Soccer’s SD Eibar crashing Spanish La Liga Party

sd-eibarWhile Spanish La Liga features some of the top talent in the soccer world, the league has become somewhat stale and predictable. It seems like every year the La Liga title is passed between the two giants – Barcelona and Real Madrid (although Atletico Madrid won last year). This is like a more-extreme version of Major League Baseball, where it’s not uncommon to see either the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox win the World Series. But this year, all eyes will be on a true underdog in the SD Eibar “Gunners.”

If you’re not familiar with the typical European soccer league format, teams can move up or down in divisions based on their performance from previous years. Calling on baseball again, this would be like the Triple A Toldeo Mud Hens winning a spot in the MLB. Only, SD Eibar is on an even smaller scale, having been in the confines of the second division from 1986 until last year. But after playing out of their minds, this team earned the right to move up to La Liga play.

Hailing from the small town of Eibar (pop. 27,507), the Gunners will now have an opportunity to take on the likes of Real Madrid in giant, sold-out stadiums. This is quite a step up when you consider that the Gunners’ own stadium holds just 5,200 fans. And this stadium is where SD Eibar grabbed their first-ever La Liga victory – a 1-0 triumph over Real Sociedad.

sd-eibar-1Make no mistake about it, this team has the talent to compete. They knocked off second-division rival Alavés last year with a number of good athletes who can run the field and pull off some spectacular plays. But even though they are good enough, SD Eibar faced another huge challenge to enter La Liga – raise €1.7 million ($2.2 million) by early August.

This rule was imposed by the Spanish Football Association, which requires any La Liga team to at least have capital equal to 25% of the average expenses of second-division teams. To Barcelona or Real Madrid, which both spent over $190 million on players alone last season, this amount is a joke. But to SD Eibar, this required a serious fund-raising effort.

Like the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, they sold shares in the team that were capped at $100,000. Manchester City players David Silva and Xabi Alonso, who are former Eibar members, helped raise money too. With these efforts, the team easily hit its funding mark by early July.

Now officially a member of La Liga and boasting a 1-0 record, SD Eibar will certainly draw fanfare from all over the world. After all, they are the unlikeliest of teams to be playing against talent-rich squads like Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia. And they still have 37 matches left to keep proving that they belong with the big boys.

Ex-German World Cup Member Tim Wiese snubbed due to Bodybuilding Physique

tim-wiese-bodybuilderFour years ago, Tim Wiese was a member of Germany’s 2010 World Cup squad, which finished third place. Fast-forward to now and Wiese has a better shot at becoming the next Mr. Olympia than he does of ever playing for the German national team again.

The 32-year-old recently became something of a punchline in the soccer community after getting involved a little too deeply in bodybuilding. Most fans wouldn’t even recognize the former Hoffenheim goalie these days because he’s packed on so much muscle. And while many would say that he has a fantastic physique, it’s far from the slim, athletic build that most top-level goalies have.

Wiese once joked during the transformation that he’d “soon be so wide the ball cannot go past.” Well he’s definitely come close to this goal, but it doesn’t look to land him a professional soccer contract any time soon. In fact, Wiese’s muscular explosion was the final straw for Hoffenheim as they released the veteran goalkeeper this year.

Why did Wiese bulk up so Much?

Anybody who’s really into Bundesliga betting may remember how TSG 1899 Hoffenheim was expected to be one of the league’s more competitive teams in the 2012-2013 season. However, they finished with an 8-19-7 record (W-L-D) and 31 points, which placed them 16th out of 18 teams in the Bundesliga standings.

Besides their actual record, one of the biggest disappointments from the 2012-13 season was Wiese’s only year with the club. After a successful career at Werder Bremen, he was supposed to be an important cog for Hoffenhiem. But he started off badly giving up 15 goals in his first four starts, and finished the season with 25 goals allowed in 10 matches played.

tim-wiese-1“When I came to Hoffenheim, we thought we could challenge for European places – then everything backfired,” Wiese explained. “And every time we lost, it seemed it was my fault; I was being analyzed and criticized, not the team. It was all about me.

“Despite my experience and confidence, I had never faced this before. It culminated in a fan protest at the club’s office – a fan protest, just against me! There were only a few of these fans, but this made me feel deeply unwanted, and I would never wish this on another player. It was like being in a horror movie. The pressure was inhuman. I could not play freely.”

Eventually, Wiese turned to bodybuilding as a way to deal with the pressures facing him. Soon he was hitting the weights far more than he was the pitch. “I had to get all the Hoffenheim problems out of my head, and so I dealt with it this way,” he said. “I tried to break down all the negatives – I don’t want to join a bodybuilding championship, I was just enjoying myself, having fun.”

Hindsight is 20/20

One has to wonder if Wiese’s career might have gone differently if he’d accepted an offer from Real Madrid to be Iker Casillas’ backup. In the end, Wiese chose a guaranteed starting job with Hoffenhiem because he felt it would improve his chances at the international level.

“Hindsight is easier than foresight,” he said. “There was no way past Casillas at the time.” Interestingly enough, Wiese might have become Real Madrid’s starter because Casillas struggled and quickly fell to number two on the depth chart.

Another route that the 32-year-old could have taken included staying at Bremen, where he spent the best years of his career. And he certainly isn’t blaming anyone else for his decision to leave. “No, it’s my fault, no-one else’s. I’m professional enough to have clarified this with myself,” he admitted. “I have to deal with the fact that I haven’t played for one and a half years.”

Now the big question is if we’ll ever see Wiese on the pitch again. Assuming he’s motivated, the former star goalie will have to shed some of his muscle before he gets another look in the soccer world.