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.
The slow-brewing refugee crisis in Europe- with hundreds of thousands fleeing Syria, South Sudan, and other countries being ripped apart by war or oppressive governments- came to a head in recent weeks. The continuous influx of families into Europe has dominated the news cycle due to a combination of sheer numbers, high-profile deaths (notably the three year old Syrian boy who washed up on a beach in Turkey), Europe’s haphazard response in assisting the new arrivals, and the at-times extreme and dehumanizing portrayal of the refugees by politicians and the media. This is a complex problem that resists one-size-fits-all solutions and is compounded by a collective failure to imagine vulnerable and oppressed groups as human beings. Yet just as the crisis is reaching a fever pitch, refugees are receiving vocal support and tangible aid from an unlikely source— football.
Named to Goalden Times' Wordball 2017 list of the best football writing of the year (Contemporary category).
You can’t hold it in. You get up to use the bathroom before halftime, thinking there will be fewer people. As you’re walking up the steps, you pass the fans yelling the chant. They do it again right as you pass them. It’s right there, literally in your face.
You get to the concourse at the top of the stairs. You realize you had less time than you thought you did. You decide to chance it and go to the men’s room. It’s not that crowded. You do your business and try to leave.
Except, when you’re washing your hands, some drunk bro barks something in your direction. He’s slurring his speech, but you’re pretty sure he said, “you’re not s’posed ta b’in ‘ere.” You ignore him and quickly dart out of the restroom. You know you got lucky that time.
You get a beer and find your seat again. Because of the concession stand lines, you don’t get to sit down until the 52nd minute. The teams have changed ends, so it’s the home goalkeeper near your section of the stadium. Some fans stopped chanting puto. Some didn’t.
Mostly you just want to go home.
A South Texas native, Hope lives in Seattle with his pug Starbuck, goes to hockey games with friends in MLS’ offseason, and is a huge Star Trek fan. But for Hope, the Sounders and Pride of the Sound aren’t just pastimes, like those other activities — he’s actively engaged in helping to build a community and a movement, taking on more responsibilities and going on more adventures every year.
Part of that has involved helping Pride of the Sound emerge as key contributors in ECS’ ongoing charity and community service work, most recently raising funds for the Seattle chapter of Lighthouse for the Blind. They’ve also become an important partner with a club that’s actively reaching out to its LGBTQA community. The club, and ECS, have carved out a space for Pride of the Sound to be more involved and more visible with matchday activities.
“I feel very connected and very welcome and given the chance to take on volunteer positions and some sort of visibility around helping out and connecting with the people in charge,” says Hope.
Never mind that the consequences for an athlete coming out as queer can be debilitating. It’s unfortunate that Robbie Rogers had to retire from professional football in England, and only returned to the game after Major League Soccer practically begged him to, promising him support and protection and good press. It’s unfortunate that Fallon Fox has so few entries in her professional fight record because so many MMA competitors- including, notably, Rhonda Rousey- refuse to fight her. It’s unfortunate that Michael Sam never got to play a single down in the NFL. Tragedies all, but regardless, some critics argue, queer athletes must declare their queerness publicly and center that queerness in their (heavily commodified) public image. Even if costs them their careers.
It presents an impossible choice for athletes. Navigate a treacherous maze of bigotry and erasure in order to pursue excellence, at the risk of not being the hero that some poor kid desperately needs; or potentially throw your career away, and deprive that kid of their hero anyway.
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.
MLS either can’t or won’t do anything on top of what the USL already has done. Neither, presumably, will U.S. Soccer. Chaplow gets a little time off. Rogers will return to the senior team in a few weeks, eager to put this incident behind him and focus on the Galaxy’s playoff race. Most fans are already starting to move on, and writers who cover the league have gotten as much out of the outrage cycle as they can.
Only a few people will remember. It’ll be remembered by LGBT fans, who, even in an ostensibly accepting league like MLS, have to fight for both figurative and literal space in the stands. It’ll be remembered by writers and reporters who make the fight for diversity and inclusion in sports part of their beat. And it’ll be remembered by players who, while encouraged by Rogers, aren’t ready to come out of the closet yet.
The base admission price is comparable to that of San Diego Comic Con, which lasts five days and has become a major media and pop culture event. By contrast, it’s hard to imagine BlazerCon having much appeal to those outside the Men In Blazers fan community. Furthermore, while the event is being marketed as more of a fan convention, the guest lineup and programming seems to more closely resemble an industry conference, but without any networking opportunities for working professionals.
This all makes BlazerCon an odd gamble. Men In Blazers is betting that their core audience is made up of the kind of people who are able (and willing) to shell out over $200 for a weekend event. If they’re wrong, BlazerCon won’t be particularly well-attended, and this could amount to a miscalculation and mistake severe enough to do irreparable damage to the “Men In Blazers” brand. But if they’re right, then it points to an ongoing cultural divide in American soccer and suggests that Men In Blazers is firmly planted on one side of it. This divide is between those for whom football is part of their culture and those embrace soccer as part of a sub-culture, who follow soccer as they would Doctor Who or Harry Potter.
There is something to be said for examining whether this squares with their desire to grow the sport in America. While their core demographic is certainly growing, it does not represent the alpha and omega of soccer fans in the US. Americans who love the beautiful game transcend class, race, ethnic, and gender barriers. “Growing the sport” may likely be as simple as acknowledging that these people exist.
I think the human body is universally beautiful in all its forms and all its functions. I abstain from bodyshaming not out of a sense of moralistic restraint but because I genuinely believe that all bodies are good bodies. This means I tend not to prize some bodies, or some physical features, over others. All bodies are good bodies. And yet there is something about the beard that shocks the heart, quickens the blood, and holds my very spirit captive.
I love all kinds of beards. I love well-trimmed beards and unruly beards. I love short beards and long beards. I love GQ beards and hipster beards. I love beards on men, women, and nonbinary people. All bodies are good bodies, but also, all beards are good beards.
My friend, voicing genuine concern for my wellbeing, worries that I will fall for any beard that comes along, untroubled by whether said beard would treat me well or care for me in old age. My problem, she says, is that I love beards not wisely but too well.
Named to Goalden Times' Wordball 2016 list of the best football writing of the year (Contemporary category).
When you’re in the position that so many LGBT people so frequently find themselves in, it’s easy to feel very isolated. It’s never just about the words or the threats of violence; it’s the fear that no one would have your back if things went south. And the fear that no one would feel too bad if something awful happened to you.
You can criticize LGBT events and outreach from leagues and teams all you want. You can say that Don’t Cross The Line is ineffective. You can say team Pride Nights are little more than sponsor activation opportunities. You can say that the rainbow flags are just #branding. And, to some extent, you’d be right.
But unless you’ve had to do some very quick calculus to figure out if it was worth using the public restroom, or going to a party at the house of someone you didn’t know, or holding someone’s hand while walking down the street, you might not understand how much the gesture matters.
This country remains bitterly divided, and the victors of this election cycle are gleefully spiking the ball by terrorizing the most vulnerable groups in our society. This election was, in most ways, a values election. Donald Trump ran on a platform of implied or explicit racism, misogyny, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and the use of violence and fear to achieve political goals. And while he did not win a plurality of the voters, he did win the election. Businesses are being defaced with swastikas and minority kids are being bullied at school and Pride flags are being burned because the bigots know that neither the government or “polite society” will stand in their way now. Between a newly-antagonistic federal government with little respect for the First Amendment and an electorate who are either all-in on white supremacy or are willing to look the other way, marginalized people in this country are in grave danger. And safety pins notwithstanding, those of us who are marginal and oppressed in this new political climate are probably on our own.
I spent a lot of time last week wondering if I can even do this job anymore. There was a lengthy moment where I couldn’t come up with an argument for why writing about soccer isn’t superfluous in a time when democratic values hang in the balance. How could I possibly write about Cristiano Ronaldo’s lifetime deal with Nike The Republic is on fire! On a personal level, I came out of this election feeling like there’s a sort of countdown clock for me. As if there will come a day when government agents arrive in the night to take me to mandatory conversion therapy where I will be electrocuted until they believe I’m no longer queer. And that’s if my fellow citizens don’t get to me first. If I indeed don’t have much time left, how can I justify writing about soccer?
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.
Jürgen Klopp couldn’t contain himself. You might want to say that it was a day that ends in Y, and you’d be right, except this was a specific day that ended in Y. It was the day Liverpool overturned a 1-0 aggregate deficit at home against Villareal to book themselves a place in the Europa League final. The Europa League, so long the sneered-at younger sibling of the Champions League, and Klopp’s boys found themselves this close to conquering it like the Visigoths of old.
In his joy and his fever – surely there’s a German compound word that combines those two? – Klopp spoke to Liverpool fans during the post-match presser. He told them their team needed them in Basel and they should turn out. Come! Come to Basel! Even if you don’t have a ticket, come!
Soon after, UEFA got in touch with the club to say, essentially, “please don’t.”
At which point both the club and Klopp had to walk the statement back and say please, please, don’t go to Basel without a ticket. If you don’t have a ticket, go down to the pub or watch at home with your family.
It’s all very reasonable and done out of an abundance of caution. Yet it speaks to something I love about the Europa League – that it contains too much, that it’s close to bursting at the seams. It’s a pot that runneth over, even if too many football fans are in the other room watching (highlights showing) Real Madrid sauntering to another piece of silverware.
I’ve tried to approach all of these Throwback Thursday columns as if I’m telling a bedtime story. Which I realize isn’t everyone’s cuppa. I end up painting in perhaps overly-broad strokes and leaving out key details. Of maybe focusing too much on aesthetics and feelings.
But that’s basically what we all do. When you tell your kids— or your grandkids— about the first match you ever saw, you don’t write up a gamer for them. You don’t name the referee or show them a heat map. You tell them a story. A story only you can ever tell. Because it was you in the stands that day, or you on your living room rug in front of the TV, or nervously checking your phone because you were couldn’t get out of whatever social obligation you had committed to. Football is always as much about how your heart as it is about the scoreline.
So, this week, I’m going to tell you one last story. It’s a story of how I fell in love.
Even if Trump doesn’t win next month, the damage he’s done to our political and cultural discourse is real and will persist for years to come. We are becoming a country where hate is challenged less often and fascism is the hot new trend this fall. Whatever the result of the election, America will be an increasingly hostile place for people of color, immigrants, Muslims, and anyone outside the WASP-y silos of social and political power for years to come.
This is the context you, Abby, are operating in and the discourse you are contributing to. As one of the greatest footballers, men or women, to ever play the game, you have a platform that most people don’t. Young people look up to you. Newly-capped USWNT players, and young women still coming up through the youth teams, were inspired to become footballers because of you. You had a unique opportunity to use your platform, your visibility, and your status as a role model to push against the rising tides of fear and hate in this country. Not only did you choose not to do that, you actively made things worse.
But beyond the aria’s impact on pop music, “Nessun Dorma” became a sort of uniting thematic element for the stirrings of a new generation of English football. The looks of utter dejection and despair on the faces of Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle after their missed shots in the semifinal penalty shootout against West Germany, the tears that streamed down Paul Gascoigne’s face, all set to the soundtrack of Pavarotti’s thundering tenor set the tone for football’s renaissance in its own ancestral home. In the years to come, England would start to put its legacy of hooliganism to rest, as well as heal from the self-inflicted wounds of Hillsborough and Heysel. The Premier League would emerge and usher in a new, modern era of the game (for better or worse), the fans in the ground would become distinctly more middle class (again, for good or ill), and English football would become a truly global phenomenon.
In “Nessun Dorma,” an aria in which a young lovesick man screams at the heavens in cocksure defiance, football fans found a piece of music which encapsulated everything that made football beautiful— the joy, the pain, the glory, the spectacle, and the heartbreak. In this improbable marriage of high art and low culture, “Nessun Dorma” offers football an artform that comes closest to describing its own spectacle and grandeur.
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.
Lots of people will tell you that 2016 was an eventful year for them, but when Jordan Morris says it, he means it. The 22-year-old started the year with a tryout at Werder Bremen, a move he seriously considered before ultimately signing his first professional contract with his hometown Seattle Sounders. All the hard work he put in since making the team at Mercer Island High School had finally paid off, and the reward was more hard work and more responsibility. Not that Morris ever backs down from a challenge— after all, you can’t build yourself up into one of Major League Soccer’s most promising young forwards while managing Type 1 Diabetes without an ambitious streak and a strong work ethic. He was instrumental in pulling the Sounders up from the foot of the Western Conference into a playoff spot, and then defy the odds to lift the MLS Cup last weekend. Along the way he’s pushed for as many minutes as he can get with the USMNT, eyeing up an opportunity to help push that stalled car up the hill and into the 2018 World Cup.
So, yeah. 2016. Bit of a year.
We got to talk to Morris last week about his incredible first season with the Sounders, developing his game while managing Diabetes, and what it means to play in front of the hometown crowd.
The 2012-13 season was the club’s second in League Two and it wasn’t going well. The Dons were lingering near the relegation zone and were forced to sack their longtime manager. Things were looking up when Neal Ardley was brought in, but everyone knew it would be a long climb. Wimbledon got a boost in the FA Cup when they beat York City 4-3 in a First Round replay. Then the Second Round draw brought what Wimbledon fans had been dreading for the past decade— a match against Milton Keynes.
That game, weeks away, was what shook away some of my cobwebs. All of a sudden my entire life hinged on this soccer game between two teams I hadn’t even heard about a month prior. I didn’t know if I met the “qualifications” to be a fan of this obscure fourth division English football team, but I knew I needed them to win. I needed to believe that you could lose everything and eventually be okay afterward.
There’s this sort of… credentialing in queer circles that feels really yucky to me. That in order to participate in queer discourse, you have to be ready to show your receipts, and you can’t complain if anyone demands to see them. Even if it means outing yourself before you’re ready. Even if it means being dragged out of the closet.
It creates this culture where people who are questioning, people whose queerness is still emerging, can’t ask for help.
I looked back on old emails and chatlogs a while back and realized I was questioning my own gender identity as far back as 2010. I could’ve gone through this process, and maybe even come out, years ago. But I didn’t, in large part because I didn’t feel like it was okay to ask for help.
So. What do we make of this piece? Is it a critique of late capitalism and the hyperindividual? Is it a challenge to classical aesthetics? Or is it simply a pointed example of human frailty as evidenced by the inability to produce a faithful representative depiction of another living person? Like all great works of art, this piece refuses to answer these questions to our satisfaction. The piece leaves us, as the famous YouTuber and cultural critic John Green would say, “unsettled, but enlarged.”
It is tempting to laugh this work off as simply ugly and poorly-executed. It’s an easy way for us to disavow responsibility for its existence, to pretend that it was formed in a vacuum and that we are not complicit in the establishment of the political and aesthetic abattoir in which we are presently queued. We may insist that we are not the father of this baby. Yet, as always, Post-Structuralist Maury Povich is here to tell us: we are the father of this baby.
Rogers had every right to handle it how he did, and he deserves support for it. Yet the reaction from fans and reporters in the American soccer community (many of whom, it must be said, tend to be heterosexual and cisgender) has been mostly to praise Rogers for handling it “the correct way” and for being “classy.” What signals does that praise send to others? What rules does it covertly set about how to deal with homophobic abuse? How will future transgressors of those rules be received?
These are not hypothetical questions. Plenty of people make the mistake of calling Robbie Rogers the first gay player in MLS, but that’s not true. He’s the first openly gay player in MLS. Sooner rather than later, more gay players will come out of the closet and live openly, and not every player is going to engage in the delicate dance of respectability politics. One day a gay footballer— and who knows, maybe it’ll be Rogers next time— will walk off the pitch in response to homophobic abuse. How will we react when that happens?
It was such a simple thing, going to a street market in my community and buying some fresh produce that helped feed my household for most of a week. And I wish I could’ve just enjoyed that without feeling like I was contributing to gentrification or reinforcing white supremacy.
There are no ethical choices in capitalism, I know.
As I get older I feel more and more like the things that can give us joy and meaning in life are being co-opted and used against us. Maybe I just take it more personally when it comes to the really simple things like buying food and taking a nice walk with friends. And maybe I’m a bit anxious; worrying whether I’ll always have these simple (if fraught) things available as an option in my later years, or if climate change or the impending Trumpocalypse will do away with the last few inches we have left.
But for a week, I had tomatoes, and apologized to no one.
Fans and observers cite this game as foundational in the history of El Clásico and the turning point where both sets of fans started to really, actively hate each other. It was at this point that it stopped being a simple football rivalry. It was also at this point that Barcelona became, well, more than a club. It became a symbol both of Catalan independence and identity and a mode of resistance against fascism. Barcelona became a model for football as a response to oppressive regimes— something which may become very relevant for American soccer fans in the years to come.
Read the full article at Paste Magazine.
Even so, threatening people— or at least #brands— if they so much as tweet about the Games is beyond the pale. Worse, there’s nothing to really stop them from expanding that reach further. Could we see it applied to media outlets that aren’t preferred partners or broadcasters? What about fans? The implications are truly frightening.
And if you’re a soccer fan, you should be especially worried.
Because if you’ve followed this sport for any length of time, you know how low FIFA will stoop to enrich itself and its corporate partners. Same with UEFA. Even US Soccer has yet to find a branding opportunity it didn’t like. This chilling overreach from Olympics officials will just give FIFA and other football organizing bodies all sorts of bad ideas.
Will we see similar embargoes implemented during the World Cup? Will tweeting about the Champions League be restricted to Heineken and Gazprom? Will you need to be a card-carrying member of the American Outlaws in order to chant “I Believe That We Will Win?”
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.
If you’re ever having a bad day and need something to make you laugh, just remember that FIFA is technically a non-profit organization. It doesn’t take a particularly bitter and cynical mind to see the expanded World Cup as a naked grab for more money. The 2014 World Cup filled FIFA’s coffers to the tune of $4 billion, which, for an appetite as insatiable as FIFA’s, is but a hearty appetizer compared to what they’re eyeing for Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022. The largest stakeholders in international football, from sporting executives to corporate sponsors to greedy autocrats, stand to make a lot of money over the next decade.
On the other hand, there’s a quote from an episode of The West Wing (which is, in the interests of disclosure, one of my favorite television shows) that may be germane here: “Chinese political prisoners are going to be sewing soccer balls with their teeth whether we sell them cheeseburgers or not. So let’s sell them cheeseburgers.” Which is to say: political corruption, corporate greed, and repressive regimes all carry on just fine with or without the World Cup, and these problems would still exist in the world even if FIFA folded today. But football changes lives for the better. You can challenge the efficacy of the sport in said capacity, you can call it a minor externality, you can say the benefits don’t outweigh the costs. But corporate elites and autocrats are going to make a lot of money no matter what. If the power of football to improve quality of life and advance the cause of human rights can be expanded to more countries every cycle, it may just be worth it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With football’s lengthy history and global reach, there is never one single perspective on the events that shaped the sport’s history. Ask someone from France what was the most important moment in the history of football and you’ll get a different answer than someone from Brazil. This is a good thing. Football’s history and mythology, like the sport itself, is messy.
But sometimes, there are universals. Maybe you heard it on the radio when it happened. Maybe you saw a documentary about it. Maybe you saw still pictures of it decades later and wondered what it must’ve been there. Maybe you WERE there.
Thirty years ago yesterday, something happened that defined football in a way few other moments have. For better or worse.
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.
That homophobia is so prevalent in football is distressing, even if it’s not entirely surprising. One is immediately reminded of Robbie Rogers, who famously made a public announcement in 2013 in which he simultaneously came out as gay and retired from football, saying that he couldn’t hide who he was any longer but understood football culture for what it was and knew that practically no dressing room would have him now (at least not in England). He soon returned to playing after MLS and the LA Galaxy made very explicit overtures toward him, and now, three years and a position change later, Rogers seems to be doing pretty well for himself.
Yet even Rogers’ story is most definitely the exception in a sport where queer folks— players, technical staff, officials, and, until recently, fans— simply aren’t welcome. For all the noises made by national associations, UEFA, and FIFA about tolerance and acceptance, and for all the well-meaning public initiatives like Football v Homophobia and Don’t Cross The Line, the story of Jesús Tomillero shows that there’s still a very, very long way to go.
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.
A big part of the dramatic tension in the Euros lies in the history behind every single match. I’m not talking about contrived history, like how England is forever doomed to lose to Germany on penalties. I’m talking about the history you have to learn about in school. The stuff with shifting lines on maps, and endless lists of dates, the stuff that turns Austria vs Hungary, normally bit players in modern European football, into Must See TV.
Understanding the history between Germany and France would require a semester-length undergraduate course. Even the football history is complicated, up to and including their friendly last November. There’s a kind of pall that hangs over the proceedings, even in the postwar era. Yet the tension also lends itself to some incredible moments on the pitch. Including one of the most incredible games in international football. Ever.
In the end, Hope Solo has been women’s soccer problematic fave for years. Some criticism aimed at her is absolutely justified, and the fact that she was never properly held accountable for the domestic violence incident is a black stain on the sport. But there’s always been a rather ugly undercurrent to some of the antagonism she faces. Lest we forget, her complaints in 2010 that rival fans were hurling racist abuse at her teammates went unaddressed, but a snarky comment about referees and the league she played in at the time earned her a fine and a suspension.
Whatever the reason, and whatever you may think of Hope Solo, this is a suspicious and ignominious way to potentially end the career of one of the most accomplished goalkeepers in the history of the sport. Of any gender. There are many who support the suspension decision to suspend her, and it’s worth asking those people whether they really believe that “cowards” remark is really worth six months on the shelf and possibly the end of a career, or if they’re just glad they finally got to nail her for something.
Read the full article at Paste Magazine.
Maybe you’re a recently-found fan of Newcastle or Aston Villa and you’re not sure how to follow your club now that they’re out of the Premier League. Maybe you saw some no-name English club while playing FIFA and you want to check them out in real life. Maybe that same no-name club knocked your favorite Premier League team out of the FA Cup last season. Maybe you heard about that one player who’s built like an NFL linebacker. Or maybe you just want to see what English football is like outside of the bright lights at Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge.
Fear not! We put together a brief primer for you on the lower reaches of the English game. And when your League Two club ends up in the Premier League in five years, you can say you were into them before it was cool.
Read the full article at Paste Magazine.
Hereford progressed all the way up to the Second Division for the 1976-77 season but were relegated at the end of the campaign. The next few decades were marked by poor football and a seemingly endless parade of financial difficulties. The fans’ worst nightmare came true at the end of 2014, when a series of scandals perpetrated by ownership and the Board of Directors brought them under scrutiny from an Independent Regulatory Commission. In December of that year, the FA suspended Hereford from all football activities. The suspension was lifted the next day after new owner Andy Lonsdale made assurances to resolve the club’s tax liabilities, speculated to be around £116,000. Yet Lonsdale was late to a court hearing involving creditors and HM Revenue and Customs, and the judge ordered the club to be dissolved. More than 90 years of history had vanished amidst paperwork and broken promises.
Shortly after, the fans organized into a Supporter’s Trust and formed a phoenix club to carry the legacy of Hereford, in the same tradition as AFC Wimbledon and Accrington Stanley. The new club’s motto reads: “Our greatest glory lies not in never having fallen, but in rising when we fall.” It’s a motto worthy of the squad that ran out onto the soggy, torn up grass at Edgar Street on that cold February day in 1972. Players come and go, clubs rise and fall, but some days, some moments, refuse to fade. Games like Hereford v Newcastle are why English football endures.
The article apes at being both an anthropological study and a cultural trendpiece, but it lacks the scientific rigor to pull off the former and the journalistic due diligence for the latter. It smacks of someone who saw a report on the supporter clashes in France on ABC World News Tonight, then found himself a little too close to CenturyLink Field after brunch, and declared, “why isn’t anyone talking about this?!” If the writer just bothered to use any of the interviews he (presumably) conducted while writing the piece, there might’ve been some real substance to it. As it is, the article is little more than a salad of stale takes paired with a shallow indictment of American masculinity.
There are plenty of interesting and important questions to ask in an interrogation of American soccer culture. It’s a shame this article wasn’t interested in any of them.
In the 1970s Liverpool won four First Division titles (and part of a fifth), an FA Cup, two European Cups, and two UEFA Cups. We’ve gone the long way ‘round with their silverware haul, but you can’t really talk about Liverpool in the 70s without mentioning that. And for a city in transition, those titles meant something they may not have otherwise. Context always matters, even in football. Especially in football. But history is as much about faces as it is about titles. It’s about the streets you walk down on your way to the ground, and the first song you learned in the stands. It’s about people and noise and something bigger than yourself.
Having a football club means you’re always looking toward the future. Future players, future glories, future fans. It’s checking in on what the academy is up to. It’s going to meetings with supporters and club officials to talk about zoning permits. It’s rearranging your life and your finances so you can afford to get a season ticket for your kid. It’s planting seeds in a garden you’ll never get to see.
Nothing is ever set in stone and no one owes you anything. Football clubs can stand for over a century and then disappear overnight. It’s happened before. Some sports you can just buy a ticket and grab some beers and hot dogs and have a nice day out. Football is about building something together. Football is about working toward the same goal and sharing in the rewards.
At one point in overtime a player developed a muscle cramp and couldn’t continue. But his team were out of substitutions and couldn’t afford to go down a man. So he hung out in the center circle and acted as a sort of ball relay— he’d collect the ball if it came near him and he’d hit a short pass forward. Fans cheered every time he got a touch.
At least one player had to change shoes.
Some fans left the game near the end of regulation or the beginning of overtime, heard it was still going late into the night, and came back.
According to Lancers striker Carlos Metidieri’s later account of the game, fatigue had become such an issue that the referee told teammate Roberto Lonardo to tell him to dive in the box so he could win a penalty and finish the game.
The head coaches for both teams reportedly begged league commissioner Phil Woosnam, who was in attendance, to please take some executive action to end the game or allow for a penalty shootout. His response: “let’s wait and see.”
In some ways, today’s verdict doesn’t really change anything. 96 innocent people are still dead, lives were still upended, families were still broken up. But the verdict does a lot to exonerate a maligned group of people who were blamed for their own tragedy. It exposed a case of shocking institutional failure and a conspiracy by public officials to deflect responsibility for said tragedy by blaming the victims. And, hopefully, it will bring a sense of closure to those for whom the horror and trauma of April 15th, 1989 never stopped happening.
Among those of us who love football, there are some that hold the sport up as something that brings people together. Something that fosters peace and understanding. Something that transcends cultural, national, racial, ethnic, and even gender barriers. That even with the greed and corruption at the highest levels of the sport, football calls out to the better angels of our nature. We’ve written here before about how football can bring out the best of us even in the midst of war.
All this is true. Or, I should say, I choose to believe that this is true.
Yet that power is absolute. And as much as I want to think that football can stop or prevent war, it’s undeniable that it can sometimes inflame as much as it can heal.
Many thought he would get his 50th in Mexico and plant a big flag in English football. Sadly, it was not to be. Charlton played well in the group stages of the World Cup and put in a strong performance in the Quarterfinals against West Germany. Though he was a constant annoyance for the exalted German defender Franz Beckenbauer, he did not score. As the match with West Germany wore on, Charlton began to tire, and manager Alfred Ramsey brought him off in the second half. West Germany roared back from a 2-0 deficit and went on to win 3-2, knocking England out of the World Cup. On the plane back home, Charlton told Ramsey that he was walking away from international football. His goalscoring record for England would stay at 49, and that record would stand for nearly half a century.
There’s a famous statue outside Old Trafford that depicts the “United Trinity” of Denis Law, George Best, and Sir Bobby Charlton. Like the statue, Charlton himself casts a long shadow. He was a member of the Busby Babes. He helped United become the first English team to win the European Cup. He survived the Munich Air Disaster, and became the face of a very public period of mourning. And for nearly half a century, he scored more goals than anyone else who wore three lions on their shirt.
Wayne Rooney’s accomplishment wasn’t significant just because of the number. It was because of the man who held the number.
The Economist does make one salient point when they say that Premier League clubs “... will never voluntarily disadvantage themselves by cutting ticket prices significantly. So unless they agree a league-wide pricing protocol, they will be more influenced by what the market will bear.” It’s becoming increasingly clear that leaving clubs to their own devices with regards to ticket prices is creating havoc by pricing their most loyal supporters out and establishing scaffolds of inequality throughout English football. It may be that the solution is a league-wide cap on ticket prices. The consensus among fans seems to be that £30 is a good maximum cap across the league. That seems reasonable to me, but I suppose I’m biased. Yet even if an agreed-upon cap splits the difference between the linked survey and, say, Liverpool’s proposed price ceiling of £77 next season (which will be the highest in the league), that would result in a maximum price of roughly £54 across the board, which would still be an improvement.
If you’re an Arsenal fan, or if you read and loved the literary works of Nick Hornby, Highbury stadium looms large in your heart. Football clubs leave a lot in their wake. The singing and the shouting from so many cup ties and European nights lingers on adjacent sidewalks, drawing fans and passers-by in to retrace steps that may or may not have been theirs on some half-remembered day in the past. Arsenal have a new home, with great sightlines and plenty of brand activation, but the ghosts of Highbury linger.
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.
So. Would you do it over if you could? Knowing what you know now, would you go back and prevent the best day of your life if you thought the rest of it would turn out better than it has? How certain would you have to be? We all get so few genuine triumphs in our lives— is it really worth cheating ourselves out of one for some postulated reward? How do you explain it to your past self? Would you even owe your past self an explanation?
The past 50 years in English football have been marked by an interminable failure to live up to lofty explanations. They won it once, and it should’ve been more than once, and it hasn’t. Whether it’s just barely missing out on another final in 1990 or not even qualifying in 1974 and 1978, the overarching theme for England has been the same: “not good enough.”
There are some who would consider trading that sunny, glorious day in 1966 for something more sustainable in the 50 years since. It was, for many, the greatest day of their lives. Would they really take that away from everyone?
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.
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.
No one gets that worked up about the Charity Shield. This isn’t a controversial take. It’s fun, people do watch it, and it’s a nice prelude to the season. But we all know the Charity Shield (or rather the Community Shield, as they call it now) is basically a glorified preseason friendly. It’s the part of the performance when the orchestra tunes their instruments. It’s a primer. It lets us all take a moment to be glad for the new season. “Thank God the football’s back.” We can enjoy that fact before the anxieties of club football take over in earnest the following weekend.
Which is, I think, what makes the Charity Shield matches where stuff happens so memorable. We don’t expect it to be A Thing. And when it is, it’s something we talk about for years afterward.
This week, we look back at the 1974 Charity Shield. Yeah. You know what I’m talking about.
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.
Spelling out all the reasons why this situation and the way Sunderland handled it would require a thorough examination of rape culture. Yet it’s worth pointing out all the ways that both Sunderland and the wider football community gave Adam Johnson every benefit of the doubt, a grace he clearly did not deserve. Even after he had been found guilty in a court of law— something which many people require as a threshold before they’ll take allegations of sexual assault or misconduct seriously despite these being, statistically, speaking, rare; the media continued to focus on Adam Johnson’s “fall from grace” as the dominant narrative. Through it all, Adam Johnson was portrayed as a tragically flawed Shakespearean figure undone by some cruel mix of fate and hubris rather than what he really is— a sexual predator. If there’s anything remarkable about the Adam Johnson incident, it’s that people are actually being held accountable for their actions.
20 years on, MLS still faces problems and growing pains. But the league today is in a much stronger position than the league alluded to in the #MLS96 hashtag on Twitter. MLS today is concerned primarily with competition for talent, both within the US (from the resurgent NASL) and outside of it (the Chinese Super League). The league is still working on that magical formula for sustainable growth and cultural import. But those problems are a world away from the kinds of existential crises that plagued MLS that first year and for the following five seasons.
MLS fans will undoubtedly look back on this season 20 years or more hence with the same kind of mild discomfort that we see in the sloppy play and floppy bowl cuts in the inaugural game. But we can also be relatively certain that there will be MLS fans in 20 years. It’s worth remembering that, when the Clash and DC United met 20 years ago this week, that wasn’t necessarily a given.
Read the full article at Paste Magazine.
It’s difficult to discuss Iran without discarding all sense of nuance. The country is usually portrayed in the West as a repressive police state and a cultural dead zone. Yet one does not even need to look past our own archives to see that it’s not quite that simple. History and geopolitics aside, Makani’s plight is, at its core, a human rights issue. It may be the case that Makani was hacked and some personal photos were disseminated online by ill-intentioned parties, but even if he did post them himself, posting party selfies on Instagram shouldn’t be a crime, and it definitely shouldn’t warrant two years in prison. Here’s hoping that cooler heads and common sense prevail.
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.
This was was the second act for El Clásico that season. They first met at the Camp Nou for the 1973-74 league campaign in October, which played out to a 0-0 draw. With Barcelona challenging for the title for the first time in over a decades and Real Madrid struggling, the home side were eager to stop their rivals at any cost.
For Cruyff, there was another layer to the intrigue surrounding the game. When Ajax sold him to Barcelona months before, Cruyff commented that he was grateful to have gone to Barcelona rather than Real Madrid, saying he would rather not be at a club with such close ties to Francisco Franco. Adding that in to the swirling cauldron of political and football animus meant Real Madrid and their fans— and their, uh, political patrons— were out for blood that night and weren’t going to accept anything less than total domination.
So of course the exact opposite happened.
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.
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.
There’s a fight brewing in American soccer that could change its fundamental structure.
The United States Soccer Federation- or US Soccer- recently proposed changes to their rules on how leagues can attain Division I status. Officials with the North American Soccer League, the country’s growing second division, believe that the proposed changes are aimed explicitly on keeping them out. And now, according to a report from the Financial Times, the NASL is gearing up to challenge US Soccer’s authority.
While the current debate is a recent development— no doubt complicated by the approaching start of the Premier League’s new TV deal, the revenue from which will dwarf what the Champions League can offer— the idea of European megaclubs seceding from their domestic leagues is nothing new. A Super League was floated as far back as 1998, with clubs ultimately pacified after UEFA agreed to expand the Champions League and abolish the Cup Winners’ Cup. In 2009, Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez suggested that a Super League is an inevitability. “We have to agree a new European Super League which guarantees that the best always play the best – something that does not happen in the Champions League.”
It’s unlikely that radical changes to the Champions League or the formation of a Super League will take place in the immediate future. But with more and more foreign investment flooding into elite European football, clubs will only wield more political and financial leverage of their domestic leagues and UEFA. Something will have to give. (Assuming the bubble doesn’t burst, of course.)
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.
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.
João Havelange did a lot of good in the world and paid himself a lot of money to do so. He had many friends and powerful enemies. His legacy is that philanthropic advocacy and corrupt avarice. He built something strong and beautiful and left a huge mess to be cleaned up. Havelange was, in short, complicated. And he’s probably the reason why you and I are able to get so worked up over this silly game. Havelange had 100 years to make his mark on the world, and he definitely didn’t waste that shot.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
When this draw was announced yesterday, Arsenal Twitter was thrown into a tumult. Wailing, gnashing of teeth, rending of garments, you get the picture. Bayern Munich has served as a sort of boogeyman for Arsenal in the Champions League, having bounced them out in the Round of 16 in 2012-13 and 2013-14. And while Arsenal is a stronger team than in recent seasons, Bayern Munich is still, well, Bayern Munich. If Arsenal wants to conquer Europe, they need to face their fear, let it pass through them, and where the fear has gone there shall be nothing. Arsenal have the talent and tactical acumen to capitalize on any mistakes Bayern make— and they will make mistakes, they’re still only human.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
So much of the oxygen in the room among Fire fans lately has been eaten up by the grueling and bitter politics of ingroup/outgroup dynamics.
The departure of Shaun Maloney and the conflicting stories around his reasons for wanting out restarted a debate about whether players do or do not want to play in Chicago, and whether that should matter.
The #HauptmanOut movement has crystallized anxiety around who "owns" the Chicago Fire, and the difference between shareholding and stakeholding. Depending on which side of that ideological divide you fall on, you’re either trying to save the club or you’re an Enemy Of The Fire. If you’re neutral, you’re not a Real Fan™.
The past week Fire Twitter has been mired in a debate on whether it’s okay to yell a homophobic slur during games. Defenders of the chant are split between "it’s not a slur" and "even if it were a slur, so what?". It’s the latest fight in a seemingly endless and infinitely stupid argument about who belongs in Fire fandom and who does not.
It’s enough to make you forget that there’s an actual soccer team in the middle of all this. Which is probably just as well.