The World Cup draw has been drawn. Teams now know their adversaries. More intriguingly, they also know the stadium location of each of their first three games. Not surprisingly, in a country as big as Brazil many teams have to travel more than others. Of course, you ask – why did they set up their home base cities before the draw (as opposed to Croatia)? Why don’t they splash some cash on a jet to reduce travel times? Great questions. I don’t know the answers. Perhaps, in a general sense, because soccer is only half-competently managed by part-timers?
Still, we’ve seen these “travel complaints” before. Ever since the very first World Cup, in fact. Here is an exclusive extract from an article from the 1934 World Cup. Continue reading “Every World Cup Article Ever: Team Complains About Travel Logistics” »
The soccersphere in the US is a pretty depressed (and depressing) place. Why? Well, the US got a pretty tough draw in the World Cup: Ghana, Germany, and Portugal. It’s been dubbed a Group of Death even though ESPN stats guru Nate Silver gives the US a 39% chance of advancing, about even with Portugal.
Why all the pessimism? Why are glasses so half-empty? Here are the practical and metaphysical reasons: Continue reading “The US Soccer Men’s National Team and the Group of Destiny” »
England qualified for the World Cup, but, based on October’s FIFA rankings, are unseeded. Thus, they face the very real prospect of a “Group of Death.” We don’t know what the future holds, but here is a close approximation, in style if not in substance, of the Three Lions’ fate. Continue reading “The England World Cup Draw Preview & Banter of the Bile Variety” »
Sometimes, the mainstream media is wrong. For example, a columnist at ESPN recently went on a posh vacation to Qatar. Surprise surprise, upon his return, he wrote a pretty bland, half-assed defense of Qatar. He had written quite movingly about the death of an Espanyol player years ago, but, like, the death of dozens of immigrant workers was brushed off as blogger chatter.
I actually wouldn’t mind to see a defense of Qatar. However, you need some stats. For example, the remittances from Qatar to Nepal (from migrant laborers) probably help out quite a bit. Also, there are probably some respectable employers in Qatar who don’t abuse the visa system. The problem is not defending Qatar. The problem is pretty shoddy journalism with vague assertions. Kudos to ESPN for taking it down.
A brownie point for a retraction. A hollow victory, no? However, sometimes, to a blogger’s chagrin, mainstream media is right. Continue reading “An Apology to Mainstream Media on Behalf of Richard Whittall (And Me)” »
It’s not really a World Cup if there’s not at least one or two missed deadlines for stadium construction. It’s also not really a World Cup until major media outlets report on stereotypical “problems” associated with the host country. Before South Africa 2010, folks only wanted to write, read, and hear about witch doctors and goat sacrifices and “voodoo.” And Brazil?
“Favela” violence aka disaster porn. Continue reading “Violence in World Cup Host Country Article #68899” »
For the last fifty years, Mexicans and Americans have lied to ourselves. At least about soccer. That is to say, we’ve constructed elaborate narratives to explain, gloss over, and/or glorify the sport at home. In the US, the story is simple: between the fall of the NASL and the rise of MLS, soccer ceased to exist. Many MLS teams are even loath to acknowledge any traces of the NASL. For every Seattle Sounders, a team like KC rebrands and forgets about, say, their title win as the Spurs. The NASL was popular and attracted top talent, but fell by its own weight. Thus, America “was not a soccer country.” That is the current self-serving narrative.
In Mexico, the story is the opposite. Many fans of the Mexican League point to the 70′s, 80′s, and even early 90′s as a Golden Era for the game. The story goes like this: Mexico was a single sport nation with rising income, and thus could afford to pay star players to stay at home. Mexico could even afford expensive imports from South America. Club America’s golden era was the 1980′s, when they won five league titles including three-in-a-row from 1983-85. For Cruz Azul, their peak was the 1970′s, when they won six championships in a single decade. Chivas’ top era was even earlier, with their only sustained run of titles coming near the end of the 1950′s and the early 1960′s. Thus, Mexican soccer had great teams that went on fantastic runs in decades past. Or so the narrative goes.
But both these narratives fall to pieces when faced with reality. Continue reading “North American Soccer Narratives: Mexico and the US” »
Beware crocodile tears…and the tears of the Balotelli. Since arriving back in Serie A, Super Mario has a decent goal return at AC Milan. Unless, of course, you omit the penalties. Even including his spot kicks, when you look closely at the penalties, a clear pattern emerges.
And this pattern, oddly enough, may have started an ocean and a continent away. Continue reading “From Brazil to Balotelli – Has the Paradinha Been Exported?” »
The blogosphere and mainstream media have an uneasy relationship. On the one hand, many famous writers and bloggers have climbed the ranks by attacking their more popular peers. Bill Simmons entered the ESPN ranks thanks to a scathing critique of the ESPYs. On the other hand, invariably bloggers and mainstream media will write about the same or similar topics. Mainstream media feels the pressure to produce daily doses of news – their model still follows the paper print run cycle, even as technology has evolved. Bloggers can sometimes take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
Often, though, these competing tensions manifest themselves in odd ways. And that’s especially the case for the proverbial “English Player/Coach Said Dumb Things” news cycle. Continue reading “The Ulitmate Non-story: No English Player or Coach Says Anything Stupid!” »
Ah, France. Once again, Les Bleus find themselves in a two-legged playoff with a ticket to the World Cup on the line. As a neutral fan, I of course wouldn’t mind seeing France’s talented stars take the field in Brazil 2014. After all, what would we do without headbutts and petulant player strikes? Granted, their current manager has not proposed to his girlfriend on live television nor waxed astrology. However, Nasri can be entertaining. Right? RIGHT?!?!
But, alas, the two legged hurdle looks steep to France. Even worse, because their group only had five teams, they feel they could not rack up enough points to be a top seed in the draw. Thus, they filed an official complaint with FIFA. Here’s what’s so amusing. Continue reading “France Complains About World Cup Playoff Seeding, Forgets About “Hand Ball” Rule”” »
By any country’s standards, Argentine soccer is always in a perpetual Golden Age. They regularly produce world class players at every position and are consistently favorites to win the World Cup. However, by their own lofty standards, Argentines point to the 1940′s and 1970′s as unique eras of success.
Luckily, these eras also coincide with two great stylistic developments in the world of male fashion: the mustache and the mullet. Enjoy. Continue reading “Mustaches and Mullets – the Visual Glory of Argentine Soccer” »