Blank Screen and Blank Thoughts…


epl-table-2015-live-score-results-channel-today-game-epl-tableI turned on my computer and brought up my blog site with a fresh clean page all ready for me to peck away with many words of wisdom.
I stared and stared and nothing came to mind, just a blank screen looking back at me.
I thought of all of the subjects that I have written about in the past and that still didn’t help.
Maybe a poem, I thought but I could not think of what to rhyme about so I gave up on that idea.
I have spent this past week working on the Austin Pond Society web site. Now, it is finished and I can’t think of anything else to do to it for a while.
Night has fallen and it is dark outside so I can’t work on the ponds or go for a hike.
It would appear that my mind is a blank and needs firing up a little.
To hell with writing, I am going to watch the English Premier League and my favorite soccer teams…Manu

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Kicking a ball…


rangers getting coached right

Half Time Talk

When I was a kid and still very young
my whole idea of having fun
was to get with my mates and kick a ball
and the girls would cheer and watch us run
no interest in them that I can recall.

Moving along in just a few years
my mates and I still kicked the ball
but this time we tried to impress the girls
hoping that one would not like them all
but pick one of us that was most enthralled.

As time moved on the girls came first
as many of us settled down
married with kids not much time for games
life was never ever the same
on weekends we still got together and kicked a ball

Further on down the line
marriages failed and its alimony time
visit the kids once a month
and maybe take them to one of our games
this time in the older guys league we played.

Time has passed and the kids have grown
and they all play in a league of their own
trying to impress the watching girls
choosing a mate as life unfurls
and it all starts with kicking a ball.

Now I am old and life has passed by
the closest I come to kicking a ball
is to cheer on my team as I watch them play
thinking of what were the good old days
when we were just starting along our way.

“Football, English Style is good for the soul”

 

What a party.


12649730-Party-items-on-blue-background-Stock-Photo-party-birthday-kidsAs I reported in an earlier blog a couple of days ago, I have just had my 80th birthday. A week or so prior, one of my friends called to ask what I was doing and “how about we get a couple of the Allies together and go to dinner”.

The Allies, for those of you not familiar with my background, was a very competitive adult women’s soccer team that was formed more than 25 years ago. I had both the luxury and frustration of coaching them for many of their years. The original team when we first put the team together prior to 1983 was named after the Redstone Ranch who sponsored the team in its early days. The original idea was to try to raise the competitive level of soccer in Austin with a team that could compete against both the Houston and Dallas teams at all levels. As the team evolved over the years, it changed the name to the “Austin Allies” later dropping Austin from the name to become the “Allies”.

The players were constantly changing and the team went through several reiterations of itself before settling on a group of highly talented and dedicated players willing to work hard, train hard and play even harder. There were a couple of players that came over from Sweden to play for us for a couple of years and we often had really good players that would come in and guest play for us in the major tournaments. The team was made up of players from different nationalities and we didn’t care what nationality that was or how young or old they were as long as they could play”the beautiful game”. This group stuck together for many years and indeed a few of the players are still playing. The team has maintained its name and for the past several years, has competed in the Austin Women’s Soccer League having recruited a bunch of new and younger players as the time went on. A far cry from when they competed in the Over 30 division of the local men’s soccer league in order to have stronger weekly competition that the then current local women’s teams could provide.

Many of this original group were the ones planning this little get together of “just a couple of friends”. Knowing Suzanne, the player who had called me originally, I kinda suspected that she and the rest of them, were not going to be satisfied with just a couple of them showing up and when I walked into  Flores Mexican Restaurant on William Cannon, there were more than 15 or so of them there. It was great to be greeted by so many smiling faces and lots of hugs and kisses and just a few tears, including my own. My friends George and  Gloria and later her daughter all showed up to add to the excitement. Gloria told me later that they had been a part of the organization of this party with it originally going to be at her house.

With the greetings out-of-the-way, the stories started to flow as some of the girls recounted the things they remembered most about some of our travels and the games we had played in. It was difficult to spend time with everyone and I know that I missed a few people and I apologise for that. Most of them are married with kids and all of them look really good and it was not hard to believe that they had been and in some cases, still are, super athletes in their younger days. At least 3 of the ladies have daughters of their own getting ready to enter college and hoping for soccer scholarships. They are that good as their mothers skills have been handed down to them.

As with all social get together of this kind, the stories came thick and fast of the many places we had been for tournaments and the magical moments that had occurred at some of them, not all of which were on the playing field. Stories like the time we won the Texas State Cup when we beat our local rivals, a team called Thunder coached by Ray Iddendun in penalty kicks after our full back, “Pecker” had tied the game up in the dying minutes of overtime sending the game into those penalty kicks.  Our goalkeeper, Lisa saved 2 of Thunders first 3 kicks with the other one going wide. We made all 3 of ours to win. Much different than when we went to Corpus Christi for a tournament and it went to 12 kicks each side before we won.

Or when we played a team from Florida in one of the National Championships who had a very large, very tall and very talented center forward that our team had nicknamed “The House”and Suzanne, who at the time probably weighed 100 pounds soaking wet, had the very difficult task of trying to contain her.

A special mention must be made of one tournament we went to that another of our players had flown in separately to join us. We all partied the night before the last days worth of games and one of our group, had a little too much to drink. She played the next day with a hangover and I swear that the other girls had to point her in the direction of the goal that we were trying score in. She managed to get through the game with regular intervals to throw up on the pitch much to the other teams disgust. We won the game and maybe the throwing up gave us the edge as the other team didn’t want to get near her. We took her to the airport as she was flying home on a separate flight and the last we saw of her was her forlorn looking figure as she made her still hungover way to catch her return flight. When we returned to practice the following week, the big story was Laurie’s hangover and it took a while for her to live it down.

The stories went on and on and then someone mentioned “the van”. For the uninformed, the van was a big Blue Ford converted van that we used to drive to many of these fairly local games and tournaments. Places like Beaumont, Corpus Christi, New Orleans and such. There would be as many as 7-8 young women all crowded together and me, the only male as the driver. Well, I might just as well have been made of stone or maybe, not even have existed, when the ladies got wound up especially if someone had brought beer. The things I heard would have made their mothers blush or even worse, be shocked that their darling daughter could talk about such things and in such a descriptive way. They would have been more shocked to know that in many of the stories, they were recounting actual things that had happened either to them or with them. Me, I just sat there and smiled occasionally at any particular juicy piece came out. I have always said that I can do one of two things. Either write a bestseller entitled, The Van, You Wouldn’t Believe What I Just Heard… or I could just plain blackmail the girls for me to keep quiet. It was all good fun and passed many miles of otherwise tedious journeys which by the way were never straight through as with all of that beer, it required many pit stops sometimes with only a solitary tree or a bush in sight.

There was a lot of picture-taking with the new fangled cell phones and funny hats and glasses which I noticed that I was the only one wearing. Whats up with that? There were presents and a cake that luckily only had a dozen or so candles and not the required number of 80, which I managed to blow out at one time.

As the evening wound down and after enjoying the very good Mexican Food from Flores Restaurant, the girls began to leave in one’s and two’s all coming to say goodbye and kiss me on the cheek and give me a hug. Some whispered thanks in my ear  and I had to fight hard to keep the tears from flowing as did they. Finally, those remaining gathered together for a last group photo rich with the memories of days gone by and years lost in time. We all have our own memories of those wonderful times with such a talented group of young ladies. It must be said that my own marriage had ended in the early days of this team and having the friendship of all of these ladies helped me get through those difficult times.

As a team, the ladies and I travelled to many tournaments at the State and National level managing to reach the National Finals twice only to lose both of them. There were many successes over about a 10 year period. I coached those ladies until the year 2000 when I decided to move on to coaching youth. I have to say, that it was just not the same. Different challenges, different ages, some successes but not the same camaraderie that had developed with the Allies and no Blue Van.

When we are young, time is something we do not even think about. As we grow older, it becomes more important because we realize that it is slowly running out. All of us that gathered together this evening to recount those memories of times gone by are all a lot richer for having been a part of them. These are memories that I cherish and will carry with me to my grave.

Thank you ladies for allowing me to be a part of your lives.


If you click on the first picture, it will go full size and then use the side arrows to see the next picture. Use the “Escape” key to get back to normal

Efrain Loayza


Efrain Loayza

Efrain Loayza

AUSTIN SOCCER COMMUNITY LOSES ANOTHER ICON.

The Austin soccer community lost another one of its own on August 25, 2014 when Efrain Loayza passed on to play in that big soccer field in the sky.

Efrain first jumped into the spotlight when he formed and played with the Peru Soccer Team around 1977. They played in the First Division of the Austin Municipal Soccer League (AMSA) as it was known back then and went on to win the division for the first time in 1977. They later won the division again in 1981 and were a highly competitive team to play against.

In later years, as many of the players grew too old to play Division 1 soccer, Efrain formed the team known as Chez Nous playing them in the AMSA Over 30 division. By now the League had changed its name to Austin Men’s Soccer Association and as an Over 30 team, Chez Nous won the top Over 30 division several times and were always known as the team to beat. Efrain in his playing days had a reputation for his ferocious tackling and no-nonsense play. With him on the field, everyone knew what to expect, 100% effort for the entire game. One of these tackles led to him getting an ankle injury that subsequently forced him to retire from actively playing. Early on, Efrain coached a women’s team and rumor has it, that is where he met his wife, Katherine.

The Onion Creek Field Dedication Ceremony

The Onion Creek Field Dedication Ceremony

Although, no longer able to play, Efrain became the manager for the Chez Nous team which he did right up until the team retired from the league a couple of years ago. Prior to this, Efrain had become active in the running of AMSA. The league had grown under the different Presidents and had well over a hundred teams playing every weekend. There was a general consensus among a couple of the very influential members of the Board that it would be very practical to own and maintain our own soccer fields. A general move was made with that in mind but no specific plans were put in place.

Efrain also had his own opinions about the State Association that AMSA belonged to. Consequently, he ran for Vice President with a view to changing the way that the Association did business with  the teams. He served one two-year term before deciding that his services would be put to better use at the local level.

In 2002, Efrain became the President of AMSA and really began a push with the intent on finding land enough for several soccer fields that AMSA could develop. In the meantime, the City of Austin had passed a bond to acquire land to build a dozen or so fields but lacked the resources to develop them. With Efrain as the point man, Brian Hardin as the “money man” and Jim Alsup providing the legal counsel, an agreement was reached with the city for the City to partner with AMSA to develop Onion Creek into a soccer complex that AMSA would maintain and have the full use of.

Peru Soccer Team 1977

Peru Soccer Team 1977

In retrospect, it was a perfect storm of events. A Spanish-speaking AMSA President dealing with an Hispanic PARD Director to work out the details of this deal. He was the “Right Man in the Right Place” to make this happen and it is doubtful if it would have happened at all without Efrain’s drive and passion regarding AMSA owning its own soccer fields and his willingness to deal with both PARD and the Austin City Council.

It is only fitting that Efrain has found his final resting place under the green grass of the fields he worked so hard to acquire and that he loved so much. Even though many of us had our disagreements with him from time to time. there was no doubting his drive and determination in working with the City, with Brian Hardin and Jim Alsup, the other members of the group that helped negotiate the deal, the Captains and members of AMSA and his successor, Mark Gregg whose contribution cannot be understated in setting up the details of the care and maintenance of the fields.

On a personal note, Efrain got me out of a jamb one time and for that I shall be eternally grateful. He was a very colorful

Balloon Release over his tree

Balloon Release over his tree

character and the Austin Men’s Soccer Association has benefited greatly with his association. He was also a devoted family man to his wife Katherine and his son Nico and daughter Alex. He reserved one night each a week for his children and nothing short of a world catastrophe would get him to break those engagements.

There are now two very well-known personalities of the Austin Men’s Soccer Association who have found there final resting place on the green soccer fields of Onion Creek. They were both very different but both had the same goals and foresight in developing the fields that others could enjoy the fruits of their collective efforts.

Rest in Peace, Efrain Loayza. We will miss you.

Efrain Loayza Memorial Gathering from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Music by Habib Koite and Bamada entitled Din Din Wo (Little Child).

NBC and the EPL-Part 2


Premier League

All EPL Fans

Enough of us must have complained that NBC has seen the light and is now making videos of all ten games available on a weekly basis. Better than nothing.

Here is the link. http://prosoccertalk.nbcsports.com/2013/09/16/watch-premier-league-full-game-replays/related/

Onward and upward you EPL supporters. Now at least you can watch your favorite team even if it is on a small screen. Incidentally, the service is only available for desktop and laptops and not any of the smaller computers like your Ipad or Iphone just yet.

It’s still a major step forward…

NBC and the EPL


Premier League

Sent on Saturday, September 14, 2013.

To:    nbcsportshelp@nbcunil.com

Hello

My name is Francis Allcorn an ex-pat from England and getting on a bit. I have been in this country for over 40 of those years. One of my greatest pleasures is to watch the English Premier League and I have done whenever possible.

When Fox Sports had the contract, the coverage was extremely good and at any given time, I was able to watch all 10 of the Premier games. If I did happen to miss any, there were always lots of re-runs through the week. I guess I got used to it and as with all good things, it came to an end when NBC was awarded the contract.

For starters, my cable/internet company, Time Warner was not on the list of providers which meant that I was not able to watch any games on my laptop although I could watch the 4 or 5 that were shown on the television. I resolved this issue by changing cable companies to ATT U-Verse which also cost money. Imagine my dismay when I discovered that this morning, there were 5 games on NBCSports/Extra/Live and they were all at the same time, 10:00 am. Now please tell me, what sort of service is this when I can only watch 1 of the 5 games. Why are they all shown at the same time? Is it not possible to spread them out so they are shown one after the other or at the very least, make them available via video through the week. To show them once with no repeats is doing the American Public a grave injustice and puts ardent soccer fans like me at a real disadvantage.

I tried to compensate and had my laptop showing one game with one of my video recorders taping that game. The quality of the video is bloody awful to say the least. I then had my Surface showing a different game and alongside of that, my I-Phone showing yet a third game. I tried to get a game to come up on my TV which has internet capabilities but was unable to get the video to open. I was going to film that with my other video recorder to watch later but obviously, was unable to do so.

As you can tell from this monologue, it is not for the want of trying. The bottom line is that as a company, you have not planned this whole thing very well and I am truly surprised that you were awarded the contract based on your method of making the games available. Amazing how money speaks as quite obviously, you have very little concern about your end product or to the viewers like me who like to watch these games. Luckily for me, I am fairly technically savvy but there are an awful lot of people who are not and you have succeeded in taking away from them, the ability to watch what for many of us, is the highlight of the week.

I would be willing to bet that you have probably received thousands of complaints from viewers like me very unhappy with the current scheme of things. I know we are stuck with it but I would petition you on behalf of all of those other people besides myself that you stagger the times so that not all of the games on NBCSports/Extra/Live are not all shown at the same time and also to make them available via video so that they can be viewed at a different time.

I am not expecting that you will even respond to this let alone make any changes but it would be nice.
—————————————-

TSSAS 2013 Annual Meeting – Dedicated to Carlos Rodriguez and my last as Administrator


Carlos Rodriguez - 2006

Carlos Rodriguez, taken in 2006

I attended the TSSAS Annual Meeting held in Houston, this past weekend, August 9/10. I was not to know this at the time but it turns out it was my very last meeting as TSSAS Administrator following the interviews on Saturday. After ten years in the job, the Board, in all of its wisdom, chose to appoint a new Administrator. I have many fond and happy memories of the times spent working and talking to my friends and soccer cohorts over the twenty or so years that I have been attending. Most are gone either having retired or some have passed on to that soccer field in the sky where all soccer players eventually end up. I would like to have continued on but it is not to be.

This once a year meeting holds special memories for me personally as it was one year ago on August 8 on my way down to San Antonio that I had the misfortune to somehow get a blood clot in my right calf (Deep Leg Thrombosis) necessitating me having to quickly return to Austin and the following day, to the Emergency room. Incidentally, that drive home was an experience all by itself and took an hour longer than normal due to frequent stops, not to mention the pain involved.

This turned out to be a bit of a life changer as I had to give up coaching the little kids and with it ended my physical involvement with the beautiful game. Sadly, all things come to an end but I guess it was time. After all, I am now 77 and soccer is considered to be a young man’s game. Tell that to my many 50-60 year old friends who are still playing.

This time, I allowed extra time and stopped several times on the way to Houston to get out and stretch my legs and arrived safe and sound.

As is usual, Friday evening was the Board of Directors business meeting followed by dinner at an Italian restaurant called Ciro’s. The food was excellent and the company was very amusing. All in all, a  good evening. It took all of my willpower to not indulge in one of the very fancy desserts that the rest of the table was sharing.

The following morning, after a very restless evening at the Hotel, probably due to not having the four dogs to keep me company, I was up at 6:00 am which I never do. Under normal circumstances, I am an 8:00 am person unless there are some other reasons like a doctor’s appointment to warrant an earlier rising. Luckily, the hotel also has its own Starbucks making me one very happy fellow. Armed with a non fat latte, I was ready to face the knowledgeable group of Registrars and other League officers as I lectured them on the finer points of running a league from the Registrars perspective.

The meeting went well and I was ably assisted by Neal Backes, the TSSAS Webmaster on the laptop and the overhead, showing the different slides of the documents required. Even though we started on time and that I was allowed an additional fifteen minutes, I was still hard pressed to finish on time. Guess I like to hear the sound of my own voice too much.

At 10:15 am, the training session ended and the members broke out to attend their sessions of interest, men, women and coed as each of these groups have their own commissioner and are run by their own specialty rules for things like the State Cup. For many years, Carlos Rodriguez, San Antonio Soccer Association, was the men’s commissioner but with his passing, the division was left without a commissioner. But, all was not lost as Gloria Rodriguez, Carlos wife,volunteered to step in and fill the role. It is a well know fact that behind every good man there is usually a good woman and Carlos and Gloria were no exceptions to this rule. Gloria has gone one step further and has volunteered her services to visit the Valley and talk to the leagues down there to see what TSSAS can do to help them. We have long recognized the fact that the Valley, both by location and by its very large Hispanic community, has not received the attention it deserves. Hopefully, Gloria will help to change that. Thank you Gloria for both stepping up to be the Men’s Commissioner and for taking on this additional role.

At noon time, we adjourned to the dining room for a luncheon that was held to commemorate the many years of service that Carlos Rodriguez had been involved with soccer and for his many roles with both USASA and TSSAS. Pascal gave a very nice speech to commemorate the occasion with Gloria giving the response. Again, I outdid myself and chose an apple over the scrumptious looking deserts that were offered and had to put up with a some harassment all in good fun, from Neil. I think I made him feel guilty as I noticed he was chowing down on a piece of pie.

The meeting itself went very smoothly with discussions mostly on the revised Constitution and Bye-Laws and of course the Budget took up some time. Funny how money can make the quietest person sit up and take note. We did not have any earth shattering things to decide. Pascal was re-elected as the President and he made it very clear that this was going to be his last two years in the job and he warned the members to start looking for his replacement. After the final Budget discussion, the meeting was adjourned.

Coming down, I traveled on Highway 71 from Austin until it intersected with Highway 10 and once I got past Bergstrom Airport, the speed limit changed to 75 all the way into Katy just outside of Houston. it was wonderful to legally drive so fast and the drive down, even with the three stops that I made, was very quick.

I was planning on stopping and taking rest breaks on the way back to Austin just to be on the safe side and so I decided to take an alternate way back home as I hadn’t driven Highway 290 for a very long time and wanted to see what might have changed. The speed limit was posted as 70 for most of the way and as everyone, including me, were driving a bit more than that, it didn’t take long to reach Austin. I have to say that compared to the other route that I took on Friday, things have not changed very much along Highway 290.

I arrived home around 6:00 pm to be welcomed by 4 very happy puppies. It’s so great to have that sort of welcome committee. Almost makes it worthwhile to be away although I was not “out of touch” with them as I have a surveillance system set up that allows me to watch them on live video on my iPhone. It’s pretty cool and it is very re-assuring to me to see they are OK as they go about their daily business, which incidentally, comprises of the occasional bark at something outside and then back to “napping”. Must be a great life to be so worry free as to sleep anytime you feel like it.

And they call it a “dog’s life”. We should be so lucky…

Goodbye to my friends as I fade away.

Fade Away

Fade Away