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” »

Soccer Pod Links

As you may have guessed, I live in Houston. The commute to work each day is brutal. I can feel a part of my soul die with each passing hour as I sit in my car, and not in the “Voldemort-hiding-his-soul-in-horicuxes” way – this is much more sinister and nefarious.

Luckily, there is quality audio entertainment. These fine talks talk pretty about futbol. Me talk pretty one day. Continue reading “Soccer Pod Links” »

A Treatise on the Expression “Beast Mode”

I’ve always been uneasy with the term “beast mode” as used by TV pundits when describing an energetic or impressive athletic performance. Simply put, it’s not descriptive enough. Okay, so the athlete, a human, is doing something that is beyond the scope of a normal human, therefore they are similar to a beast. I get that. But the first time I heard the phrase, I thought of a blue, buff, hairy dude hanging upside down and reading Wittgenstein. I hear “beast mode” and think - what beast?

“Beast mode” is lazy wordplay. You could just as easily say “Past great player mode” and leave it to the listener or reader to decide with whom you are comparing today’s current star. Thus, I’ve come up with some GIFS and proper, specific similes for some key soccer players. They are not necessarily in “beast mode”, but more of an “animal kingdom” zone. Enjoy. Continue reading “A Treatise on the Expression “Beast Mode”” »

ESPNFC Re-activates Transfer Speculation

I’m admittedly not a big fan of transfer rumors. During most silly seasons (the winter and summer), I prefer napping to blogging about soccer. In a recent Bleacher Report article, a journalist describes his methodical process in trying to pin down, unearth, and then break a soccer transfer. They key appears to be building contacts with agents, players, and clubs (“sources” in journalism) but then keeping your mouth shut until the last possible minute. As Balague notes, when a transfer does happen, it can occur in breathtaking speed.

But that’s different from “transfer speculation”, the well-known practice of tossing big clubs and big player names into the same article and basically daydreaming. Still, transfer speculation is an art-form into itself. I’ve articulated a few rules for said craft, and have a nice example courtesy of ESPNFC. Continue reading “ESPNFC Re-activates Transfer Speculation” »

The True Importance of Winning?

In the latest issue of The Classical, there’s some pretty words written about losing. In particular, the NBA has stories from the 2000′s about teams that couldn’t win a ring but earned critical acclaim. I speak, of course, of the Chris Webber Sacramento Kings and the Steve Nash Phoenix Suns. These teams both were fun to watch – the Suns tried to score in six seconds each possession, and relied on the delicious pick-and-rolls of Nash and Amare Stoudemire. The Kings, meanwhile, enjoyed solid guard play from first Jason Williams and then Mike Bibby, while Chris Webber’s soft hands freely spread the ball around.

Neither team won a title, but both won fans hearts. Are there any soccer teams in the same vein? Yes. Here they are: Continue reading “The True Importance of Winning?” »

Real Madrid v. Atletico Recap: Tactical Indeterminacy Revisited

The game is over. Real Madrid has won La Decima. Allegedly, Sergio Ramos has not dropped the trophy. Thus, as per the actual game, there’s not a lot to write home about. Atletico defended with numbers and score off a setpiece/goalie error. Madrid switched formations (pushing Ronaldo up as a striker and Di Maria wide as a winger) and then made some key positive subs (Isco for Khedira, Marcelo for Coentrao) to turn the momentum, tie the game, and dominate in extra time.

But still, Atletico had a wonderful season. They won La Liga. They reached the Champions League final. They sold Falcao last summer, yet only improved. If they sell Diego Costa this summer and improve by the same increment, they will win every trophy imaginable (and probably some made up ones). Yet just how has Atletico done it?

Many have ideas. They are almost all at odds. Continue reading “Real Madrid v. Atletico Recap: Tactical Indeterminacy Revisited” »

Real Madrid’s History Revisited

Atletico is campeon. Long live Atletico. If you’re a Real Madrid fan, you’re used to losing La Liga by now. FC Barcelona has been off the charts the last decade, so we’ve been happy with Copitas del Rey and good Champions League showings (and the occasional SuperCup). This year, we all know that the big game still looms: this Saturday, the chance at La Decima. For non-Spanish speakers, “La Decima” means “The Decima.”

I’ve had the pleasure of writing some historical summaries/snippets for SoccerPro this past week and the series will run until Friday. It deals with Real Madrid’s past and present. Here’s Part I and Part II. Enjoy.

Some Real Sober Reflections

The Carlo era is a success. By that, I mean he has equaled Jose Mourinho’s trophy haul in his first and third seasons at Madrid (He won the King’s Cup the first year and SuperCup the third). At first glance, Carlo has Madrid playing slightly more attacking, offensive soccer. The team has reached the Champions League final and made the race for La Liga interesting until the last month.

However, a close look that some other things have stayed the same. Continue reading “Some Real Sober Reflections” »

Financial Fair Play Cometh: the Gnashing of Baby Teeth

Here’s the deal. Financial Fair Play is here. Both Manchester City and PSG have failed to meet sustainable debt levels. In response, both are faced with two identical punishments: First, their Champions League roster has been reduced to 21 players (instead of 24), and 8 of them must be homegrown. Second, both have to pay fines of between 50-60 million years spread out over a few years.

Soccer fans ask: is this strong enough? Continue reading “Financial Fair Play Cometh: the Gnashing of Baby Teeth” »

Soccer English: the Kick Kick of Cristiano Ronaldo?

If you just look at this picture, it appears Cristiano Ronaldo is doing a Nigel De Jong impression. No big deal. But, alas, it was  kind of a big deal. Ronaldo has scored off heels. He has scored off wicked dipping free kicks. He’s even come super close to scoring off bicycle kicks several times.

But just how exactly do you label his goal vs. Valencia? Continue reading “Soccer English: the Kick Kick of Cristiano Ronaldo?” »