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

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World Cup 2018 Draw: How It Works

November 30, 2017

“The World Cup does not begin until June, but a crucial moment for all 32 teams in the field arrives Friday, when the draw to populate the tournament’s eight first-round groups is made. If things fall right, a team could emerge from Friday’s draw with an easy route to the Round of 16. If they don’t, a team’s hopes could be dashed even before they arrive in Russia. Here is a look at how it all works. …” NY Times


Brazil’s Indicted Soccer Leader Planning to Keep His Job

November 17, 2017

“LONDON — As the president of Brazil’s soccer federation, Marco Polo Del Nero should have been here on Tuesday, watching his country’s national team play out a soporific 0-0 tie against England in an exhibition match at Wembley Stadium. Yet instead of exchanging pleasantries with executives from the Football Association in a suite high above the field, Del Nero was almost 6,000 miles away, at home in Brazil. Even there, though, it would have been understandable if his focus was not on the events unfolding under Wembley’s brightly lit arch, but instead on proceedings inside a wood-paneled courtroom in Brooklyn, where three soccer executives — well known to the 76-year-old Del Nero — are standing trial on corruption charges. …” NY Times


A Night in Belgrade With an Undercover Crowd Monitor: ‘Try to Act Casual’

November 7, 2017


“BELGRADE, Serbia — At the appointed hour, the man picked up his phone, sat down on the couch in his hotel, and dialed the number. ‘Yes, hello, I’m calling you on behalf of Fare,’ he said, dropping the name of a network based in London that fights discrimination in world soccer. ‘Just to inform you, I will be the matchday observer tonight in Belgrade. We have done some research. Of course, we all know it’s a high-risk match ….’ The match in question, set to begin a few hours later, was a Europa League contest last Thursday between Partizan Belgrade of Serbia and Skenderbeu of Albania. The person on the other line was the UEFA delegate assigned to supervise proceedings at the stadium. And the so-called risks? …” NY Times (Video)


New Candidate and Palace Intrigue Shake Up U.S. Soccer Election

November 7, 2017

“In the surest sign yet that Sunil Gulati, the United States Soccer Federation president for the past 12 years, is in for a bruising re-election fight, his deputy Carlos Cordeiro announced Wednesday night that he would enter the race to replace his longtime friend. The entry of Cordeiro — a former Goldman Sachs executive who currently serves as U.S. Soccer’s executive vice president — into an increasingly crowded field of presidential candidates represents one of the most significant challenges yet to Gulati, whose stewardship of American soccer has been under fire since the United States men’s national team missed out on qualification for the 2018 World Cup last month. …” NY Times


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


The Real Failure of U.S. Men’s Soccer Sporting – Brian Phillips

October 15, 2017


“For around 30 years, from the 1986 World Cup through the night of Tuesday, Oct. 10, the United States men’s national soccer team managed to project at least a pleasing illusion of progress. Maybe it wasn’t always real progress. Maybe it wasn’t the kind of spectacular success enjoyed by the United States women’s team, which has won three World Cups and four Olympic gold medals and galvanized generations of fans. But there was always something you could point to, some piece of evidence to suggest that the men’s game was improving in this country. That the people at the top had a plan. …” NY Times