In conversation on the Charlie Rose Show on PBS on Dec 31, Ha’aretz columnist Akiva Eldar notes the rising popularity of Yigal Amir, the assassin in 1995 of former Israel prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. Television viewers and spectators at the Maccabi Haifa–Beitar Jerusalem match on 4 Nov 07 heard the evidence loud and clear. (Jan 5)
The Ball Is Round: A Global History of Soccer, by David Goldblatt, appears at booksellers in North America this week, and we wonder how many will read the title’s four words as a direct challenge to the myth of American centrality in all things.
Jan 1 | The first recipient of a new award for truth-telling in world football is Hope Solo, who stood tall in goal for the U.S. national team at the Women’s World Cup and again when defending her version of truth after a bizarre goalkeeper switch before a Sept 27 semifinal versus Brazil.
Reports from distant cultures, in Guatemala and Burma, confirm how football insinuates itself into the most hallowed seasonal festivities.
Padaung writer Pascal Khoo Thwe recalls in From the Land of Green Ghosts: A Burmese Odyssey that football helped mark the festival calendar. To commemorate trophies at distant tournaments, his township team would receive homecoming welcome from a brass band playing Handel. But not The Messiah. (Dec 29)
Within the textured, contested, sad depths of Ukrainian history, few political gestures go unexegeted in a Talmudic-like zeal for obscure associations and hidden meaning. Such occurred following prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko‘s Dec 23 visit to perennially troubled Zasyadko mine in eastern Donetsk, where 101 coal miners died in a Nov 18 explosion. Her comments stirred memories of past mining disasters and of the wheelchairs that regularly circled the Shakhtar Donetsk football ground (see also 26 Dec 04.) (Dec 28)
Mumbai, Dec 21 | The surprising aspect of Riyas Komu‘s upcoming cross-country series of art installations perhaps is not that football serves as the subject. The unconventional element is that Komu views the project as a responsibility toward Indian footballers, with whom he empathizes in the “struggle with their lives.”
Patrick McSharry of Oxford University, analyzing scores from 1,460 international matches played at different altitudes in South America, concludes that differences in altitude do produce advantages for the acclimatized team (“High-Altitude Football Teams Have Big Advantage over Opponents,” AFP, Dec 21).
Modena, Italy, Dec 19 | Collectible football stickers (figurine) have achieved such cultural cache in Italy that they are afforded dedicated museum space and now a comprehensive exhibition running into February: “Mondo calcio—Campionati e campioni della storia del calcio in figurina” (The World of Football: Championships and Champions in the History of Football, in Sticker Form).
Jeffrey Hill‘s book Sport and the Literary Imagination: Essays in History, Literature and Sport (Peter Lang, 2006)—recently reviewed online by the Sport Literature Association—includes chapters on the foundational works by Robin Jenkins (1912–2005) and Nick Hornby.
As an Australian-born feminist and possessor of an educated Continental palate, author Germaine Greer does not often find an opening for digressions into sport (see also 16 Dec 03). But with the fastiduous Fabio Capello having been hired to graft Italian flair onto a stylistically maladroit England side, Greer spots the opportunity to write about the man from San Canzian d’Isonzo, Gorizia, whose name translates as “Mr. Hair.” (Dec 17)
Umberto Eco, 75, hung over from jet lag and downing Macallan whisky on doctor’s orders, parries with Financial Times writer Jan Dalley (Dec 15). But even in the gamut of conversation, from potential fiction projects to beauty to the yoke of slavery accepted when cracking open a lobster claw, Eco flirts just twice with football-related chatter. (Dec 16)
Dabbling in an arena in which it has no expertise, FIFA’s Executive Committee again has tweaked a baffling decision it took in May to ban FIFA-sanctioned matches at high altitudes. The new altitude limit, established by the committee at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan, is 2,750m (9,022 ft). (Dec 15)
The Boys’ Brigade, founded in Glasgow in 1883, helped spread the gospel of football domestically and abroad as a by-product of its connection to the Church of Scotland. Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson acknowledges its influence and that of one of the youth leaders. (Dec 14)
Izmir, Turkey, Dec 13 | A Fenerbahçe supporter in western Turkey, prompted by jerseys worn by Internazionale of Milan during a Champions League match on Nov 27, has announced that he will take legal action.
The shirts, modeled on St. George’s Cross, to some evoked associations with Knights Templar and, hence, the Crusades of the Middle Ages.
Paramaribo, Suriname, Dec 12 | An itinerant search for football in the sweltering nether-zone of Suriname—hard to reach, its own authenticity as a country diminished by the locals—carries the reader through Daniel Titinger‘s 6,100-word narrative, “Kicking the Ball to Holland,” in the Virginia Quarterly Review (fall 07).
The New York Times in today’s editions brings us up to date on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad‘s embrace of Web 2.0. The Iranian president’s blog, however, has yet to take up football, despite Ahmadinejad’s zest for the game and the nation’s running discord with FIFA. (Dec 11)