One third into the 2011/2012 football season and already spectators have witnessed events on and off the pitch eliciting both pleasant surprises and tragic losses. I’ve complied a handful of events that stood out in my mind while reflecting on last month’s matches and news reports in the unpredictable world of football.

5. Manchester City Up, Manchester United Down

I don’t know why this gets to me but it just does: the Red Devils are beginning to lose their luster. Not only is Manchester United taking their hits on the pitch by their Premier League opponents, but they failed to remain in the Carling Cup competition as their second team was wiped out 2–1 by Crystal Palace on the last evening of the month.
Everybody loves a winner, and Manchester United are an inveterate football club that strikes me as the highest caliber in the Premier league—one that I thought would never budge out of the top spot, especially as long as Ferguson was at the helm, but what’s nudging me and unsettling about their fall is what I truly believe to be a goalkeeping issue.

On the other hand, as Manchester City have closed in tightly around their rivals, there is one name that stands out: Sergio Aguerro. Aguerro is on fire from the moment he steps onto the field and the rest of the team are unstoppable, holding their wins steady. It’s one thing to make a name for yourself, but keeping it is quite another, which will be Man City’s challenge.

4. Torres Under Scrutiny on the Pitch and in the Press

It’s already December and how many goals has Fernando Torres scored last month with the Blues? Zilch.
But what would any list be without Torres’s name gracing the page, since he’s been more popular in ink lately than any place else? The first football article I had ever written, Looking for Torres: The Language That Builds a Superstar, two years ago, concerned the consistent use of the footballer’s name in the media, making him what he was. Now it’s made him what he’s not: A goal scoring machine worth 50 million pounds.

Two years later, here I am still writing about him. When will it end?

I was often told by various football editors that if I wrote anything on Fernando Torres it would be welcome on their site. The question is, why such fascination with the newly-sprung-flop?
Torres’s claim to fame came and went as fast as a Torres fan could say “duped.” But unlike any other former star, his performance—or lack of—is constantly monitored by the media and sports writers. In newspapers, his once gleeful face has now been replaced by one that is twisted and resentful.

Nobody can seem to let the guy recede into the background (where it has been speculated he clearly wants to be) as fans had done with other former superstars, namely the Brazilian Ronaldhino—after his popularity was so high during his Barcelona days and waned during the 2006 World Cup, he inevitably dissolved into nothingness.

Fans are still waiting for Torres to make a comeback. They’ve been waiting since last January. They could wait and wait and wait but there doesn’t seem to be a ready-made formula to fix his scoring drought nor a remedy to inject him with a droplet of enthusiasm. I even suspect that when Torres had cut and dyed his hair brown for the 2010 World Cup and came up dry, once again, he grew it back and let it go blond in the name of superstition in an attempt to recapture the old Torres of his Reds days. The unfortunate truth to this mess is that to date, the percentage of Torres’s shortcomings are beginning to dominate his victories. And for any diehard Torres fan, that’s not easy to take.

3. Racism, Racism, Racism

Unfortunately, in the sports world where all races unite, we must confront the ugly “R” word. Liverpool ace Luis Suárez, Chelsea captain John Terry and FIFA’s president Sepp Blatter have (respectively) been charged with racist remarks, accused of racist remarks, or ignoring racism altogether.

Suárez, who was charged by the FA on Nov 23 with remarks made to Man United’s Patrice Evra, has yet to respond. Detectives took a statement from John Terry on November 25 for remarks caught on tape directed at QPR’s Anton Ferdinand, and Sepp Blatter, in an interview November 16, claimed there is no racism on the pitch, and if there is, the solution would be to shake hands and move on.

One of the reasons why I love watching world football in place of my country’s NFL is to see international players work as a team despite oppressive politics and hate for foreigners that is generated in their nations. (I don’t mean to sound as if butterflies and songbirds are circling my head, but when racist remarks are found to take place on the pitch it really dampens my spirits.) What’s worse, is the hackneyed pathetic excuses these men come up with concerning context, misunderstandings and language barriers.

2. The Shocking First Loss of the Season for FC Barcelona

This may come as a shock to football fans worldwide, but, FC Barcelona, it has been revealed, are human after all.
On November 26, they suffered their first loss of the season at Getafe, 1-0. The loss had put them six points behind giants Real Madrid, but not to worry, Barca fell back into win-mode on Tuesday evening at Camp Nou, creaming Rayo Vallecano 4-0.

Although I enjoy watching Barcelona glide down the pitch with perfect passing and shooting technique, I have to admit, it was a beautiful thing to see them lose. To let a bit of air out of their heads once and awhile will only lighten the load, allowing them to ease up on the pressure, brush off the dirt, get out there and win.

1. The Untimely Death of Wales Manager Gary Speed

Given the circumstances, nobody can fathom this one.

Gary Speed’s reason for committing suicide may never be elucidated. If on the outside all was going well for the Wale’s manager, his death has revealed a dark side he had deeply hidden. Emotional tributes have poured in from all over the football world for the 42-year-old, who will be sorely missed and fondly remembered.

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I am a freelance journalist from New York City. My published football articles and literary essays have appeared in many magazines such as the Bleacher Report, Tribalfootball, Cincinnati Review, Evergreen Review, Portland Review, Seattle Review and also have been syndicated to other newspapers. Although most of my published work is literary, I exhibit a great passion to write about the beautiful game. I admit I love the giants of the football world: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester United and any other team that knows how to win. Currently, I live and write in Switzerland.