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Thursday, 23 May 2013

Dimitar Berbatov: Touch of Genius as The Stranger


Any excuse to trot this one out: photo by Ben Melvin/Rex Features (via The Guardian, 20 August 2012)

Dimitar Berbatov grew up on the mean streets of the the bleak Bulgarian mining town of Blagoevgrad, where he developed his unique footballing skills by kicking about an old dusty basketball as there was no proper football to play with. He learnt English from watching the Godfather trilogy. Part III in particular left an indelible imprint. Berbatov began to tailor his appearance after the model of Andy Garcia as the young Don Corleone. “Lots of people tell me that I look like him," Berbatov later said. "He has actually influenced my choice of hairstyle and I have even studied the way he smokes so I can hold my cigarette in the same way.”

Berbatov's boyhood street kickabouts came after he had queued for bread for up to eight hours at a time. “We would get in line at six in the morning and, if you lost your place, you had to go to the back. I don’t know many footballers who will have experienced what it was like being a child in a Communist country.”  Once word of his unusual footballing skills began to get about, and he was reported to be in training with CSKA Sofia, there came other problems for the lad. He was kidnapped by Bulgarian Mafia boss Georgi Iliev. The gangster wanted young Dimitar for his own club, Levski Kjustendil. Berbatov's father, Ivan, himself a professional footballer, had to make a deal to secure the boy's release. Berbatov later remained reluctant to talk of the details of the traumatic episode. “It was a horrific ordeal but a long time ago now.” 

In 2009, when playing in the English Premier League, he received warnings from his mother of another kidnapping plot brewing, this time involving his wife and daughter. Cloak and dagger negotiations again ensued. It was understood that, again, a deal had been struck, and Berbatov's family was spared. 

  Marlon Brando - Fulham striker Dimitar Berbatov sketches some of his favourite celebrities

Dimitar Berbatov with his sketch of The Godfather: photographer unknown, via The Telegraph, 23 May 2013

Dimitar Berbatov does not play football. He has not played football for four years. He has no interest in it. He is above it. Instead, he has wandered the streets of Manchester, just being Dimitar. It is more than enough. Existence is enough. Dimitar is enough. Sometimes he goes to a cafe and has a coffee. Sometimes he has a coffee and a cigarette. Sometimes he has a coffee and a cigarette and a think. Shall I have another cigarette after this cigarette, he wonders. Maybe, maybe. Should I ask the waitress to top up my coffee? Perhaps –- but what is coffee? And why is waitress? There are no answers. There are no questions. So no coffee for Dimitar. Existence is enough. He lights another cigarette. Hmm, mouth's a bit dry with all this smoking, he notes. I could do with something to wash this fag down.

Dimitar is a performance artist. He is a serious man. He makes Eric Cantona look like Michael McIntyre. A couple of times during his stay in Manchester he has staged situationist happenings. On one occasion, he sauntered down a length of turf at the Old Trafford stadium and nonchalantly kicked a ball into a net against Blackeye Rovers. Another time, he hovered above the turf and guided a ball into a net against Liverpool. You would know these artistic stunts as "goals". Dimitar is aware they are known as "goals", too, but he also knows they are not goals. They are his interpretations of goals, via the medium of goals. Football fans may consider them goals if they wish, but they are pigs. To Dimitar, these goals, which are not goals, are studies of time, space, energy, humanity. They are his philosophic digressions, poems, novels. Full time score: Blackeye Rovers nil, Ekphrasis one.

-- from How Dimitar learned to stop worrying and love the simple life: Scott Murray, The Guardian, 30 August 2012

Berbatov Goal

Dimitar Berbatov demonstrating his legendary touch: photographer unknown (via CaughtOffside, 21 May 2013)

Dimitar Berbatov in the Global Vernacular

The Continental (2009)

What Bulgarian and Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov is lovingly referred to as by some Man United fans.

That was a great volley by The Continental.

Berbalishous  (2010)

Used when football player Dimitar Berbatov does something extremely talented or extraordinary.
A berbalishous touch from the United striker.

Berbathlicism (2010)

(Noun) The belief in Dimitar Berbatov. A new religion centred around the Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov, a player who plays the beautiful game like no other; art, touch, grace, and a dash of improvisational flair combined to make a player of unrivaled skill.

Non-believers (antiberbathlicists) will argue that he is lazy due to his languid, laidback style; believers will tell you that this is simply his style and his touch, vision and ability to produce pieces of magic that others can only dream of set him apart from any other footballer.

Dimitar Berbatov has declared himself a loner, a perfectionist and an art lover. He is truly an enigma, a genius, a god walking amongst mere mortals and so a religion has been created in his honour.

Ignorant Fan: "Berbatov is such a lazy player!"
Knowledgeable fan: "You ignorant fool! His first touch is sublime, he is tactically aware and scores unbelievable goals, I'm even a member of Berbathlicism because the man's pure genius."

Mitko (2011)

Mitko is one of the most common Bulgarian male names. Everybody named Dimitar in Bulgaria can be called Mitko.

It comes from the Greek goddess Demeter -- Goddess of the Earth, Agriculture, Harvest, and Forests.
I saw Mitko coming at the party.
Mitak, come and play with us!

Mitko's are really cool and handsome, helpful guys around the world.

Yo Katie, that Mitko guy is fukken hot.

Bulgarian Delight (2011)

1) The act of proceeding to ejaculate on tiramisu, after eating a slice of Bulgarian feta cheese.
2) The feeling of delight and happiness you get when Manchester United player Dimitar Berbatov, does the things he's paid for. (I.e. scoring a goal, anything.)

(For definition 1)
Girl 1: My boyfriend gave me a cake for my birthday!
Girl 2: Oh really? What kind?
Girl 1: A Bulgarian delight!

(For definition 2)
Guy: I had Bulgarian delight, when Berbatov actually did something during the match yesterday.

Bulgarian (2011)

Adjective meaning lazy, blasé or casual to the extreme but in a classy or stylish way. Often used to describe someone so talented in a certain discipline that they don't take said discipline seriously -- it is often obvious that they find it easy -- or any action or said person. Named for the Bulgarian footballer Dimitar Berbatov.

John: Man Josh is so good at tennis.
Jack: Yeah, he's totally Bulgarian.


James: Man that pass was Bulgarian.

Berbatovian (2011)

(Adjective) Used to describe someone's performance at a task. Denotes displaying extreme laziness and antipathy towards a task despite displaying obvious skill, flair and talent for it.

Usually provokes annoyance among others.

In honour of Dimitar Berbatov's performances for Manchester United.
"He's such an annoying Berbatovian cock. He never even tries and he gets more birds than I could dream of."

(Via Urban Dictionary)

Dimitar Berbatov

Dimitar Berbatov: photo by Ben Melvin/Rex Features (via The Sun, 3 April 2010))
"I am a relaxed guy. I play that way and I can’t change my style. I watch games and see guys who panic on the ball -– they look so nervous. I can be calm, because I sometimes know what I want to do before the ball comes to me."

-- Dimitar Berbatov, characterizing his style of play, 2009

Touch is a crucial means of receiving information.  Tactile markings at the top and bottom of a flight of stairs, to improve recognition and accessibility for the visually impaired, University of Sydney, Australia: photo by laRuth, 29 September 2006

(Has Dimitar Berbatov been here?)


TC said...

Berbatov moment of sublimity v. West Ham, 2011 ("Look at this -- it looks impossible!... oh brilliant!!)

Dimitar Berbatov -- Touch of Genius

Dimitar Berbatov -- it's a beautiful game

Hitler questions why Sir Alex sent Berbatov packing to Fulham

BDR said...

For a few years, Dirty Soccer ran a running gag: Dimitar Berbatov Is....The Continental. Here's one: As The Continental says, ha-HA!


"Existence is enough." That's what I've been saying for a while now. The publisher asks for more work and there are no more poems because existence is enough. (Except here in your comments section, that's the only place a poem wants to exist.)

Wooden Boy said...

The West Ham match: I'm no football fan but that's a wholly alive mind at work - everything else is just the drift about him. He chooses the time.

Marie W said...

Sometimes he has a coffee and a cigarette and a think. Should I have another cigarette :-) What a collection of people at Manchester United over the years.
Funny highjack of the Downfall (a great movie by the way). I've also seen one with the same scene where Hitler gets his science paper rejected and they discuss the reviewers' comments. Very funny.

manik sharma said...

What great insight into this genius..I was not aware he came from such a background...He was overlooked at manchester(Dropped from the squad even after he had scored 5 goals in a game the previous week)...Purely because he played in a calm composed manner often taken as lack of commitment and energy in play..He probably is one amongst the few players around who love keeping the ball..Now at Fulham, he is head and shoulders above his teammates..Unfortunately it shows...There have been games even against the bigger clubs where the opponent players have waited for him to release the ball and attack the other player..They trust him to be too good...A genius undoubtedly...His touch and grace is comparable to none..perhaps the ballerina jumping at 6 am at the beach brushing the water with her feet,not to dance,not what goals are...he could be an artist..if not with flair...atleast with ease...

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Great post! Unfortunately, after having read all of it plus the comments, I went back to look at the videos of this genius playing football and just when I was getting ready to download Hitler questioning why Sir Alex sent Berbatov packing to Fulham, I got this totalitarian message:

“This video contains content from International E-sports Group and Constantin Film, one or more of whom have blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.
Sorry about that.”

Sorry about that, my ass—someone should make these guys an offer they can’t refuse.

TC said...

Many thanks Jeff, Vincent, WB, Marie and Manik, henceforth to be designated here as The Cognoscenti.

Berbatov's habit of becoming invisible and fading into the woodwork at those at times when he's not called upon to be actually doing something, his contempt for simply running about and pretending to be "committed" when no particular end is to be served by such displays (apart, that is, from convincing the supporters he's a good lad at heart after all and not simply a haughty slacker who would prefer to be elsewhere, say smoking a cigarette while in bed with... say, a good book by Camus), and his inability to conceal his disdain when oafish, mentally-challenged teammates who lack his vision and nous fail to run onto one of his mathematically-perfect, brilliantly-calculated passes -- all of these things have undoubtedly contributed to the curious ambivalence with which he is regarded in a world where genius of his sort visits only very, very rarely and even then is even more rarely recognised for what it is.

But aren't all proper art forms like that, anyway?

"He chooses the time." (WB)

Oh, absolutely.

"Now at Fulham, he is head and shoulders above his teammates... Unfortunately it shows." (Manik)

Most definitely.

But one may trust Berbatov will not have trouble finding well-paid work somewhere beyond the limited confines of Craven Cottage

Will it be Monaco? Will it be Galatasaray? Does it matter such a great deal to Dimitar in any case, so long as the checks don't bounce?

One aspect of the underappreciation of his skills by the English and by their even stupider and clumsier former subjects the Americans -- for example that Yahoo (!!) commentator Brooks Peck -- would perhaps be envy, as hinted in the last of those Global Vernacular entries.

TC said...


Just found yours, and sorry about that -- it's as Hitler the bereft United fan says in the proscribed video, Never get on the wrong side of those bloody Bulgarian whackos, you never know what might happen!

Poor Adolf, the bad news just keeps on coming for him as well. Tornado trolling toward bunker. Staff have removed from the safe the $5 million he was saving to buy back Berbatov, and used it for the darkest of purposes.

And will International E-sports Group and Constantin Film offer refuge, offer solace?

Only you will ever know.

manik sharma said...

His Quiet genius might just benefit by "not" making the headlines or pushing those transfer fee's clubs pay towards new records...Paul Scholes Jamie Carragher (Del piero and Zanetti to follow) End of an era of quiet genius....Sir Alex Ferguson was ofcourse a tad louder and his genius more acknowledged...

TC said...

There's always something bittersweet about the farewells of those who have brought joy. The quiet ones above all.

The Ginger Man's last turn was a bit subdued it must be granted (difficult to shine your small, hard light in that long Alexian shadow), but Carra did go out on a proper (and of course properly quiet) blinder.

In any case they'll both be kindly remembered by those to whom they contributed the many good moments, no matter they were paid to be doing it.

Someday I expect even Berbatov's memory will be revered, in a not too dissimilar way. Even if he did lack the work-rate.

TC said...

But to get back to where this started... touch.

Take a moment to consider the genius in Berbatov's first touch here.

The looping of the moment slows it down for us, the better to begin to understand.

Few mortals can do such things. Even nonsmokers.

Berba had by that time already scored two goals in this contest. But goals -- what are those, up against poetry?

From John Ashdown's minute-by-minute report:

8.35pm BST

34 min: Berbatov offers a little nugget of Berbarotica with a quite lovely piece of control from Riise's crossfield ball. That was almost indecent.

(But don't just take my word for it.)

That of course may have been the least-watched match of the season. Two clubs going nowhere, performing before but a very few well-bundled-up yet shivering earthlings... well, almost nobody. In the cold privacy of Craven Cottage.

But what is audience size to an artist?


reporting for cognoscenti duty

glad to be a cog in your machine

Tietie007 said...

Dimitar scored with Monaco versus Nice.

TC said...

Mitko scores... and Mitko smiles!!