How Mario Balotelli Became MARIO BALOTELLI!!!

November 6, 2011

Mario Balotelli
“Sometime during the early morning of October 22, around the moment when the first reports started appearing on the Internet, Mario Balotelli ceased to exist. The headlines that caused his sudden dematerialization were, for the most part, surprisingly restrained, especially for the British press. You could even call them tasteful. “Mario Balotelli rescued by fire brigade after setting his house alight with fireworks,” the Mirror murmured. “Mario Balotelli’s house set on fire as he shoots fireworks from window,” the Guardian agreed. Maybe the copy editors were struggling just to fit in all the facts — none of them even alluded to the best detail of all, which was that the fireworks that ignited Balotelli’s mansion had been launched from the bathroom window. Or maybe the basic outline was weird enough that not even the tabloids needed to dress it up.” Grantland – Brian Phillips (Video)

Race, Language and Symbolism

November 2, 2011

William Blake – Los Painting
“I begin with a basic and ironic premise: when dealing with racism, we too often think in terms of black & white. No, not black people and white people, but rather innocence/guilt, right/wrong, good/evil. The most dangerous aspect of evil is its ability to snuff out empathy, even for its own evil bad-ass self. These past few weeks, we’ve seen instances of Spanish-language players, Luis Suarez and Cesc Fabregas, allegedly uttering racist insults. Yet I ask—do our Anglo racial linguistic norms really offer the right and only lens by which to judge them?” Run of Play

Chelsea 3-5 Arsenal: Chelsea’s high line ripped to shreds in amazingly open game

October 29, 2011

“Chelsea had a clear weakness coming into the game – their defence plays high up the pitch and are prone to pace in behind – and Arsenal exploited it to great effect. Andre Villas-Boas brought Branislav Ivanovic into the side for David Luiz, who was poor at QPR. Jon Obi Mikel played rather than Raul Meireles in the holding role – the rest of the side was as expected. Arsene Wenger continued with Johan Djourou at right-back and Thomas Vermaelen was fit only for the bench. This was a game with plenty of chances and some terrible defending – Arsenal were better at exploiting the weaknesses of their opponent.” Zonal Marking

Gervinho comes into form to fit nicely into Arsène Wenger’s grand plan
“Arsenal fans have a lot to look forward too if Gervinho’s first man-of-the-match in the 3-1 win over Stoke City is anything to go by. Daniel Jeandupeux, the man responsible for bringing Gervinho to Ligue 1 at Le Mans, tells Sabotage Times that “if he continues to improve, he could become one of the very best players in the world — like Messi.” It’s certainly a bold statement to make but Gervinho has the capability to be explosive. Fans complaining about a lack of high-profile signings in the summer cannot but be moved to stand in anticipation when Gervinho runs with the ball – he’s the type of player who gets bums off seats. His goal and two assists come at the right time; he’s effectively where he should have been three games ago were he not suspended in his first game at the club. But he’s slowly adjusting and his improvement can help take the growing reliance off Robin van Persie.” Arsenal Column

Chelsea 3 – 5 Arsenal
“John Terry and Chelsea’s nightmare week was complete as his slip and a Robin van Persie hat-trick handed Arsenal an amazing victory in an absolute classic at Stamford Bridge. Terry looked set to enjoy some respite from the Football Association and police probes into allegations he racially abused QPR’s Anton Ferdinand when he gave the Blues a 2-1 half-time lead. But the Gunners staged a sensational second-half comeback to turn the game on its head and, though Juan Mata equalised at 3-3, Terry’s mistake allowed Van Persie to make it 4-3 before the Dutchman completed his treble in stoppage time.” ESPN

The Legend of Arsene Wenger
“If Arsene Wenger’s career was a kung fu movie, we would be in the part where the search is on for the villain who poisoned Arsene’s rice. Taking cues from the charismatic Frenchman, all eyes would be on the usual suspects, the media, referees, disloyal players, Roy Keane, Sam Allardyce, and the most obvious targets, those pin-stripe-suited figures throwing around Scrooge McDuck money for fun. But this film’s twist is that Arsene may have stubbornly poisoned his own rice.” Run of Play

Victory from the Jaws of Triumph: Ireland’s Euro 2012 So Far

October 20, 2011

“European Championship qualifying group B was a strange one: Ireland beat Armenia who beat Slovakia who beat Russia who beat Ireland (while poor fourth-seeded Macedonia looked on and whimpered). The logical progression would have been for a match to be played out between twenty-two footballs kicking a man around the pitch. That man turned out to be Richard Dunne, and the final score was Russia 0-0 Ireland, a result you could only call miraculous if you consider Dunne to be a gift from heaven. (Full disclosure: I do.) But things would have got even weirder had Slovakia beaten Russia last Friday. This wouldn’t have been odd per se: they had already beaten Russia away from home. But it would have left Ireland atop the group. That’s the weird part.” Run of Play

From the Secret Rulebook

October 18, 2011

“Expressions of regret at missing a chance to score require, in almost all circumstances, contact between (a) one’s two hands and (b) one’s head. It is never appropriate to employ one hand only to demonstrate one’s dismay and/or wrath. Parts of the body other than the head may be touched, but only after manual contact with the head. All appropriate hand gestures will employ bilateral symmetry. The repertoire of approved gestures — to be used immediately after popping the easy header over the bar, scuffing the volley into the turf, or dragging the simple side-foot shot well wide of the gaping net — is as follows…” Run of Play

The Rendez-Vous. A Bagatelle for Arsenal in Russian Landscape
“Anyone who has crossed from the leafy district of Hertfordshire to that of Brockhall Village will probably have been struck by the sharp difference between the natives of the respective provinces of Arsenal and Blackburn. The peasant of Brockhall is short, stooping, sullen; he looks at you from under his brows, lives in flimsy huts of poplar wood, does labour-duty for his master; never goes in for trade; eats badly, wears pleated shoes. In Hertfordshire the peasant pays rent and lives in spacious cabins of pinewood; he is tall, with a bold gay way of looking at you and a clean white face; he trades in oil and tar, and on feast-days wears boots.” Run of Play

Book Review: An Illustrated Guide to Soccer & Spanish

October 14, 2011

“Although perhaps too much can be made of the so-called language of football, it’s true that the game possesses its fair share of linguistic quirks. The Football Lexicon, co-authored by occasional Two Unfortunates contributor John Leigh, did a marvellous job highlighting these and the overuse of the word ‘adjudged’ as well as the currency of Hollywood Passes, playmakers and those mysterious channels displays the oddness of the sport’s idiom.” thetwounfortunates

Excerpt: ‘An Illustrated Guide to Soccer and Spanish’
“Soccer in the United States, just like the country itself—even if the National Team and some, um, less liberal sections of the population have yet to fully realize or embrace it—is being shaped by Latino culture. Just listen to Jurgen Klinsmann, the new—and German!—head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team, in his introductory press conference. We really don’t have an identity as a soccer-playing nation, but as we, hopefully, start to develop one, Latino culture will and should have as big of an influence as any.” Good Men Project

amazon: An Illustrated Guide to Soccer & Spanish

Ronaldo vs. Messi

October 4, 2011

“Tall, powerful, sneering Cristiano Ronaldo and short, slippery, cheerful Lionel Messi ought to form one of the great dichotomies in sports — think Magic/Bird, only in Romance languages. They’re the two best soccer players in the world.1 They star on opposite sides of Real Madrid versus Barcelona, currently the game’s most compelling rivalry. And they’re temperamental opposites — Ronaldo a flamboyant, collar-popping he-diva who measures time in lingerie models, Messi a low-key, affable team player who seems to live for the game.” Grantland

Rainbows in the Sky at Night

October 4, 2011

“Like every aspiring plutocrat who loves AC Milan, I sometimes fantasise about owning the club. I have big plans for it. Investing heavily in the youth programme. Engineering unbreakable bonds of affection between players and club. Brokering a creative and generous understanding between our ultras and local government. Smiling calmly from the director’s box as the team crushes English clubs in the Champions’ League. This is before we lead our revolutionary boycott of UEFA competitions, demanding a structure that creates more equitable opportunities for smaller leagues and clubs. Giving incentives to star players for participating in local coaching initiatives, and encouraging young players (from the revitalised youth programme) to undertake higher education. Improving the rose gardens at Milanello. Exacting lasting vengeance on those who let so much as a single tear fall from the eyes of Andrea Pirlo.” Run of Play

On Landon Donovan

September 22, 2011

“My affinity toward Landon Donovan is remarkably simple: He’s about my height and about my age. It’s enough to create a bond in my brain. I suppose if I grew up in Europe the success he’s found in athletics despite his small stature might not surprise me quite so. But I didn’t, so it does. The kids born across the pond in the early 1980s had little guys such as Baggio (five-nine) and Scholes (five-seven) to adore after Johan Cruyff (five-eleven) led the way, but American sporting heroes of the 1990s were larger than life and simply huge. Bledsoe and Barkley, the Michaels: Jordan and Johnson. Hell, even Tiger Woods was so damn good at least in part because he was so damn big.” Run of Play

U-S-A!: A Conversation

September 20, 2011

“EDITOR’S NOTE: Someone (me) once said (just now, for real) that American soccer is a question in search of a question mark. But who asked that question, and what other punctuation might it contain? To find out, we deployed two brilliant young sportswriters, the latest in electronic-communications technology, and the copy-paste function. Here’s what happened.” Run of Play

Lost in Space

September 18, 2011

“Sometimes your team is just beaten by a better team. Sometimes the opponent is stronger or faster or more technically skilled, and you just have to take your beating with the best grace you can muster. Thus the equanimity with which Alex Ferguson accepted Manchester United’s loss to Barcelona in last season’s Champions League final: Barça was simply and obviously better. (Sir Alex trudged home and took out his checkbook.)” Run of Play

Happy Together

September 16, 2011

“John Crace, beloved author of the Guardian’s digested reads, has written a book called ‘Vertigo: One Football Fan’s Fear of Success,’ which we may suppose is John Crace’s delightful way of offering a point of view into every football fan’s fear of success.” Run of Play

Roberto Martinez and Abstract Painting

September 12, 2011

“Roberto Martinez picked a ball up from by his feet, rolled it across a tray of thick brown paint and tossed it across the field to Victor Moses. Moses stopped its flight with his chest and let it fall to his feet. He moved forwards with the ball, lifted his head and sent the ball arcing across the field at knee height. The paint lightly sprayed as the ball spun, tracing a curved line over the grass.” Run of Play

The Love Song Anthony Barton

August 29, 2011

“Let us go then, the reserves and I,
When the afternoon is spread out against the sky
Like Newcastle etherised upon the league table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted stands,
The muttering fans
Of Amsterdam…”
Run of Play

Bodies of Evidence

August 22, 2011

“The human mania for classification manifests itself in countless ways, and one of the more peculiar is somatotyping: organizing people by body shape, usually with the belief that there’s some correlation between body shape and personality. These types tend to come in threes.” Run of Play

Heaps of Woe

August 20, 2011

“The ancient Greeks were a wonderful people, whose reliance on slaves and women to do all the actual work meant they could devote themselves to increasing the size of their brains, and then devote those gigantic brains to the asking of brilliantly pointless questions, many of which still entertain and irritate philosophy students today.” Run of Play

Corruption, Murder, and the Beautiful Game

August 16, 2011

“On December 2, 2010, FIFA president Sepp Blatter stood before a giant blue screen at his organization’s headquarters in Zurich and announced the two countries that had won the rights to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. After hours of presentations and last-ditch lobbying efforts from Prince William, David Beckham, Morgan Freeman, and Bill Clinton, FIFA’s 24-man executive committee — down to 22 after two members were caught trying to sell their votes to undercover journalists — had elected Russia and Qatar to follow Brazil as the next hosts of soccer’s biggest tournament.” Grantland – Brian Phillips

Today in Low-Altitude Eroticism
“I already posted this on Twitter, but some things need to be enshrined for posterity. Like my favorite page from FIFA’s 2009 Financial Report…” Run of Play

FIFA President Urged to Start Process of Radical Governance Reforms
“Anti-corruption organisation Transparency International is urging FIFA president Sepp Blatter to scrap his plans to reform football’s governing body from within and appoint a multi-stakeholder group to oversee comprehensive governance reforms.” World Football INSIDER

Sepp Blatter
“Joseph S. Blatter[1] (born 10 March 1936), commonly known as Sepp Blatter, is a Swiss football administrator, who serves as the 8th and current President of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association). He was elected on 8 June 1998, succeeding João Havelange. He was re-elected as President in 2002, 2007, and 2011. Despite winning four terms as President, Blatter has often been dogged by controversy and allegations of corruption.” Wikipedia

Big Box United

August 15, 2011

“Of all the people on the train, the one I wanted to talk to the most was the middle-aged man with the graying goatee, traveling with wife and two children. He and his son were wearing Chelsea jerseys. It’s not rare to see folks around Chicago in soccer gear, but considering this train and most of its occupants were heading toward Soldier Field, where Manchester United were to take on the Chicago Fire, those two made out of Amazon boxesbold blue shirts stuck out. I tried to catch up with them as we disembarked, but couldn’t weave through the crowd quickly enough without them or someone else.” Run of Play

If This Is a Fan

August 15, 2011

“On a busy London street, two Ancient Greek philosophers from 1980s Brazil happen upon one another. They are dressed in particularly fetching togas, with yellow tops and blue bottoms. It’s confusing, but not in a bad way.” Run of Play

On the Border

August 8, 2011

“To understand the soccer rivalry between the United States and Mexico, you have to start with the Border. I don’t mean the border, the physical region where the two countries intersect. I mean the Border, the mythologized, only quasi-geographical territory where the idea of America and the idea of Mexico bleed together. The border, the physical region, is a place with a real climate and real people, an economy, cities, maquiladoras, drug trafficking, checkpoints, and so on. The Border, the psychic region, is a sun-obliterated desert where law and chaos expire into each other and civilization dissolves. It’s a terrain of rattlesnakes, liquor, and bones, the place where criminals run to escape. Lonnie Johnson was singing about the Border in 1930, when he recorded ‘Got the Blues for Murder Only’.” Grantland – Brian Phillips

Clint Dempsey and the Fate of America

August 8, 2011

“Clint Dempsey is not an angry person. Countless profiles Adam Spangler’s ‘The Game Don’t Care’ at This Is American Soccer is the one worth reading. of the United States and Fulham star reveal a family man who loves his wife Bethany, his children (Elysia and Jackson), and his large family. They tell the touching tale of a young Clint sacrificing his soccer dreams so his talented sister Jennifer could pursue her tennis career, only returning to his expensive travel team after she tragically passed away from a brain aneurysm. A grown Dempsey chats with kids to help them reach their goals. He’s a nice guy.” Run of Play

Jurgen Klinsmann: U.S. must develop more attack-based style
“The first thing you notice is the shirt. Jurgen Klinsmann is wearing a blue-and-red Nike shirt with the badge of the U.S. national team as we sit down on Sunday for our first private interview since he took over as the U.S. coach. For some reason, seeing Klinsmann in the team gear for the first time rams home the point more than anything else so far. He’s here. The World Cup-winning German really did take the job.” SI

The Double

August 4, 2011

“The mainstream football media are convinced that there is a ‘new Mourinho’ at Chelsea. Although I’m inclined to agree, I’m not entirely sure who this ‘new Mourinho’ actually is. Of course, to even ask who this ‘new Mourinho’ is implies a form, a Mourinho, from whom to begin. José Mourinho was a Chelsea manager, young, Portuguese, poached from Porto after a blistering season domestically and in Europe, who was expected to grasp a small but ambitious club by the horns and haul it that final step which it couldn’t take under its previous (Italian) coach.” Run of Play

A Farewell to Cannavara

August 4, 2011

“A couple of years ago, when Brian was running his ‘Inner Life of … ‘ posts, I wrote to him to suggest that this would be a good representation of the Inner Life of Fabio Cannavaro. Cannavaro may be the calmest defender I’ve ever seen, and his on-pitch serenity stemmed directly from his uncanny positional awareness. One way to think of Cannavaro is as the defensive counterpart to Xavi: just as Xavi with the ball at his feet sees angles and opportunities invisible to other players, so Cannavaro, when he was in his prime, saw attacking developments earlier than anyone else and intervened incisively to stop them.” Run of Play


August 1, 2011

“‘We are ourselves’ — that’s what Jürgen Klinsmann wanted to teach the players of Bayern Munich. He wanted them to ‘open up’; he wanted to get to know them, to ‘look inside’ them, to meet their emotional needs. It was a philosophy of liberation — of helping players to get beyond the Wanderer in a Sea of Foginhibitions of consciousness, back to some easy inner self. The Inner Game of Football. Zen. From Songs of Experience back to Songs of Innocence.” Run of Play

Analyzing the Liverpool Midfield

August 1, 2011

“It’s not even August, and Kenny Dalglish has been busier than the Pitt-Jolies’ au pair brigade when it comes to restocking the barren midfield corps that awaited him last January. Well, it’s perhaps disingenuous to call it barren; more like, not stocked particularly well. Like if a $30 dish at a fine dining establishment boasted signature ingredients like soap, anchovies, a box of Rice-A-Roni, and a plunger. All things you might need, but not at once. And so, without so much as blinking an eye, he’s signed just about every midfielder ever so much as whispered about in the paragraphs of a transfer rumor mill.” Run of Play

Reenchanting the World

July 27, 2011

“Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that part of the Americans’ genius was their taming of the human pursuit of greatness. Their art was moderate, their religion egalitarian, and their guiding spirit was thoroughly anti-nobility. Their only stab at greatness was in the commercial world. ‘The Americans,’ Tocqueville wrote, ‘put something heroic into their way of trading.’ In all other spheres, they were that new human archetype: the bourgeois vanguard of a modern world yet unfolding. In other words, Americans lived in a world already ‘disenchanted.'” Run of Play

Ups and Downs

July 11, 2011

“So Marc Pelosi, a seventeen-year-old rising star of American soccer, may be be headed to Liverpool to develop his skills in the Reds’ youth program. He has made an interesting comment: ‘I have been told the current Barcelona coach said that if you don’t go to Barcelona, the second best place to develop is at Liverpool. It’s a great, top notch organization.’ (Pep Guardiola has indeed been reported as having said that, but I can’t track the quote to a reliable source. It would be surprising, though, if Guardiola didn’t have nice things to say about Liverpool’s youth program, since it’s run by people with Barça pedigrees, José Segura and Rodolfo Borrell.)” Run of Play

Keep Calm and Carry On

July 3, 2011

“Seemingly as bumptious as he is precocious, Jack Rodwell recently said that several of England’s senior players including Rio Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney, and John Terry, would be certain starters if they were in the current Barcelona squad—a boast sure to induce more than a few guffaws even if publications like The Sun are patting Jack the Lad on the head for his bulldogged patriotism.” Run of Play

End Times

July 1, 2011

“In early October of 2010, I sat at the bus stop and politely nodded11 Many a Seattle liberal has died in the manner of Tycho Brahe, terminally enslaved to etiquette. as a flushed woman in a floral print mu mu described to me her irrefutable eschatological proof that the Day of Judgement was not only approaching, it was known.” Run of Play

Trials and Tribulations

June 25, 2011

“Why isn’t el Tri better? Mexico is the most populous nation in the Spanish-speaking world, and soccer is by far the most popular sport.11 In the second most popular sport in the poll, boxing, Mexico currently has twice as many world champions as any other country. Youth leagues and impromptu street games dot the landscape from one peninsular extreme (Yucatan) to another (Baja California). The nation boasts a rabid fan base as well as a successful pro league that lures talent from around the globe. These are the ingredients for a world power.” Run of Play

Soccer, America, and the Emblematic Woman

June 21, 2011

“I’ve identified three problems with the American soccer missionaries. 1. Rarely—so rarely—have they been converted from Our Sports. I’ve never heard anyone talk about how they used to be a football fanatic but have decided soccer is the better game.” Run of Play

Ronaldo and Mythology

June 21, 2011

“Ronaldo was (yes, I’m still getting used to talking about him in the past tense too) a great player, of that there is no doubt. The finest striker of his generation, the Brazilian had in abundance the supernatural technique—those abilities that even fellow professionals struggle to fathom—that marks out the game’s true masters.” Run of Play

The Wages of Narcissism

June 10, 2011

“You’ve got to be someone pretty special to work in the highest echelons of professional football in Europe, a most arrogant and self-aggrandising industry, and still be singled out for narcissism. As any media across Europe, maybe even the world, will attest though, José Mourinho snugly fits that bill.” Run of Play

On Freedom

June 7, 2011

“few months ago, I was fortunate enough to attend a talk by the mega-historian Professor David Starkey, during which the characteristically flamboyant expert on the British monarchy (and self-appointed ‘rudest man in Britain’) broke into a somewhat controversial massacre of contemporary culture with a provocative alignment of 21st-Century life with the more insidious aspects of Imperial Roman society.” Run of Play

Brian Phillips: Are even Barcelona unable to save football?

June 6, 2011

“Football has been murdered, resurrected, strangled, saved, thrown in a ditch, pulled out of the ditch, bought, sold, given away, wrecked, and redeemed so many times that nothing’s really shocking anymore. But even by the standards of the modern game, the contrasts presented by the last ten days have been eye-opening.” Life’s a pitch – Brian Phillips

On Helplessness

June 6, 2011

“I do very little on Sundays. I sleep late. I half-heartedly clean my apartment. I peruse my Netflix Instant queue. Sometimes I nurse a hangover and journey a few blocks north for some fried chicken and a soda. I also spend roughly two hours staring at a laptop screen with a slack jaw, intermittently wiping spit from the corners of my mouth. I do not have a medical condition nor do I indulge in Sunday afternoon peyote binges. I’m an Atlético Madrid supporter, and
TracksI am in awe.” Run of Play

Can’t Catch Me

June 1, 2011

“’I’m off this week slaking a thirst for lawns and paperwork, but this can’t wait. Paul Scholes retired today, meaning that we are officially old, you and I, and children born from this day forth will never see jungles or snow.” Run of Play

Copycats Wanted
“Is there really anything more to be said about FC Barcelona? Maybe not, but there are a couple of things I noticed while watching the Champions League final that might be worth registering in pixels. Plus, I have a question.” Run of Play

FC Barcelona: Culminating With a Dream

May 29, 2011

“This season has seen FC Barcelona reach what must surely be the pinnacle of the quite remarkable cycle of success that this team has enjoyed since the appointment of Pep Guardiola in 2008. Playing a style of football that is as effective as it is beautiful, Barcelona have mastered both patient passing when with the ball and relentlessly energetic pressing without, their beguiling proficiency seeing them repeatedly outclass the rest of Europe.” The Equaliser – Video

Style and Stylelessness
“Some last-minute thoughts . . . Last year I wrote something about styles and stylelessness in soccer, and I’m thinking about that again as the Champions League final approaches. Everyone knows, because fifty articles a day say so, that Barcelona has a very distinctive style of play. You can name it and describe it, and you can see clearly when other sides try to imitate it. Xavi may be the perfect embodiment of the style, but it’s bigger than he is, and everyone knows it. Whenever Victor Valdés starts a Barça possession not with an aimless punt but with a sharp clean pass to Piqué or Busquets, the crowd at Camp Nou cheers. ‘Even our keeper plays the Barça way!'” Run of Play

Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United: Barcelona are European Champions
“Goals from each of Barcelona’s front three gave Pep Guardiola’s side victory at Wembley. Sir Alex Ferguson named his recent ‘big game’ XI – which meant Javier Hernandez upfront with Wayne Rooney behind, and Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick in the centre of midfield. The biggest surprise was Dimitar Berbatov not even being on the bench. Guardiola was able to call on Eric Abidal at left-back, but not Carles Puyol at centre-back, so Javier Mascherano started in defence after all. The overall pattern was not completely different from the 2009 final. United enjoyed a good opening few minutes, but were then the poorer side for the rest of the contest.” Zonal Marking

Barcelona outclasses Man United with a performance for the ages
“Surely now the doubters have been won over: this Barcelona is one of the greatest teams there has ever been. In Pep Guardiola’s three seasons in charge Barca has twice won the Champions League, and it was denied a hat trick that would have placed it statistically alongside the Ajax and Bayern Munich sides of the seventies only by the combined might of Jose Mourinho and an Icelandic volcano.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Lionel Messi the little master offers timely reminder of the beautiful game as Barcelona thrill
“This was the sort of spellbinding performance from Barcelona, and particularly their wonderful Argentine magician, that makes even cynics fall back in love with football. Pass and move, move and score. Bewitching. For a sport dogged by negative headlines, the club season climaxed with a celebration of the sport’s oft-hidden virtues. The spotlight turns to Fifa today, and the judgment of the Ethics Committee on recent shenanigans, but here was a reminder of what the game should be about. Not greed. Just glory. Just a love of the ball’s company, a passion for guiding it past opponents.” Telegraph – Henry Winter

Brilliant Barcelona are a high point in football’s evolution
“In the buildup to this final, the BBC debated who was the greatest of all club football sides and settled on the Real Madrid team who won the first five European Cups from 1956 to 1960. There was unanimity in favour of Puskas, Di Stéfano and Gento: white-jerseyed enemies to the people of Catalonia. Study the tapes of those Real Madrid XIs and you see skill, exuberance, thrust and machismo; a regal confidence across the team. You also register a wholly different version of football in which possession is easily surrendered and defending often laissez-faire. The greatest of all Real’s early triumphs – the 7-3 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt in 1960 – was a goal avalanche impossible to imagine in a Champions League final today.” Guardian – Paul Hayward

Prized Possession for Barcelona: Champions League Title
“LONDON — With the fans at one end of Wembley Stadium singing and dancing, and those at the other sulking and leaving, the public-address announcer made the most obvious of proclamations: Barcelona was the winner of the Champions League.” NYT

Barca vs. Man United player grades
“Reviewing the individual performances in the 2011 Champions League final (players graded on a scale of 1-10)…” SI

Barcelona 3 – 1 Manchester United
“For the second time in three years, brilliant Barcelona denied Manchester United Champions League glory with a sensational performance at Wembley. Although United could take some small consolation from the knowledge they were more effective than that 2009 letdown in Rome and even managed to level Pedro’s first-half strike through Wayne Rooney, once again the better team won. On the ground where the Catalans lifted their first European Cup, Lionel Messi also laid his personal ghost to rest, scoring his first goal for Barcelona on English soil, belting home what proved to be the winner nine minutes into the second half.” ESPN

FC Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United – Extended Fox Sports Video Highlights
Extended Fox Sports video

FC Barcelona Trophy Celebrations After Winning 2011 UEFA Champions League
Video highlights of the trophy celebration by FC Barcelona on May 28, 2011


May 27, 2011

“Put all your partisanship aside and enjoy the ball in flight. It’s been switched crossed field from the inside-left position by the skillful, balding, English bulldog in ballet slippers to the man on the right touch in all black boots and pomade-infused black hair. Taken out of the air with the inside of the foot and stopped dead by the simplest of grace, the game has changed from a waltz on spiked Lucozade to an aguardiente-inspired pasillo remix. That sequence of events gives me joy. There is technique and there is technique. And, such deft touch is evidence of the latter. What happens next, the soccer equivalent of a crescendo, brings me happiness.” Run of Play

Exploitation, Youth Soccer, and College

May 20, 2011

“I begin with a warning and an observation. First, I do not want to dwell on American soccer troll topics. This post is not meant to gauge the ‘effectiveness’ of the college soccer system in producing elite players as compared to European youth academies. Rather, I want to focus on the intangible. I also want to grapple with a topic that has long ached at my soul: does our consumption of top-level European soccer foster child labor exploitation in Africa and elsewhere? As 21st century consumers with unparalleled access to tomes of information, we have a moral obligation to reflect on how our decisions in aggregate affect the world.” Run of Play

Retro Missile-by-Missile

May 16, 2011

“‘All referees are good, and all are bad. A referee only needs to make one mistake, or an assumed mistake, against a club and if he lives till he is a hundred he never gets over it.’ So said Charles Sutcliffe, former referee and president of the Football League, d. 1939. Yep, 1939. And you thought your contempt for officials was all modern and shit. Tsk.” Run of Play

Hyperpartisanship: An Addendum

May 10, 2011

“Lots of smart, even inspiring, extensions to and rebuttals of the rage piece. But writing on the internet is like Barry Bonds’s head—the more people talk about it, the more it turns into something else. So I want to take a second to tighten a couple of screws before we let the topic go.” Run of Play

In Defense Of Sports Partisans: A Fan Taxonomy From Psychotics To Hooligans And Back Again

May 6, 2011

“Are all obsessed sports fans miserable and obnoxious? Can we be a “hyperpartisan” fan without falling into those categories? Is every type of fan capable of being a total idiot? We explore all these aspect of fandom and more.” SB Nation

Your Stupid Rage

May 6, 2011

“I am here to save your life, and I’m not kidding. This isn’t about the state of discourse on the internet, or nostalgia for some imaginary pastoral of 1950s civility, or making sure I don’t get yelled at in blog comments. This is about you, and how you are going to live in the world. I mean how you’re going to live as a sports fan, but let there be no limit to the revelation: I mean how you’re going to live in every other way, too.” Run of Play

Not So Clásico

May 3, 2011

Sandro Botticelli
“Real Madrid and F.C. Barcelona feature some of the best soccer players on earth, are the world’s two richest clubs, embody drastically opposed philosophies of the game, have combined to win more than 140 trophies, and share a complex, antagonistic history that ties their rivalry inescapably to the Spanish Civil War. (Fascists kidnapped and executed Barcelona’s club president in 1936; the Franco regime used Madrid as a symbol of Spanish nationalism.) Any game between these two clubs is a big deal. Four Clásicos in 18 days is, in the soccer universe, a quasar.” Slate – Brian Phillips

Barcelona v Real Madrid: tactical preview
“Amongst the squabbling, appealing and conspiracy theories, there’s a football match to play tonight at the Camp Nou. Now into the fourth part of a four-part Clasico series, there’s relatively little left to say about the potential tactics of both managers. We’ve had one win for Pep Guardiola, one win for Jose Mourinho (in extra time) and one draw. We’ve had different formations, different players and wildly different patterns to matches, and it’s difficult to predict what more can reasonably be expected tonight.” Zonal Marking

On Mind Games
“Listening to the most recent ESPN Soccernet Podcast seemed to confirm the notion that there is a persistent, perhaps all-too-British, unreconstructed lapdog approach to covering Jose Mourinho.” Run of Play

On Building an American Identity

April 22, 2011

“GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala — A weathered, eight-lane track rings the field at Estadio Mateo Flores, site of the 2011 CONCACAF U20 Championship. Far from the pitch, on a narrow strip of real estate between lane eight and the near-empty stands, six young Americans juggle a single Nike ball. As I observe from the press box that doubles as a VIP area and triples as general admission seating, United States substitutes Cody Cropper, Eder Arreola, Moises Hernandez, Omar Salgado, Sacir Hot, and Sebastien Ibeagha stay loose.” Run of Play

The Velvet Underground and Raúl

April 19, 2011

“I still remember the first time I heard a Nico solo track from the post-Velvet Underground, post-Chelsea Girl era. It was ‘My Only Child’ off Desertshore, Nico singing largely a capella in her unique voice, with occasional trumpet notes. It was like nothing else I had heard. I was stunned to find it was a song she had written herself. It was on a German anthology of ‘death songs’ that my girlfriend gave me for Christmas in the far-off days of my unremembered youth (a.k.a. 2003).” Run of Play

Hello, New World!

April 14, 2011

“This Thursday night, 14 April 2011, the Timbers Army will sing the official ‘Star Spangled Banner’ at a stadium in the heart of Portland, Oregon, and the local football club will play its first home match in America’s top division. The Timbers face Chicago’s Fire. The match will occasion large amounts of beer consumption on premises and in the surrounding neighborhoods, and play its own small part in hastening the decline of the traditional nation-state.” Run of Play

Portland readies for home debut, Beckham rants; more mailbag
“There’s something that just seems right about the match between Portland, Ore., and soccer. You can see for yourself tonight when the Portland Timbers host their historic first MLS home game (ESPN2, 11 p.m. ET) against the Chicago Fire in what figures to be a festive cauldron in their refurbished downtown stadium.” SI

On Disappointment

April 14, 2011

“There are several major reasons why a player disappoints: 1. He or she—I’ll use just “he” from here on, but these points apply equally to female athletes—gets injured and has difficulty recovering. 2. He turns out to be older than many people had thought, that is, on the decline at an age when some other players are able to maintain peak performance. 3. He is not, and never was, as good as some people thought he was…” Run of Play

The Island of Arsenal

April 14, 2011

“It’s impossible to talk about Arsenal without talking about the je ne sais quoi of Arsenal, its ineffable Arsenal-ness, that special mélange of esprit and souffrance that sets Arsenal willfully and gloriously and somewhat ludicrously apart from every other soccer team in England. Arsenal plays the most stylish soccer, an intricate passing game of overlapping runs and constant movement. Arsenal suffers the most agonizing collapses: five years and counting without a trophy.” Slate – Brian Phillips

That’s Entertainment

April 10, 2011

“Fulham-Blackpool—the encounter I watched last Saturday with real attentiveness—is, in a weird sort of way, my kind of match. Not that I don’t enjoy the big clubs with their expensive workforces: especially when they play one another there’s an entertaining Clash of the Titans feel to the enterprise.” Run of Play

Liverpool and LeBron

April 9, 2011

“So the world is now a place in which LeBron James can own a stake in Liverpool. On Twitter yesterday, the news was greeted first breathlessly and then, by People Who Know Things, with derision. Ives Galarcep pointed out that athletes buy small stakes in teams all the time. Jen Chang declared that this was no different than if David Beckham bought 0.1% of the L.A. Dodgers. (But wouldn’t it sort of be a story if David Beckham bought a share of an American baseball team?) Calm down, was the general cognoscenti idea. This isn’t real. It’s just a marketing stunt.” Run Of Play

Greatest April Fools’ Day Tricks in Football History

April 1, 2011

“April Fools’ Day is one of my favorite holidays, probably because it’s the one day of the year when I don’t have to apologize for deviousness and petty cruelty. In football, the first day of April is traditionally a time for pranks and hoaxes (see: La Liga and the 39th game), and over the years there have been some pretty elaborate stunts. Some of my favorites include…” Run of Play

Personality Personality

April 1, 2011

“As personality clashes go, Phil Scolari’s at Chelsea aren’t the most earth-rivening imaginable, largely because Phil Scolari’s personality at Chelsea seemed to exist in a weirdly crumpled state of defeatedness and timidity. Sure, he was Big Phil; yes, he was the manager who slugged players in their pampered jaws right in the middle of games; absolutely, he was hired to bring fear to an unruly dressing-room and blast away years of accumulated ego-grievances with the dynamite in his head. In practice, though? He sort of showed up blinking like a freaked-out grandfather, looked both ways before crossing the street, and gently patted the zipper of his windbreaker while respectfully answering questions. England made Mourinho bigger; it made Scolari, all of a sudden, very small.” Run of Play

Things That Are Happening!

March 28, 2011

“Hey there! Long time no write soccer blog posts for your fleeting amusement, huh? Sorry I sort of abandoned and forgot about you there. Trust me when I say that there’s a good explanation. No, I’m not ‘moonlighting for the LA Galaxy and increasingly unable to handle the pressure of my life as an international icon in the twilight of his career’ (funny, you at the back). What’s happening is that, at the moment, the entire editorial staff of the site is stuck in a small town in Pennsylvania trying to buy a house.” Run of Play

A Brief History of Nous

March 18, 2011

“Did you know that Sir Alex Ferguson still doubts his tactical nous? The headline leaves no room for doubt: “Sir Alex Ferguson: I still doubt my tactical nous”. I find this sad. Sir Alex would seem to have it all: a long record of championships, a range of expensive outerwear, a ruddy Glaswegian complexion, a knighthood—but if you can’t trust in your own nous, what is it all worth, really?” Run of Play

The Strange Case of Bojan Krkic

March 9, 2011

“I. The Fourth Foer Brother. Every so often, when I’m faced with a lonely hour, I like to wile away some time by inventing a career for a hypothetical fourth Foer brother. You know the Foer brothers, of course: there’s Franklin, the oldest, who edited The New Republic and wrote How Soccer Explains the World; Jonathan Safran, the next-oldest, the whimsical-melancholy (whimsicholy?) novelist who published Everything Is Illuminated at 25 and instantly became a darling among the brownstones; and Joshua, the youngest, a national Memory Champion (he memorized the order of a complete deck of cards in under two minutes), the author of a new book about the world of competitive remembering, the secretary of the Athanasius Kircher Society, and the co-founder of Atlas Obscura, ‘a Compendium of the World’s Wonders, Curiosities, and Esoterica.’” Run of Play

The Sinister Ones

March 8, 2011

“Being left-handed helps athletes in one of two ways. If you are a left-handed batter in baseball, most of the pitches you see, because most pitchers are righties, start away from your body and come towards you. The angle works in your favor: you don’t have to turn your head as far, you get a better and longer look at the ball. That’s the less common kind of advantage, and perhaps confined to baseball and (maybe?) cricket: the more common one is simple unfamiliarity.” Run of Play

Midnight in India / Super Dense Crush Load

March 7, 2011

“There are several things to do in a city at night. Sleep is typically the most judicious, but in a culture that disproportionately rewards crime, overtime and dance parties, it takes a conscious effort to honour your dreaming life.” Run of Play

Parity and Financial Fair Play

March 4, 2011

“I have a new piece in Slate on parity in soccer, which of course means the lack of parity in soccer, which means the fact that Real Madrid and Barcelona have combined to win 51 La Liga titles compared to 28 for all the other clubs in Spain, and Blackburn is still the only club outside the Functional Big Three ever to win a Premier League title, and even a plucky underdog like Leyton Orient, after bravely winning an FA Cup draw against Arsenal at home, can expect to be roto-rooted into oblivion by Nicklas Bendtner at the Emirates.” Run of Play