It's the off-season most everywhere else -- including the U.S., where colleges played in the fall, and the pros don't kick off until early summer -- but in Europe, things are just starting to heat up. Clubs have made their midwinter roster moves, and head into the stretch runs of their marathon nine-month seasons; the international competitions -- UEFA Cup and Champions League -- get down to the crunch games next month; and players will be playing for their countries as well, soon enough, with the quadrennial European Championships and Olympics both coming up this summer, and qualification for the 2006 World Cup kicking off in April.
News from the first weeks of the young year has included a couple of high-profile roster changes: Dutch midfield star Edgar Davids, out of favor at Juventus in Italy, will join the large Dutch contingent at Barcelona for the rest of the season; and longtime England national team goalie David Seaman, clearly no longer in his prime, announced his retirement Tuesday. On the field, AC Milan knocked off Roma, the last undefeated team in Europe, in the aforementioned Twelfth Night game, then beat them again on Wednesday in Italian Cup play. See "Soccer Watch" online for more news, and a midseason status report on the Euro leagues.
Soccer's also in season here in Austin -- it's a winter sport for Texas high schools, and after a few preseason games last week, the district season starts this week:
Reagan -- LBJ (girls): Tue., Jan. 20, 6pm, Noack Field #2
Reagan -- LBJ (boys): Tue., Jan. 20, 7:30pm, Noack Field #1
Travis -- McCallum (boys): Tue., Jan. 20, 7:30pm, Nelson Field
Bowie -- Hays (girls): Tue., Jan. 20, 7:30pm, House Park
S.F. Austin -- Akins (boys): Wed., Jan. 21, 7:30pm, House Park
Lanier -- Anderson (girls): Wed., Jan. 21, 7:30pm, Nelson Field
Johnston -- Lake Travis (girls): Wed., Jan. 21, 7:30pm, Noack Field #1
Travis -- McCallum (girls): Wed., Jan. 21, 7:30pm, Noack Field #2
Anderson -- Lanier (boys): Thu., Jan. 22, 8pm, Nelson Field