Too cold for ducks

As a sideswipe at the phoniness of fame and fortune, The Catcher in the Rye is so persuasive that its author, J. D. Salinger, hasn’t left the house since writing it in 1951, and Mark David Chapman shot John Lennon dead on its perceived say-so 30 years later.

But just because you enjoy the infectious cynicism of protagonist Holden Caulfield, doesn’t mean that you, too, will end up trembling in a Manhattan side street clutching an autograph book and a concealed weapon. No, you can cheerily share his concerns, such as where do Central Park’s ducks go during winter, without giving a damn about what happens to the rest of New York city’s wildlife. But I’ll tell you anyway.

The Red Bulls are on a pre-season team-building break with their Salzburg equivalent, where they probably spend their days rehearsing some crumby rap or other about what fun it is to work for an energy drink, and, with bladders brimming with the stuff, their evenings locked in lousy dormitories crying themselves to half an hour’s sleep on saturated mattresses.

rbny008Only joking. They’re just familiarising themselves with the surroundings, for not only do Red Bulls New York and Salzburg share a badge and colours, they will, from 2009, share grounds. Despite lying in different continents, you’ll be forgiven for thinking that their ersatz homes – Red Bull Park and the Bullen Arena – are one and the same; on television at least, which, for a global brand, is all that really matters. I mean, look at New York training in Salzburg (above) – or is it the other way round?

While David Beckham prepares once more to flog Major League Soccer to prime-time TV audiences, the league’s salary cap bypass for individuals of merit – the ‘Beckham exception’ – is snaring little else of note. Well, unless you count Juan Pablo Angel, that is. And that Mexican bloke that kept jumping the ball past awestruck defenders three World Cups ago.

It’s true that the face of MLS is being transformed, but it’s largely thanks to the league’s relaxed approach to sponsorship. Introduced to welcome a pair of charging bulls to New York’s jerseys, it will enable half the clubs to kick off this season advertising the usual shit, leaving the rest with a few phone calls to make. In a sportscape where the club is king, branded shirts are most un-American to the fan’s eye. Unless, of course, they’re unfortunate enough to support a club that is the sponsor, and vice versa.

Anyway, there’s a corner of the world where such lily-livers are frowned upon, where Coca-Cola is mixed with red wine because it alone doesn’t get you pissed, and not even an alpine winter stands in the way of what really matters.

svas058svas059Indoor football bridges the gap between autumn and spring in Austria, and it was Austria Salzburg’s pleasure to accept an invitation to get right in the faces of some of Bundesliga’s professional billboards on live TV at Salzburg Arena’s Hallencup.

Okay, so the side which heads the sixth division lost all their matches on the squeaky stuff, but that’s hardly the point. 1,500 violetten raised the roof for tussles with the likes of Cashpoint Altach and Josko Reid (boldly representing the worlds of betting and double glazing, respectively) while only a few hundred witnessed Altach’s loss to Linz in the final. ‘Goosebumps,’ proclaimed the press of Austria Salzburg’s good, old-fashioned ultraism, ‘enthusiasm one would wish for at every football ground.’

In the tournament’s afterglow, the overseer of Austria Salzburg’s re-emergence, Moritz Grobovschek, stepped down and a swift ballot ushered in Gernot Blaikner. A local businessman who worked with the club shortly before Red Bull’s takeover, it is hoped that their admirable principles retain their lustre and that, just like the ducks in Central Park, they eventually prove that some absences are only temporary.

Austria Salzburg’s brand new English language official site is here.

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