Posts Tagged ‘World Cup’

David Beckham

Matthew Futterman has an interesting article in The Wall Street Journal asking why no American has become an international football star :

“The United States has won more than 1,000 Olympic gold medals. It has produced 26 British Open champions, 14 No. 1 tennis players and two winners of the Tour de France. It’s the birthplace of swimmer Michael Phelps, volleyball legend Karch Kiraly and chess master Bobby Fischer. An American nicknamed “the dump truck” nearly became the grand champion of sumo.

But there’s one feat that this wealthy and populous nation hasn’t achieved yet and, if recent events are any indication, won’t achieve any time soon.

No American man has ever become a bona fide international soccer superstar.”

The piece blames the standard of coaching but I would suggest a few other reasons :

– they don’t call the sport by its proper name i.e. FOOTBALL;

– the terrible standard of play in the MLS (which I have seen for myself);

– more US players need to play in Europe, such as  Tim Howard at Everton ;

– Americans like winners so it won’t happen until the US team comes close to winning the World Cup.

By coincidence today is the one-year anniversary of Landon Donovan’s dramatic goal in the last World Cup against Algeria which took the US into the second round. Business Insider, with typical American understatement, describes it as the “greatest sports moment of your lifetime.”

It was painful to be reminded that the next World Cup is three years away (big sigh).

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I am trying to come to terms with another four years without the World Cup. One remedy is to start saving so I can go to Brazil in 2014 and another is  to reminisce on some highlights from the past four weeks:

– while watching the final I didn’t understand the significance of Andres Iniesta taking off his Spanish shirt after scoring the winning goal to reveal a white T-shirt with the words “Dani Jarque: siempre con nosotros” – but they were in remembrance of a former 26-year old teammate who died last year.

– the match winner also showed his class in his post-match comment :

I simply made a small contribution to my team

– a reminder of the other wonderful goals ; (although I think they should have included Tshabalala’s goal against Mexico as the hosts opened the tournament with the first goal);

– Spain’s captain, Iker Casillas, is also wonderful in this post-match interview with his TV reporter girlfriend; 

– Newsnight’s editor looks at the meaning of the Spanish victory in both economic and social terms:

“Another obvious social and political fact resonating off last night’s events is how Spain has modernised socially. On the streets where the Catalan flag and language were once repressed, people used both to celebrate the Spanish victory. In a landscape shaped by inquisition-era Catholicism, gay men leapt around in the fountains wearing only bathing trunks bearing the word Espana.”

increasing enthusiasm in the US for the beautiful game;

– BBC reporter James Pearce’s World Cup in pics highlights the warm welcome from South Africans and the harmony amongst the fans;

– and the Guardian’s fabulous slide show capturing the tournament.

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I managed to do one non-World Cup* related thing last weekend and catch Maxwell in concert at Madison Square Garden.

I loved his first album, Urban Hang Suite, way back in 1996 but then completely lost track of him. As a result I didn’t even realise it was Maxwell performing at last year’s BET Awards until I did a search to find out who was such a great performer. Another factor in my defense is that Maxwell had an eight-year gap between his third album and BLACKsummers’night which I bought last July and has since gone to the top of the most played list on my iPod.

The concert was amazing as Maxwell bought such emotion to his songs. He was particularly moving when he spoke about growing up in Brooklyn and dreaming about playing at the Garden and when he thanked his fans for letting him live his life and then returning to him after his hiatus – he is living proof that in the end the truly talented will succeed.

I am going to let Maxwell’s music speak for itself in Pretty Wings, my favourite track from the album:

* I can’t bring myself to write anything about England’s painful thrashing by Germany as plenty of ink has been spilt on the subject already. In addition Zachary Roth’s post at The New Republic perfectly encapsulates my feelings:

“We weren’t cheated by anyone except ourselves . We lost to a better team. It’s much easier to accept this. To accept that we’re just not capable of performing basic footballing actions — passing the ball accurately, controlling it, NOT LETTING THE OTHER TEAM SCORE FROM A GOAL KICK UP THE MIDDLE — at anything like the same level as the Germans, let alone the Argentinians or the Spanish.”

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Before the World Cup started I regretted not being in England due to the lack of enthusiasm in the US for my all-time favourite sporting event. So it has been a real, and wonderful, pleasure to be in New York and see interest leap one hundred-fold from four years ago. One American friend who works for a British firm said she only followed the last World Cup due to the interest of the ex-pats but this time even her mother in  suburban America has been following the progress of the US team.

The amount of coverage between now and then has grown exponentially. For example, the photos above are from a World Cup exhibition sponsored by ESPN which includes paintings of each of the 32 competing nations and is in Columbus Circle, an upscale shopping centre smack in the middle of Manhattan, which have been used for posters that are plastered all over New York. Another friend said that four years ago most Americans didn’t even know the World Cup was on, let alone follow the US team.

After the US’ absolutely-last -gasp-time-added qualification for the last 16 The Wall Street Journal wrote that June 23 2010 was the day the football is boring argument finally died in the US:

“If you weren’t completely, utterly thrilled, exhausted and satisfied by Wednesday’s 1-0 Team USA World Cup thriller over Algeria, you’re a lifeless sports corpse.

But if you watched the U.S.-Algeria throwdown, you’re surely a convert. Did you not loudly slap your desk in triumph, hug or kiss a stranger, down a beer (or three) with your boss? Did you flee your desk entirely for the bar, and if you did, do you remember where you work—or your last name? Or are you at the airport without a suitcase, trying to wiggle onto a flight to South Africa?”

– BuzzFeed has the five best videos showing the reaction to Donovan’s goal from around the US.  It doesn’t include anything from La Guardia airport in New York. Someone told me that he had got off a flight just before the end of the US-Algeria game and suddenly heard thousands of people screaming when the goal went in;

– The Run of Play posts On Happiness after the game ;

– Landon Donovan’s goal is the first of 43 fantastic pictures compiled by the Boston Globe of the first two weeks which perfectly capture the magic of the World Cup;

– The New York Times writes that a foreign game looks very American (although I would argue the beauty of football is that it looks very global);

– At Salon, an American writes about falling in love with the beautiful game when he was posted to Hong  Kong in 1990 and saw everyone watching games involving teams who were from thousands of miles away and he wanted to understand why. I think Andrew Leonard understands it pretty well :

“I don’t know of another sport that can boast the same kind of slowly accumulating tension against a remorselessly ticking clock . When there are ten minutes to go to in a World Cup, there are ten minutes to go, (stoppage time excluded, of course.) It’s not like the last three minutes of a close NBA finals game, where time seems to stretch into infinity.”

So good luck to the US against Ghana today as I hope the love affair continues to blossom – and it will also help keep my mind off the monster England vs Germany clash tomorrow.

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Niketown on Fifth Avenue

“Not wishing to indulge in hyperbole of course but is this possibly the worst result since 1066?”

Paul Bowler in the Guardian

After Friday’s embarrassing performance  by England I was wary of even thinking about football but it proved to be a good lesson in letting go – despite my heartfelt wishes there was nothing I could do to change the result or the abject performance of my team. And I have been massively cheered up by the fact that we are still  not as bad as the French team.

In stark contrast to England, the USA played with so much passion and determination to came back from 2-0 down that you would think that football was their national game instead of ours.

There have been lots of comments on why  Americans haven’t embraced football and the World Cup but I can see a huge increase in enthusiasm from four years ago.

This time round Americans are aware their team are playing,  my Twitter feed on Friday showed that a lot of Americans were following the game despite being at work, the newspapers all had the shockingly-disallowed winning goal from the US on their front pages and ABC is broadcasting the main game of the day live.

I was able to watch the hugely enjoyable game (if you are not a Cameroon fan) between Cameroon and Denmark on regular TV and with proper commentary – this time round ESPN has hired experienced commentators from Europe who have actually watched a game of football in contrast to the baseball commentators they used in the last World Cup.

Some more evidence that the US is warming up to football :

US embraces beautiful game;

– The Onion writes a post about the World Cup in its own inimitable style: South African Vuvuzela Philharmonic angered by soccer games breaking out during concerts;

– a dating site uses the US vs England game to introduce American women to British men;

(However this demonstrates the vast cultural chasm that still need to be bridged. There won’t be British guys there, only English guys, as the rest of Britain absolutely hates the England football team; the men will be too busy watching the game and getting drunk – and pissed  Brits in a pub are not the most attractive sight.)

Glenn Beck thinks enough people know about the World Cup for him to rant about it : although off course, the reason for his hatred, the global nature of the game, is exactly why I love it.

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Nelson Mandela:

“The 2010 Fifa World Cup is more than just a game: it symbolises the power of football to bring people together from all over the world, regardless of language, the colour of one’s skin, political or religious persuasion.”

I have been counting down the days to the World Cup for the last four years and the opening day has reminded me why I love the tournament so much.

This week I have been visiting friends in Vancouver and due to the time difference the first game was at seven this morning.

I am well-known for not being a morning person but I found myself waking up early on vacation to watch the match and am really glad I did. South Africa scored a spectacular goal in a dream start to the first African tournament. The dream was almost realised as South Africa came close to winning in the 89th minute but even though that didn’t happen it was still great to watch the enthusiasm of the fans.

One of my favourite things about the World Cup is finding yourself cheering for (some) other teams when your own isn’t involved and I found myself shouting for South Africa – luckily my friends were out of the house taking their kids to school so I didn’t embarrass myself too much.

However this won’t be the case tomorrow when England play their first game as I will either go crazy when we win or cry if we lose. To get in the mood for the match this is my favourite England World Cup song – World in Motion by New Order from back in 1990:

And a few other World Cup links:

Nike’s latest World Cup ad;

– although I prefer the Star Wars inspired ad from Adidas;

New Yorker piece on Everton and US goalie Tim Howard and how he believes having Tourette’s Syndrome has helped his game;

National Geographic’s fab article, Mandela’s Children, highlighting the importance of the tournament to South Africa;

– a reminder of the last time England played the US in the World Cup (I am keeping my fingers crossed that history doesn’t repeat itself).

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As I have written before the World Cup, which starts a week today, is my favourite sporting event because you truly feel like you are participating in a global phenomenon. This year’s event is even more special as it is the first to be hosted by Africa, and for what it means to South Africa.

This article in National Geographic describes the World Cup as a turning point :

“South Africa’s selection to host the 2010 World Cup gave people a surge of confidence. Their nation could now be remembered for bringing the world soccer rather than apartheid.”

However it was the stories of individuals still dealing with the legacies of apartheid which made me cry. In particular, a meeting between a former white supremacist Daniel Stephanus Coetzee  and one victim of his bombing, Olga Macingwane:

“The interview goes on for two hours. Finally, Olga Macingwane gets to her feet. Unusually, she is fighting with her emotions. She says, “Stefaans, when I see you, I see my sister’s son in you, and I cannot hate you.” She extends her arms. “Come here, boy,” she says in Xhosa. Coetzee walks into her embrace. “I forgive you,” Macingwane says softly. “I have heard what you said, and I forgive you.” “

There are other inspirational voices in the piece who make you optimistic that South Africa will be able to live up to  Nelson Mandela‘s vision of a rainbow nation. Marjorie Jobson, national director of the Khulumani Support Group, an organisation of 58,000 victims of political violence, mainly during the apartheid era, who says:

“I think they just wanted apartheid to go away and the government to fix everything. But that didn’t happen. It’s up to each individual South African to participate actively in restitution. You know, the power of one. The power one person has to perpetuate our violent past, or the power one person has to contribute to a just, peaceful society.”

Or Tshepo Madlingozi, who arranges the meeting between Coetzee and Macingwane. He says:

“Meeting Stefaans has reignited my faith in the future of South Africa.  My worldview is black consciousness, and that hasn’t changed as a result of knowing Stefaans. But it has made me appreciate that even the most ardent racists—even murderers—can change and be humble. Yes, Stefaans’s intelligence, humility, acute appreciation of the consequences of his actions and the system of apartheid, as well as his appreciation that reconciliation is not merely about showing goodwill, have greatly inspired me.”

As much as I want to see England win the World Cup, in this case I won’t mind if they don’t if the tournament is even half as successful as the 1995 Rugby World Cup when the sight of Mandela in a Springbok shirt united blacks and whites into one nation.

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I am sad that I won’t be in England during the World Cup where everything grinds to a halt during our team’s games and you truly feel you are taking part in a global tournament with billions of other football fans. The US is improving, and it is definitely better than four years ago, but the atmosphere is not the same at all.

However, I can console myself by watching Nike’s new advert for the tournament while I wait for the matches to begin – as a journalist I particularly enjoyed the totally sensationalist English tabloid headlines  :

The Guardian reminisces on some other great football ads including my all-time favourite:

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