet and a bunch of woman and a few guys were lining up their mats, loosening up or chatting. A bunch of people were huddled in the back filling out some paperwork or something. I took off my shoes and socks and walked toward the back trying to identify whomever was in charge through the gloom.

    "Hi, I'm Elise," a thirty-something woman in tights and a tshirt said, thrusting a hand out. "You must be new?"

    "I am," I replied. "You take drop-ins, yes?"

    "Of course," she replied. "Grab a mat, I'll get you the paperwork to fill out."

    I'd dropped in on a beginner class. Which would be exactly what I'd need for my players. I wanted to see what each of these teachers would be like. Would Elise be able to handle an unruly bunch like my team? I have my doubts. Is she a good yoga instructor. For sure.

    The class was near my hotel, so afterward I strolled back to shower. Afterwards, I went over to the neighborhood where I'd gotten my shave. You'll recall that I'd looked at an apartment nearby. I'd looked at several, but was down to deciding between the apartment and renting a small house just outside of Puerto Real on the mainland. The house would be more expensive and had a suburban feel to it so I wanted to find out if the apartment would be quiet enough.

    After a bite to eat at a restaurant in the neighborhood, I wandered around for a bit. There were plenty of restaurants, bodegas and bars, but this wasn't the posh part of Cadiz. It was quiet enough for me. Plus, I liked having the restaurants nearby. I'm not really much of a cook.

    The apartment is on the bayside of Cadiz. Here's some pictures I took on my first visit. The first is looking northward along the Avenue de Bahia which runs along the bay. The first is looking toward the older, touristy part of town. The second is looking the other direction. Those tall blue apartment towers look pretty stylish, pretty awesome, eh?
    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-05-10.48.22-pm.png The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-05-10.47.46-pm.png

    Yeah, I won't be living in them. I'm going to get the apartment a block off of Avenue de Bahia. That boring little tan and brown thing is the one I'll be living in. I'll be on the third floor looking toward the bay at least. I've still got a mountain of debt to pay down.
    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-05-10.48.51-pm.png

    Here's a handy map to help you all out.
    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-05-11.15.43-pm.png

    Now that I've decided on the apartment, I'm going to have to have what's left of my worldly possessions shipped here.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 06/12/2013 at 06:23 AM.
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  18. Friendlies

    We warmed up against a local side after a week's worth of work centered around improving our fitness. The players only played 45 minutes each. Bruninho agreed to our loan deal.

    The Alpha developed a creak taking left turns. I'm not sure what that signifies. It runs fine otherwise so I'm not worried.

    Next up on 1 August was Anderlecht. They should really beat us. They compete in Europe nearly every year. They win the Belgian league often. We're lowly Cadiz. Almost 4700 turned out to see the new look Los Submarino Amarillos. I was hoping for a sweltering August evening so that Anderlecht would wilt, but it was balmy and breezy.

    Luque curled in a free kick and smashed home a rebound all inside the first thirty minutes. Then Anderlecht got serious and started playing. We coped fairly well until their left midfielder walzed past my right back Albert Dalmau and whipped in a cross to the near post. Josete was with their striker Fede Vico, but he lunged for the cross and poked it past my keeper Alejandro.

    This is just preseason so it's not like I'm worried. Okay, not exactly worried. I'm am a tinch worried about my fullbacks shutting down the wing play. Sadly, Dalmau is my best fullback.

    I swapped everyone out at halftime. We clung to the lead, but Anderlecht inevitably scored. My second string valiantly plugged breach after breach. One of their central defenders had come forward to join the attack. My backup keeper Angel Bernabe almost smothered the first shot, but the defender stretched out a toe and nudged it past him and into the net.

    We'd agreed to penalties after ninety minutes if tied. Bernable stopped two pretty tame efforts and we won the penalties.

    On 4 August, Michael agreed to terms and became our second loan signing. He starred as we smashed nine past a local side.

    The Alfa started hiccuping sometimes when I start it. But since the creaking hasn't gotten worse and occasionally goes away, I'm not in the least worried.

    On 9 August, Chara agreed to terms and the team is complete. On the 10th I packed him and everyone else on the yellow bus and drove to Oviedo. It's on the Atlantic due north of Cadiz. This was one of the friendlies that had been scheduled last spring. What the **** were they thinking? We're not Seville. We don't have a jet to fly us around the world. This was a 10 hour bus ride. It would have been longer if Herc hadn't loaded up several coolers with drinks and packed a bunch of food. Herc is definitely pulling his weight.

    On the 11th we played Oviedo. We started out well. Kike Marquez, our first choice right winger won a free kick 5m from the corner. Perico, my left sided first choice winger, whipped a ball to the back post. My utility man Villar (playing striker) got free of his marker and slammed a shot into a defender. The ball fell to Luque who shanked his swing at the ball. It dribbled goalwards. Bruninho had been marking their keeper. He stepped over and smashed the ball nearly through the back of the Oviedo net.

    Oviedo took the ball straight down the field from the restart and scored.

    "Paco?" I asked. "Is this going to be a basketball game?"

    He grunted. But that was it for the scoring. Unfortunately, Bruninho broke two ribs. I swear I saw the Oviedo player throw an elbow. Not surprisingly, the ref wouldn't listen. Bruninho will be out for maybe two months.

    The excitement was to come later. We went sixteen rounds of penalties before Gato missed. Poor hapless Gato.

    The Alfa wouldn't start when we got back to the training ground after a 10 hour bus ride. Paco jump started it and it turns out I left a dome light on. That's how it goes.

    We played three other friendlies. We beat fellow B4 team Algericas, traveled down to Morocco to play a lower league team Racing Club Casablanca (won 1-2) and struggled against local semi-pro team. We beat them 3-2. I lost count of how many shots skied over the crossbar. I think he hit the post four or five time. But it was the joke goals that got my blood boiling. As in joke defending. I was pretty angry about that and told the players in no uncertain terms that we'd better play with more commitment and concentration next week when the league starts.

    We're starting the season with Bruninho out a while with his ribs. My first choice left back Tomas twisted his ankle in Casablanca will miss a month.

    But Michael looks ready to tear up the Secundo. The midfield, marshalled by Luque, are moving the ball nicely. I'm nervous about the defense. We'll see how that works out.

    I find a mechanic next to the mall that's next to the training ground. He can't identify why there's a creaking sound when I turn left and fixes the hiccups when it starts.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 06/12/2013 at 07:25 AM.
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  19. dariodecadiz.es Deportes
    New season, new hope for Los Submarino Amarillo

    Bogdan Laba


    Cadiz CF S.A.D. kick off their season in Secundo B4 tomorrow visiting Atletico Sanluqueno. The match starts at noon.

    New manager Enrico Pucci replaced Raul Agne who left for Huesca. Only five players remain from last season's mid-table finish.

    Chairman Florentino Manzano wants promotion and brought in the Italian to right the ship and bring a promotion charge.

    Holdovers Jorge Luque and Juan Villar will lead the charge. Luque, the midfield maestro, will pull the strings just like he did last season after joining in January. Villar will lead the attack.

    Two Brazilians joined on loan from partner club Fluminense; a forward and a midfielder. Michael is a forward. Pucci sees him as a complete forward.

    "He's fast, a good dribbler and strong in the air," Pucci said. "He could play in La Liga some day he's that good."

    The other Brazilian is Bruninho. "He's a ball-winning midfielder," said Pucci.

    Another newcomer puts on the gloves for the first time for Cadiz tomorrow: Alejandro. He spent last season as the back up goalkeeper for Recreativo.

    Colombian Ricardo Chara joins on loan from sister club Udinese. He's a defender.

    Perico and Kike Marquez, also both new signings, will whip in the crosses for Michael.

    Cadiz's home opener is next weekend against Sevilla Atletico.

    "Our goal this season is to qualify for the promotion play-offs," Pucci said.

  20. "Did you see Laba's article, yet?" asked Javi Garcia as we sat down in the cafeteria around a table. We usually gathered before the players arrived to talk through things.

    Paco grunted.

    "Not bad," Llorente replied.

    "I haven't seen it, yet," I replied. "What's he saying about us?"

    "Nothing really," said Alejo opening up the sports section of the dead tree edition. "Promotion charge. New manager. All new players. Michael could play in La Liga some day."

    "Don't want to put any pressure on the boy," snickered JVP (Juan Vincente Peinado).

    "He'll be fine," I assure everyone. "He's a hard-working kid."

    "We still haven't decided who's going to be Captain," Paco injected.

    Silence.

    Javi slurped his coffee.

    "Mikel Martins," JVP suggested.

    "Or Mehdi Nafti," Llorente added.

    "We've all seen them on the field and in training," Paco said. "They're both veterans. They know what it's all about."

    "Both of them would be fine," I said. "I'll pull them aside during training today. See what they have to say."

    "Nothing from Alessandro about off-loading Gato, Fall or Perez?" Javi asked.

    I shook my head and sighed.

    "Any signs Fall's attitude is infectious?" I queried. "I'll ship him to Cadiz B if you think he's causing any problems."

    "I think he's learned his lesson after that outburst," JVP said. "He's kept his head down and worked."

    The rest nodded in agreement.

    "Yeah, I know," I replied. "Ruined my Big Speech and I'll never forgive him. I get it. I'll get over it. Some day. What else?"

    "Remind the players that the bus leaves at nine," Alejo said. "That's nine in the morning. Sharp."

    Atletico Sanluqueno play in Sanlucar de Barrameda which is about an hour up the coast from us.

    "I talked to Michel about Tomas and Bruninho," Paco said. "Nothing really to report. Tomas is still two weeks away from being fit; his ankle's still tender. Bruninho is still healing. He says three weeks."

    "Where's Zo?" I ask.

    "He called me," Paco replied. "Sick kid. He's running late. He should be here soon, though."
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  21. Round 1: Atletico Sanluqueno v. Cadiz CF

    El Palmar stadium in Sanlucar de Barrameda is tiny. The ground is surrounded by palm trees, hence the name. They say it seats 5,000. Maybe. I hadn't seen a changing room this small since Bologna sent me on loan to Como and I got to see all the small stadia in small towns throughout Italy. Cramped, stinky and with one working toilet. In other words, typical. The temperature was 30 degrees (nearly 90 for you Americans) and our changing room was already sweltering. The two thousand Los Atletistas were singing their hearts out, but I could hear the traveling Cadistas singing what has become the supporters anthem:

    "Alcohol alcohol alcohol, we came here to get drunk and the result doesn't matter!"

    They alternated with the chant:

    "We love your palms"

    I'd posted the line-up the day before so I didn't have to announce the team sheet. Secundo B4 has an annoying rule that I can only suit 5 substitutes. I decided to go without a goalkeeper. I was pretty sure that I'd have players melting by 80 minutes and would need subs.

    GK: Alejandro
    Defense: Alberto Dalmau, Ricardo Chara, Mikel Martins (C) and Andres
    Midfield: Jorge Luque and Mehdi Nafti flanked by Perico and Kike Lopez.
    Forwards: Michael and Aymen Souda

    Subs: Josete (D/DM/M), Juan Carlos Ceballos (RB), Juan Villar (M/F), Kike Marquez (M/F) and Airam (F)

    The game kicked off and we knocked the ball around for a while. The San Luqueno players chased the ball around, but couldn't hold onto it for more than a pass or two.

    Mehdi Nafti set the tone by clattering through their central midfielder Chico about five minutes in. The ref whipped out a yellow card faster than a Wild West gunslinger would draw his pistol in a duel.

    "Ref, he got the ball!" I bellowed.

    "He got the ball," I said to the fourth official. He ignored me. "We are allowed to tackle the ball, aren't we?" He continued to ignore me.

    In the seventh minute, Michael flicked a header out to the left flank where Perico took it and raced goalwards. San Luquenos fullback couldn't keep up. Their central defender sprinted over to cover as Perico entered the penalty area and headed toward the goal. He nutmegged the hapless defender and smashed a shot from a tight angle over the goalkeeper's shoulder. The keeper barely had time to flinch.

    I pumped my fists in jubilation and jumped into Paco's arms. What a start!

    Perico continued to terrorize the Atletico defense. In the sixteenth minute, he beat his defender and the poor fullback grabbed onto his shirt and hauled him down. The ref only gave a free kick.

    "Isn't shirt pulling a yellow card offense?" I asked the fourth official. He ignored me.

    Chara and Nafti jogged forward and Luque adjusted where the ball sat. The Atletico manager was screaming at his defenders to mark Michael who was standing all alone at the back post. Luque heard him and curled a screamer at the back post. It looked like it might go over his head but Michael took several steps back, rose majestically and thundered a falling-away header between the man on the post and the flailing goalkeeper.

    0-2 Cadiz!!

    The Cadistas started chanting:

    "Michael's really good, you might want to mark him."


    There were a few worrying moments. Atletico eventually did get a hold of the ball and attacked down the flanks. Andre, who always scared me when he played defense, was doing better than Alberto Dalmau, but he wasn't doing much to slow or stop them. Dalmau was either getting caught forward or was more like a broken down fence ... in other words, they were walking right over him.

    "Dalmau, Dalmau!" I shouted. Alberto looked over at me. I'm a human megaphone so everyone in the stadium heard me. Maybe even the people in the nearby apartments. "Stay back. Keep them in front of you, don't dive in."

    He nodded.

    Dalmau and Andre managed to slow their attacks but seem not to be able to stop anything. I looked at Alejo. He shrugged rather hopelessly. He knew he'd be working on defending the flanks during the week.

    Kike Lopez won a corner five minutes from half time. Everyone was standing around the penalty spot jostling. The ref delayed the corner twice to tell them to stop. A lot of good that did. During this time Nafti had stepped away from the wrestling ring around the penalty spot and took a deeper, far post position. His marker went with him. Perico saw this and smashed a low one hop blast across the six yard box toward Nafti. His marker wrapped his arms around him and they tumbled to the ground. Nafti somehow managed to swing a leg at the ball and smashed it past their keeper!

    0-3 before half time! I was ecstatic.

    The Cadistas started chanting:

    "If you want a kiss Nafti or you want his shirt, you just have to ask!"


    At halftime, I told them they were doing great. I didn't bother to talk to Andre and Dalmau about defending the flanks better. We were going to have to work on that during the week. Alejo was talking to them anyway.

    The second half started much the same as the first, but Atletico were more determined to win the ball back. They scored a quite pretty goal, but we could have defended it better.

    Their lone forward Robert received a pass in the center circle. Their left winger, Jorge Pina, made a run down the inside left channel. Dalmau failed to react in time. Robert spun around Nafti and sent a pass between Dalmau and Chara and directly into the path of Pina. Alejandro came charging out. Dalmau and Chara were catching up with Pina as he looked to be about to try to dribble around Alejandro.

    Then he slowed and chipped the ball over Alejandro. Alejandro stopped and scrambled backwards trying to get a fingertip to the ball. Dalmau continued sprinting back but the ball dropped under the crossbar and bounced into the net.

    Even the Cadistas cheered that goal.

    In the 52nd minute, the Atletico right back chopped down Perico. Michel sprinted out onto the pitch and knelt down next to Perico. He immediately looked up and singled for a switch. I pointed at the other Kike (Marques) to get ready. Perico leaned on Michel and hobbled off.

    "So kneecapping isn't a bookable offense in the Secundo?" I asked the fourth official.

    "You better watch your mouth," he replied. He does speak after all!

    Martins and Nafti were talking to the defenders while Perico lay on the field. Whatever they said helped. Our defense was compact and resolute. The rest of the game mainly took place in the center of the pitch. Just a few more bookings for both sides; Martins and Luque were both booked for cynical fouls when Atletico appeared to be building momentum.

    Surprise, surprise! There was four minutes of extra time. Eventually the ref blew the final whistle, but the game had fallen asleep by the 80th minute anyway.

    The players were in a great mood in the sweaty, dank and infernally hot changing room.

    "Get showered, I've told the driver to turn on the air," I yelled over the hubbub. "We can talk on the bus where it's cool. Great performance everyone, I'm really pleased. Here's a bag of team tshirts and shorts. You guys deserve some cool and comfort after that performance. Great start to the season."
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 06/12/2013 at 09:19 PM.
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  22. Cocaine crisis!

    "Enrico," Paco said when I answered my cell. "Are you you sitting down?"

    "Well, yes, I'm driving in right now," I replied. "I'm a couple of minutes away. What's going on?"

    "It's Michael, he's been banned," Paco explained. "For cocaine. Have you read your emails yet this morning?"

    "**** no!?! Do we need bail him out of jail?"

    "No," Paco replied.

    "Huh?"

    "The email says that the Brazilian federation have banned him and FIFA have made it a global ban," Paco explained.

    "Wait. This all stems from before we signed him on loan? Why the **** couldn't ****ing Fluminense have told us this before we signed him for the season? The ****ing ******s and their *** ******* ***-****ing **** ****** of ********."

    "Some of that was even in Spanish," Paco observed.

    "******* **** ****ing **** ******** ****," I continued. "*** ***** **** *******. He was the key to our season."

    "You're not taking this well," Paco observed once again.

    "**** no, I'm not. The ****ing *** ******** *** ***** **** ********* *****!" I cursed. "They can ****** **** ***** **** my ***** **** and then ***** **** ******** *** my ***** **** *******!"

    "Feel better, yet?"

    "Not yet. The ***** ****** *********** **** ****** can ***** *** ******** ****** in their ****** *** *******!" I continued. "Now I feel a bit better. I'm in the parking lot now. I'll be inside in a second."

    My level of panic had only risen once I slammed my car door and stomped into the cafeteria. Everyone else was already there.

    "How long is the ban?" I asked once I'd gotten an espresso from Herc.

    "Year and a half," replied Paco.

    "A ****ing year and ****ing half?" I replied incredulously. "******** **** ****."

    "We move on," Javi said. "We've got Aymen and Airam."

    "Villar and the Kike's can cover if either get injured or suspended," added Llorente.

    "You calm now?" Paco asked me.

    "Yeah," I replied. "I'd better call Alessandro and see if we can nab another loan signing."

    I speed-dialed and walked off as my phone rang.

    "Good morning, Enrico."

    "We're ****ed in the ****** **** *******, Alessandro," I began.

    "What?"

    "Michael had tested positive for cocaine back in Brazil," I continued. "His federation and FIFA have banned him for a year and a half. Can you see if there are any loaners available and move on them?"

    "It's deadline day," he replied. "I'll see what I can do."

    I rejoined my staff and we reviewed yesterday's match and planned out the upcoming week.

    A half hour into training, my cell buzzed. It was Alessandro.

    "Bad news, Enrico," he began. "I found two who would be willing to sign."

    "And why is this bad news?" I asked.

    "Our loan payment went through first thing this morning," Alessandro replied.

    "And?"

    "We're broke," he replied. "Our account is negative. We can't pay even a loan signing fee."

    "***** *** ******* **** *** ******!" I replied. "What a ***** ********* **** ****** Monday. Can't you talk to the bank?"

    "Already tried that."

    "Wait, can't Manzano put some cash into the account?"

    "He probably won't okay the outlay, anyway," Alessandro replied. "He's been in a real stingey mood lately. Sorry, man."

    "Well, thanks for trying, Alessandro," I replied. "Ciao."

    "Ta ta."

    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-06-06.22.24-pm.png

    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-07-07.51.33-am.pngThe Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-07-07.52.44-am.png
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 07/12/2013 at 02:56 PM.
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  23. dariodecadiz.es
    Cadiz star Michael banned for drugs
    Bogdan Laba

    The young man Cadiz manager Enrico Pucci was counting on to lead Los Submarinos Amarillos to promotion has been banned for testing positive for cocaine. Michael Vinicus Silva de Moraes, called Michael, failed a random drug test in Brazil prior to signing a loan agreement with Cadiz.

    The tall, athletic striker is banned until February 2015. The punishment was handed down yesterday.

    "We weren't told that Michael had this hanging over his head when we signed him," said Pucci.

    It is not clear if Michael will remain in Spain or return to Brazil.

    Cadiz are left with only two outright strikers.
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  24. Shave and a shave

    "Enrico, welcome. Please sit down."

    "Thanks, Esteban. Give me the business. Need to look good for the big benefit tonight."

    "Of course," Esteban replied. He draped me in towels and lathered up my skull. "How's the new apartment?"

    "Fine."

    He began shaving my rather stubbly melon.

    "Tough news about Michael."

    "Yeah."

    Esteban continued shaving me in silence.

    "**** it, Esteban," I said. "They could've at least told me the suspension was hanging over his head."

    "Yeah, they could have."

    "But they didn't."

    "But they didn't," echoed Esteban. "Are Aymen and Airem good enough?"

    "That's my worry," I replied. "But more than that, we were playing with a swagger. An attitude that we were unstoppable."

    "And you're worried you'll lose that," Esteban. "Tilt to the right, please?"

    "Confidence is such a fickle thing."

    "Yes, it is. Chin up, please?"

    He shaved me in silence for a while.

    "Perico scored a nice goal last Saturday," Esteban offered.

    "Yes, he did, didn't he?"

    "Los Submarinos Amarillo are more than just one player," Esteban said. "The bottom line is your job is so tough because of the new, lovely Ramon de Carranza."

    "Good point."

    "Just work on what you can control."

    "Thanks, man."
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 08/12/2013 at 10:24 PM.
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  25. dariodecadiz.es
    Cadiz CF home opener against Sevilla Atletico

    Bogdan Laba


    Cadiz CF S.A.D home opener is tomorrow against Sevilla Atletico. Cadistas have been waiting to see the new look Los Submarino Amarillos as fifteen new players have been brought in after last year's mid-table finish.

    This will also be new manager Enrico Pucci's first experience in the newly finished Ramon de Carranza.

    How will Cadiz cope without star forward Michael who was banned until 2015 for failing a drug test back in Brazil?

    "Airem and Souda will start up top," said Pucci. "We have some depth up top."

    Cadiz only have long-term injuries to Bruninho and Tomas.

    Cadiz will have to stop top prospects Borja and Juanma to get anything out of the match. Atletico are full of La Liga prospects which could make Pucci's home debut a nightmare.

    "I'm confident we can do well in our home debut if we stick to our game," Pucci said.

    The match kicks off at 20:00. Tickets are still available.
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  26. Ninos de Cadiz Gala Benefit

    Every year Cadiz CF S.A.D. kick off their season with a gala charity benefit for Ninos de Cadiz before their home opener. The team has been instructed to appear in tuxedos and mingle with season ticket holders and donors. Thankfully, the tuxedo I bought way back when still fits and tuxedo styles don't really change.

    The lobby of the newly renovated Ramon de Carranza seems pretty full to me. I'm not good at guessing crowd size, but it's well over a hundred. Probably way more than that. Waiters are wandering around with trays of champagne and tapas. I don't care for champagne so I wade through the crowd to the bar at the back. I chat up several season ticket holders while in line. As the guy in front of me gets his drink and steps aside, I glance to my right. I'm not sure why, but I do. Maybe fate wants to torture me, I don't know.

    Standing alone some 20 meters away is the most gorgeous woman I've seen in a long time. Cascade of black hair tumbling down her back, sleek black dress. One of the season ticket holders behind me that I'd been chatting up politely clears his throat. I step up and order a white wine.

    "You're going to go over and talk to her," I say to myself. "You're going to walk over there. You're going to say something. You're not going to make an ass of yourself. You're going to say 'hi, thanks for coming' or something good to break the ice. You're going to do it."

    The bartender hands my my wine. I turn and she's still there. I take fives steps but then a season ticket holder grabs my arm and starts peppering me with questions. I answer. I have no idea what I've just told the men I'm supposed to be talking to. I glance over and she's still standing there. She has the fixed stare of someone who is bored. I thank the men for coming to the benefit and take four more steps in her direction. This time a woman grabs my arm and introduces me to her husband. I make small talk. I excuse myself and turn to take more steps in her direction, but she's gone.

    ****.

    Before I can start searching the area around me, Margarita has grabbed me by the arm and is dragging me in the direction of the stage. She's asking me if I have my remarks in my pocket. I do. She muscles us through the crowd and pushes me up on stage. Chairman Manzano is talking extemporaneously. I look out across the crowd trying to spot her. I fail. Then it's my turn to speak. I wipe my sweaty palms on my tux. The crowd roars. I smile, give my speech. It's pretty quick. The spotlights are blinding. A bead of sweat runs down the side of my bald pate, past my ear and into my collar. Then I'm done and I'm walking down the steps and Margarita hands me my glass of wine.

    "Are you okay, Enrico?" she asks.

    "I've seen a vision," I reply.

    "Oh, great," she deadpans. "Now our new manager is seeing visions of The Risen Christ or the Virgin Mary and will soon be embarrassing the club in public. Did you spike this wine?"

    "No, not that kind of vision," I reply. "A little taller than you. Long, thick black hair. Bored. I've got to find her."

    "Let's go," she replies and hooks her arm through mine. "I love a challenge. We'll stalk her down, hunt the prey."

    We make a circle through the crowd, but I don't see her. Margarita says she'll go up to the club level balcony and see if she can see her from up high. I continue to hopelessly wander the crowd. Eventually I see Margarita up on the balcony. She's furtively pointing to her left, pointing down the balcony. I follow her lead and there my vision is, leaning on the balcony railing, looking as bored as before and nursing her champagne. I look back at Margarita. She points me toward the stairs up.

    "You will not make a fool of yourself," I mumble as I climb the stairs. "Wipe the sweat from your forehead you ape. Straighten your bow tie. No, undo it. Look more casual. Yeah, look more casual."

    When I peek around the corner, she's still there. I try to calm myself, but I'm a wreck by this point.

    "Well, here goes," I say and stroll as casually as I can manage out onto the balcony. I walk straight to the nearest spot against the balcony railing and look down. Then I look up and pretend I just noticed her. I saunter over. In other words, I resist the urge to sprint but try to walk with as normal a gait as my racing heart will allow.

    "Hi," I begin as I step up next to her. "You don't look like you're having as much fun as everyone down there."

    That didn't sound to stupid, good introduction Smooth Boy.

    "Hi," she replies glancing at me. She resumes watching the party below. "My date is flirting with all the players and sucking down champagnes like Gatorade after a marathon."

    I smile but I have no idea how to respond. Her eyes are blue. Really, really blue. She's really quite short. I think I'm going to melt.

    "Shouldn't you be down there?" she asks. "Since you're the manager?"

    "I hate these kind of things," I reply. This is true, technically, but what am I supposed to say? That I've been stalking her all night. That'd go over well. I look down at the crowd.

    "But think of the kids," she replies. Oh, my. Was that sardonic? Sassy. I think my knees are going to buckle.

    "Which one is your date?" I ask. Good job. Make small talk. Draw her out.

    "Brunette with highlights. She's in the red dress and I think she's flirting with three of your players over by the bar. She ditched me the instant she saw a player. I shouldn't have believed her."

    "Let me guess," I reply. "She promised to introduce you, too? That there would be lots of interesting people to talk to?"

    "Actually, no" she responded and turned to face me. "She said think of the kids."

    I snicker. Then I blush. Her blue eyes are boring a hole through me. I really do think that my knees are going to buckle. Good thing I'm leaning on the balcony railing.

    "I'm sorry you fell for it, but I'm glad you came," I reply blushing even more. Idiot. That line sucked. Now you've blown it.

    She smirks, looks me over and turns to look back at the crowd below. I can tell she looks for and find her friend. Her friend has each arm around one of my players. It looks like Airam and Albert Dalmau are loving the attention. She has a glass of champagne in each hand. She's probably having the best time of anyone at the party.

    "It looks like I'd better go and rescue my date," she says. "I'll see you around, Boss."

    Panic! I don't know her name. Ask, ask you ninny, ask her what her name is.

    "But I don't know your name?" I say to her retreating back.

    "It's Ana Maria. Bye by Enrico."

    I watch her walk away. Wow. Sweet Mary Mother of God but she's beautiful. Ana Maria. She knows my name? How's she know that? Dumb****. You're the manager. They announced your name on stage and then you spoke. She finally walks out of my view. I down my remaining wine in a single gulp. God, but I'm thirsty now.

    I locate her friend again. She's leading Airem and Albert toward the stage. I'm guessing she wants to dance with them. The music the organizers picked isn't exactly dance music, but the date is determined to make this into a real party. Maybe one with an after-party. The date starts dancing with wild abandon. Not exactly the kind of dancing appropriate to the music. My two boys don't seem to care, they're just enjoying the spectacle of a fine looking woman shake herself in ways they didn't know were possible.

    I see Ana Maria back where her friend used to be. She looks up at me. I indicate her friend has moved in front of the stage. I watch Ana Maria weave through the crowd toward her date. When the date sees her approaching she tries to introduce her to Airam and Albert. It's obvious she's having none of it. I see the date's shoulder slump as she realizes that Ana Maria hasn't come over to liven up the party, but to end it. The date says something, gulps down one of her champagnes then kisses both players on the cheeks. Then the date must have realized how wasted she'd gotten. She slumps onto Ana Maria even though she's taller and they limp off and out the doors. I watch Ana Maria walk slowly away while her friend pulls herself together, veers alongside gesturing wildly. It appears that she's describing how fabulous of a night she just had.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 08/12/2013 at 10:26 PM.

  27. Round 2: Cadiz CF v. Sevilla Atletico (Home Opener)

    We could hear the crowd from inside the locker room. For most of us, this was our first home match for Cadiz. I could tell that everyone was nervous. Who wouldn't be. I wonder how the rest of them felt. No obvious signs of hangovers. I bet most players hadn't slept well. I've never been able to sleep well before a home opener. Plus, I kept thinking about Ana Maria.

    Mehdi Nafti was away on international duty for Tunisia which was really inconvenient. Martins would move forward into the holding midfielder role. Josete would play in the center of defense with Chara.

    GK: Alejandro
    Defense: Albert Dalmau, Andres, Ricardo Chara and Josete
    Midfield: Jorge Luque, Mikel Martins, Kike Lopez and Perico.
    Attack: Aymen Souda and Airem

    Subs: Angel Bernabe (GK), Jose Maria Belforti (D), Juan Carlos Ceballas (RB), Juan Villar (M/F) and a youth player Zebanzui Pedraza. I couldn't play a kid named Moises who I'd play a decent bit during the preseason as the youth team had already played that day making him ineligible. Pedraza hadn't suited up, so he was eligible to sit on the bench. We are THAT short-handed today.

    From the kick-off I could tell this wasn't going to be easy like last week. The Sevilla players were all quite good. Plus we were missing Nafti's presence in the middle of the park.

    7 minutes in and my Captain, Martins, is writhing in pain on the ground. He'd gone up for a header, collided with the Sevilla player in mid-air and tried to catch himself with his arms as he fell. Michel, the Physio, pointed to his wrist and then signaled that his day was done. ****. ****. Villar was the only player who could play midfield on the bench, but he was an attacking midfielder. Our defense were going to be exposed regardless of what I told Villar to do.

    And we paid the price in the 18th minute. They moved the ball out onto their left flank to Juanma. The kid is a pretty nice dribbler, but isn't exactly what you might call fast. Regardless, Albert Dumahl is nowhere near him. Juanma heads straight for goal, straight past Dumahl as if he wasn't there. Chara comes over to cover, but is too cautious. Juanma spanks a blistering drive into the top far corner.

    0-1 Sevilla.

    When we have the ball, we look good going forward. In the 29th minute Kike Lopez gets the ball out on our right flank and head's down the sidelines. Both Airam and Souda make near post runs drawing away three defenders. Kike delivers a far post dart. Perico outjumps the two defenders at the back post, doesn't make very good contact, but it doesn't matter. The ball bulges the netting and we're even.

    1-1

    In the 37th minute, I see how important Nafti and Martins are to the team. The Sevilla left back thumps the ball forward in the direction of their striker, Gonzalo Suarez. Nafti would have intercepted the pass. Martins would have, too. Regardless, Suarez has all day to control the ball, turn and start toward our goal. Martins would have been on him immediately if he was in the defense. Unfortunately, it looks like he's broken his wrist and will be out a while. Instead, Josete runs over to intervene. Suarez knocks Josete on his butt with a shoulder charge.

    I holler at the ref claiming a foul, but it was in vain. That was a fair shoulder charge. At the top of the box, Suarez smashes it past Alejandro.

    1-2

    They could have scored a few more before halftime and we were just plain lucky they didn't.

    "What do you plan on saying?" Paco asked as we trudged into the changing room.

    I shrugged.

    "We're getting over-run through the middle and aren't playing with any spirit," I replied. "It's obvious who's missing."

    "But you're not going to say that," Paco said.

    "Of course not," I said. "I think I'll ask them to show me something different. Challenge them to take charge."

    Paco grunted his approval.

    For the first ten minutes of the second half, they tried. We knocked the ball around when we got it fairly nicely. Never did anything, but at least we were passing it nicely. We worked hard to win it back when we lost it. Villar wasn't doing all that badly.

    That all changed at about 55 minutes. Sevilla took their game up a notch. Their passing got crisper, they exploited Villar's inability to protect the back four. The ball stayed around our penalty box. They were rewarded on 61 minutes.

    They played the ball into the box for Borja. Borja was covered and couldn't turn he passed it out to Juanma who jogged right by Dalmau and sent the ball back to Borja who had advanced a few paces closer to our goal. Josete came across to shut him down but was too late. Borja had plenty of time to set himself and side foot a pass into the left side of the net.

    1-3

    I turned to Paco and Alejo sitting next to me and said "What did Chara and Josete think was going to happen when Juanma gets the ball? They're not supporting Dalmau at all. They're leaving him out to dry."

    I replaced Dalmau with Ceballos and Josete with Belfort next chance I could. That sparked Los Submarino Amarillos into life.

    Luque played a ball forward to Souda at the top of the box. His shot was blocked but squibbed out to the right side of the penalty box. Kike stormed in, beat the defenders to the ball, took a touch and hammered the ball off the near post. The ball ricocheted off a defender and into the path of Airam who gratefully side-footed the ball into the wide open net. We had a chance to snatch a point we didn't deserve.

    2-3

    No we didn't. Sevilla shut down shop and spent pretty much all of the remaining minutes playing tiki-taka between the center circle and the top of our box. We had a few forays into their half, but they always peetered out.

    I told the team that it just wasn't our day afterwards in the changing room. I also told them that I'd see them all at 9am the next morning and that they'd need to bring their running shoes. That wasn't a technically true. They all kept their running shoes in their lockers at the training ground. But it was a figure of speech. Lose like that on my watch and you'll be doing killers the next morning.

    The coaching staff stuck around the changing room after all the players had left.

    "We learned that Josete is a back-up," Alejo offered as I came back into the room from talking to Bogdan Laba. "I'll work with him on his tackling, but he's going about it all wrong."

    We all nodded.

    "The central defenders need to support the fullback better," I added. "Dalmau was left hanging out to dry all game long."

    We all nodded.

    "Luque is the ****," Paco said. "He is the fulcrum. Everything going forward originates from him."

    "Martins is going to be out as long as a month with a broken arm," I said. "Michel is heading over to the hospital with him to get his arm set. We'll know more in the morning."

    "So Belforti replaces him in the back?" Alejo asked. "He looked decent enough out there. Plus with Nafti back and protecting the back four..."

    I nodded.

    "Don't let this loss bother any of you too much," Paco said. "We're getting Tomas back soon. That'll shore up the left side. He doesn't scare Enrico like Andres does."

    "That's a good point," I added. "Even without Michael, Souda and Airam looked dangerous. Plus, we know we can beat Algeciras next week. We kicked their butts 4-0 in the preseason."

    "They are top of the table right now," said Javi Garcia looking up from his iPhone. "They just won 3-1 and won 6-1 in the first round."

    "Yeah, but Guadalajara and Cacereno are fodder," added Llorente. "I've been reading the scouting reports. I say we'll slaughter them. The boys will want to prove today was a fluke."
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 08/12/2013 at 07:53 AM.
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  28. Great story, keep it up. Good luck for the season.

  29. Quote Originally Posted by Streaky25 View Post
    Great story, keep it up. Good luck for the season.
    Thanks! I did the random 'Pick Me a Club' thing and Cadiz are turning into quite a challenge.
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  30. dariodecadiz.es
    Cadiz overrun by Sevilla Atletico
    Bogdan Laba


    Cadiz CF found little joy when they hosted Sevilla Atletico at the Ramon de Carranza yesterday and lost 3-2. They missed Mehdi Nafti who was away on international duty with Tunisia. The lost captain Mikel Martins on seven minutes to a broken wrist. Martins will be out as long as five weeks. Forward Michael is lost for the season due to his suspension for drugs.

    "Losing my Captain that early and missing my Vice Captain didn't help," Cadiz manager Enrico Pucci admitted.

    Atletico took advantage of the weakened Cadistas. Villar replaced Martins in the midfield, but did little to slow Atletico's march toward the Cadista goal. The weak defending allowed Juanma and Geraldo Suarez to smash goals past goalkeeper Alejandro. In between, Perico stole a far post header after some great wing play by Kike Lopez.

    The Cadistas tried to change the flow of the game after the break, but Sevilla wouldn't let them have their way for long. Borja completed a Barcelona-esque move by passing the ball into the net for a third goal.

    Debutant Airam nabbed a goal to make the match closer than it really was, but Atletico's dominance was never in question.

    Cadiz are away to Algeciras CF next week.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 08/12/2013 at 06:28 PM.

  31. Killers

    For those of you who don't know or call them by another name, I'll explain what Killers are. You run from the end line to the six yard box and back. Then to the penalty box and back. Then to the center line and back. You do this until whomever is in charge has exacted enough punishment.

    I explained to Zosimo San Roman, the fitness trainer, that I wanted them to go on a half hour jog then separate the squad into two groups and alternate Killers for thirty minutes. He was to judge when he thought they'd had enough. Head Physio Michel Roman was to advise Zo on when to end the Killers.

    Everyone knew the route as they'd run it every day during the preseason. Round the track the surrounds the pitch, out the gate at the northeastern corner of facility, around the outside of the mall parking lot, round the backside of the mall, around the tennis courts in the southeastern corner and returning through the southeastern gate.

    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-09-09.16.50-pm.png

    Paco and I manned the southeastern gate and chatted. They did two circuits in thirty minutes.

    "Who was that fine-looking young thing you were chatting up at the Gala?" Paco enquired.

    "Ana Maria," I replied.

    "And?"

    "That's all I know," I replied. I told him the story.

    "And that's it?" Paco asked. I nodded. "What are you going to do?"

    I shrugged.

    We watched Zo push the team through twenty minutes of killers before he called it.

    "Hit the showers, boys," I tell the squad. "Please visit Michel if you have any aches. We'll have lunch then watch the Barca match at noon."
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 11/12/2013 at 02:47 AM.
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  32. Coco

    I'd visited several of the yoga instructors that Margarita had directed me toward, but I didn't think any of them had the correct persona to lead a yoga class for footballers.

    "Any luck finding any other yogis?" I ask her after our training on Monday.

    "Just one," she replied and handed me a card. It said Coco, Yoga and had an address and phone. The back had class listings.

    "Thanks," I said. The card indicated there was a class that night. "I need help on another thing."

    "Your vision, perhaps?" she said smiling. I nodded. "Well, what did you find out about her?"

    "Just her name; Ana Maria," I replied.

    "Ooh, then I can sort the donor names," she said and proceeded to open a spreadsheet. After a few minutes she turned and smiled. "Ana Maria Jiminez. Listed an address in Cadiz. Listed her occupation as finance/banking. Write this down." And pointed at a row in the spreadsheet.

    "Thank you very much," I said.

    "You know the price," she said. "Kiss and tell. I get ALL the dirty details."

    "Of course," I lied and smiled as I walk away.

    What was I going to do with this information? There's a fine line between chasing after a woman and stalking.

    However, finding a yoga instructor for the team became simpler. I think I finally found one.

    Coco's yoga studio was a storefront almost in the old part of the city. He had Coco stenciled on the windows. He had a huge medieval, wooden door to separate the entry from the studio. He was chatting with some students but came over when saw I was standing there wondering what happened next.

    "Hmmm ... you're new, welcome, I'm Coco," He said smiling. "You look familiar." I shrugged. "There's some paperwork to fill out then get yourself a mat. Are you new to yoga?"

    "No."

    "Well good," he replied. "What's your name?" I tell him. "Hmmm ... why do I think I know your name?"

    "Los Submarino Amarillos," I reply. "I'm the manager."

    "Oooh, somebody famous."

    Coco was unabashedly gay. I'm not sure that would matter as he has a very disarming and unthreatening character. His class also completely kicked my ass. He strolled amongst us during the class, coaxing, reminding everyone to breathe and adjusting people's positions.

    "Great class," I said afterwards. "I have a proposition."

    "I do love getting propositioned by handsome strangers," he replied.

    "Hah, I need a yoga instructor for my squad," I continued. "Would you be interested?"

    "How would it work?" he asked.

    "I was thinking three days a week in the mornings," I replied.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 08/12/2013 at 10:09 PM.
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  33. dariodecadiz.es
    Cadiz CF visit Algeciras
    Bogdan Laba

    Cadiz hope to rebound from their 2-3 defeat to Atletico Sevilla when they visit Algeciras on Sunday night. The match might be tougher than their 4-0 preseason victory over their red-white striped opponents. Striker Melchor leads the table-topping Algeciras with five goals in two matches. They've conceded a mere two goals.

    "The team is raring to go," Manager Enrico Pucci said. "The Sevilla match will drive the team to do better in this match."

    Mehdi Nafti returns to the midfield after missing the Sevilla match on international duty. Captain Michel Martins will miss a month with a broken wrist. Bruninho and Tomas are close to returning to action, but neither will be ready for tomorrows match.

    "[Jose Maria] Belforti will be replacing Martins," Pucci said.

    Pucci was unwilling to comment on what he thought Algeciras weakest link was, but agreed that Melchor was their main threat.

    "Well, we can safely say that Pucci is a good judge of talent," Algeciras manager Manolo Sanlucar said. "Or at least very good at stating the obvious."

  34. Round 3: Algeciras CF v. Cadiz CF S.A.D.

    The bus ride to Algeciras was only an hour and a half through the forested hills of the Parque Natural Los Alcornocales. Those of us who had never seen the Nuevo Mirador before groaned as the stadium came into view.

    Attachment 436652

    The location was right next to the water with the Rock of Gilbraltar off in the distance which was idyllic, but it's condition was rather ramshackle. The pitch itself was bumpy and poorly maintained. The changing room was typical; cramped, smelly and while it had only one toilet, at least it worked.

    The line-up is:

    GK: Alejandro
    Defense: Dalmau, Chara, Belforti and Andres
    Midfield: Kike Lopez, Nafti, Luque and Perico
    Forwards: Airam and Souda

    Subs: Moises (LB), Josete (D/M), Ceballos (RB), Kike Marquez (M/F), Villar (M/F)

    Around one thousand Cadistas had traveled over with us and the announcer said 4,660 which seemed about right as the ground was half full.

    We started brightly and controlled the game. At ten minutes in Perico played a ball into the left corner for Souda to chase. Airam was charging for the near post and Kike had the back post. Their defender David Parada miskicked his clearance attempt and we led.

    1-0

    Our defense was solid. Perico and Kike supported their fullbacks. Belforti and Chara supported their fullbacks. Algeciras couldn't muster much. Melchor was isolated up top and any time he went for a ball, Belforti, Chara or Nafti went in hard and denied him any service.

    We kept pressing, but couldn't get that second goal. It just wouldn't come. The fourth official displayed two extra minutes. I began running through my halftime comments. I was going to emphasize that we were playing well and to keep going. With time running out in the added time, Kike won a corner. This was going to be the last kick of the half. As usual, a group gathered and jostled around the penalty spot. Then Airam drifted away from the pack to the far post area. Nobody in red-white stripes followed.

    Perico saw this and smashed a two hop shot to him. He connected solidly with his volley and we went into the locker room leading by two.

    2-0

    There wasn't much to be said in the changing room except "keep it up" which they did.

    In the 54th minute, Luque won a crunching tackle in the center of the park. He beat the next man on the dribble and unleashed a howitzer from twenty five meters. I cannoned off the post to Kike Lopez who hit his shot toward the far post. I was actually raising my arms to celebrate, but a defender cleared it off the line. The Algeciras fullback chased the ball down and thumped it forward. Melchor received the ball in their half and played it out wide to Carlitos. Andres started backpedaling. I realized I was grinding my teeth. Belforti stepped over to help when Carlitos reached the top of our box. But it was too late. Carlitos crushed a shot just to the near post side of Alejandro. Unfortunately for us, he got some outside spin on it and it curled away from our flailing keeper and into the top corner.

    2-1

    From establishing an unassailable lead to a close match inside a minute. Oof.

    I was wondering how we'd respond. We took the ball down our left flank. Perico, Souda and Andres were knocking the ball around in the corner area. Souda was getting boxed in and could have played the easy outlet to Andres on the sideline. But he'd spotted Nafti standing alone about 35 meters out.

    Nafti took the pass and started jogging forward looking for options. He didn't see any. As a defender stepped out, he dropped his left shoulder, freezing the defender, tapped the ball out to his right a tad and then hit a laser beam of a shot into the lower right of the net.

    3-1

    Four minutes later, Belforti controlled a clearance, fed the ball to Nafti inside the Algeciras half. Nafti fired a slide rule pass into the feet of Airam as he made a run into the channel between their left back and center back. Airam only touch was to fire a shot inside the near post.

    Game. Set. Match.

    4-1

    To give a few key players a rest, I replace Luque with Villar, Nafti with Josete and Dalmau with Ceballos.

    The mood in the changing room after was exuberant. The players couldn't care less about the cramped, decrepit changing room. Without our captain and without Michael, we'd played great.

    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-08-09.24.20-pm.png
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 10/12/2013 at 05:08 AM.

  35. dariodecadiz.es
    Cadiz thrash Algeciras
    Bogdan Laba


    Los Submarino Amarillos bounced back from last weekend's disappointing home loss by thrashing Algeciras 4-1. Airam led the way with a brace.

    "Airam was absolutely outstanding today," Cadiz manager Enrico Pucci said. "So was Perico."

    Algeciras defender David Parada miskicked Perico's cross into his own goal on ten minutes.

    The Cadiz offense kept Algeciras goalkeeper Christian Cabrera busy with plenty of crosses and forced him to make numerous saves especially in the first half where Cadiz kept the ball in Algeciras half and worked hard for a second goal. Airam's first was the last kick of the first half when he volleyed home from a corner kick delivered to the far post.

    Pucci will also be pleased with forward Aymen Souda's as well as his midfield combo of Jorge Luque's and Mehdi Nafti's play. Nafti scored the third goal with a 25 meter screamer.

    Unlike last week, the Cadiz defense looked assured and limited Algeciras's league leader scorer, Melchor to two long range chances with both sailing well wide of their intended target. Melchor looked forlorn and frustrated all game.

    Cadiz moved up to third in the table with today's win.

  36. Los Submarino Amarillos do yoga

    I'd arranged for our first yoga class to be on Monday as a way to loosen some sore muscles.

    "As I mentioned last week," I said addressing the squad who'd assembled in a small gym. "We are going to be adding yoga to our routine. I'll let Coco, here, explain."

    "Hello, gentleman," Coco began. "I'm Coco and I'll be your instructor. Let's begin sitting cross-legged on a mat. Everyone grab a mat and unroll it. Senor Pucci wants all of you doing the same thing all the big clubs are doing. Manchester United are doing yoga. So is Barca and Real. Bayern Munich and Ajax."

    The players didn't look to enthusiastic, but sat cross-legged on their mats.

    "Yoga can reduce your risk of injury," he said. "If you're dedicated to getting on the mat, you can reduce the time you're out injured when you do get hurt."

    "There's a reason Ryan Giggs is still playing," he continued. "Aside from being gorgeous and a freak of nature. If you take this seriously, you can extend your careers for an extra year or ten. I mean, seriously, who wants to go out and get a real job. Who doesn't want to play a couple more years than you expected."

    "Oh, I have your attention now?" Coco smirked. "Alright. Good. Now sit up straight. Roll forward more so you are sitting tall, up on your butt bones. Raise your heart. Yes. That's right. Breathe deeply in through your noses, exhaling slowly. Yes, like that. Now relax your shoulders."

    The players begrudgingly did as he asked. He had some fun at their expense with some simple balancing contortion poses. He gently teased them, coaxed them and made sure they were having fun at it. Fairly soon the players were all breathing loudly and wet with sweat. They all realized they were getting a solid workout in.

    It appears I'd chosen well. They were responding to his instruction. Even Aymen Souda, the team's joker, was relatively serious.

    At the end of the workout when the players are in what's called the corpse position (laying on their backs) and pretty thoroughly relaxed, Coco interjected some visualization training. He and I had talked this through beforehand.

    "I want you to visualize doing what you're supposed to do for the team right now," he said. "Whether that's scoring, dribbling down to the byline and crossing, winning the ball with a solid tackle or tipping a goal bound shot around the post. In the quietness of your breathe, visualize yourselves doing what your job and doing it brilliantly."

    "And thank you for your dedication and thank you for your hard work," he concluded. "Because yoga can make a difference in your game and in your life."

    After lunch, we did some tactics training. The kind where Javi Garcia talked and we simulated playing situations and nobody broke a sweat. They were amazingly focused. Yoga is already making a difference.
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  37. Scouting report on Guadalajara

    Head scout Jose Manuel Barla sat down with Paco and I to go over his scouting report on Guadalajara who we'd face this coming Saturday. This match was going to be on TV which added pressure on the team to perform.

    "Hey, boss," Javi Garcia said. He walked up as we were sitting down in the cafeteria. "I've signed myself up for my coaching certificates."

    "That's great, Javi," I reply.

    "I'm paying for it myself," he said.

    "Yeah, I know, sorry about that," I replied. "I wished the club was in a position to cover that for you. You know the deal. I wish it were otherwise."

    He nodded fist bumped with Paco and walked off.

    Jose handed us his report.

    "First off," he began. "Guadalajara just haven't come together this season. Their manager, Carlos Perez Salvachua, has been at the helm for a while. Their keeper is good and their defense, at least on paper, should be better than ours. But they're not."

    "Their offense, on paper, should be good, but they're struggling," he continued. "Their two strikers are quick and really good on the ball. Their wingers are quick and talented."

    "Interesting," Paco interjected.

    "Yeah," Jose agreed. "They got slaughtered by Algeciras first game of the season. They shouldn't have. I saw them lose to Ecijas; who we play next week. They are far more talented than them. I don't get it."

    "So who's their danger man?" I ask.

    "They play a narrow 4231 and the center of their attacking midfield is Mateo," he replied. "Great passer and dribbler. Creative, good vision, but he just isn't getting the job done."
    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-09-11.07.03-pm.png

    "Nacho is the lone striker," he continued. "He's great on the ball and quick. He should be a real handful. But somehow he's goalless so far. He's just not all that composed at those critical moments. Against Ecijas, he and Mateo were completely shut down. However, last week their attacking foursome were excellent and tore poor La Hoya to shreds."
    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-09-11.19.31-pm.png

    "We shut down these two, we have a chance?" Paco asked.

    Jose nodded.

    "What wrong with their defense?" I asked. "They're giving up like 4 goals a game! Are they really that bad?"

    "Their central midfielders just aren't shielding their back four," Jose replied. "Their fullbacks are isolated on the flanks so getting in crosses isn't hard. Plus, balls played into the channels are killing them. They just aren't compact."

    "Do they get frustrated easily?" Paco asked.

    "Yes, Jose replied. "Definitely. The two games I've seen were the last two. The 4-2 win last week and the 3-1 loss against Ecijas. Their morale just plummets when they get scored on. They're fragile right now. We're catching them at a good time."

    "Thanks, Jose," I reply.

  38. Esteban's prediction

    "Good morning, Esteban," I said as I walked into the barbershop. "Give me the business."

    "Of course, please assume the position."

    "Roberto," I greeted the other barber and sat in the chair. Esteban wrapped me in towels and began lathering up my skull.

    "How about Guadalajara?" Roberto asked.

    "Mmmmm," I replied. "I'm not sure. We seem pretty focused. We seem to do well away from home."

    "Well, I have a good feeling about the match," Esteban said. "I have cousins in Guadalajara and I've placed wagers on it with them. I wound them up and if the Cadistas triumph, I'm up 100 Euros. If we lose, I'm out 50. They're such suckers. So I'm going to travel up there for the weekend."

    "I hope we deliver," I said.

    "I hope so to for your sake," he replied. "I hold a razor to your neck at least once a week. I'm taking the train up on Friday. I'm going to drink all weekend with them. I'll be there at the match though I may not remember much of it. Then back on Sunday."

  39. Round 4: CD Guadalajara SAD v. Cadiz CF

    Cadiz to Guadalajara is quite a drive. Guadalajara is past Madrid. So we set out on Friday at 4pm. It's a seven hour drive. Perico is the team's DJ and had decided that techno was the way to go for the trip. Herc had outdone himself again by sending along some great sandwiches and snacks to keep everyone happy.

    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-10-09.17.27-pm.png

    I didn't sleep well, but that's just me. I kept running through scenarios of how I'd approach Ana Maria and they ended in rejection and humiliation. On the other hand, I wasn't worrying about the next day's match. Eventually, I drifted off into sleep and was awoken by Paco pounding on my door. I'd forgotten to set my alarm.

    The team had breakfast together, but I told them we'd meet back at the hotel at 4pm for a team meal before heading over to the Pedro Escartin for our 8pm match.

    The players split up into groups and headed out. Javi Garcia had some part of his extended family living nearby so he went off with them. The rest of the coaching staff took in the city's sites and ate lunch. I went back to the hotel after lunch and took a nap. I ran into Paco in the hotel bar after I woke up.

    "Hey," I said sitting down in the booth with him.

    "We haven't been called to bail anyone out," he remarked. "That's good."

    "Has that every happened? Seriously?"

    "Actually, yes," he replied. "When Marbella was in La Liga. The one season. We went to Mallorca. Two guys got into a fight at a bar and got themselves arrested. They swore they only had one drink and just wanted to hang out. They were substitutes for the match, they weren't starting. But still ..."

    "Could you imagine the phone call?" I interjected. "Uh, hi Boss it's me. No nothing's wrong. I'm fine. Why am I calling this late? Well, because I need you to bail me out of jail. You aren't mad are you, Boss? Can you come and get me?"

    We pondered the absurdity of it for a moment.

    "What are you going to do about the woman?" Paco asked.

    "I keep thinking about that," I replied. "And I don't know. Maybe send her flowers or something."

    "Women like flowers," Paco agreed. "Send her yellow ones. We are El Submarino Amarillos, after all."

    "Look at the time," I gasped. "We'd better make sure everything is ready for the players."

    Paco shook his head.

    As we ate our pre-game meal, the skies darkened threateningly. We all got on the bus and drove to the stadium through drizzle. A few of the Guadistas awaited our arrival and made obscene gestures at the bus. But not many. The Pedro Escartin is a well-maintained, but small ground. Both toilets in the changing room worked. The pitch was nice so we'd be able to pass the ball around nicely today.

    Same line-up as last week in Algeciras:

    GK: Alejandro
    D: Dalmau, Chara, Belfonti, Andres
    M: Kike Lopez, Luque, Nafti and Perico
    F: Souda and Airam

    Subs: Josete, Ceballos, Kike Marquez, Villar and Tomas (he's fit but not in game shape. Hopefully he'll get a few minutes in the 2nd half).

    Once again we started fairly well. We knocked the ball around crisply. In the 13th minute, Andres played a 30 meter pass into the path of Aymen Souda. Souda controlled the ball perfectly and headed for the gap between the right back and the center back. Just as he was entering they penalty area and they were about to shut his run down (he was surrounded by 4 players), he tried to sneak a toe poke past the fullback hoping to surprise their goalkeeper. The ball bounced up off his ankle, hit is butt and fell nicely for Souda.

    So he tried a second time. The keeper couldn't get down at his near post quick enough. He shouldn't have let it get past him like that. Souda wheeled away with his arms raised, accepting the adulation from the four hundred Cadistas that had made the trip. Amongst them somewhere was a very happy and drunken Estaban.

    0-1

    From the ensuing restart, Guadalajara brought the ball down the field eventually playing the ball to their right winger Jairo. He'd made a run down the inside right channel. Andres covered the run and Belforti had backed him up. But Jairo played the ball out to the right back who'd sprinted upfield to support. Andres, like a puppy dog, sprinted after the ball. Class ball-watching. Jairo moved into the space Andres had vacated and immediately received a return pass and beat Belforti around the corner. Just like Souda had done literally two minutes prior, he beat the keeper at the near post.

    1-1

    I didn't react or do anything. Andres hung his head in shape. He knew he'd been caught ball watching. Something Alejo had been talking about incessantly since the beginning of preseason. I was very, very glad Tomas was almost back to full fitness.

    The game see-sawed back and forth, but I never thought our goal was in any real danger. Both Souda and Airam had some good chances, but couldn't covert. Then in the 38th minute, Belfonti controlled a clearance and sent the ball over to Chara who played it to Dalmau who played it up to Kike. A nicely worked round the back and up the right maneuver. Kike beat his defender and whipped in a cross to the near post. Airam stuck out a toe and nicked the ball past the keeper.

    1-2

    The fourth official had signaled 3 extra minutes and on 47 minutes, Dalmau took a throw in deep in the right wing corner. Airam and a defender both leapt for the ball just inside the box. I'm not exactly sure who's head it went off of, but it landed in the middle of a scrum of players in the penalty box. I saw Luque swing at the ball and his seeing eye shot found a way through the mass of players and into the back of the net.

    1-3

    The whistle blew for halftime and I smiled as I walked toward the changing room. I looked for Esteban in the stands but couldn't see him. We'd shut down their offensive threat of Nacho (F) and Mateo (AMC) and their goalie had faced three quality chances and let them all in. He had managed to stop a couple tame shots, but he was having a bad game.

    The second half was rather dull despite three more goals going in. Both teams knew we'd won, we were just playing it out. Luque and Belfort picked up yellow cards for relentless fouling. Nafti was marking their keeper for a corner and Perico played the ball directly to him. No Guadalajara player challenged him and he deflected the ball into the net to make it 4-1. They scored a consolation goal in the 84th minute after a great reaction save by Alejandro fell to Mateo. Mateo only had to beat Chara and made it 4-2. I'd replaced one Kike with another and in the 88th minute the Marquez version lofted a ball in the direction of Airam. Souda gathered the flick on and drilled a low shot past their helpless keeper.

    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-10-10.43.04-pm.png

    In the end, Guadalajara 2-5 Cadiz. We were in top spot (temporarily as everyone else plays tomorrow), but Guadalajara could be in the relegation zone by the end of Sunday.

    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-10-10.38.41-pm.png

    We appreciated the well-maintained showers and returned to our hotel for a light late-night snack before hitting the road. We all, even me, awoke to dawn in Cadiz.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 11/12/2013 at 05:47 AM.
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  40. This is a really great story. Subscribed and eagerly awaiting the next update!

  41. Quote Originally Posted by spitfire View Post
    This is a really great story. Subscribed and eagerly awaiting the next update!
    Thanks. I hope to prevent any disappointmentalization!

  42. Home cooking

    I called a light practice for late afternoon, 5pm. I just wanted the players to get any sore muscles massaged, some jogging and review some tactical stuff.

    I watched the noon game results come in on my iPhone, but it was the late games that mattered. Linense (2nd), Ecija (3rd and our next opponent) and and Albacete (4th) could all overtake us with good results. Only Ecija managed to get any points and it was only a draw.

    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-11-08.07.35-pm.png

    We were in second, but I can't really say I care because it's only four matches into the season. We're winning on the road and that's ALWAYS good.

    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-11-08.08.11-pm.png

    But here's the real deal. We're at home for the next four matches. I'm confident the loss in the home opener was a blip and we can continue to roll. Well ... we ****ing better.

    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-11-08.05.42-pm.png

    Paco and I sat down with our Chief Scout Jose Manuel Barla right after training ended. He gave us the low-down on our next opponents, Ecija.

    "Attacking-wise, I think they're weakest down their left flank," Jose began. "In other words, Kike Lopez should have some fun. Their left back, Antonio Ramirez, has been transfer-listed. Maybe a falling out between him and the manager."

    "Also, we're fairly equal defensively and in the midfield," he continued. "But I really think our forwards are better than theirs. They primarily rely on Javi Lopez and, even though they play a 442, they don't really have anyone dangerous to pair him with or anyone to complement him."

    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-11-08.45.03-pm.pngThe Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-11-08.45.30-pm.pngThe Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-11-08.46.02-pm.pngThe Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-11-08.46.29-pm.pngThe Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-11-08.47.08-pm.png

    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-11-09.26.37-pm.png

    "Are you encouraging us to become overconfident?" Paco teased.

    Jose was about to defend himself, I raised a hand.

    "You don't have to answer that," I said with a smirk. "Listen, I get it. We have a good chance against them. We're at home. Overconfidence is Paco's and my problem, right?"

    Paco smiled and nodded.

  43. Flowers

    I sent Ana Maria flowers. A bouquet of yellow flowers. I thought this was the best thing to do. Both Paco and Margarita agree that it's the best tactic. We'll see ...

  44. "Esteban, my man, I didn't see you in the stands up in Guadalajara," I said as I strolled in to get my customary Tuesday shave. "Roberto, how's it going?"

    "I was there, yes, I was," Esteban replied as he finished up shaving another customer. Roberto nodded.

    "That was quite a fun match, was it not?"

    "Very much so," he replied. "The Guados are going to have a rough season. My cousins say that it's the manager. Half the team is angry with him, the other half couldn't give the least ****."

    "And the other half don't know their *** from a hat rack," Robert injected.

    "Finished," Esteban exclaimed and whipped the cover and towels off the man underneath. "Carlos, meet the manager of Cadiz, Enrico Pucci. My most famous customer."

    "Until we start losing," I said as I sat down. "Pleasure to meet you, Carlos."

    "Then I cut his throat," Esteban stated as Carlos paid up.

    Once the shaving got underway, Esteban got right down to what he wanted to know most.

    "Did you send the flowers?"

    "Yes."

    "Good," he replied. "And you put your name and phone on it like I told you?"

    "Yes."

    "Good," he replied. "She'll call you. Mark my word. I know true love when I see it. At least from your side, anyways."

    My phone jangled in my pocket. I looked at Esteban. He stopped shaving.

    "Well," he asked and stepped back. "Do you need to take this one?"

    I pulled my phone out. The caller wasn't in my Contacts.

    "Answer it, you imbecile," he shouted at me. "It's probably her. Don't blow it."

    "Hello?" I said. "Yes. Yes, it's Enrico." I winked at Esteban who pumped his fist in exultation. "Well, hello, Ana Maria. No, it's fine. I'm just waiting at the barber's for a shave. Well, I hoped you would and I'm glad you liked them. Yes. Ha, yes. I'm very glad. Could we meet for drinks or dinner or both? Yes? Wonderful. I'm free all week though tomorrow would be a bit later. Yes, after the match. Of course tomorrow is fine. Where? I don't know the restaurants so well but I could figure that out. Yes. Yes, I know that one. I haven't been but I've been told to go there. Eleven should be fine. I very much look forward to it. Yes. What? Oh, yes, of course. Ciao."

    Esteban started doing what must be his victory dance.

    "Did I tell you?" he shouted. "Did I tell you?"

    "She's the perfect woman, Esteban," I said.

    Esteban paused and stared at me.

    "Then I'd better do an exceptional job on you," he said. "I love helping people fall in love."

    The barbershop was unusually silent as Esteban completed his task.

    "Finished!" he proclaimed. "With a shave like that, you will not only win over your perfect woman, you will beat Ecija. But I predict it will be difficult. Unlike Ana Maria. She will be wonderful."

    I paid up.

    "Now off with you," he said. "Tell me all about it on Friday."
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 13/12/2013 at 04:41 AM.

  45. Round 5: Cadiz CF v. Ecija Balompie

    It was a marvelous night in Cadiz. A breeze swirled around the stadium and, like always in September, the temperature was pleasant. But it was a weeknight and only 7,000 or so Cadistas turned up. A quarter full is better than empty. Oh, well. Ecija is not Valencia or Barca or Atletico or Real.

    I picked the same side as played against El Guado on the weekend. If I needed to rest anyone, I'd do so at the weekend; Cacereno are a weaker side.

    GK: Alejandro
    D: Dalmau, Chara, Belforti, Andres
    M: Kike Lopez, Nafti, Luque, Perico
    F: Airam, Souda

    Subs: Tomas (LB), Josete (D/M), Bruninho (M), Villar (M/F) and Kike Marquez (M/F)

    I'd told Kike Lopez that he was going to have a busy day at the office. Bruninho was on the bench though I only wanted to use him at the end of the game to hold a lead.

    The boys trudged out onto the field for the ceremonial handshake as the Cadistas sang:
    "Alcohol alcohol alcohol, we came here to get drunk and the result doesn't matter!"
    I thought they looked nervous. They'd blown that first home match and we all so badly wanted to succeed in front of our fans.

    They were nervous. They made me nervous. They couldn't connect a pass. Nearly gave up a goal in the 2nd minute, but thankfully, Ecija's star striker Javi Lopez hit the side netting. I looked at Paco. He looked nervous.

    That scare woke them up. The brought the ball upfield from the ensuing goal kick (Alejandro played it short) and we camped in the Ecija half. A defender caught Luque's ankle about 25 meters out. The ref blew for the foul. As every time that Luque gets fouled, I said a quick prayer as he got up. He was fine.

    The free kick was slightly left of center. He positioned the ball and then stared at the wall. Belforti and Nafti positioned themselves at the right edge of the wall like we'd worked on yesterday. They were to jostle the wall and then duck if Luque chose to shoot far post. Airam was prancing around in front of the wall, trying to disrupt the keeper's view of Luque just like we'd worked on yesterday.

    Luque took his first step in his three step run up, Belforti pushed the defender next to him. Nafti looked scared and was about to duck. Airam jumped in the air and waved his arms just like we'd worked on yesterday.

    Luque drilled the ball directly into the wall. The defender who took it in the chest was knocked over. The ball popped directly back to Luque who sent the ball directly through the hole that had opened up in the wall into a wide open net. It turns out their keeper had dived far post.

    1-0

    Sometimes you create your own luck.

    We pressed Ecija really hard and they promptly gave the ball back to us after the restart. We marched down the field and Perico set up Souda who blasted over the top.

    The goalkeeper lofted his kick into the center circle. Nafti won the header and it fell to the feet of Kike Lopez. Lopez took off towards the opponents goal but quickly fed a pass into the path of Airam ahead of him. Airam was cutting across his defender touched the ball once then twice and drilled a near post laser beam from the top of the penalty area. The ball started out chest high but dipped. The goalie really should have had that one. No goalie should give up near post goals from open play.

    2-0

    We were rolling. It was flowing. We were in The Zone. I raised an eyebrow as I wondered how many we'd score at this rate.

    Then Ecija promptly went down to the other end and scored. It was pathetic.

    Their midfielder played a ball up to Jose Luis Plata, their other, rather useless forward. Nafti dove just in front and toe poked the pass away. Unfortunately, it fell to their left outside midfielder Manu Reina. Reina took off from ten yards int our half. Dalmau dropped off to give him space. Chara did the same. I wanted to cover my eyes. Not again. Not more non-defending defending. Not more of the same **** that makes Aleja Indias, the defense coach, to turn purple with rage.

    Nafti was storming back as fast as he could and screaming at Dalmau and Chara to step up and slow Reina down. They didn't. Just as Nafti leapt to attempt a desperation tackle from behind, Reina smashed the ball past Alejandro's post.

    2-1

    It was now a mere 15 minutes into the match. In 4 minutes, there had been 3 goals. I looked at Paco.

    "Basketball?" Paco asked me.

    "****ing basketball," I said shaking my head and looking at the ground. It was going to be a long night.

    Alejandro screamed at his defenders to start behaving like men. Chara, in particular, hung his head. Alejandro was livid. I glanced over at Aleja. He was purple.

    Suddenly, we were nervous again. We couldn't hold the ball for long. Thankfully, Nafti was everywhere and shut down anything they started to build. When he wasn't able to shut them down, we looked vulnerable. Ecija wasn't playing particularly well, either.

    With 30 minutes gone, Andres took another knock. His second of the game and on his right leg again. Michel sprinted out to check him out. I could see the gash on his leg. I immediately pointed at Tomas. He started warming up. I yelled at the ref first as he hadn't carded the Ecija right winger. I yelled at the fourth official, too. A lot of good that did. Andres evening was done.

    As the fourth official checked over Tomas and put the numbers into his board, I got Belforti and Chara's attention. First, I made the universal signal for them to calm down. Aleja had gotten off the bench, too. I signaled that they should push up. Aleja, pretending I was an opposing forward, demonstrated that they should be right up with the forward and shouldn't let him turn. Belforti gave us a thumb's up.

    He may or may not have understood what we tried to communicate. The defense looked vulnerable whenever Ecija stormed forward with the ball. It's not like they were faster than us or they were awe-inspiring dribblers. It's just that we defended like we were on the verge of panicking. Which we were.

    We made it to halftime 2-1. I don't know how other than Ecija blew a couple of good chances. I didn't have anymore fingernails left. WTF was I going to do in the second half with myself?

    Paco was immediately by my side as we trudged toward the changing room. I shook my head in disbelief.

    "Well?" I asked him.

    "Hmmph," was all he said. "Scream at them?"

    This was going to be a tricky halftime talk. I needed them to focus. I needed the defenders to play tighter, with smaller gaps between them. Ecija weren't attacking down the flanks. The wingers were heading straight inside. What did their scout see in the way we played? Well, they knew that if they got past Nafti our defenders were apt to panic.

    I ruled out screaming at them. I'd save that for when we were losing and needed a wake-up. I'd stick to encouraging them and telling them that I had faith that they could tighten up the defense and keep the ball for long stretches. We had been having good second halves so far this season.

    The players responded with the start of the second half. When Lopez received a pass with his back to goal about 35 meters out, Belforti clobbered him from behind. The ref immediately yellow carded him. He'd sent the message. No more easy turns and running straight at our defense. Both he and Chara challenged the Ecija forwards higher up the pitch.

    Ecija still created chances, but instances of them running at our defense with the ball at their feet were fewer in the second half. Not that I didn't feel nervous any time they had the ball in their half, but ...

    Perico had not had a good night at the office. Their right back was pretty good, just as fast as Perico plus Kike Lopez was able to stroll past their left back with ease. So I replaced him with Kike Marquez to give Perico a rest and the other Kike some minutes.

    Dalmau, Nafti, Kike Lopez and Airam had several really intricate moves down our right flank. It seemed that any other match and they would have resulted in goals.

    On 68 minutes, Ecija's star striker Javi Lopez took a pass around 30 meters out, turned past Belforti and stormed toward Alejandro. Chara and Tomas sprinted over to cover. Alejandro advanced out of the net just above the 5 meter box. Lopez struck a worm burner aimed just inside the far post. Alejandro got a toe on it and it rolled just outside of the post. I exhaled. That was probably going to be the save of the game if we win or the first signs of the inevitable collapse if we lose.

    Esteban was right. We were going to have a tough end to the game.

    With 20 minutes left I told Bruninho to warm up. With 15 minutes left, I pulled off Airam. Souda has a better first touch, is a tad faster and I had to pull one of them off so that I could put Bruninho in front of the back four and give us a little protection as we tried to see this nailbiter out.

    Bruninho and Nafti stopped Ecija. Our back four was safe. That lasted all of 5 minutes.

    Ecija began lumping balls forward, hoping for a friendly bounce or deflection. This is exactly why I got Chara from Udinese. He cleared most of them. They did get some friendly bounces, though. They won several corners, but we defended the corners well.

    Chara got booked driving an elbow through the back of Javi Lopez's skull. They ballooned the resulting free kick from 25 meters high and wide.

    Just as the fourth official held up his board to indicate 4 extra minutes, the Ecija center back Sebastian Corona clattered into Souda late. The ref reached into his pocket and Corona fell to his knees pleading. He was pleading because he'd received a yellow card in the first half. I breathed a sigh of relief. We should easily see out the game now.

    Of course, we didn't.

    We kept giving gifts away like we'd been doing all game. Once Lopez even got the ball and started charging toward our goal. As I realized I was searching for a finger nail to chew on (I had none left), Bruninho dove in with a brilliantly timed tackle and saved the day.

    With seconds left, Luque made a tired and rash tackle about 40 meters out. I reflexively did a face palm. I looked at the clock. 93:47. ****, **** and *********s. They had one last chance. I crossed my arms as the clock rolled past 94 minutes.

    Everyone except for their keeper and the free kick taker was at the top right of our penalty box.

    The Ecija player lofted a high ball toward the penalty area. But he hit it a little high. And a little far. He'd really thumped it. It drifted over everyone's heads and over the end line near the corner flag.

    Alejandro took his time with the goal kick.

    The ref got bored and took pity on me and blew three sweet blasts on his whistle.

    Paco, Aleja and I had a group hug. We'd won that first home game. It hadn't been easy, but we'd done it. We'd won and we were in first place in the Secundo B4.

    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-12-11.12.01-pm.png

    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-12-11.13.30-pm.png

    Trust me when I say I gave the shortest postgame team talk ever and strolled without a care into the club parking section underneath the ground. I put the top down on the Alfa and roared out into the beautiful evening air of Cadiz. There's nothing like the sound of a well-tuned Alfa Romeo.

    Nothing.

    Now I can forget all about Cadiz CF S.A.D. and go to dinner with the lovely Ana Maria.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 15/12/2013 at 05:34 AM.
    Amanado likes this.

  46. If you made a list of everything you wanted out of life ...

    I pulled up at the restaurant. I handed my keys to the valet and strode up the steps into the foyer. I glanced at the menu just outside the door. I almost gasped. This was an expensive restaurant. I mean I knew that it was, but I'm trying to pay down my mountain of debt. I had the money as I'd also been setting a bit aside each week. Back in the day, having dinner at a place like this was commonplace. But that was when I was making EU25,000 per week. Now I make 1500 per week. A full decimal place less. And then a little bit less than that.

    I greeted the host and since I hadn't made a reservation went into the bar. The place was packed. I was a bit early. And there was Ana Maria sitting at the bar. She was wearing a short, very tight red dress with matching heels. Her cascade of hair hung down her back. My knees almost buckled.

    "Do you come here often?" I said sitting down next to her. She smirked, turned and looked at me. Oh, those blue eyes bored a hole right through me and once again felt like I was going to melt.

    "You think that line ever works?" she replied.

    "Well, is it?" I squeaked. It came out sounding rather awkward. She smiled.

    "We may not get a table for a while or at all," she said. "The wait is an hour."

    "It's nice here, do you want to stay?"

    "We could just eat at the bar," she replied. I nodded. I got the bartender's attention. Ana Maria already had a glass of wine. I looked through the wine list and got a glass of a local white wine and menus.

    "Did you grow up here?" I asked.

    "Yes," she replied studying the menu. "The whole extended family. Three brothers, one sister, Mom, Dad, Mom's sister and Grandpa, my Mom's Dad, all under the same roof. My mother's side is from here. My Dad volunteered to join the crazy."

    "Heh, I'm American," I said. "We don't do extended families. Well, not entirely. I mean we keep in touch, but it's scattered all over the eastern seaboard and northern Italy."

    "You're Spanish is quite good," she observed. "I'm sure there's a story with that."

    "Soccer, as we Americans call it, and I studied it in school," I replied. "I played with a good number of Mexicans, Central Americans and South Americans growing up. What do you do for a living?"

    "I'm in banking, finance," she replied.

    "I've heard tales about the wild banker parties and after-parties," i dead-panned.

    "You have no idea."

    "Huh? That was a joke," I said.

    "When I was in Madrid before the crash," she began. "The head of our division threw the wildest, most decadent parties you could imagine. I went to some. I didn't get invited to the ones with hookers. He's in prison now. He was so corrupt for so long that I can hardly believe it even now. The mere fact that he got away with it for so long and will be able to keep so much of his wealth after he's out in a couple of years ... it ... it ... let me say this; he and the people like him have profited greatly from the destruction of Spain."

    "Yeah, um, wow," I stammered.

    "And like so many, I'm back living with my parents," she concluded.

    "The crash ruined me, too," I said. "I'd invested in a large housing development project north of Madrid. Well, technically, I'd borrowed a huge amount to be able to invest in it. I lost everything, eventually. I managed to string it along for a while."

    "Oh, I know," she said. "I financed several of them. Debt purchased with credit that was itself financed. Upside down pyramid of calamitous potential. When did you retire from playing?"

    "2009," I replied. "I blew my knee out. I was nearly a cripple anyway. I knew I couldn't continue."

    "Let's go somewhere else," she said suddenly. "This place is just too expensive for either of us."

    "Well, you make a quite valid point that I'm not going to argue."

    "I don't make what I used to make in Madrid," she continued as I fished out some Euros to pay for our glasses of wine. "I don't know why I'm telling you this on the first date, but between me, my oldest brother, the eldest cousin of my sister and her Mom my aunt, we're supporting twenty people. Nobody has jobs that pay much of anything anymore."

    "Yeah, well, I have a mountain of fail to pay back," I said as tried to do some basic math and did so slowly and poorly. "I'm open to suggestions."

    "I know the perfect place," she replied. "The owners are long-time family friends and I've been friends with the chef since grade school. Oh, and it's nearby."

    "You walk fairly normally for someone who was a cripple in 2009," she said as we strolled to our next destination.

    "Yoga," I replied.

    "Truthfully?" she said. "Interesting. Nearly all of my women friends are doing it."

    "And you?" I said. "You, um, you look great. You must work out all the time."

    "Karate," she said.

    "Damn," I said in English. "Bad ass." And then returning to Spanish. "So if we get mugged, I'm just going to run for help? For the muggers?"

    She smiled at my joke.

    The restaurant we went to was much more reasonably priced. The food, as with pretty much all the food I've had in Spain, was fabulous. She laughed at my jokes. Her sense of humor isn't funny, ha ha, laugh out loud. She's rather twisted. She says things that aren't funny in a way that make me laugh while I'm taken aback at the same time. Like with that first joke she told me on the balcony above the party -- the "think of the kids" line. It was just so wrong, but darkly funny. At any rate, I was completely and utterly smitten. Lost. Head over heels. In way over my head. You pick the phrase to describe my plight, I'd agree with it.

    I drove her home afterward. As with anywhere in Cadiz, it wasn't very far away. I wasn't sure what to do when I dropped her off. I just couldn't get a read on her. I mean, I knew she was interested; she'd called me back. She'd agreed to go on a date. She'd laughed at my jokes. I was just too intimidated, too scared to try anything even slightly risky as I didn't want to blow my chance.

    After she'd shut the door to her apartment building behind her, I sat for a second in front of her building. While I was riding a buzz of euphoria from her presence, I also felt this peculiar ache of longing that I hadn't felt since I'd had my first dates with my now ex-wife.

    I smiled the whole mile drive back to my apartment. After I parked my car, I strolled over to the nearest bar for a nightcap. It was going to take a bit of liquor to calm me down enough to go to sleep.
    Amanado likes this.

  47. No hangover

    The players were supposed to arrive at 11am so the coaching staff and I met over espressos in the cafeteria.

    "How are you feeling this morning, Alejo?" I asked.

    "Fine, why?"

    "Paco and I were watching you turn purple all night long," I replied.

    "Dalmau and Chara just won't step up," he said shaking his head in disbelief. "I talk about keeping the distance between the midfield tight. I talk about staying close to their forwards. Mother Mary full of grace how often do I have to repeat myself before they get it."

    "This is Secundo B4 not La Liga," Javi Garcia said. "These guys don't read the game as well, don't think the game as well. We just have to keep trying."

    "Great point," I said nodding in agreement. "Let's just keep at trying to get them to play how we want them to. On another note, Andres and Perico got injured last night. Obviously, losing Perico will be big, but Tomas is fit and he's the first choice left back anyway."

    "I'm worried about the attack," Llorente said. "We just couldn't get that goal to ensure victory."

    "Yeah," I said holding up my hands. "I chewed all my finger nails off. That wasn't fun last night."

    "But we got the three points," Paco interjected. Everyone nodded.

    "I'm concerned about wearing out Luque and Nafti," I said. "They're not young and they're the keystone to our success."

    "Bruninho is fit and wants to play," JVP said. "We can certainly give Nafti a day off. And I've been working with Villar on playing central midfield playmaker. He'll be adequate."

    "Let's bring in Jose Antonio," I said. "Can we rest Luque and Nafti? Are Cacereno going to be easy?"

    "No they are not," replied my Chief Scout. "They are tough to break down. Away from home, they don't take any risks. They rely on counter attacks to generate their offense and are careful to never leave themselves vulnerable when they are in the attack."

    "Their fullbacks are quick and solid defensively," he continued. "Perico or Kike Marques depending on Perico's fitness and the other Kike on the right won't be strolling past their fullbacks like against other teams."

    "With that said, their offense relies on their lone striker Martins and their attacking midfielder Fernando Esparza. They play always builds through Esparza and most often it's Martins finishing. The only other player to score is their right midfielder, Aaron."

    "I've scheduled yoga for tomorrow to hopefully build our energy back before Wednesday's battle," I said.

    "They actually seem to like it," Paco said.

    "Anything else?" I asked.

    I walked into the Physio's room at eleven to see how everyone was. As usual I freaked out for a second seeing Luque in the room. Michel was massaging Luque's thighs. It was probably just Luque being careful. Andres had just had bandages for the wound on his leg changed. Perico was icing his right ankle Tomas was icing his left. Bruninho was doing some twisting stretches he'd learned in yoga to loosen his ribs. Nafti was stretching out his hamstrings.

    "Ankles good or bad?" I asked Perico and Tomas. They both gave thumbs up. I'm glad it was just precautionary.

    "Andres will be out two weeks maximum," Michel said while continuing to massage Luque. "No swelling or signs of any infection overnight. Perico and Tomas are just to be careful. Nafti's up next for massage."

    Then I noticed someone was missing: Team Captain Mikel Martins. I asked about him and Michel said that he was working out on the exercise bike.

    "How much longer until he can play?" I asked.

    "I think a week, but he'll have to play with a cast for a week or two," Michel responded.

    Several of the injured youth players were getting treated as well and Michel explained how they were doing. Honestly, I didn't pay much attention to the youth squad. Only one player had any promise, Moises, and Matias Cerci (Head of Youth Development) and Isadoro Ascaso (U19's manager) kept me abreast of how he was doing.

  48. Worrying signs

    Something was off on Thursday's practice. Maybe the players had too much swagger from being top of the table. Maybe they weren't quite working as hard as I wanted them to. The passes seemed to lack crispness in the 4v2 warm-ups and in the 5v5 games we played. Maybe it was that the forwards and midfielders goofed off just a tiny bit more than usual as Llorente and JVP worked with them. Maybe it was that the same lack of attentiveness they gave Javi Garcia and I joined to work in tactics.

    Alejo spent nearly the whole practice screaming himself hoarse and purple. The screaming was new. Maybe they'd get tired of him screaming and start playing defense the way he wants. We'll see how it goes.

    Yet, I couldn't put my finger on what was bugging me.

    On the way out to the Alfa, I drafted and sent a text to Ana Maria. I thanked her for the lovely evening and asked if we could do it again. I thumbed the 'Send' button as I sat down. I put the key in and turned it to start her up. The Alfa coughed twice and did nothing. Oh, ****. I waited a few seconds. I turned the key again. It coughed three times, but nothing. "*** **** *****-****ing piece of ****," I muttered to myself. I took a few deep breathes. I don't know why I always did this with The Alfa. Maybe it was an attempt to calm myself so that I wouldn't get angry over it breaking down yet again. I tried for a third and it sputtered to life. Thank God. I took a few more deep breathes to calm myself. It was just a false alarm, nothing to worry about.

    As I put it in gear, my phone pinged to indicate I had a text. It was a one word response from Ana Maria: "yes."

    I slept like crap that night when I eventually got to sleep. It was a combination of my imagination wandering through all kinds of worst case scenarios with the team and my imagination getting carried away with thoughts about Ana Maria.

    So I arrived to the training ground a bit grumpy.

    My morning started out all right. I had an email from my scout Gerhard Poschner. I'd hired him, as you can guess by his name, for his knowledge of all things Germanic. He even had some connections in the former eastern bloc countries. Unfortunately, that didn't matter at all because of Cadiz's tight budget. He was only allowed to scout Spain.

    Regardless, Gerhard had an email about several players he'd just scouted and one was an out-of-contract fullback, Diego Souane. Souane had washed out of Deportiva La Coruna's system, had failed to get picked up with anyone and was playing with an amateur team in Coruna to stay in shape in hopes that someone, somewhere ... like me ... might need a decent fullback.

    I called Gerhard and he assured me that Souane would be an upgrade from Dalmau and Andres. He thought he'd be better than Tomas but only because he was more experienced.

    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-13-11.17.02-pm.png

    I walked into Alessandro Gaucci's office.

    "Good morning, Enrico," said the Director of Football for Cadiz. "What's going on?"

    "Do we have any money to sign a free transfer?" I asked. "I mean I know we're broke from the stadium loan, but Poschner found a fullback. I'm tired of panicking every time Dalmau and Chara panic because an opponent is running toward them with the ball."

    "I share your panic every time that happens," he replied. "And, yes, I believe we might just be able to squeeze a few pesos out of Manzano."

    "Okay, let me forward you Poschner's email," I said. "There. Can you call up his agent right away?"

    "Of course," Alessandro replied.

    While the possibility of a new signing was a nice thought to play around with, training didn't go well. Those worrying signs I noticed blossomed today into trends. About a half our into our training, I'd had enough.

    "ALL RIGHT! ALL RIGHT!! ENOUG OF THIS ****!" I hollered. "EVERYBODY BRING IT IN! BRING IT IN!"

    The players stopped in the middle of whatever it was they were doing and began walking over to the central location where I was standing.

    "MOVE IT! MOVE IT OVER HERE!" I yelled.

    Once they'd gathered around me looking confused, I layed into them.

    "YOUR PASSING IS GETTING SLOPPY, YOUR NOT CONCENTRATING ON YOUR BALL CONTROL, YOU'RE ONLY PUTTING IN FIFTY PERCENT EFFORT! YOU TRAIN THE WAY YOU PLAY. THE WAY WE'RE DOING TODAY, WE'RE GOING TO LOSE TOMORROW."

    "Now that I have your attention," I said resuming my normal volume when addressing the entire team outside. "Line up on the end line. We're going to do a few Killers to get your attention."

    A few players groaned, but they all jogged over to the end line. I only made them do four, but I think I'd gotten my message through. Hopefully, I'd broken this trend.

    Paco made eye contact as everyone resumed the training that they'd been doing prior to my intervention. He winked and nodded.

  49. "I screamed that my players for the first time," I said as I settled into the barber's chair for my customary Friday shave. This time after training instead of before.

    "Really?" Esteban replied as he swathed me in towels and the cover. "Just today!?! You mean you haven't up until now?"

    I nodded.

    "That's unusual," he replied lathering my skull up. "I figured all managers screamed at their players all the time."

    "Some do," I replied. "But at some point players just tune the screaming out. I think that as a manager I'm going to speak to them like adults and save the hair-dryer treatment so it will have a dramatic effect."

    "That sounds smart," he said. "Why'd you do it?"

    "Their training was getting sloppy," I replied. "It's both technique and thinking. We're top of the table. I think they're getting overconfident and lazy. Or I should say I'm worried about them become that."

    "That makes sense," he replied.

    We were silent for a while. The only sound was the flamenco guitar playing on the sound system and the snick, snick wipe sound of Esteban shaving my melon.

    "Then it sounds like Sunday is going to be bad," he stated.

    "Yeah, that's my fear."

    My phone pinged.

    "You need to get that?" Esteban asked. I nodded.

    "It's either my Director of Football or Ana Maria," I replied. It was Alessandro. Diego Souane had agreed to terms. EU2,100 per week until June 2015. I told Esteban about the player.

    "Yes, Dalmau your right back. He doesn't make me feel confident he'd be able to stop even a young girl dribbling at him," Esteban stated.

    "But tell me all about your date," he demanded.

    I did. He interjected with 'mmm hmms', 'well played' and a few 'you are a true Don Juans' but was aghast I would move so slowly.

    "You must leap at the opportunities, not not not let them pass you by," he spluttered. "Bah! Who knew that an Italian could be such a frightened mouse of a lover. This is probably your American side. You must expunge that from yourself."

    "Esteban, seriously, I don't want to screw it up," I said. "Seriously, she's perfect."

    "But the opportunity is lost, you fool!" he ranted. "You didn't even kiss her."

    "All is not lost my friend," I said. "Here look at this." I showed him the text exchange.

    "God does smile on fools," he retorted. "When have you arranged to go out again?"

    "I haven't, yet."

    "GAHHHH!" Esteban yelled in exasperation.

    He was silent while he lathered up my face.

    "I want to say one more thing about your team," he began. "It's better to get their confidence, I suppose. If it goes badly Sunday, maybe they'll believe you when you say something. As opposed to 'he just yells because a geriatric mean old **** who needs to get laid' if you follow what I'm saying."

    "Yeah, work ethic is everything," I replied. "I don't have La Liga skills in my squad, but they need to believe me when I say they need to work hard and concentrate."

    "And a great big, steaming pile of **** laid early in the season against a weak time like Cacereno might convince them to listen to you," Esteban concluded.

    I left hoping he was wrong, but knowing he was correct and that Sunday's match was going to suck.

  50. Round 6: Cadiz CF v. CP Cacereno

    Apparently, Sunday evening at 8:30pm is too late for Cadiz residents. Maybe they needed their beauty sleep before going to work Monday morning. The Ramon de Carranza looked a quarter full. Not many Cacerenos fans had made the nearly 400km trip down. Caceres is west-southwest of Madrid near the Portugal border. All 200 or so of the lime green clad fans were looking rather lonely in their corner of the stadium.

    Fearing the worst, I played my strongest line-up. Tomas' fitness wasn't yet up to playing a full match, yet, but I had little choice. I had wanted to play Villar instead of Luque, but didn't. With Perico out, Kike Marques started his first match.

    GK: Alejandro
    D: Dalmau, Chara, Belfonti, Tomas
    M: Kike Lopez, Nafti, Luque, Kike Marques
    F: Airam, Souda

    Subs: Ceballos (RB), Moises (RB/LB), Josete (D/M), Bruninho (M), Villar (M/F)

    I don't think my date with Ana Maria had blissed me out so much that my pre-match team talk was any different. I told them to concentrate, relax and play their game. I'd said this for every match so far. Maybe they were tuning me out. I don't know.

    The match started out brightly. Kike Lopez got the ball just inside the Cacerenos' half. He played the ball inside for Mehdi Nafti and took of sprinting down the line. Nafti picked out Airam who come back to show for a pass. Airam flicked Nafti's pass into the path of Lopez. Kike cut around the fullback who was scampering back in an attempt to cover him then went around the slow-footed center back who badly missed a desperation tackle. Kike's near post shot grazed the post and fluffed the side netting.

    Half the fans thought it'd gone in.

    And, sadly, that was about it for the first half until extra time. Cacereno's played solid defense and simply didn't venture forward. I don't think their forward touched the ball but twice and that was in their half.

    In the 27th minute, Aymen Souda got his feet chopped out from under him. He flipped and flopped a few times before finally tumbling to a stop clutching his ankle. Once again I feared the worst. Michel ran out and sprayed his ankle and applied the magic sponge. Souda hobbled to the sideline and tried to walk it off while Luque lined up the free kick. I pointed at Villar who got up and started warming up.

    Sadly, the free kick sailed well high and Michel shook his head and signaled for the switch.

    Villar didn't do much, but didn't embarrass himself.

    The only other real action of the first half was the two corners we won in extra time.

    At halftime I told the players that I wasn't happy with their first half performance. I told them they were playing like they practiced this week; sloppy and lazy.

    "They didn't even take a shot first half," I exclaimed. "Except for that great attack down our right in the first minute, we only took long shots. Let's work for this. I have faith that your defending will remain solid and you will find a way to break them down."

    Unfortunately, Cacerenos were hard to break down, we weren't particularly inventive and we didn't work all that hard.

    It got worse in the 49th minute when Nafti pulled up holding his right hip. It might have been an earlier challenge. As always, he was working hard. Cadiz's lacklustre wasn't his fault. He always gave his all. Rather than risk anything, I replaced him with Bruninho.

    Just after the clock passed the 60 minute mark, Bruninho fed a ball forward to Airam who turned, took a touch and let loose a howitzer from 25m. It grazed the top of the crossbar.

    Instead of dribbling at their defense or working the ball out wide for crosses, we just continued the fruitless pattern of blasting away from long range.

    I replace Tomas in the 65th minute. He was gassed. Moises got his professional debut. He promptly hoofed a ball towards Airam who knocked it down to Villar, but Villar was quickly surrounded by defenders and gave it up to them.

    In the 80th minute, Cacerenos took their first and only shot. A tame effort from 20m that didn't trouble Alejandro.

    In the 86th minute, we finally came to life. Luque picked up the ball after a Bruninho tackle and trotted forward. I could tell he was tired, but he was going to try and create something. He played a pass to Airam who tapped it to Villar who laid it into the path of the charging Luque. Alas, Luque's tired legs and tired mind failed him and he ballooned his shot over from 20m.

    In the 90th minute, The rapidly fading Luque won a tackle and nicked the ball to Bruninho. Bruninho had time to look around. Villar and Airam were standing still and well-marked. Kike Lopez was out way wide. The easy ball was to Dalmau. Instead Bruninho lofted a ball in the direction of Kike Lopez. Kike decided to charge up and head the ball in towards Airam. Airam beat their slow-footed center back to the ball but didn't make good contact with his shot. He had shot far post so it became a shotcross skimming between the 5m line and the goalkeeper.

    Kike Marques had drifted inside into a more dangerous position when Bruninho played the ball wide right. Perico would have been onto Airam's shotcross in a flash and we'd have snatched all three points. Kike Marques would have had a chance to beat the defender to the ball. Instead he stood there watching the ball roll and watched the defender clear the ball for a throw in.

    I face palmed. Paco face palmed. If we were on Star Trek, this is what we would have looked like:

    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-double-facepalm.jpg

    One again, Esteban was right. I would need to play this pathetic 0-0 draw to my advantage. I mean, seriously pathetic. Check out the stats: 16 shots taken, mostly long range. Only 5 on target. Cacerenos: 1 shot. Alejandro didn't need his kit washed.

    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-15-12.07.52-am.png

    Albacetes won and displaced us into 2nd place.
    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2013-12-15-12.08.33-am.png

    I pointed all of this out to the team.

    "You played the way you trained," I said. "We were sloppy and lazy. I'm not happy with what I just saw this week. We got a bit lucky against Ecija and were fortunate Cacerenos weren't interested in going forward."

    "If we work harder in training we'll play better," I continued. "I'm going to schedule a mid-week friendly. We need to regain our concentration and get used to working the ball into the box from the wings again. That will open up the middle."

    "I'll see you tomorrow at 10 sharp," I concluded and walked out of the changing room. I could see that they shared my embarrassment at the result and looked motivated to work harder next week.

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