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


The Bizarre Stadium That BANKRUPTED

August 1, 2021


“In the late 1990s, a local kitchen worktop tycoon and multimillionaire named George Reynolds saved Darlington Football Club from extinction. Initially, he was hailed as a saviour, but within the space of just five years – Reynolds loaded the club with debt, made a series of high-profile transfer failures, and built a bizarre football stadium that was among England’s largest outside of the Premier League. So in this documentary, HITC Sevens takes a look back at the life of George Reynolds, the ridiculous 25,000 seater stadium that he built, and the legacy that both he and it have had on Darlington FC. …”
YouTube: The Bizarre Stadium That BANKRUPTED 38:03
W – Darlington F.C.
W – George Reynolds


Euro 2020 Power Rankings: France the Clear Favorite—but Then What?

June 11, 2021


“Five years removed from Portugal’s coronation just outside Paris, the next European Championship begins on Friday, and with it comes the quest for the 2016 host and runner-up to make amends and follow a World Cup title with another triumph—and for 23 other national sides to do something about it. France is as good if not better than it was when it lifted the World Cup trophy in Russia three summers ago, and after an extra year’s wait due to the pandemic, it’s out to confirm its status as the world and region’s preeminent team—it’s No. 2 FIFA world ranking notwithstanding. Before the competition begins, with Italy facing Turkey in Rome, we examine team form, ability and outlook based on the draw to rank the 24 contenders vying to be crowned European champion (group opponents listed in order of when they’ll play in the opening stage). …” SI – Jonathan Wilson, Guardian: At the Euros, winning teams can start badly. It’s how they respond that matters, ESPN – Euro 2020 preview: Picks, scouting reports, must-see games, biggest ‘upset’ teams and much more (Video)


The Super League Thought It Had a Silent Partner: FIFA

May 22, 2021


“Tucked away in the pages and pages of financial and legal jargon that constitute the founding contract of the Super League, the failed project that last month briefly threatened the century-old structures and economics of European soccer, were references to one ‘essential’ requirement. The condition was deemed so important that organizers agreed that the breakaway plan could not succeed without satisfying it and yet was so secret that it was given a code name even in contracts shared among the founders. Those documents, copies of which were reviewed by The New York Times, refer to the need for the Super League founders to strike an agreement with an entity obliquely labeled W01 but easily identifiable as FIFA, soccer’s global governing body. …” NY Times


Money, Power, and Respect at the Champions League Final

May 10, 2021


“The grand spectacle is almost upon us. Real Madrid, the great but ancient empire of European soccer, have been swept aside for now; Paris Saint-Germain, the fast-rising upstart, have faltered in their ascent. As Chelsea and Manchester City, their respective conquerors, prepare to contest the third men’s UEFA Champions League final between two English teams, there is a sense that they are announcing another next great rivalry. … Now, Foden has been coached by Pep Guardiola for only a few seasons. Yet he is such an accurate embodiment of the Spaniard’s footballing philosophy—tactically versatile, endlessly fluid in his movement—that he seems to have been working with him since he was able to walk. … Both should be leading figures for their club for several seasons to come. …” The Ringer (Audio)


The Meaning Behind Crests: Man United’s Red Devil, Panathinaikos’s Shamrock and More

April 24, 2020

With sports, including soccer, at a standstill, it’s a good time to delve into the history and culture of the game. Nowhere are those more evident than on club crests. They often just include a crown and a ball. But on occasion, logos feature an element inspired by a fascinating story or some esoteric or hidden meaning. We brought you two such lists back in 2017 (Part 1 | Part 2)
SI


The World Cup Final Is Upon Us. What Have We Learned?

July 15, 2018

“Here we are. The final match of the 2018 World Cup has almost arrived, and it has been as thrilling a tournament as I can remember. As Maximus, Russell Crowe’s character in ‘Gladiator,’ famously yelled, ‘Are you not entertained?’ Over the past four weeks, 32 teams from across the globe have come to Russia to play their hardest and to try their luck. One by one they have all gone home, often in heartbreak. There have been some shocking results, for sure. Germany didn’t even make it out of the first round; the formidable Spain was knocked out by Russia. Brazil looked invincible, and then Belgium brushed them aside. My home team, England, made it further than expected, before a gallant and tearful exit at the semifinal stage on Wednesday. Now it’s down to France against Croatia, on July 15.” NY Times


Stuck in Soccer Limbo, in the Shadow of the World Cup

July 4, 2018

“An odd thing happened in December when soccer fans in Crimea, the disputed Black Sea peninsula annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014, began trying to buy tickets to the World Cup. Some ticket seekers trying to make purchases through FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, encountered error messages on their computers. The problem, the president of Crimea’s soccer federation told reporters, was that FIFA still recognized Crimea as part of Ukraine. Fans on the peninsula feared that World Cup tickets had joined cellphones and credit cards on a list of imported items banned by international sanctions.” NY Times


Soccer and Doping? Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

June 27, 2018

“The World Cup continues to thrill, with exhilarating wins by England, Germany, Belgium and Colombia, and an equally exciting draw between Japan and Senegal. Away from the field, though, an old controversy has once again rumbled into view: doping. The Mail on Sunday, a British newspaper, reported over the weekend that a Russian player, Ruslan Kambolov, who was excluded from his country’s World Cup squad because of injury, had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs 18 months ago. And according to the paper, it gets worse: Both the Russian authorities and FIFA kept this information quiet.” NY Times


World Cup 2018: Serbia chief accuses Fifa of ‘brutal robbery’ after Swiss defeat

June 23, 2018

“The head of the Serbian Football Association has accused governing body Fifa of showing bias against his country at the World Cup in Russia. Slavisa Kokeza says Serbia were victims of a ‘brutal robbery’ during Friday’s loss to Switzerland, accusing Fifa of ‘directing’ officials to work against them. ‘We will send a protest to Fifa today,’ Kokeza told the BBC on Saturday. A Fifa spokesman confirmed a letter of protest had been received but that no further comment would be made.” BBC (Video)

Mexico Fans Stop Homophobic Chant, Excel at Good Chants
“Saturday’s match against South Korea went about as well for Mexico as its fans could have hoped. The 2–1 victory all but guaranteed a trip to the World Cup’s knock-out stages and bolstered El Tri’s chances of winning its tough group outright. The game also didn’t feature any homophobic chants, so it was a very fine day indeed. On Wednesday, FIFA fined the Mexico Football Federation $10,000 for its fans’ use of the ‘discriminatory and insulting’ puto chant during the opening match against Germany.” Slate


Europe And South America Are Growing In Soccer Power — That Wasn’t Supposed To Happen

June 20, 2018


“If there’s been a dominant trend in the first week of the 2018 World Cup, perhaps it has been how well European nations from beyond the continent’s traditional giants have performed. Iceland, Switzerland, Serbia, Sweden, Croatia and Russia are all off to a strong start. This should be no surprise. Only two nations from outside Europe and South America have made the World Cup semifinals (the United States in the inaugural competition in 1930 and South Korea in 2002). In 20 previous World Cups, only 12 countries have reached the final — all from Europe or South America — and only eight sides have won the tournament.” FiveThirtyEight


Mark Lawrenson’s pantomime punditry: a relic to cherish on the BBC

June 19, 2018

“Fifa are fond of telling us that football is a family. If so, Mark Lawrenson is the grumpy uncle one was compelled to invite to the gathering. But rather than simply sticking him in a secluded armchair and keeping him quiet with a gob full of Quality Street and cooking brandy, the BBC has let him loose on World Cup television viewers. Lawro has so far done two matches for BBC TV; reaction has been mixed. Which is to say, some people have hated it, and other people have really hated it. Or that has been the online response, anyway, with social media commentators vying to one-up each other with their spite and rage at his contributions to the France vs Australia and Belgium vs Panama matches.” Telegraph


Fifa’s Gianni Infantino hits rocky ground on 2018 World Cup eve

June 12, 2018

“The World Cup in Russia has sailed into view with a new Fifa captain at the helm, two and a half years since Sepp Blatter’s presidency crashed on the rocks of corruption and ethics breaches. Gianni Infantino seemed a callow, unlikely president when he was elevated to succeed the banned Blatter in February 2016 as, his tie slightly askew, he tapped his heart in wonderment at winning the vote of the Fifa congress.” Guardian


Hello, World

June 10, 2018

“In 1990, I spent one of the single greatest summers of my life as a counselor at a sleepaway camp in Maine. I was that requisite creepy English guy with cut-off denim shorts who spent seven glorious weeks attempting to fathom the American traditions of lanyard-making, Devil Dogs and skyhook wedgies. Yet my dominant memory remains America’s cruel indifference to the sport I love: soccer.” Washington Post


How Russian Meddling Gave Us This Year’s World Cup

June 9, 2018

“In the spring of 2010, Christopher Steele, a former British spy with a shock of graying hair and a quiet, understated manner, received some alarming news: Vladimir Putin, a lifelong ice hockey fan, had taken a sudden interest in soccer. This was years before Mr. Steele compiled his now famous dossier on Donald Trump, with its references to clandestine meetings in Prague and, of course, ‘the pee tape.'” NY Times


North American Bid for World Cup Gets High Marks, but Still Needs Votes

June 2, 2018

“The organization that controls soccer’s World Cup released a report Friday that raises serious concerns about Morocco’s ability to host the 2026 event, but the country’s bid was not disqualified. The assessment by evaluators for FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, could have essentially delivered the World Cup back to North America for the first time since 1994 had it outright rejected Morocco’s bid on technical grounds. Instead, Morocco’s survival sets up a furious two-week chase for votes against the other remaining bid, a combined entry from the United States, Mexico and Canada. …” NY Times


Morocco’s World Cup Bid: New Stadiums and ‘Very Low Gun Circulation’

April 5, 2018

“Morocco’s official proposal to host the 2026 World Cup highlights the country’s low murder rate and its ‘very low gun circulation’ — a not-too-subtle dig at a rival bid led by the United States, which is campaigning for the tournament amid a roiling national discussion about gun safety. …” NY Times


Haifa – A tale of two clubs

February 13, 2018

“It’s a cold Saturday afternoon in the Northern Israel city of Haifa, a passing Mediterranean storm has just drenched those who were braving the elements with a stroll on the windswept boardwalk. The beachfront is deserted at this time of year, the cafes and restaurants that are alive during summer have the hatches well and truly battened down and save for a few surfers who are reveling in the rough conditions it is safe to assume that the city’s population have stayed indoors thinking of the upcoming spring. …” backpagefootball


FourFourTwo’s 100 Best Football Players in the World 2017

January 19, 2018

“… No.26, Kylian Mbappe. Talk about bursting onto the scene: the teenager turned heads across Europe – and became the second-most expensive player in history – with his scintiliating performances in Ligue 1 and beyond. One football stats sage recently declared on Twitter that Kylian Mbappe is ‘the best teenager we’ve seen in the data era’. This is no time for another Proper Football Men vs Analytics Geeks debate – and in this case there’s no need anyway, as it’s a statement with which all parties can surely agree. …” FourFourTwo (Video)


Critics Say FIFA Is Stalling a Doping Inquiry as World Cup Nears

January 4, 2018

“LONDON — Dealing with Russia and its doping program haunted the International Olympic Committee for over a year. Now it’s FIFA’s turn. With the Russia World Cup six months away, leaders of the antidoping movement are criticizing soccer’s governing body over its failure to pursue more aggressively whether Russian authorities covered up positive doping tests belonging to the country’s top soccer players. Travis Tygart, the head of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, said Tuesday that FIFA’s apparent inaction was ‘exasperating.’ Craig Reedie, the president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said he expected FIFA to pursue any allegations of corruption and act decisively. …” NY Times


FIFA’s Dirty Wars

December 21, 2017


“Toward the end of the 2010 World Cup, Julio Grondona made a prediction, or perhaps it was a promise, to a group of journalists in the gilded lobby of Johannesburg’s Michelangelo hotel, the five-star Italian-marble palace where FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, had established its tournament headquarters. Argentina had just been humiliated, 4-0, by the Germans, but Grondona wasn’t worried about the backlash. In 31 years as president of the Argentina’s national soccer association, he’d endured personal scandal, government turmoil, economic collapse, and the ardent passions of the beautiful game’s fans. ‘Todo Pasa,’ read the inscription on his big gold ring. All things pass—all things except, of course, Julio Grondona. ‘No one is kicking me out until I die,’ he told the reporters. …” New Republic


Ostersunds FK: Rise of Swedish club under English manager Graham Potter

December 14, 2017


“Rewind to July in Istanbul, and a little-known team from Sweden stand on the brink of history as the clock ticks down on the second leg of their Europa League qualifier against Turkish giants Galatasaray. With five minutes remaining, Ostersunds FK chairman Daniel Kindberg rises from his seat and makes his way down the steps of the Turk Telecom Arena to join his players in celebrating a 3-1 aggregate victory – the biggest result in the club’s history. Kindberg knew the players would have to handle the final whistle right, just as they had the 180 minutes of football that preceded it. …” BBC (Video)


Applause at the Draw, but Will Russia Keep Cheering?

December 3, 2017


“MOSCOW — Half a million fans — by current, suspiciously optimistic, estimates — will descend on Russia next year for what Gianni Infantino, the FIFA president, has already decreed will be the ‘best’ World Cup in history. Every single fan, he has decided, will have “an amazing experience.” Billions of dollars have been spent on new, or renovated, stadiums to host the finest players in the world: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé. Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, on Friday promised a ‘major sporting festival of friendship and fair play.’ …” NY Times, The Ringer: The Four Must-Watch Games of the 2018 World Cup Group Stages (Video), NY Times – World Cup Draw: Group-by-Group Analysis


Next Generation 2017: 60 of the best young talents in world football

December 3, 2017


“From Vinicius Júnior, who has already signed for Real Madrid, to ‘the Romanian Donnarumma’ the Guardian identifies 60 of the best players in the world born in 2000. Check the progress of our 2016 class | 2015 | 2014 … and check out our Next Generation 2017 picks for the Premier League …” Guardian


Ahead of World Cup, Fans Are Warned About Homophobia and Racism in Russia

November 30, 2017

“EINDHOVEN, the Netherlands — An anti-discrimination organization that has partnered with FIFA to control fan behavior at the World Cup has issued warnings to gay and transgender fans and people of certain races and ethnicities for next summer’s tournament, highlighting ongoing concerns about threats they may face in Russia. …” NY Times


The Illustrated History of Football – Hall of Fame

November 21, 2017


“Welcome back to the imitable work of illustrator David Squires.Most football fans can only dream of pulling on the shirt of their favourite team and running out in front of thousands of adoring fans. Pitch invaders aside, few of us get to experience that adrenalin rush. Of those who do make it as a professional footballer, even fewer realise the giddy heights of success. In the Illustrated History of Football- Hall of Fame, cartoonist David Squires returns to celebrate those who straddle the game like giants; those talented, determined souls who were juggling tennis balls in the back streets before they could talk. There’s more than one way to attain football immortality though, and Squires also turns his comic eye to the mavericks, the pioneers, the forgotten legends and the anti-heroes. From Pele to Meazza, Maradona to Socrates, you will be taken on an unforgettable journey through the good, the bad and the Hagi.” boomerangbooks, amazon


How Did a Tiny Swiss Company Quietly Secure Valuable World Cup TV Rights?

October 27, 2017


“LONDON — Investigations over the last few years by United States and Swiss law enforcement officials into corruption in global soccer have exposed dozens of people and companies that, according to prosecutors, conspired to illegally reap profits from broadcasting and sponsorship deals tied to the sport’s biggest events. One company never named in any of the charging documents, but referred to obliquely, is a little-known entity based in the canton of Zug in Switzerland: Mountrigi Management Group, a three-person operation that illustrates how some of the biggest deals at the top of the world’s most-popular sport were put together. …” NY Times


Odd Man Out

October 8, 2017

“In November’s Fifa rankings, Macedonia FYR fell to 155th place, the worst position in the country’s history. Their hopes of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup have all but disappeared, the national team reflecting the desperate state of Macedonian football. Milko Djurovski is a former Yugoslavia international and the brother of the former Macedonia FYR head coach Boško. …” The Blizzard


In Soccer’s Hinterlands, World Cup Expansion Opens a Door

January 19, 2017

12fifa1-superjumbo
Uganda, celebrating a goal against Botswana, is one of the teams that are likely to benefit the most from the coming World Cup expansion.
“While the soccer world was chewing over FIFA’s controversial decision on Tuesday to increase the size of the World Cup finals to 48 teams from 32, Milutin Sredojevic was trying to block out the noise. Sredojevic, a Serbian coach, is in Dubai preparing Uganda’s national team for the Africa Cup of Nations, the continental championship that begins Saturday in Gabon. Uganda, which is in the tournament for the first time since 1978, is a heavy underdog. Yet despite Sredojevic’s best efforts to focus on the task ahead, news of the expansion, which could benefit smaller federations like Uganda’s, filtered through anyway.” NY Times


FIFA to Expand World Cup to 48 Teams in 2026

January 19, 2017

“The World Cup will grow to 48 teams within a decade under a plan approved unanimously on Tuesday by FIFA’s governing council, an enormous expansion of soccer’s showpiece tournament that was hailed by supporters as a victory for inclusion but that was derided by critics as the latest money grab by an organization still emerging from a series of financial scandals. The move, which will take effect in 2026, was the largest expansion, in percentage terms, for the World Cup since it went to 24 teams from 16 in 1982, and the first since it moved to the current 32-nation format in 1998.” NY Times


Forever Pure – Football and Racism in Jerusalem

December 22, 2016

“Documentary which follows events at Israel’s most notorious football club. Beitar Jerusalem FC is the most popular team in Israel and the only club in the Premier League never to sign an Arab player. Midway through a season the club’s owner, Russian-Israeli oligarch Arcadi Gaydamak, brought in two Muslim players from Chechnya in a secretive transfer deal that triggered the most racist campaign in Israeli sport and sent the club spiralling out of control. Forever Pure follows the famous football club through the tumultuous season, as power, money and politics fuel a crisis and shows how racism is destroying both the team and society from within.” BBC (Video)


The best World Cup format–that FIFA would never consider

December 8, 2016

world-cup-trophy-format-wilson
“The World Cup might grow to 40 teams, or it might wind up with 48. It might be eight groups of five or four groups of 10, or there might be 16 seeds and a straight 32-team knockout round to get to join them in the format we have now. Or it might be 16 groups of three. Either way, the endless gigantism stimulated by FIFA presidential elections, as candidates promise more and more nations that they, too, can play in a World Cup, means that the competition will be even more bloated, even more unwieldy by then. Of course, this is 2026 we’re talking about, so there’s a significant chance global political elections by then will mean that by then, as George Orwell foresaw, it’s just three teams: Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


L’Internationale exhibition – London comes alive for Euro 2016

November 2, 2016

“Oxford House in Bethnal Green, London, recently played host to L’Internationale, an exhibition of photos taken in London during Euro 2016. Liam Aylott, by day a professional fashion and advertising photographer, tracked down fans of all twenty-four participating nations and captured the agony and ecstasy of supporting one’s nation. The exhibition and Liam’s work was supported by Kick It Out and the Football Supporters’ Federation’s Fans for Diversity fund, which was set up to help fans celebrate the extraordinary power of football to unite people from a diverse set of backgrounds.” Football Pink


Belgium – The Farce FIFA Needs To Fix

September 15, 2016

“Belgium must have some kind of special glamor power with football’s governing body, or the country collectively holds an awful lot of photos of top FIFA bods at Christmas Karaoke parties going through an enthusiastic Abba medley.  The most under-achieving country in terms of talent vs results are still being rewarded for their purely theoretical footballing prowess by holding fast in the FIFA rankings in second place. Second!” BeinSports – Tim Stannard


Waiting for Con – Ireland’s sports writing colossus

July 30, 2016

“Considering the circumstances of one’s own conception is a curious concern. Dispensing with the questions that are perhaps too crude to contemplate – where, when, and, the most dreaded of all, how – the possibility of ‘why?’ can, on occasion, generate some intriguing answers. Born in mid-March, 1991, a standard gestation would suggest my own ‘seedtime’ fell somewhere in or around June of the previous year. An incongruous month of boring, goal-stricken football for most, Italia ’90 cemented Ireland’s nationwide fascination with a sport whose appeal had been suitably whetted two years previously at Euro ’88.” Football Pink


History of the Ball

April 17, 2016

“According to official FIFA regulations, a soccer ball must be spherical, made of leather or another suitable material, the circumference must be between 68 and 70cm, the weight must be between 410 and 450g, and the internal pressure must be between .6 and 1.1 atmospheres. Within these regulations, however, there can be a lot of variation. The history of the modern soccer ball began in 1862 with the invention of the rubber bladder.” Soccer Politics


Group of death: FIFA officials’ financial secrets exposed in new Wikileaks-style trove

April 12, 2016

“Mossack Fonseca, a prominent law firm headquartered in Panama—with offices in 36 other jurisdictions—sprung a leak last year. That leak produced approximately 11.5 million documents revealing over 200,000 entities and 14,000 clients, surfacing relationships that had remained behind a veil of secrecy and attorney-client privilege. The leaked emails and documents reveal a wide spectrum of clientele—from politicians to celebrities, athletes, the ridiculously wealthy and powerful, and corporations—who have been turning to the firm for decades to create offshore shell companies, corporate vehicles that leave virtually no ownership footprint.” Fusion


Is the integrity of international football under threat?

March 28, 2016

“Mid-March is upon us and the business end of the football season has arrived where we start to get an idea of the future destination of all the big prizes in both domestic and European football. As Sir Alex Ferguson famously remarked ‘It’s squeaky-bum time’. It also sees the arrival of the calendar year’s first worldwide international break where top level football across Europe takes a week’s break for a round of international matches. With 2016 being an even-numbered year and in addition a European Championships year for UEFA’s members, this batch of friendly matches has more of an edge to it than your traditional drab and half-hearted friendly international fixture that takes place prior to the start of the European league season in early August.” Outside of the Boot


FIFA, Knowing Prosecutors Are Watching, Makes Some Changes

March 2, 2016

borden-listy-intro-jumbo
“ZURICH — Soccer’s governing body used an election on Friday to try to break with the past. FIFA chose a new president, the Swiss administrator Gianni Infantino, while approving reforms intended to overhaul the multibillion-dollar organization that the American authorities said last year was overrun with criminals. A new era has begun, Mr. Infantino said, addressing fellow FIFA officials in a stadium here but surely hoping that United States prosecutors were listening from afar. In their continuing case, the federal authorities in Brooklyn have depicted the Switzerland-based FIFA as a victim, hijacked by depraved leaders — corrupted but not corrupt. The organization hired top defense lawyers and crisis managers from the United States to share information with investigators and help advance that characterization in the nine months since charges were first unsealed.” NY Times
NY Times: The Baur au Lac and Me (Video)
NY Times: Sepp Blatter, on Eve of FIFA Election, Is Exiting ‘a Happy Man’


Familiar Story for Thai Soccer as an Election Prompts ‘a Civil War’

February 11, 2016

“Surawut Maharom was looking stressed. His job had seemed simple when he had first arrived: to oversee an election on Thursday to choose a new president of the Football Association of Thailand. But nothing is simple when it comes to soccer in Thailand. ‘This is a civil war,’ Surawut said. ‘It’s the most difficult case that I’ve dealt with.’ In October, FIFA, global soccer’s governing body, dismissed the executive committee of the Thai soccer association after its president, Worawi Makudi, was suspended pending an ethics investigation.” NT Times


Why FIFA should hit Mexico with harsher penalties for ‘puto’ chants

February 7, 2016

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“Two years later, FIFA has finally fined Mexico for fans chanting puto at games. I already explained back in 2014 why this term is offensive and heterosexist. Yes, lots of Mexico fans say they don’t mean it “that way,” but recall the early 1990s when Americans used the word ‘gay’ to mean ‘stupid’? Yeah, that was offensive. It still is. Puto is no different. The LGBTQ community in Mexico finds the term offensive, has made that point well known, and the so-called ‘tradition’ is less than two decades old. It needs to go and the time is ripe to make it happen. Still, one problem remains: FIFA’s impotency.” Fusion


World Cup 2018 – peace at last

January 17, 2016

“Amid the dying embers of 2015 there was a spark which spoke volumes about the nature of football and politics, which are always one and the same. And it all revolved around the fallout from the bids for World Cup 2018. In Russia, as we know, all football clubs are political vehicles. They are backed by local cities/regions, or by politicians/businessmen, bar one exception.” backpagefootball


SI Now: Wahl on European coaching carousel, Arsenal, FIFA election

January 10, 2016

“The European coaching carousel is in overdrive, with a number of the sport’s biggest names on the move. Jose Mourinho is gone from Chelsea, and Guus Hiddink is in charge for the rest of the season. Pep Guardiola announced he’ll be taking a Premier League job after this season with Bayern Munich, where Carlo Ancelotti will then take over. Zinedine Zidane has taken over for Rafa Benitez at Real Madrid, where Zidane starred as one of the world’s greatest players. To make sense of it all, speculate on where the carousel might stop next and also delve into Arsenal’s Premier League title chances and the latest regarding the FIFA election, SI’s Grant Wahl joined Maggie Gray on Thursday’s SI Now. Watch the video above for the entire interview, and for more on the goings on in the world of soccer, listen to the new Planet Fútbol Podcast here.” SI


Brighton Floored by a Wolves Sucker Punch

January 6, 2016

“When the Football League’s longest unbeaten run from the start of the season came to an end, it at least did so with a degree of finality. Being the last unbeaten club in the upper echelons of the English league system had, in all honesty, become something of a millstone around the neck of Brighton & Hove Albion. After last season’s closer than expected or wanted brush with the possibility of relegation back to League One, a year of mid-table security might have been enough for the club, but from the start of the season Chris Hughton’s team had been grinding out results week after week, seldom looking likely to set the world alight, but being consistently difficult to beat.” twohundredpercent


Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini Are Barred From Soccer for 8 Years

December 21, 2015

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“Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, two of the most powerful figures in global soccer, were barred from the sport for eight years on Monday morning after being found guilty of ethics violations. The suspensions were imposed by the independent ethics committee of FIFA, soccer’s international governing body. Mr. Blatter, who is FIFA’s longtime president, as well as Mr. Platini, who is the president of UEFA, which oversees soccer in Europe, are prohibited from taking part in any soccer-related activities while barred — a sanction that, in Mr. Platini’s case, seemingly ends any chance that he will be able to run in February’s special election to fill the post Mr. Blatter has said he would vacate.” NY Times
NY Times: The Rise and Fall of Sepp Blatter
NY Times: A Hemisphere of Soccer Corruption


The good, bad and ugly of FIFA’s Mad Men

December 21, 2015

“I discovered it late but I’m glad I got there in the end. As a 1960s nut, the TV series Mad Men was made for me. In the last few months I ploughed through all seven seasons of a program that looked at the decade and its changes, especially in terms of gender relations, through the prism of the advertising industry.” The World Game – Tim Vickery


More Charges as FIFA Inquiry Widens

December 3, 2015

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“The investigation into corruption and bribery in soccer that in May rocked FIFA, the sport’s multibillion-dollar governing body, metastasized on Thursday when United States officials unsealed a new indictment that alleged an even more extensive network of criminal behavior across dozens of countries and involved some of the most powerful people in international soccer. Sixteen new defendants were identfied, with charges including wire fraud, money laundering and racketeering, aimed almost entirely at individuals from Central and South America. Among them were aformer president of Honduras, a judge on the Constitutional Court of Guatemala and the current and former presidents of Brazil’s national soccer federation.” NY Times (Video)

Five-Star Zurich Hotel Again Figures Into FIFA Arrests
“Just before 6 a.m. here Thursday, Swiss law enforcement officers briskly entered a side door of the Baur au Lac hotel. Moments later, a hotel custodian, in a starched uniform and polished shoes, stepped out the front door of the five-star property and dutifully vacuumed the entryway carpets, seemingly oblivious to the police raid underway behind him. It would have been a bizarre juxtaposition for this plush, historic hotel on the banks of Lake Zurich if it were not so familiar. Just six months ago, the Swiss police arrived at the Baur au Lac for the first roundup of top soccer officials, rocking the soccer world and providing an august setting for charges of corruption, bribery, money laundering and other ignoble offenses.” Y Times


Platini and Blatter’s “thing between two men” defense explains why neither should be FIFA president

October 21, 2015

“This has not been a good month for Michel Platini. When September turned to October, UEFA president Platini was the clear front-runner to replace beleaguered FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who was supposedly planning to finally step down after the February 2016 FIFA presidential elections. Platini had it good. Europe had his back, so did many Asian and South American nations. Everything was rainbows and champagne, even though there were always plenty of questions about Platini’s past and candidacy. And then everything crumbled. It must have been devastating.” Fusion


Inconvenient truths: Platini, Chung, and the lies at the heart of FIFA’s demise

October 11, 2015

“Business leaders often opt against telling straight, brutal truths. That’s the case for several reasons, one of which is that telling the straight, brutal truth doesn’t always serve immediate personal or business interests. Also, most people, unsurprisingly, don’t have death wishes. That’s why, odds are pretty good that you’ll never see your boss walk into the office and say, ‘Hey everyone, I’ve done bad, suspect things that compromise everything we do here. No authorities or enforcement officials know anything but I just wanted you to know the truth because the truth matters.’ Self-preservation instincts make sacrificing for truth difficult, particularly after one dedicates a significant amount of time toward cultivating valuable personal or business interests.” Fusion


There Was a Crooked Man …

September 30, 2015

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“The world is not divided in its opinion of Sepp Blatter. Few public figures attract as much loathing as the 79-year-old Machiavelli of football, an über-politician whose name recalls the Latin moniker of that creature that would, goes the story, survive a nuclear armageddon: blatta, the cockroach. He has sat contentedly at football’s top table for four terms and was elected for a fifth on May 29. Swatting away would-be usurpers, presiding over the growth of FIFA from a fusty, nearly bankrupt organization into a behemoth that turns well over $1 billion a year—and is now seen as a hotbed of corruption, a nest of thieves whom he allowed to steal and steal again, so long as they enabled him to stay in power. He did not encourage them (they needed no encouragement); he did not condone them; but he looked the other way far too often for us to believe in his innocence.” 8by8


FIFA’s Captain Clings to the Helm of His Sinking Ship

September 27, 2015

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“When Sepp Blatter was re-elected president of FIFA this spring, he trotted out one of his favorite metaphors. In his 17th year in charge of the organization, and brushing aside a raging corruption scandal, Mr. Blatter boasted that he would navigate FIFA’s rocky waters and guide world soccer’s governing body safely to the shore. But here is the latest snapshot of the bang-up job this captain has been doing: On Friday, he was huddled deep inside his ship’s hull, meeting in the bilge with top FIFA crew members, as his ship continued to take on water. When Captain Blatter returned to the upper deck later that day, he was greeted by investigators representing Switzerland’s attorney general. They had come aboard with the news that Mr. Blatter was the target of a criminal investigation.” NY Times


Reuniting Palestine

September 24, 2015

“From the Palestinian national team’s debut at the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia to this summer’s diplomatic effort to suspend Israel from FIFA, football has become an important instrument for the Palestinians to reach an international audience and gain recognition. During this summer, football has emphasised the division between Gaza and the West Bank. The Palestine Cup, a two-legged match between Itthiad Shajaiya from Gaza and Ahli Al-Khalil from Hebron, the Cup winners in both Palestinian territories determined which team would qualify for the AFC Cup and represent Palestine internationally. For the first time in 15 years, a club from the Gaza Strip could travel to the West Bank for a match, and vice versa. This game was to become an instrument for internal healing and reunification of a politically divided Palestinian people.” Football Pink


Top FIFA Executive Jérôme Valcke Placed on Leave Amid Corruption Investigation

September 20, 2015

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“Jérôme Valcke, the second-ranking official at FIFA, was placed on immediate leave and will be investigated for allegations of corruption involving the black-market sale of World Cup tickets, the association announced Thursday. FIFA, global soccer’s governing body, announced Mr. Valcke’s departure in a brief statement posted on its website. It said that Mr. Valcke had been relieved of his duties effective immediately and that FIFA had been ‘made aware of a series of allegations involving the secretary general and has requested a formal investigation by the FIFA Ethics Committee.’” NY Times