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Hopes for a new city, a new nation

New Orleans, 15 September 2005 | No longer can pundits in the United States look abroad and lament the sorry state of the "third world." Public-television essayist and Pacific News Service editor Richard Rodriguez observed last week that the flooding and refugee crisis following Hurricane Katrina have eradicated America's claims to "first world" status ("The Third World," The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, 6 September). Intractable poverty and hopelessness have been exposed by the insufficient rescue and recovery efforts. "[T]he hurricane has swept away, at last, the shameful American era of the fearfully buttoned lip," contributes Simon Schama ("Sorry Mr President, Katrina Is Not 9/11," The Guardian, 12 September).

The Times-Picayune "hurricane edition" of 2 September.

How to relate these cultural occasions to sport, especially to soccer, in the USA? First, nothing stops the economic engine that is mass sport in the United States. Nowhere was it suggested that college football's opening weekend might be postponed, even though the devastated Gulf Coast, including Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, constitutes a hefty swath of the game's most fervent support. Other games went on as well, including soccer, namely the World Cup qualifier on 3 September between Mexico and the United States in Columbus, Ohio, presaged by a half-hearted moment of silence for Katrina victims.

The hurricane aftermath has shown us that we do not know our country. We do not—or cannot—see it as one whole. Even regarding as trivial a matter as whether the USA truly likes soccer there are conflicting views. The USA–Mexico qualifier sold out rapidly, yet Mexico's coach, the Argentine Ricardo La Volpe, said—probably correctly—that the U.S. side felt less pressure than other teams due to the public's concentration on American football and basketball (Jack Bell, "Reason to Rejoice Again in Ukraine," New York Times, 6 September). He called the United States a cipo chico, "little team." "A lot of people don't even know that a soccer game was played," La Volpe told Ovaciones, a Mexico newspaper. "So that way my mother, my grandmother and my great-grandmother could play." Domestically, strange feelings about the game crop up with regularity. Regular soccer debunker Frank Deford smoothly discards the notion that the U.S. soccer team might serve as a post-disaster unifier ("Give Us Team USA," SI.com, 7 September). Again in the New York Times, an essayist, Kevin Davitt, confesses his pleasure that his 12-year-old has quit youth soccer. "I don't like soccer. (Is it obvious?) Didn't like the structure, the over-organized aspect of the sport. I didn't like having to sit down in a certain spot" ("We Return You to His Regularly Scheduled Childhood," 4 September). Davitt adds, though, that youth-soccer players outnumber those in Little League Baseball.

Do we need to amend Carl Sandburg's poem? Chicago now is a "Player with Railroads [and Footballs] and the Nation's Freight Handler . . ." (nike-soccer.com)

More directly related to the hurricane, we must assimilate the bizarre report in the Times of London that evacuees in the New Orleans Superdome organized impromptu soccer tournaments amid the squalor (Danny Baker, "Game's Fatal Attraction," 5 September). "Even as thousands more ragged, hollow-eyed refugees poured into the arena . . . you could see that a sizeable area was still being allocated just to this game." No source is named for this account, and our searches have returned no verification. (One report did mention kids kicking a soccer ball beneath generator-fueled emergency lights.) If true, though, Nike would have another tableau for its disjointed, foot-tapping commercial touting the grassroots popularity of the world game in the USA (click to play ad in new window). The ad features, among other quick-hitting scenes, lads playing keepy-uppy beneath the looming Sears Tower in Chicago. To Nike, the grassroots game does not include women—none are pictured in the ad—but that's a subject for another gripe. (Nike, employing the latest in corporatist synergy, has created a related "blog" by Adam Spangler, who tackles the question, "What is American soccer?")

We are not sure that Spangler will find what he's looking for, because one place to find American soccer is among those we as a nation do not consider Americans: the day laborers, primarily Hispanic, who are using soccer as a unifying force. In late July, the Los Angeles–based National Day Labor Organizing Network held its annual conference on Long Island,

Pablo Alvarado says of day laborers: "You think what these people do is easy? I don't think so. People treat you like dirt." (leadership-for-change.org)
another show of unity among itinerant workers defined by their fragmentation. In addition to a soccer league, NDLON—headed by Pablo Alvarado, branded the "new Cesar Chavez" by Time—has organized theater groups, training center, editorial collective and a band, Los Jornaleros del Norte (jornaleros is the Spanish for laborers; see Alvarado's article "Day Music on Street Corners," National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights). Soccer has proven fundamental, however, to organizing efforts across the country and to countering legislation to displace immigrants. Fruits of these efforts were seen recently in tournaments in Washington, D.C. (see reports on events in Maryland and Virginia), and Pasadena, California (Anna Gorman, "A Day's Labor of Love," Los Angeles Times, 22 August). Day laborers have been assembling in California since the 1960s, following termination of a guest-worker program (see Gorman's in-depth report, "Day Laborers, Cities Seek a Way That Will Work," Los Angeles Times, 29 August), but now cities are trying to limit their gathering spots. Alvarado has hopes for us as we gaze upon these groups of men:

We hope that when you see those men of all colors and sizes—in their work clothes, with hardened looks, beaten down by the sun, with faces that project distrust because of the life of poverty and struggle—you don't think only of the worker. Also think of the artist, the musician, the poet, the soccer player, the actor, the journalist, the comrade, the friend, the father, the grandson, the husband, the grandfather, the brother, the human being.

Update: We have been pleased with reactions to this posting, with one interlocutor taking time to tell us that we were bringing shame on the country, presumably the United States. Another writer, Spangler of "This Is American Soccer," was miffed that we had pre-judged his approach based on the Nike affiliation. As we mentioned in our reply, it was a pleasant surprise to discover that Spangler is a real person: we thought that the persona might have been a focus group–tested blending of Adam Sandler and "The Star-Spangled Banner." But, no, he's another repetitive-motion sufferer, just like us. Spangler acknowledges the limits imposed by the swoosh—no interviews with non-Nike players; none with D.C. United, an adidas-outfitted side—but stresses, "I am a storyteller." He takes a storytelling approach in a posting on the highly regarded boys' soccer team at Martin Luther King Jr. High School in New York ("Kings of King," 5 October). The entry on MLK is the first of a three-parter.

Lasses leave lockers, looking lovely

The England women's side was the toast of Westminster on 21 June. (FA.com)
Manchester, England, and Philadelphia, 27 June 2005 | Remarks by UEFA President Lennart Johansson appear to have added injury time to the aftermath of the recently concluded European Women's Championship (James Ducker, "Sexist Claims Are Rejected by Johansson," The Times [U.K.], 18 June). The comments do not bear repeating—suffice to say that they include the words "sweaty," "rainy weather" and "dressing room"—but they lead us to wonder how competent Johansson and Sepp Blatter before him are in English. They speak the language well, but it is not their first language. These multilingual gents now have found that obfuscation becomes more difficult when venturing beyond the mother tongue. Hence, perhaps we received a more accurate rendering of their beliefs than we would have otherwise—a disturbing thought. If one's definition of "sexism" includes creating a bind of "double negativity" for victims, consider the dilemma facing women footballers: encouraged by FIFA and UEFA leaders to look feminine (are men asked to look masculine?), yet yellow-carded, as was Norway's Solveig Gulbrandsen, for lifting her shirt above her head during a goal celebration. At least rules on the field are applied consistently, while the women's game off the field still receives mixed messages.

A second entrenched "-ism"—racism—has been in the news. For close to two weeks The Guardian website has touted its report on racism in American soccer (Steven Wells, "Racial Divide Driving a Wedge into Soccer's Grass-roots," 17 June).

The Rutland High School girls' team in Vermont is all-white. But what does it say about U.S. soccer? (rutlandhs.k12.vt.us)
We have no doubt that the thesis—that American soccer is overwhelmingly white—is true. But Wells's statistics are slight. For instance, he queries why there aren't more African American sides in Philadelphia, which is 40 percent black. "[T]he segregation of US cities still shocks," Wells writes. "And nowhere is this divide more obvious than in US soccer. No one is keeping statistics on just how effectively working class African-Americans have been excluded from America's grass roots soccer explosion. But everyone is agreed that US soccer is . . . hideously white." Notice the unqualified use of "nowhere," "no one" and "everyone." To us, segregation and the resulting monoculturalism are felt at every level of American life; to single out soccer seems like treating a symptom rather than the disease. Wells's article needs a conversation partner. But up to this point, U.S. soccer authorities have met the indictment with silence.

Life getting 'realer and realer'

This photo of Feliciano Robles appeared on the front page of the Charlotte Observer. He is now known as "cover boy." (Gary O'Brien | Charlotte Observer)
Charlotte, North Carolina, 15 June 2005 | The U.S. representative for the 2005 Homeless World Cup in Edinburgh has been chosen. It is Art Works Football Club, affiliated with the Charlotte Urban Ministry Center (Scott Boeck, "Homeless Players Ready for World Stage," USA Today). The side has come together gradually over the past year under the oversight of former Davidson College player Lawrence Cann, who directs the ministry center's arts program, Art Works 945. Soccer proves ideal, Cann says, for teaching responsibility, teamwork and healthy lifestyles. Fitness has proven a significant challenge, as indicated by team newsletters over the past several months. "As some players struggled and even sat down, tempers flared up," reads a dispatch from 24 March. "Abdul Wright criticized his teammates for laziness while goalie Fred Harrell said it wasn't laziness but a lack of communication that ailed us." Players have also fallen back into addictions, moved and otherwise fallen out of the team's orbit, but many are drawing inspiration from the program. One player reacted to trash-talking from another team—"saying how fat Andrea and Connie were, and how we were out of shape and no good"—by pledging to "quit smoking and get in better shape." Art Works FC have won one game by forfeit and lost all the others. But they will be representing their country in a World Cup from 20–24 July. "[N]ow I'm running with the teenagers," player Ray Isaac told the Charlotte Observer in February. The dream of the World Cup, he said, "keeps getting realer and realer."

Update: Art Works Football Club lost its matches to Scotland, Slovakia and Sweden at the Homeless World Cup but left with the Fair Play Award for best embodying the spirit of the event. In a 1 August newsletter ("Dreams of Bonnie Scotland"), Cann says U.S. team members were denied visas, as were five teams from Africa (see 20 July). But the American players were allowed to enter as tourists. "We live to learn and we learned to live with each other," writes Art Works player Michael Schell of the experience. "If you do not have good sportsmanship and a good team ethics, then you can't make it in life."

Art of the match, sans ball

New York, 4 June 2005 | Dmitri Shostakovich created a short, satirical ballet, The Golden Age, in 1930 about the triumph of Soviet footballers over fascist opposition.

Martha Gudiel, reserve for the Women's Premier Soccer League's San Francisco Nighthawks, shows why football is a form of ballet. (sfnighthawks.com)
There was no suggestion of a reprise in Battery Park City on Friday, but audience members soon caught the plot, according to the New York Times: " 'So is this part of it, the soccer match?' one man asked his companion. 'Yeah,' she replied. 'There's no ball.' Dancers jumped on one another, froze in space and raced from one end of the field to the other, ultimately running through the audience to sit on benches overlooking the river. As David Linton's electronic score played, the crowd shifted its gaze to watch performers straddling benches as they kicked their legs, frightening innocent joggers" (Gia Kourlas, "Nature Vies with a Soccer Match, Steel Cubes and Sailors"). The article failed to explain why choreographer Jane Comfort, in "Public Domain," chose soccer as a theme for reprising the "Art on the Beach" series from the late 1970s and '80s. The landscape is now, however, more suitable for football, having been transformed from the wildness of dunes bordering the Battery Park landfill, near the World Trade Center towers, to a greensward.

When to play, when to stand

East Rutherford, N.J., and Tel Aviv, Israel, 2 June 2005 | The case of the wheel within the wheel as acting

He is governor, and he is acting.
New Jersey Gov. Richard J. Codey (right) protests the supposed oversight preceding the 31 May England–Colombia friendly at Giants Stadium. Codey's beef? That the national anthem of the United States was not played along with those of the competing nations (Rudy Larini, "O Say, They Won't Sing: U.S. Anthem Snubbed," Newark Star-Ledger). "I was shocked, absolutely shocked," Codey said. Our first reaction was to wonder how anyone could be so stupid. Protocol at World Cups and Olympics clearly is not to play the host anthem at every fixture: how tedious would that be? Yet others suggested complex motives on Codey's part: namely, tweaking a rival, George Zoffinger, chief executive of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. Codey has said he would "reinvigorate" the authority and had Zoffinger scrambling after the exhibition to explain the alleged snafu. English authorities, the BBC—which was broadcasting the game to the U.K. and allegedly was concerned about running over time—and Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber all were pulled into the debate.

Events in Israel also have demonstrated the potent combination represented by national song and sport. A competitor on a Channel 2 television reality program, Wanted: A Leader, claimed judges denied her the top prize for failing what Ha'aretz calls "the most basic Israeli test"—standing during playing of "Hatikva" before a football match (Alon Hadar, "She Says She Wants a Revolution," 26 May). Abir Kobati of Nazareth, spokeswoman for the Mossawa Center, an Arab advocacy group, said judges focused on the anthem incident rather than her plans for using prize money to advance the cause of Arab businesswomen. One of the judges, according to Kobati, asked "if I stood during the siren on Holocaust Memorial Day and I answered that I slept. Her face was full of hatred. Then she asked me if I stand for the siren on the Memorial Day for Israel's Fallen Soldiers. I said, 'No,' and she said that we have a problem here."

Update: The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee has been entertaining proposals to make words to the national anthem more inclusive of non-Jewish residents (Shahar Ilan, "MKs Hear Proposals on Changing Lyrics to National Anthem," Ha'aretz, 7 July). Especially problematic for Arabs is the lyric "the soul of a Jew yearns," which MK Reshef Chayne suggests changing to "the soul of an Israeli yearns." Other suggestions include adding a supplementary, faith-neutral anthem or tacking a verse in Arabic onto "Hatikva." The head of the Likud faction told the committee that any changes would compromise the state's identity. The current version of the anthem was legalized in November 2004.

Link to more information about the film and stage play
The film Beautiful Thing includes a football subtext in treating the love of two London teenagers.
Gays and the sporting life

San Francisco, 10 April 2005 | The important contribution of gays in sport—including soccer—to the social history of the Bay Area receives recognition in "Sporting Life: LGBT Athletics and Cultural Change from the 1960s to Today." The exhibition runs to the end of the year at the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society. Sports have proven an important means of association and a forum for community education, battling stereotypes and homophobia. San Francisco was the location for the first Gay Games (1982), in which football forms a part under aegis of the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association. The IGLFA holds its world championship in Copenhagen this year from 31 July–6 August. The San Francisco Spikes Soccer Club, which won silver in the 2004 championship, is a major sponsor of the "Sporting Life" exhibit.

Not refugees, but Fugees

Decatur, Georgia, 6 April 2005 | The movement of peoples across the globe is

Carson Sumpter, Luis Sanchez and Felipe Hernandez, the latter two refugees from Cuba, play on an Atlanta-area team.
viewed in microcosm in today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Through the lens of football, a writer profiles boys and a coach looking for a fresh start (Sheila M. Poole, "A Refuge in Soccer."). Luma Mufleh, a Jordanian refugee and small-business owner, has worked through the Decatur-DeKalb YMCA to form several youth teams with children from Liberia, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, Togo, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Albania, Bosnia and elsewhere. She emphasizes the spiritual components of her coaching in referring to a player called "One Shoe," who wore one black shoe on his left, kicking foot. "One day she watched him come off the field, take off his sneaker and wipe it carefully before putting it into his backpack. Then he put on his flip-flops and walked the two miles home. . . . 'It has made me . . . understand that it takes so little to be happy,' [Mufleh] said."

Be a Goat, be a hero

Los Angeles, 13 March 2005 | Details mean Club Deportivo Chivas USAeverything in the day-to-day scrum of print journalism. Kudos, therefore, to David Davis, writing for the Los Angeles Times Magazine, for letting us know that Club Deportivo Chivas USA owner Jorge Vergara refuses to wear socks while skiing ("Conquistador in Cleats"). George Costanza's father wore sneakers in the pool. Do we find this strange? Well, yes. Also intriguing is the remark from José Alamillo, Washington State University professor of comparative ethnic studies. Alamillo tells Davis that Mexican American immigrants, who will form much of the Chivas USA fan base, use football almost as a countercultural statement: "Among immigrants, loyalty to soccer is more than being a hard-core fan. It's a way to resist assimilation into American culture."

A drive-by slap at soccer

Fairfield, Connecticut, 16 February 2005 | Whilst listing his objections to this weekend's Daytona 500, National Public Go ahead, click me!Radio's Frank Deford swerves to proclaim, yet again, an anathema on soccer ("NASCAR, Daytona and the Car Chase Effect"). "[T]here are two very different sports that drive tried-and-true American sports fans . . . plum crazy: soccer and NASCAR. What are these bizarre intruders soiling our traditional sports landscape? Who are these strange people that actually like these sports?" Then Deford guides us helpfully to an anti-soccer website of which we were not aware. The site states: "Soccer is a popular activity. This does not mean it has any value." Deford, though, does not link stock-car racing and soccer in the American imagination. NASCAR is ur-American, Deford clarifies, and soccer un-American. Maybe we'll take a look at them cars this weekend . . .

Land-mine video not for the squeamish

United Nations, 10 February 2005 | The United Nations Mine Action Service has made its point. Using the benign imagery of suburban girls' soccer in its latest awareness-raising video, "Kickoff"—SUVs and idyllic autumn

The Vietnam Veterans of America has formed football teams of amputees in Luena, Angola, as part of its Sports for Life program. (UNIRIN)
foliage in abundance—the message hits close to home for privileged Westerners. The ad concludes: "If there were landmines here, would you stand for them anywhere?" Land mines and other explosive remnants kill more than 15,000 people per year. The South Florida Landmine Action Group has raised $70,000 just for clearing mines from football pitches and schoolyards in Afghanistan. Such figures make the refusal of the United States to participate in last fall's Nairobi summit reviewing the 1997 Land Mine Treaty even more regrettable.

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We Always Have Time for One More 'Game of Our Lives'
Surprisingly lost amid the hoopla surrounding recently announced Oscar nominations lies a concealed gem: The Game of Their Lives, a film based on the U.S. men's soccer victory over England in the 1950 World Cup finals, releases to U.S. theaters on April 22. (The film is not to be confused with the 2003 documentary The Game of Their Lives, released in the U.K. and recently shown on the Sundance Channel, about the success of the North Korean team in the 1966 World Cup finals.) Somehow Variety did not feel the news item merited bloated sans serif headlines: "Ball's in Play for Ace Soc Jox." Our excitement is tempered, though, by foreboding surrounding the signature elements of the period sports-film genre: the swelling musical score, the guys-in-khakis-palling-around-in-the-neighborhood sequences, the steely manager looking for some heart, the stop-action montages, and the inevitable "game to end all games"—"the game of their lives," in this case.

That soccer merits the full treatment from director David Anspaugh, maker of Hoosiers (basketball) and Rudy (American college football), is of interest. Using the world game to narrate a strikingly atypical U.S. triumph seems cheeky, like casting Sylvester Stallone as a diamond-in-the-rough netminder in Victory. The cheekiness is noted by commentators on bulletin boards at the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Beneath a discussion thread titled "Most biased sports movie ever?" nom de Web "warrior_91" writes:

See the same picture of these dudes, only bigger
Just hanging out, waiting for the game of their lives to begin. See gameoftheirlivesmovie.com for more, when there is more. (IFC Films)

I'm . . . saying this as a proud citizen of the USA. Seriously people, upsets happen all the time, especially in soccer (not to mention the score was only 1–0). Why the heck is this being called "One of The Greatest Moments in Sports History"??? Firstly, the US didn't even end up coming close to winning the World Cup. Secondly, as I said before, upsets happen all the time in soccer, why not make a movie about Italy's loss to Korea at the 2002 World Cup instead? Or how about France's World Cup win against Brazil in 1998? These 2 moments are a heck of a lot bigger than the USA's defeat of England. Let's face it, the only reason why a major motion picture is being made about this, and the only reason why it is known as "One of The Greatest Moments in Sports History," is simply because it happened to Americans.

We disagree with many of the sentiments above, and we have edited "Warrior's" syntax—if we may call him (or her) "Warrior"—in minor ways. Personally, we would like to see a film project titled "The Workout of Their Lives" to take place at our local YMCA, featuring preening men in front of massive mirrors, lustily applying deodorant and continuously emitting grunts and exhalings of pleasure at their own fitness regimens. Anyway, "Warrior's" musings elicited a frenzy of responses, the best asking potential viewers not to prejudge the film (we're probably guilty of this) and to read the book on which the film is based (we have not done this).

The book, The Game of Their Lives (1996), by Geoffrey Douglas, will be reissued in April in paperback. Based on reviews, the book delves into the

Recommended reading: Mormino's historical study (left) and Douglas's book (1996 edition).
cultural history of the St. Louis neighborhood Dago Hill, or "The Hill," from which many of the American amateurs on the 1950 side hailed. (American baseball legend Yogi Berra comes from the same primarily Italian enclave.) As such, soccer in this case can help illuminate a vital aspect of the American immigrant experience, and we hope that the film explores avenues addressed in Douglas's book and in Gary Ross Mormino's Immigrants on the Hill: Italian-Americans in St. Louis, 1882–1982 (University of Missouri Press, 2002). The City of St. Louis website helps explain the demographic patterns:

A large influx of Italians came to St. Louis in the 1890s to work in clay mines in the Fairmount area. Factory expansion nationally increased demand for fire brick, including that made in St. Louis. Many of these Italians came to St. Louis via the Illinois coal fields, replacing German and African-American clay miners. By the turn of the century, they were living on what we now call "The Hill." The neighborhood grew most during the first two decades of [the twentieth] century.

St. Louis has taken pride in the production, flocking as potential extras to the on-location filming. Film work also occurred in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, where the U.S. match against England took place on 29 June 1950. St. Louis had proven a strong growth area for soccer, even among native-born players, as noted by Andrei Markovits and Steven Hellerman in Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism (Princeton, 2001). The area birthed the St. Louis Soccer League (1907–39) to join the alphabet soup of early American football associations. And according to Dave Litterer's "History of Soccer in St. Louis," St. Matthew's Parish in North St. Louis launched the first U.S. women's soccer league in 1951.

Six St. Louis players—Gino Pariani, Charlie Colombo, Frank Borghi, Bob Annis, Frank "Pee-Wee" Wallace and Bill Bertani—helped make up the 1950 team. Their pictures appear fuzzy and awkwardly cropped on the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame website. Indeed, their contributions have rarely come into focus. Only one U.S. sportswriter—Dent McSkimming of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, portrayed in the film by Patrick Stewart—attended the 1950 finals. Markovits and Hellerman write that "even such internationally minded papers of record as the New York Times mentioned this event only in a short story obscurely buried on the fourth page of its sports section" (p. 121).

Accusations also were leveled about the makeup of the U.S. team, of which three—Edward McIlvenny of Scotland, Joseph Maca of Belgium and Joseph Gaetjens of Haiti—were not U.S. citizens but "American resident aliens," a Joseph Eduard Gaetjenspermissible category under the looser FIFA strictures of the time. Gaetjens (left) is the most notorious of the three, having scored the winner against England—"a deliberate, and brilliant, diving header," according to Cris Freddi in Complete Book of the World Cup 2002. The son of a Belgian father and Haitian mother, Gaetjens returned to play football in Haiti but was believed to have been murdered in 1964 at the hands of the Tontons Macoutes ("bogeymen") of François "Papa Doc" Duvallier.

This historical interlude offers interesting context to ongoing developments in American soccer and the fascinating tug-of-war between desires to secure the sport's domestic stability at club level and to achieve glory internationally. Players and the U.S. Soccer Federation agreed on 21 January temporarily to end a labor dispute, enabling veteran U.S. internationals to join a training camp for upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

Yet the juggling act continues, primarily financially, as soccer authorities squirm over giving substantial pay increases to international players while still wishing to retain sizeable reserves for facilities development, all toward realizing a mission of making soccer "a preeminent sport in the United States."
The verdict is in, and The Game of Their Lives seems to be giving off the familiar whiff of mediocrity. Even Patrick Stewart does not escape criticism. The San Francisco Chronicle says that he "narrates the film with the same patronizing tone one might use to read 'Goodnight Moon' at bedtime to a 4-year-old." Part of the problem, according to Soccer America, is that a production budget originally slated for $40 million was whittled by two-thirds. Director David Anspaugh is almost apologetic about the result: "This is a sports film, it is a soccer movie, and I had to come to terms with that and make peace with that and be proud of a movie that the soccer community in America would accept and embrace." Yet one can't be sure the film has accomplished this objective. The Washington Post calls the movie "a glaring disservice to the men who played the game" and criticizes "the forced, head-scratching speechifying about soccer being 'democratic' and how it's the sport of the future in America." Über-critic Roger Ebert gripes about the absence of smoking. "There's only . . . three cigars in the whole movie." So some critiques are more substantive than others. (24 April 2005)

We cannot be certain when "preeminence" will be achieved; in our minds, that day has already come. We would prefer more commitment toward world football and must question the governing body's priorities when the commissioner of Major League Soccer, Don Garber, also sits on the U.S. federation's executive committee. To Garber, qualifying for the World Cup finals "isn't any more important than the federation's other priorities. It's not just about qualifying, but the overall development of the sport" (Jack Bell, "Labor Feud Set Aside, for Now," New York Times, 25 January).

In our overactive imaginations we immediately associate what seems like haughtiness on U.S. soccer officials' part with the broader political climate: the seemingly tin American ear toward world opinion and toward the concept of global citizenship. Already this attitude of "fortress America" has resulted in the regretful relocation of the 2005 Homeless World Cup from New York. The International Network of Street Papers, the main sponsor, last month announced cancellation of the event, scheduled for Manhattan's Bryant Park, due to uncertainties over obtaining visas for homeless players abroad. The result is loss of a great educational opportunity and chance for cultural exchange.

Are we as citizens blithely accepting the attitudes of leadership in Washington, or are preferences for a privatized freedom ("doing what one wants and getting one's way") in the heartland—noted by sociologist Orlando Patterson in his commentary on Bush's inaugural ("The Speech Misheard Round the World," New York Times, 22 January)—leading to a growing isolation?

Well, as usual, we have strayed too far from football. But it is an interesting question to ponder whilst transported cinematically to the green fields of Belo Horizonte.

Update: See Alex Bellos's article on Hollywood's increasing fascination with football ("Hollywood Wakes Up to the Call of the World's Biggest Game," The Guardian, 1 March 2005). | back to top

Pitch anything but perfect for Swedes

San Diego, 25 January 2005 | Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, has been reconfigured to host

Football's coming home to baseball. (Don Kohlbauer, San Diego Union-Tribune)
Wednesday's Mexico–Sweden friendly international (2300 EST). The most likely venue, Qualcomm Stadium—a home away from home for Mexico, who have played 15 games there—has been filled with dirt for a monster-truck rally and motorcycle Supercross. One touch line will follow the contours of right field. Despite such oddities, promoters are expecting a large walk-up crowd from Mexico's supporters. "The one thing Mexico fans want to see before they purchase tickets is that the 'real' players are coming," says Alejandro Taraciuk of Soccer United Marketing. | back to top

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We Are All 'Soccer Moms'
Shaunti Feldhahn, leaning rightDiane Glass, leaning left
Two days before the much-trumpeted "Day of Decision," "soccer moms" do not seem to carry the influence that they did in the previous two U.S. presidential elections. At least that is the pundits' wisdom—perhaps an oxymoronic turn of phrase. Consider the "she said"–"she said" opinionators Diane Glass and Shaunti Feldhahn, pictured above, of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Glass portrays her "formerly party-happy sister now turned soccer mom" as having followed a seemingly inevitable path "with every child, every carpool ride" to Republican life. She is a soccer mom showing signs of having become a "security mom." To the right-leaning Feldhahn, who clearly is leaning right in the picture above, Bill Clinton was soft on terrorism while "Bush chose to get tough, and you know what? I'll take the tough version. So will most soccer moms" (see "Why Are Female Voters Ambivalent about John Kerry?").

We are most interested in the phrase "soccer mom" and its use as a class and lifestyle indicator. For perspective we turned to an article from the previous election cycle in American Demographics (John Fetto, "One Size Doesn't Fit All," May 2000, pp. 44–45). Fetto explains that "the term was coined by political pundits during the 1996 presidential election to identity white suburban mothers with Republican leanings," although the demographic, Georgia State political science professor Henry Carey reminds us, was credited for contributing to successive Clinton victories. It appears that, given Glass's commentary mentioned above and other sources, that the meaning of "soccer mom" has morphed somewhat, or these "soccer moms" themselves have transformed.

And just who are these women? That is tricky to define. One ad executive interviewed in the American Demographics article says "the term 'soccer mom' has become little more than a cliché." Working women with children, for one thing, also live in urban counties—not the suburbs. We think of our recent visit with Soccer in the Streets, a grassroots Atlanta organization bringing soccer to primarily Hispanic and African American communities. Director Jill Robbins says that mothers in Hispanic areas try to attend games when possible, but they do not have cars. In the more-traditional family structures, husbands often control women's movements and lifestyle choices. These are "soccer moms," but seemingly not those swaying elections. They are not white, and they do not drive minivans.

One thread through press coverage of the presidential race has been the seemingly lost concern for women's issues, as even Kerry pledges to "hunt and kill the terrorists wherever they are" (as if he personally could achieve this aim, by rounding up the ol' swift-boat crew). Women's issues are not esoteric and marginal, but relate to health, fairness and day-to-day survival. We get a different picture of women from Democratic pollster Ethel Klein, for example (see "Gender Politics," PBS Online NewsHour, 12 October):

Women are the canary in the coal mine; they have a real sense of what's going on in the economy because they have the low-wage work and low-benefit jobs. And they see what's happening to the price of milk and they watch the credit cards and see how much in debt they are.

The Library Journal (1 May) cites Jennifer Apodaca's Ninja Soccer Moms for its "flighty but feisty heroine" and "frothy, non-stop action."

It seems, as these musings continue, that terminology such as "soccer mom" might obscure more than it illuminates. The phrase's emergence probably says more about the popularity of football in the United States—17.6 million participants in 2002—than it does about political reality. The phrase has given blessed license to satirists such as Jennifer Apodaca, who writes in Ninja Soccer Moms of a widowed, single business owner, Samantha Shaw, who takes on embezzlers from a local soccer club. Intrigue ensues. And we like the humorous take of Barney Saltzberg's Soccer Mom from Outer Space, about the mom who dresses for football matches as a "giant cheerleading pickle." That the joke resonates means that soccer is a cultural phenomenon in the USA—as former National Basketball Association player Bob Bigelow recently told the New York Times, "Soon we'll have prenatal soccer in this country." But the women cheering us on are proving anything but one-dimensional.

Other sources: See the Soccer Moms for Peace (www.soccermomsforpeace.org) website, global in outlook. If we must stereotype this soccer-mom demographic, this is the stereotype we would choose. See also the 15 February 2004 gleanings entry on Paul Muldoon's soccer-mom poetry.

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Three Promising Youngsters, Three Cultural Conundrums
Wayne Rooney, in a transfer completely lacking in suspense, has joined global marketing force and über-club Manchester United. One of at least three teenagers carrying the "next Pelé" label—along with Robinho of Santos and Freddy Adu of D.C. United—Rooney's sale capped an extraordinary summer for the 18-year-old. The former Evertonian generated "Rooneymania" in the European Championships (see our "Euro blog") and, in the same tournament, suffered a broken foot, an injury that still keeps him sidelined.

Feelings on Merseyside about the Sun have not calmed, even after 15 years.
But Rooney offers a far more interesting study for some of his decisions off the pitch and for the way these decisions are filtered through the English press. Both Robinho and Adu face their own challenges within vastly different football cultures—to which we will come shortly—but Rooney's combination of youth, captivating skill and salvific potential (that is, the potential he has to save Sven-Göran Eriksson's bacon) creates special pressures.

Rooney's unique place within the English imagination perhaps most clearly emerged during the summer, following Euro 2004 and as all things Wayne became public commodities. In selling his "world exclusive" story to the Rupert Murdoch–owned Sun tabloid for some £250,000, Rooney set off a swirl of events that recalled the darkness of Hillsborough 15 years earlier. As a Merseysider, although only 3 years old when the tragedy occurred, Rooney and certainly his advisers should have known better than to deal with the Sun, infamous for its egregiously careless journalism following the 1989 disaster—as if its misogynistic style of reportage and inflammatory headlines would not be enough to scare anyone away. But the Sun headlines post-Hillsborough, within days of the 96 deaths—"Some fans picked pockets of victims"; "Some fans urinated on the brave cops"; "Some fans beat up PCs giving the kiss of life"—assured an almost total loss of its Liverpool circulation (Owen Gibson, "What the Sun Said 15 Years Ago," The Guardian, 7 July). Incredibly, 15 years on, the Sun still has not regained the 200,000 local readers it reportedly lost that week. It sells 3.3 million copies nationwide but only 12,000 in Liverpool (Ian Burrell, "An Own Goal? Rooney Caught in Crossfire between 'The Sun' and an Unforgiving City," The Independent [U.K.], 8 July).

More substantively, some feel that the Sun in its carelessness helped perpetuate a negative stereotype of Liverpool. Jon Brown, deputy editor of the Liverpool Echo, says:

The Sun's coverage of Hillsborough still has ramifications today in the vilification of Scousers, of an entire culture and community. It blackened the reputation of the city and it has still not recovered. If you go anywhere in the world Liverpool has a great reputation. If you go anywhere in England, it's different. (David Smith, "The City That Eclipsed the Sun," The Observer [U.K.], 11 July)

After its Rooney "exposé," the Sun made matters worse by printing a front-page "apology" that, while saying "we gladly say sorry again . . . fully, openly, honestly and without reservation," also managed to plug itself in the same article: "For goodness sake, give the lad [Rooney] a chance. . . . [N]early all Liverpool-born celebrities regularly talk to Britain's favourite daily newspaper" ("Don't Blame Rooney," 13 July; article only available through paid archive). The Sun also alleged that its rivals—the Trinity Mirror–owned Liverpool Echo and Post (Trinity Mirror owns the Sun's tabloid rival, the Daily Mirror)—were the ones exploiting Rooney, to which the Echo responded:

Today's Sun article is not a real apology. It is a shameless and cynical attempt to win readers. And most people on Merseyside will realise that. The Sun has missed the point and lost the plot. The majority of the people of Merseyside have nothing personal against

The cows mark a Manchester renaissance. (Slate.com)
Wayne Rooney. They feel he has been badly advised. . . . Today's Sun exaggerates, over-reacts and depicts a lurid picture of hate which is about as far from the truth as its London offices are from Goodison Park. ("The Sun Has Lost the Plot [Again]," 7 July)

So Rooney now leaves Merseyside, perhaps with some relief. He moves to the Northeast and to a city seeking to reinvent itself, as revealed in June Thomas's recent weeklong Slate diary ("Manchester, So Much to Answer For," 30 August; see also subsequent entries). Will Rooney become part of the "bourgeoisification of the working class" of which George Orwell wrote in the 1930s in The Road to Wigan Pier (see Thomas's day 2)? With the Imperial War Museum North and the Lowry as evidence, perhaps the once-gritty Lancashire city has room for another urban hulk looking to retool.

And what of Robinho and Adu? Robson do Sousa—Robinho's given name—is also 18 and plays for Pelé's old club Santos; his skills have helped lead Santos back into the limelight of South American football. The possible burden seems clear to Santos management, who have barred Robinho from wearing Pelé's No. 10 jersey. "[T]he simple sight of a young black boy of such promise wearing that number would trigger a collective recollection in Brazil too profound for anyone to bear," writes Guy Lawson in his recent Observer profile ("The Boy Wonder," 5 September). Lawson continues:

The likeness between the two was first suggested by Pelé himself. He had been estranged from his old team for years, feuding with the directors over the allegations of fraud and corruption that have long blighted Brazilian football. But the very first day he returned to Santos to work with the junior players, as if drawn by a karmic force, he spotted Robinho. The boy was only 13, his shirt dangling from the narrow, underfed shoulders, but Pelé instantly saw himself in the boy. Not in size, strength or style of play. As a child Pelé was bigger, stronger, direct, the product of an age before the poverty and hunger of Brazil today; Robinho was small, skinny, sly. Pelé meant in the mastery of ela [the ball], in familiarity and control of her; in his ways with her.

The encounter as depicted may be apocryphal; indeed, it smacks of hagiography. But the sense of precedent in Brazil seems strong, a nation able to field a roster of "next Pelés" (featuring Romario, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka, Diego . . .). Alex Bellos even dissects the phrase in his own Robinho profile. The reality has arrived that it is not enough for Robinho to remain a malabarista—a magician, trickster, illusionist—and master of the pedalada (pedaling-like feint). Agent Wagner Ribeiro has advised his client to shun the pedalada, realizing that "every Brazilian hopes to go to Europe. I am very sad about this." Robinho, according to Lawson, seeks to become a craque, a "player of substance": "The craque doesn't pass to a man. He passes to ponto futuro: a point in the future."

Another drama in self-creation involves Adu, 15, who suffers somewhat in his quest from the naïveté of the U.S. press and public. The age dilemma for Adu is dual-edged. After the questions as to whether the Ghanaian-born Adu were truly 15—an insinuation, whether intended or not, of assumed Third World incompetence—now he must play a joyful game with serious men (see Steven Goff's extended profile, "The Emergence of a Prodigy," Washington Post, 31 August). He is both young and, in a sense, old: we see above, with Rooney and Robinho, how, in the minds of dreamers and nostalgists, 18 represents the height of athletic potential. But, for realists, 17 or 18, too, might be the age of emergence: when a mark must be made, the monster transfer arranged. Already at Highbury, the Arsenal supporters sing of midfield wizard Francesc Fábregas ("Fábregas the Fabulous: A Star on the Rise," FIFA.com, 7 September):

He's only seventeen
And he's better than Roy Keane.

Hurry up, Freddy. Time is wasting.

BOSTON, 29 JULY 2004
Cleats Buried in Closet as Kerry Lumbers to Podium
As he prepares to accept the Democratic nomination for president tonight, John Kerry might be

John Kerry, unabashed Patriot: The presumptive nominee took time in Fargo, North Dakota, to show his zeal for the gridiron football Super Bowl between New England and Carolina. (AP)
huddling with his image-makers, wondering whether he should enter the FleetCenter whilst gunning his Harley, floating magically atop his windsurfing board or soulfully strumming his acoustic guitar. We can be certain he won't be juggling a football. Although a potential president these days must demonstrate some connection with sport and/or the outdoors (see "Candidate Kerry Feels Fans' Pain," Florida Times-Union, 12 May)—and Kerry has confessed that his greatest sporting moment was scoring a hat trick for the Yale soccer team against rivals Harvard—affection for soccer and presidential politics do not mix. Hence the title of Franklin Foer's recent Los Angeles Times article: "Kerry Has a Deep, Dark Secret: Soccer" (12 July). Foer, the author of How Soccer Explains the World (see 30 June entry in Euro 2004 web log), says there are good reasons for Kerry to keep these sporting origins hidden:

[E]ven if soccer moms were fanatical about the sport, politicians would still steer clear of it. That's because there's a deep anti-soccer strain in this country. Thick-necked football coaches have spread a nasty form of agitprop. They claim that soccer players are guys too cowardly to tackle a running back.

Unfortunately, these yokels have wielded disproportionate influence on the American mind. The popular sports shock jock Jim Rome, for instance, routinely denounces the game. To quote almost at random from him: "My son is not playing soccer. I will hand him ice skates and a shimmering sequined blouse before I hand him a soccer ball."

Foer also includes the characterization of Republican and ex–Buffalo Bills signal-caller Jack Kemp that "soccer is a European socialist" sport. The contretemps about Kerry and football gained momentum in the July issue of FourFourTwo (p. 39), which printed a picture of the nominee with his Yale side under the headline, "The Democrat's a Right-Winger." Magazine correspondent James Burnett writes that Kerry was known as "The Camel" for a loping gait, or as a diddler for being indecisive in attack. Still, these unsavory images do not dissuade Kerry organizers—on a webpage devoted to organizing Latino supporters—from invoking the world game's fund-raising potential: "[I]f a house party doesn't suit you, have a beach party! Have a soccer game! Have a 'Beat Bush BBQ'!" The pulse of the nation, however, might be best reflected by the following high-level exchange on the "Big Soccer" bulletin board:

Richie: If you can find out if [Kerry] still digs soccer then I would change my vote from bush to kerry. I would vote for any canidate [sic] that digs soccer even the frenkenstein [sic] monster Kerry.

655321: I'm voting for him anyway . . . but it'll have nothing to do with soccer. I mean, Bush used to love cocaine, but I'm not letting that keep me from voting Democrat.

Richie: He loved coke really? I loved coke I would vote for anyone who dug coke. So I guess I will vote for him after all. :-)

LIMA, PERU, 25 JULY 2004
Catching Up, Part I: Latin America
A post–Euro 2004 hiatus has left The Global Game with reams of paper atop its blonded desk, representing a backlog of news items and deferred observations. Sadly, we have neglected Copa América, which finished today with Brazil's victory in penalty kicks over Argentina. In 88 meetings, Brazil has won 34 times, Argentina 33, with 21 draws. Copa América is the oldest continental football tournament,

Haitians love the Brazilian team, as they demonstrate following a victory in the 2002 World Cup finals. (AP)
the first official event dating to 1917, but the tournament's reputation has slipped over the years, and Brazil this year fielded its "B" side (though stars Edu and Kleberson and the others are hardly "B"-list players). Each tournament we are impressed by Brazil's global appeal and by the players' status as ambassadors. Brazil president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has offered to escort the senior side (Ronaldo and Ronaldinho on board this time) to Port-au-Prince on 18 August for a friendly against Haiti. The match, which is appearing less likely now due to security concerns, would serve as an extension of Brazil's commitment to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), to which Brazil has contributed 1,200 troops. The Brazilians have already brought 1,000 soccer balls and kit. Admission to the friendly was to have been granted by an exchange of weapons the previous week, but "that proposal was abandoned after diplomats realized it would probably stimulate trafficking in guns and enrage Haitians by giving preferential treatment to armed gang members" (Larry Rohter, "Brazil Is Leading a Largely South American Mission to Haiti," New York Times, 1 August).

As for Copa América, and some of the sides involved, hosts Peru advanced to the quarterfinals, losing to Argentina. Peru last hosted the competition in 1957, and the 2004 edition marked something of a turning point following some 20 years of armed resistance led by Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and Tupac Amaru guerrillas. (See also the website of Peru's Comisión de la Verdad y Reconciliación and of the related photo exhibition, "Yuyanapaq: Para recordar.") This year's event was spiced by a one-day nationwide strike called midway through the event by the Confederación General de Trabajadores del Peru (CGTP), the country's largest labor organization. Protesting the free-market policies of the continent's least-popular leader, President Alejandro Toledo, the action resulted in 76 arrests, although the Associated Press characterized the strike's impact as minimal (Monte Hayes, "Peruvians Largely Ignore Call for Strike," 14 July). The government mobilized 93,000 police to make its views clear; former president and opposition Aprista Party leader Alan Garcia, however, supported the strike. More disruptive was the shutdown of Aero Continente, one of Peru's two major air carriers, when its insurance contract was not renewed. At least one journalist—the BBC's Tim Vickery—had to change his travel plans.

Football spectacles in Latin America always seem to raise the specter of the past,
Click for ReVista website
ReVista magazine spotlights Chile and the Chilean national stadium in its spring issue.
when governments have greatly overreached, suspending regard for human rights and using sports or stadia as sites for their evil deeds. Previous excesses in Chile and Mexico both made news during the tournament. In its spring issue, ReVista: Harvard Review of Latin America includes photography and a recollection of the Chilean national stadium's time as a prison and torture center in the fall of 1973 (Katherine Hite, "Chile's National Stadium: As Monument, as Memorial"). On 11 September of that year, military forces overthrew socialist president Salvador Allende, installing Augusto Pinochet as dictator. Soldiers ransacked the home of Nobel Prize–winning poet Pablo Neruda—whose 100th birthday was commemorated on 12 July—leading to bedridden Neruda's famous remark: "The only weapons here are words." Following Carmen Luz Parot's documentary Estadio Nacional (2001), the stadium has been turned into a still-functioning memorial, of which Hite writes:

The National Stadium . . . is clearly a cultural icon of the nation. As a site of traumatic memory, the Stadium thus poses unique opportunities as well as challenges. With its 80,000-seat capacity, the Stadium is the site of the most important soccer matches in the country (and a World Cup site in 1962), immensely popular musical concerts, and other athletic and cultural events. It is extremely "inhabited." Tens of thousands constantly come and go through the stadium's gates. The fate of the Stadium as monument does not risk the physical, social and cultural relegation common to many conventional historic monuments.

Nor will the monument assume the quality of some static, impenetrable granite object commemorating fallen heroes. Too often, writes Chilean cultural scholar and critic Nelly Richard, a monument represents "the nostalgic contemplation of the heroic; the reification of the past in a commemorative block that petrifies the memorial as inert material." In the stadium, citizens will travel in and through the monument, making relegation, distance, and inertia far more difficult. Locating the accounts of victims and their families within the monument necessarily engages the representations of the past atrocities with the vibrant, emotional lived experiences of the present.

Mexico's ignominy occurred on 2 October 1968 when, 10 days before the start of the Olympic Games, government forces opened fire on student protesters in the La Plaza de las Tres Culturas at Tlatelolco in Mexico City, killing several hundred (see Tim Weiner, "When the Olympic Games Turned Political," New York Times, 24 July). Luis Echeverría, the interior minister in 1968 and later Mexico's president, was indicted on 23 July for his alleged role in authorizing additional murders of demonstrators in 1971. In between, of course, Mexico hosted the World Cup finals. But, according to Weiner's article in the Times, some historians date the end of Mexico's one-party rule to the events of 1968. The change culminated in 2000 with the election of current president Vincente Fox, who has his own problems.

Colombia, which finished fourth in Copa América, nearly had to surrender the tournament in

Yet another photo of besparkled South American terraces, this time from Once Caldas. (www.oncecaldas.com.co)
2001, as it had the World Cup in 1986 (to Mexico) due to spates of drug-related killings. But its positive showing over the last few weeks and the unlikely triumph of Manizales-based Once Caldas in the Copa Libertadores—over Boca Juniors in a penalty shootout on 1 July—perhaps give the nation's football new optimism. Once Caldas drew on its location in the Andes (the final home tie with Boca took place 7,095 feet above sea level) and fervent home support to give Colombia only its second Libertadores title. "You have given the country infinite happiness," president Alvaro Uribe told the team.

Finally, ties between the United States—which turned down a Copa América place to concentrate on CONCACAF World Cup qualifying—and its Latin neighbors have been in focus. Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl concluded the magazine's four-part series on globalization in sports by contrasting the efforts of the National Football League and Major League Soccer to win over non-American fans ("Football vs. Fútbol," 5 July). MLS, of course, has accepted Jose Vergara's proposal for Chivas USA, to be based outside Los Angeles. Wahl writes:

The plan is rich in irony: MLS will be creating its own regional type of globalization by harnessing the power of globalism's supposed bugbear, fervent nationalism. In the most multinational of sports, Chivas's appeal is simple: It has never signed a non-Mexican player in its 97-year history. "We want to spread the passion of being all [Mexican] nationals," Vergara says, "and, of course, of always giving everything you have. That's how Mexicans play—and how Chivas USA is going to play."

Vergara certainly seems forward-thinking, attracted in the near-term by the 9.5 million people in Los Angeles County, of whom 45 percent are Latinos. Vergara also has been cited for uplifting women in the Mexican workplace, having created business and self-empowerment training centers solely for women. "In Latin American countries we have wasted women in the workforce because of our macho education," Vergara tells Wahl ("Have Ambition, Will Travel," SI.com, 30 June). Certainly Chivas will encounter cultural differences in its new venture. An interesting distinction likely will come in the area of branding. As the Financial Times noted recently (John Authers, "Why Mexicans Mix Cement with Football," 8 July), Chivas currently wears the logo of Cemento Tolteca. Other Mexican clubs, too, are endorsed by cement makers, well aware that "in Mexico, and in much of the rest of the developing world, people buy cement one bag at a time, usually from small hardware stores. That means it must be sold and marketed as a consumer product, not in bulk from business to business, as it is in developed economies." Women sometimes decide what cement to buy, showing again that preconceived notions often mislead.

Professional Women's Football: Not a 'Cause,' but a Business
Corporate-speak has leaked into the headquarters of the Women's United Soccer Association, enough to dampen some shoes. "It has an important social part, but the WUSA is

Rebekah Splaine of the W-League's New England Renegades. She had two assists playing for the reconstituted Boston Breakers on 19 June. (onlyagame.org)
not a cause," says Tony DiCicco, the former league commissioner, now listed as a management consultant. "I don't want it to be a cause. It has to be a business" (Michael Klitzing, "It's No Apparition; It Really Is the Spirit," North County Times [Calif.]). DiCicco's comments came on the eve of the second of two league festivals, intended to precede what DiCicco calls a "soft relaunch" in 2005 and a full return in 2006. If DiCicco's business-first approach works, then we are all for it. (See Pam Schmid, "Women's Pro Soccer Leagues Face Uphill Battle," Minneapolis Star Tribune, 20 June, for a recent assessment of the WUSA's chances.)

Much of the media attention on the defunct women's league has been directed toward ex-players and their diverse pursuits. Many are still playing, in the W-League and the Women's Premier Soccer League (listen to the story on WBUR Boston's Only a Game, 22 May, and to the update on 3 July; the second link opens the Real Media Player). "In the meantime," the Washington Post writes while tracking down members of the last league champion, the Freedom, "many former players are adjusting to a new life of standardized hours spent amid cubicles and telephone headsets and office supplies" (Dan Steinberg, "Coping with the Loss of Freedom," 13 June). The Freedom, like other WUSA teams, are keeping themselves together with informal training sessions and scrimmages. Washington has scheduled a friendly for 14 July with Nottingham Forest Ladies Football Club (see Beau Dure, "League in Limbo, but Games Go On," USA Today, 24 June). The taste of professional sports appears to have changed those who were involved. In the Washington Post account, we learn that ex-Freedom player Jacqui Little wept as her boyfriend, D.C. United goalkeeper Nick Rimando, began training for the season. And former U.S. international striker Tiffeny Milbrett suggests that the taste of professional life with the New York Power helped lead her to leave the senior national side:

I'm an adult. I'm 31 years old. I've played maybe a 1,000 more games in the modern era of the women's game than April [Heinrichs] has, and I feel like there's things that need to happen in order to facilitate an environment for professional women soccer players. If that environment isn't going to be professional and if that environment isn't going to allow me to be the player that I am, then it's not worth it. (quoted in "Where's Tiffeny?" Associated Press, 20 June)

The U.S. Invaded and Left Friends Behind
The United States will play Grenada for the first time on Sunday, in the first leg of a 2006 World Cup qualifier, amid an odd confluence of circumstances. The nations have had few meaningful encounters since 1983, when the United States, gripped by Cold War fervor, invaded the island nation,

Grenada Prime Minister Kevin Mitchell was a math professor at Howard University and is a former captain of Grenada's cricket team. (AP)
the southernmost in the Caribbean's Windward Islands (Kelly Whiteside, "Grenada Adding Spice to Big Mismatch vs. U.S.," USA Today). The man who authorized the invasion, Ronald Reagan, will be lionized this weekend in ceremonies culminating a week's remembrance of the 40th president. "Ronald Reagan is still seen as a popular person in Grenada," said prime minister Kevin Mitchell, interviewed before Reagan's death. "If not for America, we may not be here." Although Grenada does have players in professional leagues in England and in Major League Soccer, most hold down other jobs at home. There is a pool of only some 400 male players on an island where cricket is the most popular sport. Whiteside describes practice before a friendly with St. Lucia, at which players assembled the goals and waited for a cricket team to vacate the premises. "I'm pampered in England, so when I come back here, it's like bringing football back to its roots," said Jason Roberts, who plays for Wigan Athletic. "Putting goals together and doing everything else is like a bonding experience for the boys." For Sunday's match, the Spice Boyz have been training at Howard University in Washington, which has a substantial Grenadian expatriate community (Steven Goff, "Spice Boyz Are Kickin' It at Howard U.," Washington Post, 11 June). The second leg of the series takes place in the National Stadium in St. George's—capacity 7,500—on 20 June.

Jenna Cooper, 1982–2004: We Can't Do Her Justice
The land of the Cornhuskers—the home of collegiate football's Big Red Machine—has rarely witnessed a sporting tragedy to equal it. Sunday's shooting death of 21-year-old Jenna Cooper, a defender in one of women's soccer's top college

Players hold hands at a Monday press conference to pay tribute to Jenna Cooper. (Daily Nebraskan)
programs and a member of the U-21 U.S. national team, drew comparisons to the 1996 death of University of Nebraska quarterback Brook Berringer. "When he died in a plane crash outside Lincoln," writes Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel ("Cooper Touched NU Family in Big Way"), "there was all but a statewide funeral for the young man. Not everyone knew him, but most who follow Husker football felt they knew him. Berringer's death rocked this state. The native Kansan was like a fallen son. He was a football player."

Cooper's death confounds for its inexplicability, for the senseless violence. A late-night party to celebrate the end of spring soccer. A dispute over drinking glasses. A warning shot, misdirected. Some hours later, Cooper, with a damaged carotid artery and a bullet lodged in her lung, is dead at a Lincoln hospital (see Aaron Sanderford, "Shooter Charged in Soccer Player's Death," Lincoln Journal Star). The alleged assailant, Lucky Iromuanya, acknowledged on a state website for his participation in an anti-violence program, is charged with second-degree murder and held in lieu of $500,000 bail. According to crime statistics available online through the Lincoln Police Department, Cooper's death would be the first Lincoln homicide of 2004.

Since coach John Walker started the Nebraska women's program in 1994, he has attracted the elite, including accomplished internationals and professionals—many with Canadian connections—such as Jenny Benson, Sharolta Nonen, Christine Latham, Breanna Boyd, Karina LeBlanc and current team member Brittany Timko. Cooper, as team captain, was working her way into those ranks. Said teammate Iman Haynes: "I feel like I can't do her justice by saying anything" (John Swartzlander, "Teammates, Coaches Remember Cooper," Daily Nebraskan). Memorial contributions may be sent to the Jenna Cooper Soccer Memorial Fund, University of Nebraska Athletic Development Office, #117 South Stadium, Lincoln, NE 68588-0154.

Update: On 24 February 2005, Iromuanya was sentenced to life in prison without parole. One year after the crime—on 25 April 2005—the Lincoln Journal-Star profiled Iromuanya and his life in prison (Brian Christopherson, "Iromuanya Learns a Lesson of a Lifetime"). The newspaper also published an account of how Cooper's friends and family dealt with the tragedy (John Mabry, "Family, Friends Remember Jenna Cooper").

  • Rochester, New York | 15 January 2004 . . . Demonstrating its passion for football in all conditions, the city broke ground on a soccer-specific stadium for the A-League's Rochester Rhinos (Joseph Spector, "Rhinos Break Ground (. . . Well, Snow)," Rochester Democrat and Chronicle). Temperatures reached a high of 4° (-16° Celsius), and city fathers' shovels dug into snow-encrusted ground. The warmest biped on hand was no doubt the Rhinos' mascot, at right. Copyright © 2004 Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.The ceremony had been several years in the making, with team officials having to scale back plans to achieve PaeTec Park's forecast capacity of 12,500 (with room for 4,500 additional bleacher seats). Further complications included discovery on the 15-acre site of foundations for the Erie Canal and a financial dispute with neighbor Empire Precision Plastics, Inc. The Rhinos have hopes of finding a place in Major League Soccer, which is looking to expand. With the new park under way—weather permitting, it could be finished by April 2005—Rochester shows its ambitions are serious. "Our people do work in this weather," Frank Wirt, president of the Rochester Building Trades Council, tells the Democrat and Chronicle. "With the unemployment that there is  . . . this is a great joy."
  • Washington | 12 January 2004 . . . The revamped Foreign Policy website posts, from the Click for Foer's articlemagazine's January/February issue, Franklin Foer's take on globalization as seen through the lens of football ("Soccer vs. McWorld"). A likely précis of Foer's upcoming book, How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization (HarperCollins, scheduled for July 2004 release), the essay suggests that, with football's rapid exploitation of global markets, plundering and corruption have been the result. As examples, Foer names the demise of professional Brazilian football and, interestingly, the continuing sectarianism on display among Celtic and Rangers supporters in the Scottish Premier League. Foer alludes to a hazy collusion between the clubs in keeping the Catholic-Protestant divide at the forefront: "[F]rom the start of their rivalry, Celtic and Rangers have been nicknamed the 'Old Firm,' because they're seen as colluding to profit from their mutual hatreds. Even in the global market, they attract more fans because their supporters crave ethnic identification—to join a fight on behalf of their tribe." Foer has written previously on football, for his employer, the New Republic, and for online magazine Slate ("Gloooooooooo—balism!" 12 February 2001). Foreign Policy, published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, includes two sidebars with Foer's article: "Fair Trade Soccer," on the dominance of wealthy clubs and a review of literature.
  • Washington | 23 December 2003 . . . Public Broadcasting's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer weighs in on the fall of the Women's United Soccer Association. Kwame Holman speaks with Joe Cummings, former general manager for the Boston Breakers, National Basketball Association commissioner David Stern, and Donna Lopiano, director of the Women's Sports Foundation ("Women's Goals," full transcript online). Perhaps most encouraging, though, are Holman's conversations at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart (Bethesda, Maryland) and Yorktown High School (Arlington, Virginia). He speaks with Yorktown athlete John Crone, a gridiron football player, who says he prefers women's sports:

    Women's sports are just a lot [of] fun to watch. It's like, I think it's a lot of fun, a lot more fun to watch because they're a lot more serious than sometimes guys. Like, especially with soccer. Because the guys' soccer, they can, like, fall down whenever, like, they barely get touched. But the women, they just get up and they're all tough about it. So, I don't know, I just love women's sports.

  • Sydney, Rome and New York | 6 December 2003 . . . Frank Farina, coach of Australia's "Socceroos," seems resigned to the Aussies' fate after FIFA confirmed that an Oceania team could only earn a 2006 World Cup finals slot in a playoff with a South American side—the same setup as in 2002, when Australia lost the slot in a playoff against The cover of "Tutte le barzellette su Totti raccolte da me"Uruguay (Michael Cockerill, "Draw Completes the Shafting of Oceania," Sydney Morning Herald). Farina says he will push Oceania officials to lobby FIFA for the home advantage in the eventual playoff's second leg. "We're talking crumbs," Farina said, "but that's what we've got left." . . . We had no idea that AS Roma's Francesco Totti has earned a clown's reputation for his malapropisms; so writes the Washington Post in an article that focuses on Totti's latest project, his best-selling book, Tutte le barzellette su Totti raccolte da me (All the jokes about Totti collected by me). Rome-based correspondent Daniel Williams writes:

    Legend has it that Totti began kicking a ball in his crib at nine months. He began playing organized soccer at age 5. He moved through four youth teams before hooking up with Roma at 17. Lazio, Roma's arch rival, wanted to sign him, but that would be like Caesar playing for the Gauls. Totti once scored a goal against Lazio and unveiled a T-shirt inscribed with the words, "Lazio, I've given you a laxative again." . . .

    The Financial Times's Simon Kuper lounges with National Basketball Association commissioner David Stern, who jokes about football's lack of profitability as compared to basketball. Seemingly lacking in Stern's analysis, however, is that he contrasts a single professional organization with a social movement, as football encompasses multifarious forms that will always find cultural expression outside any business model. No doubt that basketball has grassroots appeal—in our view, the game takes its highest form at the amateur and university levels (men's and women's)—but Stern, at least in Kuper's article, views basketball solely within a corporate context.

  • Oakland, California | 1 December 2003 . . . Gaps between the European and American systems of Freddy Adu performs "stupid human tricks" for David Lettermanpreparing professional athletes are becoming exposed by American teenagers foregoing university for the pro ranks (Mark Sappenfield, "Young, Gifted, and Rich—Behind the Sudden Rise of Teen Sports Superstars," Christian Science Monitor). In football, of course, we have Freddy Adu, who, at 14, is to finish high school on an accelerated schedule and to join D.C. United. The article notes that Major League Soccer felt compelled to sign Adu before he jumped to Europe, where early professionalism in football is the norm.

    The overseas competition has forced MLS to become a model for how to integrate very young talent into a professional atmosphere. Top-level prospects receive a $37,500 scholarship in case they want to go back to college. They receive one of four developmental roster spots on the team, which are saved only for young players. And living arrangements are made.

  • Selma, North Carolina, and Denver | 26 November 2003 . . . The Christian Science Monitor writes on the proliferation of "underground" football leagues in North Carolina, Georgia and Texas. Yet Mexican Americans and others remain largely separated from Anglos, according to the Monitor's reporting, while having an uncertain impact on the game's domestic popularity. Harvey Kaye, history professor at the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay, says the difference between Ruben Hernandez-Leon of UCLA. Click for more information.U.S. and Latino football is passion: It is "like the difference between American baseball, which is all about winning, and Japanese baseball, which is all about playing well and with honor." . . . "When you're back in Mexico, you open any paper and you look for the employment section and find out what's available. Here you go to the soccer field." So Ruben Hernandez-Leon of the University of California, Los Angeles, tells the Denver Post in a similar treatment of grassroots Latino football in the United States (Michael Riley, "Soccer Helps Arrivals Adjust to New Lives," 1 December). The Post's article continues:

    From Los Angeles to Atlanta, the soccer leagues are studied intently by sociologists because of the role they play in helping immigrants assimilate in the United States. Weekly meetings sorting out referee schedules and field rentals often turn into the organizational launching pad for a community that otherwise has little political voice.

  • Rancho Palos Verdes, California | 13 November 2003 . . . The current New Yorker reports from the set of Soccer Dog: European Cup to discover that the canine stars are well-treated and that not much football is being played (Susan Orlean, "Animal Action," 17 November 2003, 92–98; article available in print only). The original "Soccer Dog," before qualification for the Champions LeagueOrlean visits on the fourth day of the shoot as part of a larger treatment of the American Humane Association's Film and Television Unit. (The AHA review of the original Soccer Dog gave the film a "believed acceptable" rating.) Chip, a green-eyed mixed breed and the star of the sequel, works on a scene in which he opens a Port-a-Potty door and steps inside. This being a Hollywood film, Rancho Palos Verdes, outside Los Angeles, stands in for a Scottish village. And, this being Hollywood, Chip and his side are competing for the long-defunct European Cup rather than in the Champions League. Will Chip be trying to break down the Real Madrid back four in the final? Since he mastered the Port-a-Potty scene on the third take, anything is possible.
  • New York | 12 November 2003 . . . A New York Times takeout on the pressures of youth team sports focuses in part on the conflicts between soccer and baseball (Bill Pennington, "As Team Sports Conflict, Some Parents Rebel," p. A1). Soccer competes with baseball, the so-called American game, for time and the attention of youth, to the extent that a baseball club in New Jersey has started sponsoring its own soccer team so kids can play both sports in season. "The "If [kids] run free, so should we . . ." (B. Dylan)baseball people will never accept that soccer is a year-round sport, but it is, whether they like it or not," Ashley Hammond, president of Soccer Domain in Montclair, N.J., tells the Times. Elsewhere in the article, Hammond says the trend toward competition at younger ages will be hard to stop:

    It is too embedded in what is a highly competitive culture. The baby boomer parents generally have been very motivated, and they transfer all that to their kids. People talk about youth sports and say, "This is only for fun." If you talk to the parents, they might say that, but they don't mean it. They want their kids to get ahead. . . . It's the way Americans are and you're not going to stop it.

    The Times article also notes that, except for high school gridiron football, youth sports in the United States are following a "Euro-Asian model," with club organizations rather than schools responsible for developing athletes. Top competitors in soccer, basketball and other sports sometimes do not play for their schools. . . . Also today, invoking local privilege, we congratulate the Clayton Eagles, an indoor wheelchair soccer team based in Pine Lake, Ga. After going undefeated this season, the side will compete in the national championships in San Diego in January.

  • Chicago | 30 September 2003 . . . Two architecture critics give contrasting reviews to the newly reopened Soldier Field, home to the Chicago Bears and, after their exile to outlying Naperville, Illinois, to the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer. Herbert Muschamp of the New York Times hails the "liberation of sports architecture from sports architects" and the possibility that the field, shorn of sports' architects "retro" desires, "has become the central plaza of a European town." The Chicago Tribune's "Klingon meets Parthenon"?Blair Kamin, however, avers that, with a cantilevered glass seating bowl plopped inside the structure's Doric façade, "the stadium is Klingon meets Parthenon." Soldier Field, Kamin feels, has improved on the inside—no word if this improvement extends to soccer—but creates a "horrific eyesore" on Chicago's glorious lakefront. Additionally, fans will be segregated in the new facility, with skyboxes on one side and plebeians on the other:
  • Stadiums are supposed to be like parks, giving people of various classes a chance to rub shoulders, but the new Soldier Field extends the social stratification present in all American stadiums to a new and distressing extreme. Inevitably, there will be frigid and windy winter days when bundled-up fans in the grandstand will look across the field to see, in the suites, the masters of the universe lounging comfortably in shirtsleeves.

  • London | 22 September . . . In advance of the 25 October induction ceremonies at the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, N.Y.—which will recognize builders and players from the North American Soccer League—the Times (London) notes the many British greats who cashed their checks and donned "some outrageous kits that rivalled those of the Village People." Interesting, though, are the stories of players who did not go to America, including Alan Woollett, who wouldn't leave his dog behind, according to Steve Earle of the Detroit Express. "He went to Northampton and knew he'd made a mistake when they pulled up at a Wimpy and were given a £1 meal voucher."
  • Boston | 21 September 2003 . . . A vignette about the worldwide reach of American sports (from Charles P. Pierce, "The Goodwill Games," Boston Globe Magazine):
  • Ten years ago, before the United States turned Qatar into an aircraft carrier with sand, the Qataris hosted the Asian zone qualifying round for soccer's 1994 World Cup. Three American journalists went off into Doha, looking for souvenir gewgaws to buy, and they stopped at a store with a sign that said "Sporting Clothes." They asked if they could buy jerseys for any of the competing teams—in this case a historically fractious bunch made up of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Japan, and both Koreas. (Iraq's soccer mission was led that year by the not-then-yet-late Uday Hussein.) The man behind the counter shook his head.

    "Sorry," he said. "All we have is Michael Jordan."

  • Portland, Oregon | 27 August 2003 . . . Consistent in the remembrance of Clive Charles, men's and women's soccer coach at the University of Portland (Oregon), Clive Charles, 1951-2003. Click for University of Portland press release on his death.is that he did not emphasize results, knowing, after all, that results are fickle. The university's press release about Charles, who died on 26 August of complications from prostate cancer, re-creates the amusing tableau of Charles and players on his men's team listening to an opposing coach berate his players, which they could hear through thin locker-room walls. Players said that Charles would not scream at them, but told them to enjoy their football. "I didn't really have a lot of confidence when I came to Portland," said Shannon MacMillan, striker for the U.S. women's team, "and he helped me become a happy, confident person." Such perspective is admirable from a man who played at a high level, with West Ham United (London) and Cardiff City (Wales), and as a highly rated defender (at least by Pelé) on the Portland Timbers of the North American Soccer League. The Timbers honored Charles at their game on 29 August, and the University of Portland held a memorial. | back to top