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?” »

Reflections on the Galacticos 3.0

It’s only human for a human to get attached to a human. Or, rather, a group of humans. After several years of so-so futbol, Florentino Perez returned as President with grandiose promises. We knew he would splash the cash, but his signing of Jose Mourinho as coach was a masterstroke: new signings and tactics led to three consecutive semi-finals in the Champions League, each time the merengues knocking at the door of greatness. Yes, the Madrid media made Mou go crazy, but what was not to love about Di Maria, Alonso, Diego Lopez, Ozil, and others?

Then we entered the Carlo era. Of course, he had followed in Mou’s footsteps before, notably at Chelsea. He instituted a more offensive approach, the team won the Champions League, and, this summer, the last remains of the Mou era are being discarded. But why? Continue reading “Reflections on the Galacticos 3.0” »

A Possible Flaw with Promotion & Relegation in MLS: the Franchise Model

I won’t go into much detail over the whole promotion/relegation debate. It’s been done elsewhere. Generally, the strongest arguments supporting pro/rel are (1) Historical examples – it has worked in Europe for several decades; (2) Financial – it will lead to more investment in 2nd division teams as investors try to achieve promotion; and (3) Philosophical – it will be more “meritocratic.” The current loser gets a dope draft pick aspect to North American sports smells of socialism to some.

But any attempt to impose pro/rel on a North American landscape will encounter a muddy terrain; I speak of the loathsome “franchise” system. And luckily there’s an example South of the border for what happens when pro/rel meets the “franchise” model. Continue reading “A Possible Flaw with Promotion & Relegation in MLS: the Franchise Model” »

Tactics Talk: Van Gaal’s 3-5-2 Explained

LVG’s start as Manchester United manager was a step backwards. While United attacked with verve and swagger for a few spells, the defense looked timid. The Red Devils’ 3-5-2 won some summer friendlies, but questions remain whether it can and will work for United and in the EPL. I’ve put on my tactics-cap to explain the pros and cons of the system, and why it might not work at United. Continue reading “Tactics Talk: Van Gaal’s 3-5-2 Explained” »

The Least Enlightening Thing Written About the World Cup

The World Cup is a large party and, sadly, has come to an end. I wasn’t able to write as much as I would have liked due to events in my personal life (disclosure: I am not a robot), but some trends popped up. First off, I felt like we read the same story with slightly different takes over and over. Favelas! Protestors! Folks with enviable but still modest reporting budgets flew to Brazil for a few weeks, interviewed a few people, and cobbled together some stuttering attempts at long-form journalism. These were smart people with occasionally bright insights, but you can only hear the same song so many times. Furthermore, Brazil has a burgeoning middle class, excellent universities, and plenty of great academic papers on race relations, poverty, and homelessness. Who wrote Pedagogy of the Oppressed? Yes. A Brazilian.

Still, of course, a good journalist can condense an academic paper into digestible form. There’s also the foreign perspective that can allow us to see big picture issues accepted as facts of life by locals. Like, for example, a slow as molasses legal system and the impossibility of filing for bankruptcy and being done within a decade. The lack of access to credit at reasonable rates (anything over 9% is f’ing usury dawg) has squeezed the middle class when coupled with inflation, and the squatter rights laws have created a perverse incentive to never enter the formal, above ground economy for many. However, most pieces were of the “what does this tournament mean to you, the local?” variety. They felt more superficial and contrived than illuminating. There was an arms race among “journos” to find the most dangerous neighborhood and oppressed group to faux interview some cats and chill while waxing on soccer before uprooting and ignoring any meta factors. “Thank for the caiprinha, nice to meet you for 90 minutes, try not to die a grisly death before turning 25!”

Yet, for all the tiredness and unoriginality of the “I was there” prose, the least enlightening thing written this World Cup was about soccer statistics. Continue reading “The Least Enlightening Thing Written About the World Cup” »

Top Ten World Cup Topics That Need To Be Written About

With so many smart and funny people writing about the World Cup, you’d think there’d be no stone left unturned. Sadly, though, my brief glimpse at the internet, using the latest in AskJeeves, Lycos, and AltaVista search engine technology, found some gaping holes. There are so many interesting topics that have yet to be written about that they are too countless to name (at least all of them). These are topics that cry out for David Brooks to write 500 words about. Yet, for now, we only hear silence and read nothing.

Thus, I’ve sorted, prioritized, and compiled a list of the ten topics which we need some savvy columnist to write about. Don’t be afraid,dear potential writer – I know this is totally uncharted waters, but we’ve got your back. Please, please write these articles! Continue reading “Top Ten World Cup Topics That Need To Be Written About” »

Wall Street Journal Seriously Lowers the Bar for Soccer “Coverage”

Just when you think the trite “Soccer sucks” narrative in the US media has turned into “MLS sucks”, the Wall Street Journal lowers the bar even further. Jonathan Clegg, an Englishman, has decided that new soccer fans “are welcome”, but he derives the “soccer obsessives.” Or, rather, American soccer obsessives.

I’ll just be taking a quick look at his thesis and what’s wrong with it. Namely, everything. Continue reading “Wall Street Journal Seriously Lowers the Bar for Soccer “Coverage”” »

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” »