Soccer in LA and in the US is a very funny proposition all together. The best thing about it is that it is probably the most international and democratic pursuit you can do in the US. In LA, we play against clubs of immigrants from all over the world. Latino teams – mostly Mexican and Salvadoran, but also Colombian, Chilean, Honduran, Guatemalan, Costa Rican , Argentinian. Armenian teams, Persian teams, African teams, Bajan Teams, English Teams, Irish teams. My team is like the UN. It’s made up of Italians, Americans, Englishmen, Germans, Mexicans, Chileans, A Nigerian, a French/Indian guy, and Israeli etc. You’ll also see Westside white boys arriving to a field in El Sereno in their BMWs to play a Salvador team of guys changing out of garage and janitor uniforms. Now in LA, the international stuff also gets mixed up with Star Sightings.
The first time I went to play in the new league back when I first arrived in LA, I was sitting in the stands watching the game before ours finish up. There was some guy with spiky frosted hair playing and I jokingly turned to my friend and said who’s the jerk o** who thinks he’s Rod Stewart? Well he said. “that would be Rod Stewart.” We played against him a few years ago and for a 50 year old guy I gotta give him credit. I played against him a few times and kept kicking him in the legs and singing, “hot legs!”
So, a few years ago. I was playing a game against Hollywood United, an English team, not exactly known for being a class act. They bring in celebrity players and the odd ex-World Cup winner* occasionally. Anyway. I was having a pretty good game, and had scored a goal. From the side line I started hearing a cockney accent shouting, “nail that number 6. Get stuck in to that number 6” (Number 6 is me.) There’s a free kick and just after I run to receive a pass. The next thing I know, I get whacked brutally from behind. Even without seeing the guy come at me I could tell that it was a cheap foul without even pretending to go for the ball. I go flying and get up pissed off to find…Vinnie Jones and the ref showing him the Red Card. He had been on for all of 60 seconds!
In case you don’t know him, Vinnie Jones was a professional football player for Wimbeldon in England. He was banned by the English FA for constant violent play and that violent streak has served him well in a burgeoning movie career. You may have seen Vinnie as a tough East London killer and criminal in hit movies Snatch, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Gone in 60 Seconds among others.
Vinnie’s most famous appearance however, for the Football Fans out there is the famous picture of him Grabbing a handful of Paul Gascoine’s baby makers. And fat Paul wincing in pain.
About par for the course for Vinnie. Jones holds the record for the fastest-ever booking – three seconds, in a clash between Chelsea and Sheffield United in 1992. He was fined £20,000 for making the video Soccer’s Hard Men, in which he demonstrated a series of techniques on how to commit fouls and get away with them. One of the most astonishing performances is when totally unfancied Wimbledon, nicknamed “The Crazy Gang,” went on to beat the great Liverpool team in the FA Cup Final in no small part because of Jones’ intimidation. At the first kick off, Vinnie Jones ran straight to John Barnes and kicked the shit out of him. That really set the tone and Wimbledon went on the win 1 – 0, Anyway, so after the game, I went over to shake Vinnie’s hand. “At least you didn’t grab me in the nuts,” I said.
Not long after the game, an article appeared on the BBC Website about what old Vinnie was up to. At the bottom of the article, they refer to me and my pal Vinnie. Strangely enough, two days after the game, I ran into Vinnie at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. I told him…”Jesus, man, are you following me?” He just chuckled.
THE BBC ARTICLE ABOUT ME AND VINNIE
READ THE BOTTOM. THEY’RE REFERRING TO ME AND MY PAL VINNIE
GONE IN SIXTY SECONDS
Sunday, 22 August, 2004,
Colchester defender Stephen Hunt won’t forget his debut in a hurry.The teenager lasted just 59 seconds before being sent off against Chesterfield. Hunt, on as a 65th minute substitute, got his marching orders for chopping down two-goal striker Tcham N’Toya. But it wasn’t the quickest sending off of all time. Oh no, not by a long chalk. That dubious honour belongs to Walter Boyd, who officially lasted for zero seconds flat when he played for Swansea against Darlington in 1997. The Jamaican star came on as a substitute seven minutes from time after Swansea had been awarded a free kick. But before his team had a chance to take it, Boyd elbowed Martin Gray and was promptly given his marching orders. Referee Clive Wilkes had not restarted his watch so, in effect, Boyd was never really there. Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Kevin Pressman only managed to stay on the field for 13 seconds after handling outside his area against Wolves in 2000, while Italian defender Guiseppe Lorenzo lasted three seconds less playing for Bologna against Parma in 1990.
And what of our old favourite Vinnie Jones? The hardman was sent off a dozen times during his fiery career but his record for rapidity came after he had packed his bags for Tinseltown. Jones came on as a sub for celebrity team Hollywood United and 15 seconds later was heading for an early bath after almost cutting an opponent (G: That’s me) in half.
As he ran off the pitch he turned to the crowd and shouted: “It’s just like the old days!”
* I actually nutmegged former World Cup Winner, Frank LeBoeuf