Marlon Peres Capotes, 11, takes a shot at a goal made of two rocks during a pick-up soccer game in the Zimba La Lisa neighborhood of Havana.
“Ronald Hernandez Vega did not come to see a game played with the hands. There was baseball Monday morning, one and a half innings to complete a rainout in Cuba’s national league. Hernandez Vega did not care. He sat outside the provincial stadium in languid daylight, wearing the jersey not of Yasiel Puig but of Lionel Messi. Baseball is the sport of Cuba’s revolution, but soccer is the sport of the arriving world. … Soccer is nonstop, frenetically creative, its passion building from its penury, the rarity of a goal bringing theatrical release to its players and screaming ecstasy to its announcers. Soccer now rivals baseball as the favorite sport of many young Cubans. They play on lumpy fields and streets dotted with potholes, rushing to fill empty spaces like water, improvising with goals made of fishing nets, bed frames and school desks.” NY Times
“Hakan Calhanoglu grew up in Mannheim of Germany, before moving on to Karlsruhe, Hamburg and Leverkusen while getting called up to the Turkish National team in 2013. An attacking midfielder by trade, Hakan’s style and elegance on the ball has seen him sought out by some of the world’s best. Mini-Analysis: Operating behind the striker or across the midfield, Calhanoglu’s style of play is easy on the eye. A mainstay in the Hamburg team that narrowly escaped relegation last season saw him bag 11 goals and assist 4 in 32 games.” Outside of the Boot
“The year in Scottish football saw corporate as well as competitive drama and upheaval, certainly, but also the usual doses of joy and sorrow. Individual stories abound, but there were prominent themes, too, not least some clubs shedding debt and others finding youth development and prudence to be worthwhile pursuits. Subjectivity applies to any review, but events can be judged on their own merits. Every club will, for instance, have seen significant moments, but those that linger tend to have generated a wider impact. There were familiar travails at Ibrox, both on and off the field, but also the growing success of the women’s game, as reflected in the progress of the Scottish national team and Glasgow City’s European exploits.” BBC
“When the 2014/15 Europa League kicked off its preliminary stages back in June, 195 teams began a journey which comes to an end in May at Warsaw’s impressive Stadion Narodowy. Whoever emerges victorious will become only the third team to lift a trophy inside Poland’s centrepiece stadium, with this season’s Polish Cup winners being the second. The first – reigning holders of said competition, Zawisza Bydgoszcz – were in amongst those 195 original Europa League teams, beginning their first ever foray into continental competition with a trip to Belgian side Zulte Waregem. The Second Qualifying Round tie may have ultimately ended in defeat for Zawisza, however it had come on the back of the most successful twelve months in the club’s near-70-year history.” In Bed With Maradona
“Blame Diego Simeone the player for our one-track minds, but it’s hard to see el Cholo the coach as anything but an extension of the man on the field. As head coach with Atlético, he’s been an obstinate disbeliever — a person whose combination of dedication, optimism and talent leave him unconvinced that Spain’s established pecking order applies to his club. That same mentality that lead to 106 caps for Argentina is upending the duopoly in La Liga.” Soccer Gods
“By now, Santa has already returned to the darkest depths of Lapland, so it’s a bit late for last-minute requests, but there are a few stocking fillers that would have been very much appreciated in the world of football. Chelsea – at the top of the table – appear to need nothing more than they have already. A couple of alarm clocks wouldn’t go amiss though in Manchester, in time for next season, because both City and United woke up late this season. City at least hold some chance of catching up. United, who probably have more than enough in their cabinet already, will just have to run down the clock, comfortably in the Champions League positions, and wait for next time around.” Football Pink
“DEC25. CR7. Wake; put on my own-brand underwear and my own-brand t-shirt. Listen to commentary of the 61 goals I scored in 2014 on my own-brand headphones. Doubt: is my statue too small? Does Messi have a bigger one? Think about going to my museum to check, but I remember: It’s Christmas. It’s shut. But frustration passes. My online store is always open.” Soccer Gods