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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).
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.
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,
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.-ISMS
Lasses leave lockers, looking lovely
Life 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."PERFORMANCES
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.
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
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.
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. IMMIGRATION
Not refugees, but Fugees
Decatur, Georgia, 6 April 2005 | The movement of peoples across the globe is
Be a Goat, be a hero
Los Angeles, 13 March 2005 | Details mean everything 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." CURMUDGEONS
A drive-by slap at soccer
Fairfield, Connecticut, 16 February 2005 | Whilst listing his objections to this weekend's Daytona 500, National Public 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 . . . ADVERTISING
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
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:
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).
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 permissible 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."
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY
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)
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
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.
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND, 8 SEPTEMBER 2004
Feelings on Merseyside about the Sun have not calmed, even after 15 years.
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
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)
The cows mark a Manchester renaissance. (Slate.com)
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
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)
[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
Haitians love the Brazilian team, as they demonstrate following a victory in the 2002 World Cup finals. (AP)
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,
ReVista magazine spotlights Chile and the Chilean national stadium in its spring issue.
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)
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.
CARSON, CALIFORNIA, 27 JUNE 2004
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)
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)
ST. GEORGE'S, GRENADA, 8 JUNE 2004
Grenada Prime Minister Kevin Mitchell was a math professor at Howard University and is a former captain of Grenada's cricket team. (AP)
LINCOLN, NEBRASKA, 27 APRIL 2004
Players hold hands at a Monday press conference to pay tribute to Jenna Cooper. (Daily Nebraskan)
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").
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."