How U.S. Soccer and Its Players Solved the Equal Pay Puzzle

May 20, 2022


“The new collective bargaining agreements approved this week by the United States Soccer Federation and its men’s and women’s national teams will, at last, bring an end to a decades-long, emotionally exhausting and wildly expensive fight over equal pay. For the first time, the women’s team, which has won the last two Women’s World Cups and four overall, will be paid at the same rate for game appearances and tournament victories as the men’s team, which has historically (and persistently) failed to even sniff that kind of success. In addition to those new (and higher) per-game payments, the new contracts also include an unprecedented redistribution of the millions of dollars in World Cup prize money the men’s and women’s teams can earn by playing in the tournament every four years. …”
NY Times
The Athletic – USWNT, USMNT achieve equal pay: How they reached a historic benchmark
NY Times: U.S. Soccer and Top Players Agree to Guarantee Equal Pay


Amateurs & A Yorkshireman: Sweden’s World Cup Finalists

May 20, 2022


“Following the 1958 World Cup final, the Swedish FA informed their English head coach, George Raynor, that he would be relieved of his duties. Far from being an acrimonious disagreement between two parties, this was the Swedes being self-aware. There was no way Raynor wouldn’t have offers flooding in from back home. They were wrong. …”
The Longball Football
W – 1958 FIFA World Cup Final
YouTube: Brasil 5 x 2 Sweden – 1958 World Cup Final Extended Goals & Highlights (Live)


‘One of the greatest moments of my life’: Lampard revels in Everton survival

May 19, 2022


“Frank Lampard described Everton’s dramatic Premier League survival as the one of the greatest moments of his career after Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s 85th minute winner completed a stunning comeback against Crystal Palace. … But a stirring second-half recovery, capped by the England international’s late diving header, preserved the club’s 68-year top-flight residence in remarkable style. The victory sparked a huge pitch invasion at Goodison Park. The celebrations were largely peaceful, certainly in comparison to the ugly scenes at Nottingham Forest and Port Vale, but Vieira appeared to kick out at an Everton fan who goaded him after the final whistle. The Palace manager declined to comment on the incident afterwards. …”
Guardian
BBC: Everton 3 Crystal Palace 2 (Video)


Scrutinized documents, a mysterious brother and lots of jokes: The legal battle between Chile and Ecuador with World Cup implications

May 15, 2022


“Accusations of cheating are nothing new in South American football. The latest scandal, however, could have major implications ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. It involves an international court battle between the Ecuadorian and Chilean football federations that is surrounded by nationalism, name-calling in the press and decades-old grudges. …”
The Athletic


Chile Files Claim Seeking Ecuador’s Place in the World Cup

May 5, 2022



“Qualification for this year’s soccer World Cup, already disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine, now faces more uncertainty after Chile this week called on FIFA to throw out Ecuador and hand its place in the tournament to Chile instead. Chile contends that its South American rival fielded an ineligible player who is in fact Colombian. …”
NY Times


Soccer capitalism

May 4, 2022


“Soccer academies are springing up across Africa with remarkable speed, evidence of the immense popularity of the sport and the many aspirations it arouses. These academies—institutions that at their core combine a sportive and an educational system—first arrived in Africa from Europe in the late 1990s, following three interrelated processes: (1) the mistreatment by unscrupulous agents of young African players who migrated to Europe; (2) the Bosman ruling of 1995 that further increased the migration of African players to Europe; and (3) the introduction of new transfer regulations by FIFA in 2001 that aimed at curbing the abuse of young migrant players by making it harder for clubs to sign players under the age of 18. …”
Africa Is a Country


As World Cup Nears, Brands Weigh Cost of Teaming With Qatar

May 2, 2022



“For Gary Lineker, a starring role in Qatar’s big show was not an option. Sure, he had hosted a World Cup draw before. And as a former top scorer in the tournament who now works as a popular television broadcaster he has an ongoing professional relationship with the tournament’s organizer, FIFA. But fronting the glamorous event in Doha last month that set the matchups for this year’s World Cup in Qatar — a hosting choice he has regularly criticized — was not something, Lineker decided, that he could consider. So in a conversation with FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, Lineker said no. …”
NY Times


Nigeria’s troubles are reflected in its football

April 24, 2022


29 March 2022: Angry Nigerian football fans invade the pitch after the Super Eagles’ loss to Ghana at the National Stadium in Abuja, Nigeria.
“The ugly reaction to Nigeria’s failure to qualify for the Fifa World Cup highlighted frustrations of the nation that go beyond the disappointment of losing a football match. The response to their elimination by West African arch-rivals Ghana was immediate as home fans at Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja invaded the pitch at fulltime. In a bid to create as hostile and intimidating an atmosphere as possible for Ghana, tens of thousands of tickets had been given out free. …”
New Frame


Soccer Should Worry About the Product, Not the Packaging

April 10, 2022


“Everything started with a letter. In the summer of 1990, Daniel Jeandupeux, a young Swiss coach, was bored. More precisely, he was bored by that year’s men’s World Cup. The romance of Toto Schillaci, the joy of Roger Milla, the swelling aria of Nessun Dorma: None of it could quite dislodge his sensation that it had been, by and large, a deeply ‘ugly’ tournament. That thought inspired Jeandupeux to explore why that might have been. As he described it to the estimable Dutch news outlet De Correspondent, he used an early example of soccer analytics software, a platform called Top Score, to examine what form the game took, particularly in matchups in which one team took an early lead. …”
NY Times


England immortality beckons for Kane in Qatar

April 8, 2022


“Harry Kane has already written his name in FIFA World Cup™ history. By scoring six times at Russia 2018, the England captain earned himself the tournament’s adidas Golden Boot and, in doing so, followed in feted footsteps of men like Ronaldo, Gerd Muller and Eusebio. Kane, 28, is also already assured of his place as a Three Lions legend. No-one in the history of England’s national team has scored more often in competitive fixtures, and his overall record of 49 from 69 appearances stands comparison with anyone in modern-day international football. …”
FIFA (Video)


The Biennial World Cup May Be Dead, but FIFA’s Fight Isn’t Over

April 4, 2022


“Gianni Infantino strode into the bright lights of a packed convention center alongside the emir of Qatar on Friday and declared that he expected this year’s World Cup to be the best ever. … It was here where yet another of Infantino’s hopes for revolutionary change, the kind of bold but ultimately failed plan that has marked his presidency of soccer’s global governing body, finally came to an end. The divisive efforts to double the frequency of the men’s World Cup, to milk FIFA’s multibillion-dollar cash cow every two years instead of every four, are over. …”
NY Times


The 2022 World Cup draw analysed: ‘The Group of Dark Arts’, favourites France and that song

April 2, 2022


“Cringe-inducing cartoon meant to engage with no youngster we have ever met? Check. Song-and-dance routine combing local colour with avant-garde twist? Check. A massive advert for the official ball (the fastest ever, no less)? Yep, we had that, too, and several speeches, a first performance of the first song from the official Qatar 2022 album and a very contrived moment with France manager Didier Deschamps and a young lad who was in the crowd in Moscow four years ago. The 47 minutes of preamble before the draw for the 2022 World Cup at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre flew by! …”
The Athletic (Video)
NY Times – World Cup Draw Highlights: Matchups Let Teams Look Ahead to November
Guardian – World Cup draw: group-by-group analysis for Qatar 2022 – Jonathan Wilson
NY Times: World Cup Draw Brings Certainty. Now Comes the Hard Part.
The Athletic: With a marquee World Cup meeting vs. England, USMNT has a chance to change its perception writ large
BBC – Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022: What are the draw highlights? (Video)


The World Cup Draw Is Friday. Here’s How It Works.

April 1, 2022


“The World Cup field is almost complete. On Friday, soccer teams will learn the answer to the critical question they and their fans want to know: Who will they play when the tournament opens in November in Qatar? The World Cup draw — part gala, part pep rally, part math seminar — will deliver intriguing clashes of styles, testy political collisions and, if past events are any guide, a few uncomfortable moments. But given the stakes of the draw, it is also one of the biggest events on the global sports calendar. Here is a look at how it works. …”
NY Times
NY Times: Who Has Qualified for the 2022 World Cup? (Video)
NY Times: Your World Cup Questions, Answered
The Athletic – 2022 World Cup odds: France, Brazil are co-favorites ahead of the draw; England, Spain right behind


‘We are Ghana and we have what it takes to win’

March 28, 2022


Feb 2000: A Ghana fan during the African Nations Cup in Nigeria.
“The build-up to the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers between Ghana and Nigeria, on 25 and 29 March respectively, has been typical of clashes between the two teams: lots of banter and assertions of superiority by everyone. The African continent can lay claim to some of the most colourful football rivalries, but few match the history and intensity of Ghana versus Nigeria, at least at international level. So after the fixture, when one of them will be celebrating their place in Qatar, the other will be cowering under the weight of trolls in a West African derby given a significant new dimension by social media. …”
New Frame


2022 World Cup: List of Qualified Teams for Qatar, Updated Standings, Playoff Brackets

March 25, 2022


“Qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is reaching its conclusion, as countries compete to fill the remaining spots in this year’s showcase on the sport’s greatest stage. … It was determined on Nov. 26 which regions will be paired for the playoffs, whose format has changed. Another wrinkle to qualifying is the expulsion of Russia due to its nation’s invasion of Ukraine. .. Nevertheless, the draw for the 2022 World Cup will occur on April 1, with the March 31 FIFA ranking being used to determine the pots. …”
SI
FIFA World Cup: Which teams have qualified to Qatar 2022? Full list of all 32 nations


Poland Refused to Play Russia Once. It May Have to Do So Again.

March 16, 2022


“One by one, late on a Friday evening, Robert Lewandowski called his Poland teammates. They were scattered across Europe, and most of them were busily preparing for club games that weekend, but his question could not wait. They had all seen the footage emerging from Ukraine: Russian tanks rolling across the border, Russian artillery bombarding cities and towns, Ukrainian refugees flooding out of the country, hundreds of thousands of them seeking shelter in Poland. In a matter of weeks, Poland was scheduled to face Russia in a crucial World Cup qualifier. …”
NY Times


Liga MX suspended as Fifa condemns ‘barbaric’ riot that leaves dozens injured in Mexico

March 7, 2022


The match between Queretaro and Atlas was in its 63rd minute when fights between opposing fans broke out
“At least 26 people were injured, including three critically, on Saturday when fans brawled during a football game in central Mexico. The Liga MX match between the hosts Queretaro and Atlas from Guadalajara was suspended in the 62nd minute when fights broke out in the stands. Security personnel opened the gates to the field so that fans, including women and children, could escape the stands. …”
Guardian
Dozens injured as fans clash at Mexico football match


Why Did Global Soccer Ban Russia, Really?

March 5, 2022


“Anything as popular as soccer, whose fans number in the billions, is bound to become currency. The game carries immense value for people who play and watch it, but also to anyone who wants to use it to reach hearts, minds, and wallets the world over. In the past 30 years, the commoditization of the world’s game has accelerated, both as a television product and as a means for the ultra-rich to blow their money and burnish their reputations. The highest tier of global soccer is so expensive now that there probably is no ethical way to afford membership. But the roster of EPL club owners is a who’s-who of murderous dictators; scions of other oil-rich, human rights-denying royal families; and oligarchs who pillaged state assets to make themselves rich as their countries privatized them after the Cold War. …”
SLATE
FIFA’s suspension of Russia is a rarity – but one that strips bare the idea that sport can be apolitical
ESPN – FIFA suspends Russia from World Cup, all soccer competitions: What it means, how it works (Video)
Forbes: FIFA Bans Russia, But Don’t Forget About Ukraine’s World Cup Dreams
Aljazeera: Russia faces sporting fallout over invasion of Ukraine (Video)
FIFA has finally acted against Russia, but it doesn’t undo a long history of cosying up to Putin (Video)

Ukrainian flag with the inscription “Stop War. We against war.” prior the Bundesliga soccer match, Germany


Could this technology solve offsides forever?

March 4, 2022


Ever since VAR was introduced, the area that has come under the most scrutiny is the application of the offside rule. FIFA have come up with an idea they hope can solve contentious offside decisions – semi-automated offsides. But what is that? How will it work? Seb Stafford-Bloor explains. Henry Cooke illustrates.
YouTube


Portugal 1986: Part 1: A Troubled Beginning, Part 2: The Saltillo Affair

March 2, 2022


“Playing in a World Cup is the pinnacle of a player or coach’s career. To test yourself in the world’s premier tournament is the ultimate challenge and a dream come true for many footballers. However, there are times when the dream of participating in a World Cup can turn into a nightmare. No country would have such a nightmare of a tournament than Portugal in 1986. Prior to the mid-1980s, Portugal were unable to build on the success of the 1960s, where Portugal finished third in the 1966 World Cup and Benfica won back to back European Cups in 1961/62 under the coaching of Béla Guttmann. Since then, Portugal had failed to qualify for a World Cup or European Championship. …”
Breaking the Lines: Part 1, Part 2
W – Saltillo Affair
The Saltillo affair – the story of Portugal at Mexico ’86


FIFA Suspends Russia, Ejecting It From World Cup Qualifying

March 1, 2022



“World soccer’s global governing body suspended Russia and its teams from all competitions on Monday, ejecting the country from qualifying for the 2022 World Cup only weeks before it was to play for one of Europe’s final places in this year’s tournament in Qatar. The suspension, which was announced Monday evening in coordination with European soccer’s governing body, also barred Russian club teams from international competitions. The decision came a day after FIFA was heavily criticized for not going far enough in punishing Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, and amid mounting demands from national federations for stronger action. …”
NY Times


Reading boost survival hopes with win as Paul Ince takes interim charge

February 20, 2022


“Paul Ince has made a shock return to the dugout after agreeing to take interim charge of Reading, the troubled Championship club his son, Tom, joined on loan last month. Ince has not managed since being sacked by Blackpool in January 2014 but will take over from Veljko Paunovic, who took charge of Saturday’s 3-2 win at Preston – their first in 14 matches – while the club search for a new permanent manager. Reading are at risk of relegation to League One, five points and one place above Derby County, who have been administration since September. …”
Guardian


The Reason for the 3pm Saturday Blackout

February 19, 2022


“The Premier League is the most-watched football league in the world. Mega TV rights deals have meant that fans across the planet can sit down at 3pm GMT on a Saturday and watch the games unfold. Except in the UK… But why? As Seb Stafford-Bloor explains, a little-known legislation is preventing fans in their own country watch Premier League games live. Illustrated by Henry Cooke.”
YouTube


Investigating the rise in football fan violence: missiles, cocaine and political agendas

February 13, 2022


“Kick-off is still 90 minutes away but Stoke City are ready. The car parks are open, the sniffer dogs have done their rounds and safety supervisor Craig Burton has just briefed the 100 or so stewards who will be working in the Bet365 Stadium’s South Stand. … Burton has been doing this for more than five years and before that, he spent 30 years as a copper on this patch. He is a Stoke City fan and loves his job. Even this season, despite it being… well, harder than most. Not as bad as at the start of his career, when he had to break up fights between 200 or more fully grown hooligans, but worse than the seasons immediately before COVID-19 arrived and clubs had to shut their doors for 18 months. …”
The Athletic


Birmingham City: A club at breaking point

February 9, 2022


“Perhaps Birmingham City’s most recent results can explain why supporting such a chaotic club is draining for even their most ardent followers. After 85 minutes of laborious, turgid, football against relegation candidates Peterborough United last Tuesday night, Lee Bowyer’s team somehow clawed back a two-goal deficit to draw 2-2 at home. Although half of the ground was unoccupied, the noise that followed their 88th-minute equaliser felt like a blast from the good old past. The stadium, on the outskirts of the city centre, has seen some wonderful days and there are not many venues in the country that can whip up an atmosphere like a packed-out St Andrew’s. …”
The Athletic
W – Birmingham City F.C.

The extent of the damage and work being carried out at St Andrew’s


2021-22 FA Cup, 4th Round: Location-map, with fixtures list & current home league attendances.

February 1, 2022


“… The biggest upset in the 3rd Round: Kidderminster 2-1 Reading. 6th-division side Kidderminster Harriers (of Worcestershire) defeated 2nd division side Reading. At kick-off, Kidderminster were 5th in the National League North [#120 in the League pyramid; although normally that would be #121, but there are only 23, and not 24, teams in the 5th division this season]. Reading were in 21st place in the EFL Championship [#41 in the League pyramid]. So the difference between Kidderminster and Reading was 4 League-levels and 79 league-places. …”
billsportsmaps
2021-22 FA Cup, 4th Round: Location-map, with fixtures list & current home league attendances
FA Cup
BBC FA Cup


Cliques in football dressing rooms: The good, the bad and the ugly

January 19, 2022


“‘When it comes to dressing-room dynamics, one of the major issues you’ve got is that there’s no other industry in the world where, on the most important day of the week, over 50 per cent of the workforce isn’t used for the big moment,’ a Premier League coach tells The Athletic. … We are talking about dressing-room cliques: why they form, what damage they can do, and how managers can try to prevent divides and schisms from creating bigger problems. …”
The Athletic


When Two Champions Leagues Titles in Eight Months Don’t Count

January 17, 2022



“Pitso Mosimane has done enough winning in the last year, plus change, to talk about nothing else. In November 2020, only three months after he was appointed manager of the Egyptian club Al Ahly, he won the African Champions League title. He did so by beating Zamalek, Al Ahly’s fiercest rival. The final was cast as the derby of the century. Nobody in Egypt thought it was an exaggeration. Eight months later, he repeated the trick. The calendar contracted and concentrated by the pandemic, Al Ahly returned to the Champions League final in July to face Kaizer Chiefs, the team Mosimane had supported as a child in South Africa. He won again. He was showered with golden ticker tape on the field, then presented with bouquets of roses by government grandees when he returned to Cairo. …”
NY Times


Africa Cup of Nations: Which Premier League players are going?

January 3, 2022


Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Edouard Mendy, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Maxwel Cornet and more will be gone for several weeks
“The Africa Cup of Nations begins next month, with over 30 Premier League players set to miss several weeks of the season as they head to Cameroon. Arsenal, Leicester City and Watford are each set to lose a league-high four players. Liverpool will lose three – including forwards Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane – as will Crystal Palace. Chelsea are going to be without keeper Edouard Mendy, who could miss the Fifa Club World Cup and league games against Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham, among others. …”
BBC


Zonal vs Man Marking

December 20, 2021


“How do you defend a corner? Traditionally there are two main ways, Zonal or Man Mark, or the more modern, Hybrid system. But what do all these terms mean? And which is the best for your team to use? Written by Eric Laurie, illustrated by Marco Bevilacqua.”
YouTube
W – Marking (association football)


Swapsies and shinies: 60 years of Panini football stickers

December 18, 2021


“There are sticker collections gathering dust in lofts across the country, neglected for decades and destined for the charity shop or car boot sale. But it might be worth digging out those stickers as they could be worth a small fortune. British football fans have been collecting Panini stickers since the company launched its first album in the UK for the 1970 World Cup. …”
Guardian
SI: The Magic, Global Craze and Tradition of Panini’s World Cup Sticker Albums
Panini Premier League stickers: How much will it cost to fill 2021 album & how can you fill in missing players?
BBC: Haunted by recurrent football stickers
W – Panini Group


Stoppage-time sensations set up Tunisia-Algeria final

December 16, 2021


Egyptian players reacting to the last-minute loss to Tunisia
“Tunisia will battle Algeria for gold at the FIFA Arab Cup™ after semi-final victories packed full of passion, tension and late, late drama. The Eagles of Carthage prevailed in the 95th minute, scoring with almost the last touch of a last-four duel with Egypt that had looked to be heading inexorably towards extra time. But if we thought that match-winning Amro Elsoulia own goal had been dramatic, we hadn’t seen anything yet. In the second of the day’s semis, Algeria looked to be heading for a deserved and fairly routine 1-0 win of their own until Mohammed Muntari popped up in the 97th minute to send home a thundering headed equaliser. But the delays and VAR check that followed extended stoppage time yet further and, fully 17 minutes after the clock hit 90, Mohammed Belaili notched the winner on the rebound after his initial penalty had been saved. It made for an incredible conclusion to a truly remarkable day of action and set a high bar for Saturday’s final act. …”
FIFA (Video)


The World’s First Football Match

December 13, 2021


“The first ever football match did not take place between the Old Etonians and Darwen FC, it did not take place around the formation The FA (the oldest football association in the world), it did not even take place with a game of Cuju in ancient China. It dates back even further, and took place in Mesoamerica. As David Goldblatt explains. Marco Bevilacqua illustrates.”
YouTube (Video)


Pharaohs fight back as Fennecs keep their cool

December 12, 2021


Morocco 2 (3) Algeria 2 (5)
“The last-four line-up at the FIFA Arab Cup is complete after Egypt and Algeria edged epic encounters to set up semi-finals against Tunisia and Qatar respectively. The North African duo emerged triumphant after two very different but equally thrilling matches, both of which ebbed and flowed before going into extra time and, in the later kick-off, beyond. Les Fennecs needed penalties to edge a titanic tussle with Morocco, while Egypt fell behind before battling back to dominate and, ultimately, overpower a valiant Jordan side. …”
FIFA (Video)
YouTube: Algeria vs Morocco 5-3 | Penalties Shootout – Arab Cup


Will a biennial World Cup be good for Africa?

December 11, 2021


“If anything has defined the landscape of world football in 2021, it has been the desire to shift from the traditional to a new order of competition. In April, European football was hit with the unexpected, if not exactly unprecedented, news that a number of its most influential clubs had signed up for a splinter Super League. While fierce public backlash saw nine of the founding members back down from the idea, the stage was set for a year of upheaval. The second half of the year brought its own peculiar agenda, with world football governing body Fifa angling for a shift to a biennial World Cup tournament as part of a wider revamp of the football calendar. …”
New Frame


The English FA and a very uncomfortable relationship with Qatar

December 8, 2021


“After wrapping up their place in next year’s World Cup finals, the Danish Football Association (DBU) made an emphatic move. ‘The DBU has long been strongly critical of the World Cup in Qatar,’ its chief executive officer, Jakob Jensen, said in a statement. ‘But now we are further intensifying our efforts and critical dialogue so that we take advantage of the fact that we have qualified to work for more change in the country.’ The Danes committed to action, not only words. They announced that their two training kit sponsors have given up logo space on those jerseys to create room for ‘critical messages’ about alleged Qatari human rights violations. Additionally, commercial partners will not travel to Qatar. The federation also pledged to limit the number of trips it makes there in the lead-up to the tournament to avoid promoting the ‘World Cup organiser’s events’. …”
The Athletic


Midfielder

December 6, 2021


Kevin De Bruyne
“A midfielder is an association football position. Midfielders are generally positioned on the field between their team’s defenders and forwards. Some midfielders play a strictly-defined defensive role, breaking up attacks, and are otherwise known as defensive midfielders. Others blur the boundaries, being more mobile and efficient in passing: they are commonly referred to as deep-lying midfielders, play-makers, box-to-box, or holding midfielders. The number of midfielders on a team and their assigned roles depends on the team’s formation; the collective group of these players on the field is sometimes referred to as the midfield. Most managers assign at least one midfielder to disrupt the opposing team’s attacks, while others may be tasked with creating goals, or have equal responsibilities between attack and defence. Midfielders are the players who typically travel the greatest distance during a match. Midfielders arguably have the most possession during a game, and thus they are among the fittest players on the pitch. …”
Wikipedia
TOP 10 CENTRAL ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS IN FOOTBALL RIGHT NOW
The 10 best midfielders in world soccer right now


Three forgotten men and the birth of Iraq’s national football team

December 6, 2021


“In 2001, exactly 50 years after the Iraqi national team was formed, I made a discovery. I was reading a comment on the old sports forum about a player named Saeed Easho. It was the start to unearthing the story of Iraq’s first national team. Many years later I contacted the ex-footballer, and through him it seemed as if everything fell into place. He had spent the best part of 60 years living outside Iraq so no one knew what had happened to the centre-half of Iraq’s first national side. …”
Guardian
amazon: Birth of the Lions of Mesopotamia: The early years of football in Iraq


Semi-automated offsides: FIFA’s new baby and a bold step in the development of VAR

December 3, 2021


“A show of hands please from those who watched Tunisia hammer Mauritania 5-1 on Tuesday. Really? The opening game of the FIFA Arab Cup passed you by? More fool you. It had plenty going for it, honestly. Some classy finishes from Tunisia, particularly the cheeky backheel from Seifeddine Jaziri to break Mauritania’s resolve for 3-0. No way back from there when you are ranked 103rd in the world, that’s for sure. Arguably the most remarkable aspect of the match, though, was the 17 (seventeen) minutes of stoppage time played at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium in Qatar. Even more remarkable was that none of it was down to offside VAR checks. …”
The Athletic
FIFA: Semi-automated offside technology explained ahead of FIFA Arab Cup (Video) 24:21
W – Video assistant referee
The Athletic: Thicker VAR offside lines, new referees and away fans – what’s different for the 2021-22 Premier League season


Portugal on collision course with Italy after Qatar World Cup play-off draw

November 27, 2021


Italy and Portugal have been drawn in the same pathway for the European FIFA World Cup play-offs, meaning only one will be able to secure qualification for next year’s tournament in Qatar. Italy are the defending European champions, after beating England on penalties in the final of Euro 2020 in the summer. Portugal meanwhile won Euro 2016, overcoming France in Paris to win the tournament for the first time. But one — or both — will miss out on a place in Qatar after Friday’s play-off draw. …”
The Athletic


Qatar 2022 is a powerplay aimed at neighbours more than European critics

November 21, 2021


“One year to go, 11 in the making. Welcome to Qatar 2022, the final countdown, and a World Cup that for all the noise, the sense of fingers crossed and a gaze averted from the bloodier details, still makes no real sense at all. It was easy to feel a bit distracted as Sepp Blatter read out the word ‘Qatar’, with a slight break in his voice, shortly after lunchtime on 2 December 2010. There was an edge of hysteria in the chamber at Fifa House. Ten minutes earlier Blatter had broken the red wax seal on another padded envelope, and said ‘Russia’, to protracted squeals of joy. The crowd had already begun to seethe. …”
Guardian
Guardian – Pride and poverty: Qatar’s World Cup fever tempered by legacy of labour abuses
Guardian – The men who built Qatar’s World Cup dream deserve some of David Beckham’s pay packet (October 2021)
Guardian – Revealed: football’s plan for Qatar workers’ centre as World Cup legacy


Ancient Chinese Football Freestylers

November 19, 2021


Chinese ladies playing cuju, by the Ming Dynasty painter Du Jin
“China is sometimes said to be the home of football. Scattered references in ancient documents and legendary epics suggest China was playing a type of freestyle football. But what did this freestyle football look like? Does it have any connection to the game we know today? Written by David Goldblatt, illustrated by Marco Bevilacqua.”
YouTube
W – Cuju


World Cup 2022: ranking the top 10 contenders a year before Qatar

November 19, 2021


“With just over a year to go until the World Cup kicks off, 12 teams have qualified alongside hosts Qatar. All four semi-finalists from 2018 have sealed their spots and are joined by former world champions Argentina, Brazil, Germany and Spain, while recent European champions Portugal and Italy still have more to do. With most of the big hitters now able to prepare for the tournament, we assess where they stand as the countdown to Qatar begins. …”
Guardian
The Athletic: CONCACAF World Cup qualifying: Where USMNT, Canada, Mexico and Panama stand with six matches left
World Cup 2022 Power Rankings: France & England the early favourites as Portugal & Italy falter


1998 World Cup terror plot

November 15, 2021


“From March to May 1998, a terror plot against the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France was uncovered by European law enforcement. More than 100 people were arrested in seven countries as a result of the plot. Organised by the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA) and backed by al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the plot is thought to have targeted the England–Tunisia match on 15 June 1998, and involved infiltrating the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille in order to attack players and spectators during the game, attack the hotel in Paris hosting the United States national team, and finally hijacking an aircraft and crashing it into the Civaux Nuclear Power Plant near Poitiers. … Although Osama Bin Laden had a rented place in the stands of Arsenal Football Club, he wanted to destroy English football. Terrorists had reportedly planned to blow up the England substitute bench (targeting youngsters David Beckham and Michael Owen), shoot English players and throw grenades into the stands. …”
Wikipedia
Howler: Net of Suspicion


Hjulmand: Denmark happy to be World Cup dark horses

November 13, 2021


“With eight wins from eight, 27 goals scored and zero conceded, Denmark qualified for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ in stunning, swashbuckling style. But when Politiken, one of the country’s daily newspapers, dubbed 2021 an ‘almost perfect year’, the reason for qualifying the description was obvious. The events of 12 June, and Christian Eriksen’s horrifying on-field cardiac arrest, are never far from Danish minds – or from conversations around their team. Rather than cast a shadow, however, the trauma of the Eriksen incident – and the response to it – has served to solidify bonds within Kasper Hjulmand’s team and unite the nation around them. …”
FIFA
W – Kasper Hjulmand


El Gráfico

November 3, 2021


Heleno de Freitas (Boca)
El Gráfico is an Argentine online sports magazine, originally published by Editorial Atlántida as a print publication between 1919 and 2018. El Gráfico was released in May 1919 as a weekly newspaper, and then turned to a sports magazine exclusively. It began to be scheduled monthly from 2002, and was discontinued in 2018, continuing only on internet. El Gráfico is widely the most regarded sports magazine in Argentina and Latin America. The magazine was nicknamed La Biblia del deporte (‘The Bible of sports’) due to its chronicles, notable journalists and collaborators and its photographies. … The best selling era of El Gráfico was during the 1986 FIFA World Cup when Argentina crowned champion, with 690,998 sold. The second place in the ranking of all-time best seller magazine is for the 1978 FIFA World Cup with 595,924. Diego Maradona was the sports man with the most appearances on the cover: 134, followed by Daniel Passarella (58) and Norberto Alonso (54). …”
Wikipedia
Angels with Dirty Faces – Jonathan Wilson: 15 – Our Way
Diego Maradona: A genius and the soul of a nation – Jonathan Wilson
El Pibe del Barrio: Understanding the Latin American archetype and what it means for U.S. Soccer


The origins of football: a game born of savagery

October 26, 2021


“Football, in the contemporary sense of the term, can be traced back no further than the mid-19th century, after it became, in 1863 to be precise, a game of clear structure. Though a primitive counterpart of the modern game, many of the stipulations outlined by the then-newborn Football Association remain in some form to this day – kickoffs following a goal, forbidden use of the hands and an early offside rule – any attacking player ahead of the ball was deemed offside, though this was quickly revised to closer resemble the rule today. Hence, there can be little argument to oppose the suggestion that football began in England, at least as an organised sport. …”
These Football Times


How the back-pass rule changed football in England almost overnight

October 23, 2021


“Football is a simple game. Besides perhaps the offside rule, which may be complicated to an outsider who doesn’t watch the game, the rules are pretty self-explanatory. You learn these from the first moment you kick a football around your garden or schoolyard, and they transition into second nature fairly quickly. Often, however, you may hear anecdotes of ancient football that seem unthinkable now, potentially via Alan Smith tediously explaining to you via commentary on a video game that we used to have square goal-posts, where a lot more bounced out than went in. …”
These Football Times
W – Back-pass rule
ESPN: Football was (re)invented in 1992: the early chaos of the backpass law (Video) Aug. 2017


Manchester United’s Perfect Feedback Loop

October 22, 2021


“Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was in the mood to play the hits. Manchester United’s most ardent fans, he said, were ‘the best in the world.’ The players who had the privilege to wear the team’s colors were the ‘luckiest’ on the planet. And, of course, there was the inevitable nod to history, to the club’s ‘habit’ of clawing victory from the maw of defeat. Solskjaer was glowing, and with good reason. United had just given Atalanta a two-goal head start in the Champions League and recovered to win regardless. Cristiano Ronaldo had delivered, yet again. United had been at the bottom of its group at halftime, flirting with elimination, but now it sat comfortably at the top. The fans sang Solskjaer’s name as he gave his postmatch television interviews. …”
NY Times


Corner kick

October 21, 2021


“A corner kick is the method of restarting play in a game of association football when the ball goes out of play over the goal line, without a goal being scored and having last been touched by a member of the defending team. The kick is taken from the corner of the field of play nearest to the place where the ball crossed the goal line. Corners are considered to be a reasonable goal scoring opportunity for the attacking side, though not as much as a penalty kick or a direct free kick near the edge of the penalty area. It is legal to directly score from the corner kick. When a goal is scored in this fashion it can be called an Olympico goal, and less commonly the English equivalent Olympic goal. …”
Wikipedia
YouTube: Corners really aren’t that effective. Here’s how they could be better.

Alessandro Del Piero taking a corner kick for Sydney FC.


Chasing New Revenue, FIFA Is Considering Major Move to U.S.

October 4, 2021


FIFA officials toured the United States in September, visiting possible host cities for the 2026 World Cup.
“Looking to expand its global footprint beyond its cloistered headquarters next to a zoo on the outskirts of Zurich, soccer’s governing body, FIFA, is studying the feasibility of moving its financial engine, the commercial operation that produces billions of dollars in revenues for the organization, to the United States. The possible move will be determined by technical factors including the suitability of locations on both coasts, the ease of acquiring work visas for overseas staff members and tax rules, according to an official with direct knowledge of the discussions who declined to speak publicly because a final determination had yet to be made. The operations involved represent a vital part of FIFA’s business: They oversee FIFA’s sale of sponsorships and broadcasting rights, which represent some of the most lucrative properties in global sports. …”
NY Times


1998 FIFA World Cup Final

September 26, 2021


Aimé Jacquet – Zinedine Zidane
“The 1998 FIFA World Cup Final was a football match that was played on 12 July 1998 at the Stade de France in the Parisian commune of Saint-Denis to determine the winner of the 1998 FIFA World Cup. The final was contested by defending champions Brazil and the host nation France, marking the first time that a World Cup final was disputed between the host nation and the defending champion. France won the match 3–0 to claim their maiden World Cup, with the timing of the match two days before Bastille Day adding to the significance of the victory. Zinedine Zidane, who was named man of the match, scored twice before half-time and Emmanuel Petit added a third goal in the last minute. The match had an attendance in the region of 75,000. … The match also saw speculation on the condition of the Brazilian striker Ronaldo, who suffered a convulsive fit on the eve of the match. After initially being left out of the team sheet, in spite of his physical state, it was announced just 72 minutes before kick-off that he was going to play. In the match, he sustained an injury in a clash with French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez. Although it was believed that the decision to play Ronaldo had backfired, it was understandable as the player had been a crucial member of the side throughout the tournament, having scored four goals and created three more. …”
Wikipedia
Tactical Analysis: France vs. Brazil
W – Aimé Jacquet, W – Roger Lemerre
W – Zinedine Zidane, W – Didier Deschamps
NY Times: Sun Shines on France’s National Heroes
YouTube: Tactics Explained | 1994-1998: A History Of The World Cup, How France’s 4-3-3 won the 1998 World Cup | Tactical Analysis: France 3-0 Brazil | Zidane vs Ronaldo


A World Cup Every Two Years? Why?

September 10, 2021



“This is soccer’s age of the Big Idea. There is an incessant, unrelenting flow of Big Ideas, ones of such scale and scope that they have to be capitalized, from all corners of the game: from individuals and groups, from clubs and from leagues, from the back of cigarette packets and from all manner of crumpled napkins. The Video Assistant Referee system was a Big Idea. Expanding the World Cup to 48 teams was a Big Idea. Project Big Picture, the plan to redraw how the Premier League worked, was a Big Idea. The Super League was the Biggest Idea of them all — perhaps, in hindsight, it was, in fact, too Big an Idea — an Idea so Big that it could generate, in the brief idealism of its backlash, more Big Ideas still, as the death of a star sends matter hurtling all across the galaxy. …”
NY Times


Case for the Planet: Football Needs to Think

September 3, 2021


“By any football club’s standards, 2020 was a catastrophic year. Pandemic-driven shortfalls caused by the absence of fans has left clubs across Europe cash-strapped. The continent’s superclubs are no exception. Last month, The Financial Times reported that Inter Milan are rushing to raise $200m in emergency funds to cope with a €102m loss last season. In Catalonia, the world’s highest earning club are in crisis, off-loading players and staff to mitigate the effects of amassing debt and an income shortfall of over €200m for the 2019-20 season. …”
Football Paradise


‘This is our final’: the team who led athletes’ escape from Afghanistan

August 30, 2021


Khalida Popal, former captain of the Afghanistan women’s team
“‘We have been working like fingers on one hand, with different roles, and we came together as a big strong punch,’ says the former captain and one of the founders of the Afghanistan women’s national football team, Khalida Popal. She is talking about the small team that pulled off the mission to evacuate 100-200 Afghan athletes and a number of individuals connected to them from the Hamid Karzai international airport in Kabul. Across a two-week period those fingers worked tirelessly around the clock and across numerous time zones, tracking the real-time movements of the Taliban and military personnel on the ground to pull off what seemed completely impossible: to get a group of female football players, many teenagers, and a host of others, including family members, into the airport and on to planes. Who is this motley, but multitalented, crew and how did they manage to get so many out where many more failed? This is their story. …”
Guardian


FIFA, Deemed a Victim of Its Own Scandal, Will Share $200 Million Payout

August 24, 2021


“Even as top soccer officials were still being arrested as part of a sprawling corruption investigation in 2015, lawyers for the sport’s global governing body and U.S. prosecutors began to embrace an intriguing premise: The soccer organization, FIFA, and its affiliates were not only the hosts of the scheme, the thinking went, they were also its victims. For prosecutors, the notion distinguished between the hijackers and the hijacked: It held individuals accountable for their crimes but spared the organizations and the sport that they had defrauded. For FIFA and its new leaders and lawyers, the framing had a bigger benefit: It protected against prosecution, and it offered the organization a chance to reclaim the tens of millions of dollars siphoned away by corrupt officials. Tuesday brought the payoff: Six years after a wide-ranging criminal indictment laid bare decades of corruption in global soccer on a stunning scale, and five years after those in power started pursuing a piece of the millions that American authorities were rounding up, the U.S. government approved the payment of more than $200 million to FIFA and its two member confederations most implicated in the scandal. …”
NY Times
W – Gianni Infantino
W – Sepp Blatter


The Parable of Inter Milan

August 21, 2021


“The first alarm rang in February, a warning from thousands of miles away. Jiangsu Suning was one of the mainstays of that strange period, five or six years ago, when soccer awoke — almost overnight — to discover that China had arrived, its pockets bottomless and its ambitions unchecked, intent on inverting the world. At first, Europe saw this new horizon as it sees everything: as a market. China’s corporate-backed clubs were, as Turkey’s and Russia’s had been years before, a convenience and a curiosity, a place where they could offload unwanted players from bloated squads. …”
NY Times


Forget the Tournaments, Football Is Already Home

August 20, 2021


“Football is obsessed with nostalgia. At no time is this more evident than during international competition wherein football cultures, nationalisms, and emotion blend into a heady liquor which draws in even the most casual of sports fans. It is no surprise, therefore, that in a football landscape dominated by human-rights-abusing petrostates and governing bodies who are both morally and financially corrupt, we are all (even those of us who weren’t alive then) drawn towards the seemingly ‘Golden Age’ of the game. In that pre-Sky Sports age of shorter shorts, baggier shirts, bigger haircuts, and, as some would like us to believe – better players – many people see the antithesis of the sterile and corporatised experience we have now. …”
Football Paradise (July 27, 2021)


The Original Pirate Football League

August 16, 2021


Alfredo Di Stéfano’s adventures in Colombia
“The Golden Age of football in Colombia had war, destruction and corruption, long before Pablo Escobar. Between 1949 and 1954, some of the world’s very best players congregated in a brand new league with no history, in Colombia. Tifo uncovers how a ‘pirate league’ attracted stars of the day (including Alfredo Di Stefano, World Cup winner Schubert Gambetta, and Manchester United’s Charlie Mitten), how an assassination of a presidential candidate launched the competition, and how the fallout changed a FIFA law forever. Written by Seb Stafford-Bloor, illustrated by Philippe Fenner.”
YouTube: The Athletic
‘The Only Thing That Unites Us’ – Origin Story of Colombian Football: Part 1, El Dorado – Origin Story of Colombian Football: Part 2
W – El Dorado (Colombian football), W – Alfredo Di Stéfano
NY Times: The Lessons of the Pirate League
Colombia: …and an overview of the El Dorado era (1949-1953).


2021-22 EFL League One: Location-map, with League History chart.

August 5, 2021


“… This is a new template, which features a standard location-map, plus a chart which shows the League History of all the clubs in the division, this season. As well as showing the locations and crests of the 24 League One clubs this season, the main map includes the 58 Unitary authorities of England, and shows the major Urban Areas of England and Wales. The League History chart lists the total seasons that each club has played in the 1st level [Premier League], the 2nd level [EFL Championship], the 3rd level [EFL League One], and the 4th level [EFL League Two]. Alongside each column there is also listed the most recent season each club has played in each level. …”
billsportsmaps
Guardian: League One 2021-22 season preview