Should Soccer Players Jump through NCAA Hoops and try a “Leap Year”?

Thanks to the NFL’s mismanagement of a series of domestic violent incidents, the NCAA has been out of the spotlight for a few weeks. However, when last we checked on said institution, a federal administrative body had deemed it an “employer” based on the control it exercised over the lives of student athletes. Also, despite attempts to ban payments to players (and keeping the “amateur” spirit of collegiate sport), SB Nation had an amazing story on the ins and outs of being a “bagman“, the name for alumni who funnel cash to players and use burner cell phones.

What do these two things have to do with one another? And what do they have to do with soccer? For the next ten years of growth of soccer in the US, everything. Continue reading “Should Soccer Players Jump through NCAA Hoops and try a “Leap Year”?” »

Yes, I am still writing about soccer…..

Sigh. For the last few years, I’ve been pretty good about my Monday, Wednesday, Thursday posting. Why those days? Well, anymore and I’d turn the site into a content mill, any less and I’d lose my edge. Also, coincidentally*, those are the days when the internet has heavy traffic for actual readers. No, not bots. Not spiders. Not bait-clickers. Folks with the time to read some serious thoughts. I’m one of those serious thinkers. That’s why my listicles include full paragraphs under the pics and my lazy video posts include puns in the headlines.

Alas, it’s still Monday and I’m still posting, but time is short. Family and professional obligations have arisen. I’ve also gotten pitched by some seriously quality soccer sites, whom have generously agreed to publish my writing. Here are links to two longer pieces for said quality sites, both of which I am proud of: Continue reading “Yes, I am still writing about soccer…..” »

Jorge Mendes and Confusion about Conflicts of Interest

David Conn of the Guardian is a pretty sharp character. He’s written about financial irregularities in football for several years with clear prose and often original research. Still, I’m always intrigued at how different countries and people view “third party ownership.” In affluent Western European nations, clubs don’t lack for access to credit or cash or revenue, so there’s no need to pinch pennies. In less well-to-do places, though, like Portugal and Brazil, clubs often struggle to get cash to cover basic daily expenses. Many can’t even make payroll on a regular basis. That’s why when Nani got loaned back to Sporting, he insisted United cover his wages.

David recently wrote about Portuguese super agent Jorge Mendes and here’s the bottom line: Mendes is an agent for players and often is an adviser and/or investor in firms who own a part of the player’s playing rights (which is legal in Portugal). The major criticism in David’s piece is that this is a possible “conflict of interest.” However, upon closer inspection, this claim falls apart. Continue reading “Jorge Mendes and Confusion about Conflicts of Interest” »

Long Overdue But Totally Unexpected Paraguayan Football Update

Every now and then, we like to give you, the reader, an esoteric South American soccer update. In today’s news, we looked closely at happenings in Paraguay, your favorite loser from the “War of the Triple Betrayal” err “Alliance.” Some pretty hysterical legal happenings have caught the headlines, but a more sobering fact got buried. Continue reading “Long Overdue But Totally Unexpected Paraguayan Football Update” »

Yet Another FIFA Fail Post

FIFA has this odd balancing act: on the one hand, they want to closely control major tournaments and host countries so that they can make a ton of money. On the other hand, when problems arise in world football, they want to shrug their shoulders and say it’s not their business or responsibility. Basically, FIFA can’t fix a problem if it doesn’t want to.

And this double-standard is evident when you look at FIFA’s stance on police and government intervention. Continue reading “Yet Another FIFA Fail Post” »

Yaya Toure and the Typecast Roles of Soccer

Several months ago, Awful Announcing had a great post about the “code words” used to describe most white NBA players. What’s most interesting about these terms is not that they are per se inaccurate, but rather that they gloss over and take for granted societal perceptions and assumptions. One has to ask: why do we focus on certain traits as exhibited by one race of athlete and ignore others? When Mario Balotelli first moved to England with Manchester City, I wrote a diatribe about “black athlete fetishism.” My basic point was that when a black athlete is a little bit quirky off the field or inconsistent on it, we invent these bizarrely complex and probably unfounded “mental issues” narratives much quicker than with, say, Kirk Hinrich.

Sadly, Super Mario is not alone. Yaya Toure has played beautiful soccer for Manchester City for years – Silva and Aguero and Nasri may provide the flash and goals, but City looks limp and lifeless without Yaya. Here’s the problem: Yaya is a fucking brilliant soccer player. Yes, he’s a fine specimen of an athlete. Yes, we watch sports to see and gawk and fawn over displays of athleticism. But what I love most about Yaya’s game is his snap and impeccable decision-making, his two-footedness (not a word….yet), his technique in both passing and shooting, and his awareness of teammates.

Others see something else. Continue reading “Yaya Toure and the Typecast Roles of Soccer” »

What if we “picked” EPL clubs like American ones?

Fandom is such a fickle business. The EPL season rages on after a month of action, so we’ve read yet another glut of “Pick your team” stories and podcast anecdotes. Some say follow your heart. Others say pick a winner. Yet, of course, fans find ways to put other fans down. If you’re from the US or another non-England country, then that’s a knock against you. Why? Geography. If you’ve been a fan less than a decade, that’s another knock. Why? History.

Yet a glance at major US sports leagues shows the same story, but inverted (or reverted). Continue reading “What if we “picked” EPL clubs like American ones?” »

When Things Don’t Always Go As We’d Like…. (Panenka Fails)

Contrary to FIFA’s assertion on its website, the “panenka” penalty is not a “cult.” Rather, on a superficial level, it is a technique – a player approaches the spot, usually stutter steps, looks to see if the keeper moves early, and then chips the ball down the middle or to the other side. Some criticize the panenka as arrogant – in reality, players take advantage of the fact that 75% of keepers move before the ball is kicked in PK situations. Also, on an incorporeal level, watching a ball softly float to the goal – something a child could do – brings a smile. Attitude and confidence are definitely at play, but so is the realization that no matter what the stakes are, soccer is always and always will be a game.

Still, the panenka is not always perfect. Sometimes the shooter does not stutter step. Sometimes the keeper reads it. In such situations, you look foolish. Here are those moments. Continue reading “When Things Don’t Always Go As We’d Like…. (Panenka Fails)” »