Afro-Europe in the World Cup

January 8, 2014

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“It isn’t fair. Though Africa has more countries and a larger population than Europe, the continent only has five berths in the World Cup compared to Europe’s thirteen. And they had to fight for that: it was only a boycott in 1966, led by Kwame Nkrumah, that changed the policy that allowed only one spot for either an African or an Asia team. There are all kinds of justifications, of course, offered for this inequality. And it will likely to a long time for change to happen, and then it will come incrementally. While we wait patiently for institutions to change, however, the world has a way of rendering a kind of justice. Post-colonial migration has created a loophole of sorts in FIFA’s global apportioning of representation. This year, there will be two additional African teams in the competition: France and Belgium. If they are going to the World Cup at all, it is thanks to goals scored by the children of African migrants: Romelu Lukaku for Belgium, and Mamadou Sakho for France. I’m not sure if these old colonial powers deserve the help, but they’ve gotten it: Africa has come to the rescue. In fact, it might be worth giving new names to these two football teams: Françafrique and AfroBelgica, perhaps?” ROADS & KINGDOMS – Laurent Dubois


2014 Fifa World Cup: A huge year in the history of Brazil

January 8, 2014

“Going back home from a game on the underground can be a fascinating experience. At first nearly everyone in the carriage has been to the match, which seems like the only thing that counts. This is soon diluted as fans get out and new people get on, at which point the mix can be interesting. A couple of months ago I was taking the tube back from a midweek game at Rio’s Maracana stadium. The local side in action had been Fluminense, the traditional club of the Rio elite, and a group of young, self-proclaimed playboys were drawing attention to themselves, banging a rhythm on the side of the carriage as they belted out their songs.” BBC – Tim Vickery


Juventus 3-0 Roma: Juventus sit extremely deep to prevent Roma counter-attacking

January 8, 2014

“Juventus took a big step towards a third consecutive title with a convincing victory over their closest challengers. Antonio Conte welcomed back Andrea Pirlo in the deep playmaking position, and was able to select his first-choice starting XI. Rudi Garcia had Francesco Totti back after injury, and opted for Adem Ljajic rather than Mattia Destro in the forward trio. Juventus created little in open play, but defended solidly and pounced at set-pieces – it was something of an ‘underdog’ victory, even though the home side started as favourites.” Zonal Marking


Peladad

January 8, 2014

“The Brazilian state of Amazonas is one of the most awe-inspiring places on the face of the Earth. Home to an incredible array of plant and animal life it is undoubtedly one of the world’s most well-known natural wonders. Yet outside of South America, it seems few people are aware that in the depths of the jungle, there is a large city now home to over two million people. Even less celebrated is the fact that each year it holds what locals claim to be the largest football tournament in the world. Manaus is a city of contradictions. It’s a functional modern concrete metropolis yet leave the suburbs behind and you are engulfed by the vastness of the rainforest. In Manaus people go about their daily lives as they would in any big city in the world yet a few miles down the Rio Negro there are jungle tribes whose lives have changed little in centuries. The climate is stiflingly hot and humid all year round and it is well over a day’s travel by road to any other city. Yet despite the unlikely isolated location, people have been flocking to Manaus for decades and it continues to be one of the fastest growing and most economically thriving places in Brazil.” In Bed With Maradona


Venezia’s woes threaten to make football a relic in city of rich history

January 8, 2014

The church bell tower which overlooks the Stadio Pierlugi Penzo, home of Union Venezia
“The rain runs down the grimy windows of the vaporetto. Somewhere through the murk is the church of San Giovanni Battista and then the gardens where the Biennale is based. A quarter of an hour after leaving San Marco, we arrive at Sant’Elena. The most obvious landmark as you leave the vaporetto station is the bell tower of the church, an imposing brick rectangle that frowned down on the low floodlights that nestle in its lea. This is the Stadio Pierlugi Penzo, the home of the third-flight side Union Venezia. It’s the second oldest stadium in Italy, and it looks it. Opposite the main stand – which, thank goodness, has a functioning roof – it’s not immediately clear where the dilapidated brickwork of the stadium ends and the 15th-century monastery begins. On another day there might be a ramshackle beauty to the Penzo, with the masts of boats in the harbour visible beyond the north stand and the bell tower looming to the south-east. But as the rain teems down, it’s a damp, grey place.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


A Stadium in Greenland That’s More Than a Stadium

January 8, 2014

“On my recent trip to Copenhagen, Jennifer and I had the pleasure of visiting the Danish Architecture Centre, which sits near the quays of Nyhavn, surrounded by gleaming, angular buildings and the brick and timber structures of the old dock area. The Centre featured an exhibition on attempts by a quorum of Danish architects and their Greenlander cousins to develop homes and civic buildings for Greenland, which included a wonderfully bold cruciform airport and a multipurpose civic centre, which would include both space for theatre and local government, along with sports facilities. Much has been made of Iceland’s recent run in World Cup qualifying to an ultimately unsuccessful play-off place against Croatia. Iceland, like Greenland, struggles with bitter temperatures and frozen pitches, which can stymie attempts to play football all year round.” Put Niels In Goal


Manchester United, West Ham unable to escape FA Cup embarrassment

January 8, 2014

“At this stage, for Premier League teams, the FA Cup doesn’t much matter — unless you lose, and even then, only if you lose in particular circumstances. It seems barely credible in the modern context of the competition that, 24 years ago, a late goal from the substitute Mark Robins in a third-round tie away at Nottingham Forest was credited with saving Sir Alex Ferguson’s job at Manchester United. David Moyes, Ferguson’s successor, could have beaten Swansea City comfortably without it making much difference to his standing at Manchester United, but the defeat to Wilfried Bony’s last-minute goal amplified the general disgruntlement at Old Trafford.” SI – Jonathan Wilson