If you could travel back in time and go to one football match, which one would you go to? It’s a question a lot of soccer fans have a ready answer for. (Me: the 1972 European Cup Final.) But for James Campbell Taylor, it’s a tricky one.
Taylor is a British graphic designer and writer based in New York. After studying at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, interning at MoMA and working for NYC-based ad agency Creative Source, Taylor launched Pennarello, his independent graphic design practice, and has work has been featured in major media outlets likeThe Guardian and The Village Voice.
Some of his most celebrated work was inspired by football, including two galleries we’re delighted to feature here on Paste Soccer: his series of retro World Cup posters and his series on vinyl album covers based on iconic footballers.
Looking at his work, Taylor’s images and writings form a kind of love letter to the beautiful game, one you discover hidden away in an old box in the attic decades later, perhaps long after you and the other party in your affair had parted company. It summons joy and melancholy and fading memory. Perhaps the word that best describes Taylor’s designs is saudade, a Portuguese lacuna that means either “longing for an absent other” or “nostalgia for a future that never happened.”
Despite being a charter member of the newly-established Premier League, the club began a steady decline throughout the 1990s. Plans to build a new stadium in Merton came to nothing, and new Football Association guidelines released in the wake of the Taylor Report meant that staying at their home in Plough Lane was untenable. In an effort to control costs, the club entered into a groundshare agreement with South London rivals Crystal Palace, and began playing their home fixtures at Selhurst Park. Their form dropped precipitously, and despite some respectable runs in the FA Cup and League Cup they mostly finished in the middle and lower end of the table, with relegation being an ever-present threat.
At the turn of the millennium, a new business consortium sought once again to bring league football to Milton Keynes. Several clubs such as Luton and Queens Park Rangers were approached for a potential move, but none expressed any interest. But a new chairman at Wimbledon opened the door to talks, and in August 2001 the club formally stated their desire to relocate to the Buckinghamshire suburb. The move provoked widespread disapproval from fans and observers throughout the country, who feared the arrival of American-style franchising in the English game. The FA initially rejected the club’s application to move, insisting that the consortium establish a non-league club and earn a place in the Football League via promotion. The consortium, led by Pete Winkelman, appealed the decision, and the FA ultimately agreed to convene an independent commission to hear the case and offer a verdict. In May 2002, the independent commission voted 2-1 in favor of the club’s move to Milton Keynes, a decision widely condemned by fans of the club and the British sporting media.
The club played one last season at Selhurst Park to dwindling attendances before relocating to Milton Keynes in September 2003. At the end of the 2003-04 season, which they spent in administration, the club was relegated to the third tier of English football. When they began their League One campaign in August 2004, they bore the name Milton Keynes Dons. The South London club with over a century of history was, for all intents and purposes, dead.
With all the football that goes on around the world every weekend, it can be hard to catch every interesting thing that happens. The really big (or weird) items tend to bubble to the surface on Twitter, but there are still interesting or important stories that soccer fans can miss. In a new weekly feature, we try to recap some of the stories you may have missed this weekend.
Tricksters have a long and celebrated legacy in mythology. From Coyote to Eshu to Loki, every culture on Earth has acknowledged and celebrated mythic figures who bend and break the rules to suit their purposes. With soccer producing its own culture and folklore, it seems fitting that we would find ourselves drawn to those players who do whatever they deem necessary to win. (Or stroke their ego. Which is like winning, kinda.) Some players like to use superior dribbling ability to shame opposing players. Others clearly missed their calling as world-class actors. Still others take every opportunity they can to stick it to someone they don’t like, and sometimes don’t even mind when they’re caught. Soccer is full of players who break rules, flaunt conventions, and generally aim to misbehave. And we absolutely love them for it. Here are 20 of soccer’s greatest tricksters.
Read the full article at Paste Magazine.
Eduardo Galeano—the famous Uruguayan writer, journalist, and political activist—passed away Monday at the age of 74. He was most widely celebrated (and defamed) for his incisive critiques of Western imperialism and capitalism, as well as his lilting, graceful prose. His most notable work, Las venas abiertas de América Latina (or Open Veins of Latin America) offered a sort of people’s history of Latin America, weaving a narrative framed by economic exploitation and political instability. His life’s work was committed to telling the story of Latin America, describing his own work as a writer as “obsessed with remembering, with remembering the past of America and above all that of Latin America, intimate land condemned to amnesia.”
Soccer fans will know him as the author of El fútbol a sol y sombra, or Soccer in Sun and Shadow. The book offers a cultural history of the beautiful game, using his trademark poignant verse to shape history and politics and economics and personal experience into a sort of paper sculpture— beautiful, unexpected, and somewhat transient. There’s a lot of darkness in the story Galeano tells—the “shadow” in the book title, as it were—yet he unfurls and shares his joy and love for the sport throughout. Football, for Galeano, was an intimate and indelible part of life— and more often than not, it represented the better parts of it. Galeano was more than a fan; he was a pilgrim, telling a story that was equal parts hard labor sentence, passionate love affair and fleeting moment of rapture.
When we talk about international football, we generally mean national teams organized by the official football associations of sovereign states. They’re affiliated with FIFA and their continent’s confederation, and through those associations they’re eligible to compete in various sanctioned international tournaments, including the FIFA World Cup. Pretty uncontroversial, right? Except that’s not the whole story.
On Friday night, a small but enthusiastic crowd at the Stadium Lille-Métropole in Lille, France, were treated to an international friendly between two nations that do not, strictly speaking, exist.
With the proliferation of fan-owned clubs and their continued success (with “success” usually defined as running a sustainable business while remaining under the fans’ control), there has been a lot of talk about fan ownership in the higher echelons of English and European football. In a time of billion-dollar TV deals for the Premier League, the tidal waves of corporate cash flowing through the Champions League, and the ungodly sums being paid in transfer fees by the continent’s mega-clubs, teams like AFC Wimbledon and FCUM have been touted as both a welcome respite from and a strong rebuttal to the current state of football.
Jim Keoghan, a writer and lifelong Evertonian, talks about this extensively in his book Punk Football: The Rise of Fan Ownership in English Football. The book offers a snapshot of fans who were convinced they could run their club better than the owners and, in many cases, did just that. Keoghan’s book places this emerging movement in the wider context of English football and investigates what makes fan ownership work and where it falls short.
I had the opportunity to talk with Keoghan about the fan ownership revolution, the current state of the English game, and what the implications of supporters with genuine stakes in their clubs could be for the future.
The story I’m telling you isn’t real. But it did happen.
The story I’m telling you is, like nearly all fanfiction, a derivative work. Some of the story was developed in the course of a few save game files of Manager Career Mode in the FIFA video game franchise. I filled in the blanks on the rest. The games I’m describing here did happen— including a crucial moment in one game toward the end. Nathan is, in effect, a Mary Sue character. (Or a Marty Sue, depending on where you’re at with the gender binary.)
I didn’t plan for this story to develop, in the same way that I never planned to start playing FIFA. I never considered anything I was doing with this silly sports video game to be creating fanfiction. Nor did I think that creating fanfiction based ostensibly on sports- despite English football being probably one of the most popular media franchises in the world- was really possible, in the sense that it created either compelling stories for an audience or emotional catharsis for the auteur. Yet I found myself not only spending hours playing FIFA, but I realized I was also creating an elaborate narrative around my gameplay that largely existed in my own head. This narrative was based around a character I created primarily to fill a need in my squad that didn’t exist in the transfer market and found myself developing an emotional attachment to.
Though I didn’t acknowledge what I was doing as creating fanfic at the time, I realized in hindsight it was fulfilling much of the same functions that fanfic often does for their creators. It let me engage critically with a story I already followed and loved (in this case, English football). It allowed me to explore what I want out of this story, and in a broader sense, stories in general. And, while not every fanfiction creator does so for this reason, it provided an emotional release and source of comfort at a time in my life when I sorely needed it.
Last weekend, while everyone was out eating grilled meat and looking at pretty explosions in the sky, Chile secured their first ever Copa América championship by beating Argentina on penalties. Before they could reach the final, La Roja had to survive a semifinal encounter with their rivals Peru. (Chile won 2-1 on the strength of two incredible strikes from former QPR striker Eduardo Vargas.) The rivalry between the two countries is arguably the fiercest in CONMEBOL, with tense clashes in the 1974 World Cup and the 1975 Copa remembered to this day. Yet few people alive today remember when these two South American football powers put aside their differences and formed a hybrid team to take Europe by storm.
This week, we look back at the team that few would even deem possible today- the Combinado del Pacífico.
Read the full article at Paste Magazine.
If you love soccer then you’ve got a lot this summer to keep you busy. The Women’s World Cup and Copa America are racing towards their dramatic conclusions, MLS is just about at the midway point in its season and across the pond, the transfer window continues to send Europe into a feeding frenzy. With all this going on, you might be forgiven for overlooking another ongoing competition, one renowned for its thrills and drama as it is for its history and tradition.
2015 marks the 102nd edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, the oldest soccer competition in America and one of the oldest in the world. It’s a tournament that tends to weave itself in and around the more well-known (or at least more hyped-up) competitions, with midweek fixtures to accommodate Major League Soccer’s weekend matches.
Yet the USOC- which has its Fifth Round ties scheduled to kickoff tonight and tomorrow- is worth making time for. Here are 10 reasons why.
Read the full article at Paste Magazine.
This year marks the 20th season of Major League Soccer, and the league is citing the big round number to pat itself on the back for doing what its predecessors couldn’t— sustain domestic club soccer in the United States on a long-term basis. If you watched the MLS All-Star Game last night you saw the self-congratulatory message on full display, including a hype video before kickoff narrated by Alexi Lalas. “It’s not perfect, but it’s ours.” And while the league isn’t perfect, it certainly has come a long way.
This week, we reflect further on 20 seasons of Major League Soccer by revisiting one of the highlights of the first— the 1996 (and inaugural) All-Star Game.
Read the full article at Paste Magazine.
As a modern practice, Institutional Critique is something of a double-edged sword. Part of the central irony is that work that comments on the institutions and conventions of the contemporary art world is contained entirely within the very structures that it interrogates. Some institutions are keenly aware of this and use it to their advantage, such as MoMA and other museums commissioning and displaying critical work as a way to shield themselves from inquiry. In order to maintain a necessary critical distance, successful inquiry often needs to be presented outside of the Institution. (Jayson Musson’s YouTube seriesArt Thoughtz is a good example, even if it comes with its own problems around celebrity and disarticulation.) This can also help overcome another potential hazard with Institutional Critique- that when the relationship between inquiry and subject becomes too close or obtuse, the inquisitor can end up levying their criticism at a different, and perhaps undeserving, subject.
Which brings me to Snow, the interdisciplinary exhibit by Zachary Cahillshowing at the Museum of Contemporary Art through the end of the month. The artist presents a collection of works from the imagined perspective of an art therapy patient- with all the formal deficiency and asinine politics that characterizes such work- within the hypothesized setting of a socialist dystopian near-future. Walking through the exhibit, it’s clear that Cahill is trying to load some of the stigma of modern mental health care (hyper-medicalization, schmaltzy inspiration porn, etc.) onto his fictional setting, which then becomes a vehicle for criticism of social and cultural institutions generally and the role of art within these institutions specifically. The problem with Snow is that Cahill’s work yields consequences that are arguably unintentional but almost certainly harmful.
In some ways it’s hard to empathize with professional athletes, especially those who are involved in such charged and memorable moments. We can talk about what it was like to watch it, and what it meant to us, and we can even speculate on what was going through their head. But few, if any of us, will ever be in the position that Brandi Chastain was in. Her shoulders bore not only only the hopes and fears of millions of fans that so often gets bundled up into big sports moments, but also the very future of the women’s game, particularly in America. And when her shot went in, when she tore off her shirt and roared to the sky as if demanding the second star descend and embed itself above the US Soccer crest, the air swirled with joy and relief and vindication.
Read the full article at Paste Magazine.
The most exciting soccer tournament of the summer wasn’t the Women’s World Cup, or the Copa America, or even the International Champions Cup. It was RoboCup 2015.
The annual robotics summit and competition was held in Hefei, China last week and featured teams of students and researchers from around the world. While the event does feature symposia and presentations from engineers and academics discussing the current state of robotics technology, the main focus was (rightfully) on the soccer tournament.
This is a new-look England: younger, fitter, happier. But more productive? They’re in a tough Group D with Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica, so we’ll find out soon enough. Here are the 10 things you need to know about England before the World Cup begins.
We’ve been watching Lionel Messi play soccer for more than a decade. We’ve gotten so used to seeing him do impossible, superhuman things on a football pitch that any story showing off some incredible thing he did seems superfluous. It’s like living in the Arctic Circle—when you’re able to look at the Northern Lights every single night, you almost forget that this is something you’re supposed to be in awe of.
Sometimes, though. Sometimes Lionel Messi does something bonkers and you can’t not share it.
Sometimes MLS clubs sign big name players and it doesn’t work out. Think Freddie Ljungberg, or Rafa Marquez, or Jermain Defoe. With NYCFC needing to start strong out of the gate, especially during their home opener, there was a legitimate worry that their own DPs would fail to impress.
With David Villa, at least, that won’t be a problem.
Most people have important things that take up their time. Things like careers, and friends, and family, and hobbies. I don’t have anything like that, so I end up spending a lot of my time watching old-timey newsreels on YouTube.
Since it’s Thursday, and people like to throw things back on Thursdays for whatever reason, here’s some vintage newsreel footage of old-school English football. It was December 1963, and Manchester United were hosting Tottenham (just like they will this weekend) in the second round of the European Cup Winners Cup (one of a few continental tournaments that eventually got folded into what is now the Europa League). Although United’s back was against the wall, being down 2-0 on aggregate, they at least had the 50,000 or so crowd at Old Trafford to draw on for the second leg.
The best soccer players have a broad skillset. In addition to their athletic prowess, footballers need to have a good sense of space, timing, situational awareness, and an ability to think on (and with!) their feet. They also need to have cunning and guile—traits which can be overlooked at best and frowned upon at worst. Some of the best people to play the game, from Garrincha to Maradona to Luis Suárez, were slippery bastards who beat opponents with wanton trickery.
Notts County Ladies know what’s up.
On Thursday Night, Notts County Ladies hosted Arsenal Ladies for their league fixture in the FA Women’s Super League. In the 28th minute, Notts County won a free kick just outside the penalty area. As defender Laura Bassett wound up to take the kick, fellow defender Alex Greenwood and forward Ellen White stood right in front of the ball, leading to some confusion as the ref blew the whistle. Bassett charged to the ball, hit the brakes, and then started arguing with Greenwood over who would actually take the FK.
Or so it seemed!
Did you hear about Luis Suárez being sold to Barcelona for £75 million? Did you? Did you also hear about the time he racially abused an opponent? Or that one time he bit someone? Or that other time he bit someone? Or that other other time he bit someone? (He does a lot of biting, is basically what we’re saying.) Did you hear that he can’t even set foot in a stadium until October? Did you hear about all that? Okay. Just making sure you’ve heard.
One of the most poorly kept secrets among football supporters is that many have a “second team”.
The smaller club gives us pride. It gives us community. It offers real, old-fashioned English football.
But football fans also like trophies and TV and glamour. And so, in secret, we find ourselves fancying one of the big boys.
We always fret about soccer teams having to literally share their turf with other sports, especially in the U.S. Yardage markers on the field in New England—sacrilege! But have you ever thought about it from the other sports team’s perspective?
With NYCFC’s home opener at Yankee Stadium just a few days away, New York Yankees players spoke to the Wall Street Journal about their concerns over sharing their field with David Villa and friends.
First Baseman Mark Teixeira told the WSJ that having soccer played on a baseball diamond on the regular is “terrible for a field,” and that sharing the stadium with NYCFC will “... definitely cause an issue, but it’s nothing that we can control, so we can’t worry about it.”
The romance of the FA Cup is based on the idea of giant killers. Smaller clubs from further down the ladder of English football can get drawn against the best the Premier League has to offer—and sometimes, just sometimes, they do the impossible. This weekend, Premier League clubs were utterly routed by weaker opposition. The biggest upset was likely at Stamford Bridge, with Chelsea, up 2-1 at halftime against League One’s Bradford City, losing 4-2. Other major upsets included Manchester City losing 2-0 at home to Middlesbrough, Spurs losing to Premier League relegation bait Leicester City 2-1, Swansea being overpowered by Blackburn Rovers 3-1, and Southampton going out to Crystal Palace 3-2. Meanwhile, Liverpool and Manchester United were forced into replays by, respectively, Bolton Wanderers and Cambridge United (who were playing non-league football this time last year). Even the defending champions Arsenal had to fend off a late surge from Brighton and Hove Albion. Despite all the money and statisticians and sports scientists that drive the game at the highest level, football is still about 11 human beings playing against 11 other human beings. And as we saw this weekend, anything can happen.
With League Two stalwarts AFC Wimbledon in the spotlight for their Jan. 5 FA Cup match against Liverpool, one player stood out in a big way.
Meet Adebayo Akinfenwa. The 32-year-old young mountain came through Watford’s academy system before embarking on a long career as a journeyman striker. He’s mostly bounced around between clubs in League One and League Two (with repeat spells at Gillingham and Northampton), playing for a season or two before moving on. He’s notched an impressive goal tally at every club he’s been at, and developed a reputation for a solid workrate, good hold-up play and posing a constant threat in the box.
He’s also big. Like, really big.
If you support a national team, odds are they’re playing a couple of meaningless friendlies that you may or may not care about. Unless your team is slogging through Euro qualifiers, in which case you… still may or may not care, depending on how likely they are to get out of their qualifying group.
If your team is on the bubble for Euro qualification, the international break can get pretty intense. Which explains the feeling of uncertainty and tension that filled the air of the Parc des Princes on a cool autumn evening in September 2007. France was hosting Scotland in the return fixture in Euro 2008 Qualifying Group B. Scotland had won the game on their ground 1-0, and were looking to do a double over Les Bleus to inch closer to a place in the Euros the following summer. The Scots knew they had their work cut out for them, as they hadn’t beaten France on French soil since 1950. With qualification on the line, it was a must-win for both teams.
Atlético Madrid are your defending La Liga champions. And that’s crazy. The vast majority of the league’s money from broadcasters gets funneled to Barcelona and Real Madrid, with the two giants “earning” about as much between the two of them as the rest of the league combined. With such a wide gulf in revenue it’s more or less impossible for any other club to challenge for the championship. That makes Atléti’s title win last season—squeezed out with stingy defending, organization, and team unity—something of a modern footballing miracle.
Liverpool-Arsenal is secretly one of the best fixtures of the Premier League season.
It doesn’t have the historical and narrative heft of Liverpool-United or the North London Derby. Nor does it quite have the firepower that Chelsea-City games have had in recent years. No, Arsenal-Liverpool is always something of a sleeper hit. It’s like Real Salt Lake vs Sporting Kansas City, or Cavs vs Spurs, or Daniel Bryan vs Dolph Ziggler. You just know it’s going to be a wild ride.
Arsenal and Liverpool have had some epic clashes over the years, and finding individual games between these two to profile would be a whole column onto themselves. But perhaps the most famous showdown between the Reds and the Gunners was the finale to the 1988-89 First Division season.
The big story in the Premier League this weekend was the relegation battle. Two teams—Burnley and QPR—are already out, leaving one spot left. Now, five clubs are scrambling not to be “It” in what has to be the world’s worst game of Musical Chairs.
Elsewhere this weekend, the Top 4 race is effectively over, Newcastle might finally be snapping out of a long slump, and Chelsea-Liverpool had all the dignity and subtlety of an internet flame war. If you missed anything this weekend, we’ll get you caught up.
Read the full article at Paste Magazine.
So, that’s a swarm of bees that took up residence at the grounds of a professional football club. Yup. That’s a thing that happened.
With the new CBA agreed, the 2015 MLS season will begin Friday night, when the defending champions LA Galaxy host the Chicago Fire.
The domestic league has come a long way since its inaugural season nearly 20 years ago. MLS has the kind of revenue, stability, and visibility that would’ve been barely conceivable in the 1990s. To get to where it’s at today, the league had to change and grow, invariably shedding off some of its earlier quirks.
One of them is the shootout.
Read the full article at Paste Magazine.
Tottenham have been playing great football lately. Bolstered by breakout star Harry Kane up top, this is a team that looks like is finally coming together. Even when they’ve lost in recent months, they’ve tended to go down swinging (as they did at Liverpool last month). So for United to completely put this Spurs team away with a comfortable 3-0 win tells you how formidable they’ve managed to become. After spending much of the season playing dreadful, middling football, this is a team that is firmly in the Top 4 chase— whether you like it or not.
If staying up-to-date on the Premier League over the weekend is hard, midweek games are just about the worst. You end up compulsively checking your phone, trying to get around the company’s firewall to pull up NBC Sports Live Extra, maybe take a late lunch at that pub a few blocks over. We know it’s rough. Since you probably missed something from the round of midweek games, here’s some of the big headlines that went down while you were attending meetings and being an (ugh) adult.
To be a defender playing at the top of European football is to be without hope. There is no point in making plans for a better future, no point in hoping for glory and silverware in La Liga or the Champions League. No matter how hard you work, how sharp your focus is, how deep your desire is, all your hopes and dreams teeter on the edge of oblivion. That’s because at any moment, Luis Suárez can appear and tear down your world.
Bayern Munich’s dream of a second treble in three years is over.
Days after anticlimactically winning their 25th Bundesliga title, Die Roten turned their attention to the next step in their bid to win the European treble: the German Cup.
Bayern hosted the semifinal tie against fierce rivals Borussia Dortmund, who are limping to the finish line of an abysmal season and will see their manager and (likely) some of their best players leave in the summer. Bayern did the double over Dortmund in the league, and with the massive talent gap it looked like the German champions would be able to put away their rivals and book a place in the final next month.
But because football is crazy and unpredictable and never quite works out the way you think it will, that’s not what happened. That’s not what happened at all.
There’s a long-running joke in football that José Mourinho’s behavior in press conferences is more attack-minded than the teams he manages. This week however, the Special One may have gone a bit too far.
Montse Benítez, the wife of newly-installed Real Madrid manager Rafael Benítez, gave an interview to Spanish newspaper La Región earlier this week. Her comments included a light-hearted jab at Mourinho, with whom her husband has a long-standing professional feud that has occasionally drifted into more personal territory.
“Real are the third of José Mourinho’s old teams [that] Rafa has coached,” Mrs. Benítez quipped. “We tidy up his messes! If you think about it, of course you end up crossing paths. There are only a few world-class clubs out there.”
Most professional managers, and especially those working in the upper echelons of global football, would presumably have laughed the comment off (if they even acknowledged it at all). But Mourinho, like an internet troll who just has to have the last word, couldn’t leave well enough alone.
Read the full article at Paste Magazine.