FIFA vs PES – a long history on everything. Okay, on gaming.

Ah, it’s that time of the year. What will you spend your pocket money/spare cash/textbook fee on? EA’s FIFA 13 or Konami’s PES 13? It’s no-brainer for Americans (the former) and Indonesians (the latter). For the rest of us, it’s no longer the question that the former is actually having some evolution while Pro Evolution Soccer is still yet stuck in 2005 – yet Indonesians (and probably Japanese) will keep telling you that “PES/Winning Eleven is about strategy and build-up. FIFA is just pass and shoot”. Or is it about the customization? Third world gaming market is full of hacked (um, patched) PES featuring local leagues (Indonesian, Malaysian, Tunisian, even Chinese perhaps with deliberate crest and shirts designs) and national teams. Those brewers are also offering ‘corrected’ team names (Merseyside Reds have become something of an affection for Liverpool fans) and updated transfers for a price cheaper than chips.

This is an easy one for PC version.

Like my old lecturers were 1970s Marxists who turned conservatives after the 80s and then turned into socialists or whatever moderate left after 9/11, I was also a FIFA man, then a PES guy, and now FIFA follower again. Of course, being a flip flop has its own history.

Electronic Arts was the American pioneer of soccer/football games. Yea, there might be Microsoft Soccer or whatever you remembered in the 80s, if you happen to be a North American. My parents thought that 8-bit console was a waste of money, while with PC, of course, you can use it for school and study. Yay. So I played Italy 90 by US Gold, which was actually a British software. Yeah. It featured real roster for World Cup Italy 90. At this time my favorite team was United States. Meola. Des Armstrong. John Harkes. Tab Ramos. Hmm…Eric Wynalda?


It’s easy to win the game. Counter slide tackle if a defender gets you, as the foul system is fickle (just like in real life). Approach the goal diagonally, hold space bar and release. You’ll score again and again. But it does not work with crap team like South Korea (I tried). Of course, that time I wouldn’t know about the official game for Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, which people say as weird since it has teams like Poland, Peru, and of course Japan.

Then Dad bought me Super Nintendo with FIFA International Soccer as the marquee. My first match, was, I still cannot believe it, Japan v Nigeria. Nigeria was the WEAKEST team in the game. I won 7-5. Played it on 29 inch tv in 16-bit glory was orgasmic, especially since I just knew the concept. The players were fictitious, some of the best stats were owned by players sporting the names of Extended Play Productions (now EA Canada) staff, a tradition that goes on to FIFA 97.  The next year, my first English conversation with a native speaker was with a Gold Coast, Queensland, game shop staff on why didn’t EA make FIFA 95 for Super Nintendo.

Then, FIFA 96 for PC, still regarded as a classic. Featuring Malaysian League (I played Singapore because it’s my favorite holiday spot). Then the blocky and lifeless FIFA 97, when it’s easier to score with pass button when you’re facing the keeper as he’ll catch your shot. By this time Konami has released Winning Eleven, and the illegal copy of the Japanese/Asian version was widely available (we never, ever, have original PlayStation & PS2 discs here). So other guys in school played it since it’s Japanese and they liked Japanese stuff while I was into American stuff.

FIFA 98 had a good market here, because you can play Indonesia. Kurniawan Dwi Yulianto. Widodo C. Putro. Rocky Putiray. And on easy setting, you can make Indonesia to be the world champions. Being an obsessive compulsive at this point, I made the universal Road to France campaign, playing EVERY TEAM. Of course I couldn’t finish it. Still, Japan and South Korea ruled the competition. Maezono and Miura. Kim Byung-ji and Noh Jung-yoon. I didn’t care about your WE2. Don’t care about Jon Kabira screaming “Shuuto! and “Churuugoh!” That crap didn’t have Manchester United.

Then of course I bought World Cup 98, with the darndest AI that really wanted to fuck you up. You had to play dirty. Tackle, slide, shoot shoot from outside the goal. A game that can make you screaming “In your face, Iranian **********!” (yeah, I am deliberate with the example). O yeah, that’s the PS version. I played the PC version few years back and it wasn’t that hard. But strangely, I found Winning Eleven 3 Final Version in my vault. This is the ‘World Cup’ edition, featuring the official roster for France 98, while the licensed World Cup 98 naturally used the rosters of pre-June 1998, with EA’s own stats. So Japan’s deadliest forwards were Maezono and Okano instead of Miura and Lopes (hehe, Jo. Yeah, he’s really great in the game as well). Finally I finalized WE3 Final in college, where Japan was the Third Place, defeating Norway 2-0 (was that possible? Pedants alert).

FIFA 99. Check it out now. No, Winning Eleven doesn’t have that shit. Fatboy Slim and Crystal Method. It doesn’t have Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Juventus. Then FIFA 2000. No, I don’t care that some kids in Britain liked International Soccer Superstar much better than 2000. Coz 2000 has Major League Soccer. And Reel Big Fish’s
“Sell Out”. Gameplay wise, they were such frantic button mashers.

Then I went to Australia and bought FIFA 2001, now with K-League and the easiness of performing bicycle kicks. The next year, FIFA 2002. Played Indonesia again in road to Korea/Japan, with the tunes of Ministry of Sound. I made a multicultural Indonesian team (being in college, in Australia, with now Chinese New Year and anything Chinese legal in Indonesia) composed of several Chinese players and they went to Korea/Japan after a dramatic 3-2 ET victory over Portugal.

But the next year, with the Asian World Cup itself in place, I went after everything Japanese and shunned the American crap. Maybe it’s W. Maybe it’s Utada Hikaru on the cover of Time. Maybe it’s Chemistry at the opening of World Cup 2002 with “Let’s Get Together Now”. Maybe, maybe it’s FIFA 2003 that does not feature Japan – although it has a.mia (I still don’t know who she is). So it’s Pro Evolution Soccer 2, with again, official roster of World Cup 2002. Yes, you cannot choose a side when two player-controlled teams meet each other, but it’s much better than the dramatic World Cup 2002 where you can only control one team and has minimalist user interface, compared to the website outlook of FIFA 2002.

I enjoyed FIFA 2003 as Seol Ki-hyeon had a good season in Manchester United as the second striker behind Ruud van Nistelrooy, and Lee Young-pyo was an able holding midfielder in Barcelona. But FIFA 2004 felt too distant for me, while at the same time club league is still not an item with PES 3/Winning Eleven 7 International.

That changed in 2004. Pro Evolution Soccer 4 has Japan, leagues, and Adidas Roteiro. Screw the EPL, let’s play PSV Eindhoven! And Kubo in Bayern Munich! Next year, I ignored the lauded FIFA 06 and went for Henry v Terry in Pro Evolution Soccer 5. Let’s recreate FIFA Confederations Cup 2005! Actually I was surprised by the minimalist opening video, compared to the dramatic, anime-esque openings of PES 4 & 3.

Then, World Cup 2006. I bought World Cup 2006 – disappointed that Asia only had final group stage so Japan only faced North Korea, Iran, and Bahrain, not India and Singapore. Went through the final tournament with random teams, and Seiichiro Maki became the hero as he scored the tournament-winning goal against Holland. That’s all. Before leaving Australia, I bought the Australian edition of PES 6 with John Aloisi on the cover, mercifully celebrating his goal against Uruguay in 2005 rather than against Japan in 2006, and I played the proper Germany 06 tournament.

Still, I didn’t keep in touch with FIFA. Because with Winning Eleven 2008 I could play the 2007 AFC Asian Cup. But Jesus the presentation has become unbearably sucks. And it’s depressing that J. League is never featured outside the Japanese market, while one can play K-League and A-League with any edition of FIFA.

Then after swearing off football games for the next year, I bought FIFA 10 with PlayStation 3. Because the hacking off of PES in PS2 really put me off. It doesn’t feel Japanese anymore. It’s so…third world. I was back in groove with Shunsuke Nakamura replacing Cristiano Ronaldo as Manchester United’s right midfielder, in rivalry with Bayern Munich’s sub Park Ji-sung. And yeah, there’s K-League, A-League, and MLS.

I really craved for WE 10: Samurai Blue. But then EA gave me a better thing – World Cup 2010, with all the teams, all the players. Republic of Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Canada. All the players – Choi Tae-uk, Shinji Kagawa, Chan Siu Ki, Brian Ching, and Issey Nakajima-Farran. And in the final tournament, there’s the fans – Japanese and Korean girls showing their midriffs, although as not that hot as the legendary Korean chick.

You know, this one

Then FIFA 11 with customizable soundtrack. Goodbye weird Euro electronica and Aussie indie-hip hop collaboration, hello 2NE1 and Tokyo Jihen! Yep, I loaded FIFA 11 with “Try to Follow Me” and Kaela Kimura’s “Ring a Ding Dong”.

Then for the first time since…2003? I bought the two games. FIFA 12 and Pro Evolution Soccer 12. Because with the latter, I could play 2011 AFC Asian Cup. And I was lucky to get the one with Japanese commentary by Jon Kabira and Hiroshi Nanami. Still, strangely I could not play when two of my controlled teams meet each other, like in PES 4. No such problem with FIFA 12 (the theme song, as you can guess, is 2NE1’s “I am the Best”).

FIFA 13 is said as FIFA 12 with terrible Nike & Umbro jerseys (Lotto is never good in the first place) and slightly improved Kagawa. That’s all. On the other hand, PES 13 looks like zombie and is another testimony of the decline of Japanese gaming industry – and of Japan in general (except football). And no J. League outside Japanese edition, while FIFA now includes Saudi Pro League (yay, Yoo Byung-soo!). Really Konami, why with all this stupidity? In this age of Gangnam Style, can Japanese business still making excuse “We don’t think it will sell well in the overseas market?”

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Are you watching continental cups?

One plays for Socceroos and the other plays for Suc…aw I cannot say it.

No.

Okay, I watched them. Arema (IPL faction, not the ISL faction. It’s a long story) versus Al Ettifaq. The lights in the Indonesian stadium got busted in the second half for about 10 minutes. At restart, Ettifaq scored two. Then the lights in my house got out for about 30 minutes. Thank God for modern gadgets and their LEDs.

Then Adelaide – Bunyodkor. I watched it. Ulsan – Al Hilal. I watched it. Damn, Al Ittihad – Guangzhou Evergrande. I watched it to the point I was too tired to see Manchester United – Galatasaray. Great assist Shinji, good night.

Of course, the continental cups in Asia have had their appeals even degraded. It’s never exciting in the first place. I want to see it to be exciting. But the lifeline of international football in Southeast Asia, ESPN and Star Sports, blessed them for still broadcasting Champions League and continental tournaments, show very budget and plastic presentation of the ACL. No studio preview, no half time analysis, no post match review. Because they are right, not many people in the region are like me. At least in local TVs, which show Indonesian teams playing in the AFC Cup, there’s that package of preview – half time – post match. Yes, it’s unfair – we always make fun of our pundits and reach for the mute button, but admit it, their suits or polo shirts and bar make us feeling not lonely and ridiculous.

Of course it’s also lonely at the stadium. At least the Hindmarsh Stadium or Ulsan Munsu Stadium isn’t as deserted as a typical S-League or Hong Kong First Division match, but it’s empty. The Ultras – Australians and Koreans they are, flock in in their hundreds – fat Irish or Greeks with their beer and meat pie, and skinny or flabby bespectacled Koreans with their chicken wings and glass noodle. Boy are their teams gonna be deafened by roars of dozen of thousands Saudi men when they set feet on Riyadh or Jeddah.

And finally, the teams. The fallout of K-League corruption scandal might explain why only Ulsan survived Round of 16, er, the group stage. Actually I was bit confused when Seongnam lost to Bunyodkor. A club belongs to a cult worse than Scientology or a club belongs to a kleptomaniac princess? Hmm…okay, I got sad Seongnam lost. And remember that I got peppy that J. League clubs were all in (except Gamba, but why should I remember that)? All were destroyed.

But again, look at the bright side. It’s indie. You get Adelaide, which got in through play-off, which were so bad in the last season’s A-League, but they are here. Is there a better time for Australia to win the ACL? Guangzhou – would they show that surge of big money will also work in Asia like it had worked in England, and might be brewing in Russia and Europe?
Can Ulsan continue the tradition of K-League to become the best in Asia? And from the west, you get the old guards – Al Hilal, Sepahan, and Al Ittihad.

Oh look, Adelaide scored! And again! Hooray. Go Australia! Oh look, they conceded a goal. And another one! At home! Without David Carney playing in the op-for! Can van Dijk leave for Indonesia now? And hoping he’ll eventually get the cap for the Garudas? Because Cristian Gonzalez said he’s frustrated now. Hey look, Indonesia just cancelled friendly match with Vietnam, saying they’re looking for an easier opponent for the sake of morale. Like Brunei.*cough* DPMM FC *cough*

The universe is bit easy on me for this week (kinda) since there’s a parallel between results of this week’s UEFA Champions League and the AFC Champions League. Al Ittihad v Guangzhou – Real Madrid v Manchester City. The new flashy pretender is put down by the old timer despite shocking leads. Ulsan v Al Hilal – Manchester United v Galatasaray. 1-0 at home despite playing badly against a superior opponent, thanks to luck and a good goalkeeping. Well there’s two differences – Al Hilal is more like MU or Milan, and Wesley was luckily was so vain. But Lee Keun-ho was also disappointing, despite his role in Rafinha’s goal.

And of course, Adelaide v Bunyodkor is akin to Chelsea v Juventus – hometown joy quickly goes off. The lifeline’s still there for Adelaide – they are not in crisis like Guangzhou do.

As for the AFC Cup – so much for Southeast Asian football.  Come back next week for more pain.

 

ACL QF results (first leg): Al Ittihad (Saudi) – Guangzhou Evergrande (China) 4-2, Sepahan (Iran) – Al Ahli (Saudi) 0-0, Adelaide United (Australia) – Bunyodkor (Uzbekistan) 2-2, Ulsan Hyundai (Korea) – Al Hilal (Saudi) 1-0.

AFC Cup QF results (first leg): Al Kuwait – Al Wehdat (Jordan) 0-0, Arema (Indonesia) – Al Ettifaq (Saudi) 0-2, Arbil (Iraq) – Kelantan (Malaysia) 5-1, Chonburi (Thailand) – Al Shorta (Syria) 1-2.

It’s a Hard Knock Life

“Are you an angel?”
“Si senor. I’m here to take you back to Spain.”
“NOOOOOO…..”
“The recession isn’t that bad, senor.”
“No, Liu Jianye’s screwing up again…”

It’s a hard knock life to be a manager. To be a national team manager. Be the field marshal of your nation’s pride, or be the darling of a foreign country, a ‘white witch doctor’, perhaps? Certainly Guus Hiddink had it in Korea and Australia.

But it’s never never fun to become the man responsible for international matches. That’s why men prefer to manage clubs – more ruthless, more money-driven, and every week could be your last week at the job, but you don’t have to blame someone else the morning the national papers are looking for the culprit. When an oversexed narcissist says he hates you after he’s late for the training again, you can just sell him and shrug that he’s past his prime anyway. At least the press tend to blame the players for ‘lack of spirit’ rather than accusing you as a tactical idiot. Leave that to tweeters.

First thing first, life’s pretty hard for Jose Camacho. Look, for millenniums (millennia, dear spell checker) the Chinese have assured themselves that it’s a jungle out there, north of Mongolia and south of Vietnam and east of the coast. Chinese who left the Middle Kingdom were seen as lost souls who had left civilization.

So, when in a day in 2012, China ventured to the wilderness of Brazil’s northeast region, far from Sao Paulo or Rio, rather than arranging a match in say Dubai or Switzerland, just when Japan thinks its wiser to invite random Latin American or Southern European teams to Japan under the guise of ‘Kirin Challenge Cup’; China said “Look Mom, I’m a grown man and I’m willing to travel to Brazil rather than paying Hulk and Neymar to come here to say hello to Didier and Nic.” Good God what did they think. They might as well burn a wooden dragon and call it The Ashes of Chinese football. Recife, 10 September 2012.

Here’s parting shot on China – they can export anything but not footballers. Haw haw.

Move on. It’s a hard life for Alex Ferguson, seeing his goods damaged by national federations – Jones, Kagawa, and van Persie. But after Tuesday night, all Japanese fans could sleep soundly and it’s safe again for me to wear Germany 2006 shirt on Wednesday. Mahmoud could  have scored had not for referee intervention, seeing him toying with Kawashima? Sure. Honda was yeah good but he should have scored? Of course. Iraq were the better team even with rookie starters? What can you say.

But it’s Japan 1 Iraq 0. It’s ten points from three victories. That’s three or four more wins before it’s Samba 14. In the night where it’s Serbia 6 Wales 1, Peru 1 Argentina 1, and England 1 Ukraine 1. Closer to Saitama, it’s  Uzbekistan 2 Korea 2, and Ki Sung Yueng scored an own goal and Lee Dong Gook had his effort cancelled just after the kick off. More importantly, it’s Lebanon 1 Iran 0. And here it comes – Jordan 2 Australia 1. With Schwarzer on the goal and Cahill and Bresciano on the case.

So, who’s got blamed? Not the coaches for now. Australians are complaining about ‘Dad’s Army’ and Osieck says that some will be fired. Oh sure. But can Langerak replace Schwarzer? Will Jones play for Liverpool in the league, not the League Cup? Where does sideback David Carney live? Tashkent, Uzbekistan. What about Spiranovic? His address is in Doha. Great for executives but not for a footballer. What about Matt McKay? Busan, Republic of Korea. Hmm…what about the heir to Kewell or Viduka? Oh, you mean Robbie Kruse? At least he’s playing for his country, unlike his teammate Cha Du-ri.

No one would think of this ten years ago – Anglo-Irish Australians don’t play in the EPL* and the Italians don’t play in Serie A. Now Japanese youth are learning German (I hope they do…but I don’t hold my breath) while their seniors are living uncomfortably in small cities like Manchester or Stuttgart, which are not as glittering as Tokyo (I hope you are happy now, Sota Hirayama). Compare their fates with the young Australians who enjoy good life in Busan, Doha, and Abu Dhabi. And of course Melbourne, the greatest city in the world.

*Except Brett Holman and um, Brad Jones.

At least now Aussie press are in panic mode. Which is good. Because we just had an Olympics football without ‘roos and Mathildas. There’s a risk, some say, that Australians will see a World Cup without Australia. Nonsense. Even if Iraq manage to become the runner up of the group, and thus fulfilling George Bush’s vision of an achieving Middle Eastern state, Australia will meet Uruguay in the Intercontinental Playoff after bested future tournament hosts Qatar. If you want to bedevil someone, let him be Luis Suarez.

PS: Apparently Sven-Goran Eriksson has read “100 Bullshit Jobs and How to Get Them”. Technical Director. That’s a bullshit job. So does “Global Advisor”, but the latter is located north of Manchester, while the former is located in Bangkok. It’s a good life and he will not take the blame when BEC Tero Sasana still don’t compete in ACL 13.