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  • Rome | 28 January . . . To commemorate the 59th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and to Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel. Click for more information.counter racist images associated with Italy's ultras, athletes, journalists and politicians participated in the Partita della Memoria (Match of memory) Tuesday at Rome's Stadio Olimpico. Sylvia Poggioli of National Public Radio filed a report ("Europe Marks Holocaust amid Rise in Anti-Semitism"). The origins of Tuesday's match were rooted, Poggioli says, in a 1998 incident at the same venue, where ultras, targeting rival supporters, held up a banner reading, "Auschwitz Is Your Country—The Ovens Are Your Homes." Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel was guest of honor at the match, for which 20,000 tickets were sold. Funds will go toward constructing a Shoah museum in Rome. Beforehand, Wiesel lamented continued anti-Semitism across Europe: "We have antennas. That's all that we have. . . . Our antennas tell us that there is a moral danger to humanity today." See Rome newspaper La Repubblica for a review of Remembrance Day events in Italy (" "Voi siete arrivati all'inferno': Un grido per non dimenticare," 27 January). | back to top
  • São Paulo | 27 January . . . The popularizer of the bicycle kick (chute de bicicleta), Leonidas da Silva, has died after long struggles with Alzheimer's and diabetes. He was 90. The Brazilian international, known as the The late Leonidas"Black Diamond" or the Magia Negra (black magician), scored four goals in Brazil's vintage 6–5 victory over Poland in the 1938 World Cup finals (see Brian Glanville's obituary in The Guardian). He was to score eight times in the tournament. Glanville quotes one account of da Silva's best attributes:

    He was as fast as a greyhound, as agile as a cat, and seemed not to be made of flesh and bones at all, but entirely of rubber. He was tireless in pursuit of the ball, fearless, and constantly on the move. He never conceded defeat. He shot from any angle and any position, and compensated for his small height with exceptionally supple, unbelievable contortions, and impossible acrobatics.

    The website of the Universidade de São Paulo, Escola de Educação Física e Esporte, in a fascinating section on the biomechanics of the bicycle kick (including photographs, videos and illustrations of scientific principles), credits Spain's Ramon Unzaga with having invented the kick in 1914. Unzaga emigrated to Chile, where the move became known as a chilena. Da Silva perfected the kick in the 1930s in stints with Bonsuccesso of Rio de Janeiro, Uruguay's Peñarol, Botafogo and Flamengo. (The USP site includes a video of da Silva himself, playing in 1942 for São Paulo. The link opens your computer's default media player.)

    Alex Bellos, author of Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life, writes of Leonidas ("Obituary: Leônidas da Silva," Futebolthebrazilianwayoflife.com):

    Leônidas' fame helped further new theories of race that for the first time saw Brazilians be proud of their racial mixture. Gilberto Freyre, the most influential academic of his day, used the footballer—who was black—as a positive symbol of Brazil's culture of miscegenation. Not only did football show Brazil at its best, but Leônidas' style of play embodied Brazilian characteristics of musicality, happiness, astuteness and guile. This helped make football the most powerful symbol of national identity, an idea which continued and strengthened as Brazilian football eventually achieved greatness. | back to top

  • Honiara, Solomon Islands, and Sydney | 20 January . . . A depressing 1–0 loss to Samoa, Solomon Islands flag at restwhich FIFA ranks 177th in the world, has eliminated the Solomon Islands in qualifying for the 2004 Olympic Games (Michael Cockerill, "Islanders Wounded and Playing for Pride," Sydney Morning Herald), dampening some optimism about the sport's development on Guadalcanal Island and on other islands in the archipelago. "It's really bad at home," says Solomons striker Henry Fa'Arado. "I think the result [against Samoa] definitely showed we haven't moved forward, we've gone stale. At the moment, we don't have the proper direction. They can't even finish the league because they've run out of money. There is so much talent in the Solomons but it's going to waste." In somewhat more positive fashion, the Solomons lost just 5–0 to Australia (the Olyroos) in a subsequent qualifying match. The FIFA website in the past has spoken in upbeat tones about football's ability to quell strife among islanders and painted pleasant tableaus of Honiara residents caressing the turf of a freshly laid field and sitting in the new Lawson Tama stadium to watch the sprinklers ("A Garden of Eden Deep in the Pacific," 19 November 2002). A survey of football's development on the Islands is available from the Solomon Islands Football Federation (click on "SIFF History"). | back to top
  • Verona, Italy | 19 January . . . With the Parmalat crisis in view (see 26 December 2003 gleanings entry), Click for more information on Parks's book about Hellas Veronanovelist Tim Parks writes of the historic influence of Italian barons—dating to Florentine magnate Lorenzo de' Medici—over finance and, now, over calcio ("Now That's Italian!" Wall Street Journal, p. A12). Author of A Season with Verona: Travels around Italy in Search of Illusion, National Character and . . . Goals! Parks of course refers to Parmalat's Calisto Tanzi (Parma), Silvio Berlusconi (AC Milan), Vittorio Cecchi Gori (Fiorentina), Gianni Agnelli (Juventus) and Sergio Cragnotti (Lazio). Most intriguing, though, is the relationship between Tanzi and Gianbattista Pastorello, former sporting director at Parma and, in 1998, the buyer of Hellas Verona, the side that Parks pursued for his 450-page narrative. After Pastorello's move,

    Parma and Verona proceeded to swap a number of players. In May 2001 the Verona team went to Parma absolutely desperate for a win to save them from relegation into the less profitable Serie B. Out of 16 away games that season Verona had lost 14 and drawn two. Since I have been a season ticket holder at Verona for many years, I was on the bus with the fans going to the crucial game. They were amazingly confident. "2–1 to us," they said. "It's been fixed." Mr. Tanzi would never, they thought, allow his team to play against his own money. And 2–1 it was, Verona scoring in the dying minutes while Parma's excellent defense stood by. | back to top

  • Zurich | 16 January . . . This is how women's football seems to gain notice, when sex becomes an explicit part of the equation. Blatter believes in lifting up the women's game (AP Photo)As you no doubt have heard by now, FIFA boss Joseph "Sepp" Blatter has spelled out his vision of the feminine future for Swiss trash mag SonntagsBlick. That future involves tighter-fitting kit. "Pretty women are playing football today," Blatter said, in what the Times (U.K.) called a liberal translation from the German. "Excuse me for saying that." Headline-writers, of course, have had a good time:

    "Blatter-Mouth Sepp Puts His Foot in It" (Edmonton Sun)
    "Slip into Something Skimpy: Blatter" (Winnipeg Sun)
    "Brief Loss of Blatter Control" (Washington Post)
    "Getting Shorts in a Bunch" (Tacoma News Tribune)

    And so on. The Times had its own variation—"Blatter Given Clear Brief Over Hotpants" (17 January)—in which Peter Lansley notes that the English Football Association might have unwittingly buttressed Blatter's comments by releasing a brochure with four female England players modeling, yes, closer-fitting football wear. We also cannot forget that the Women's United Soccer Association once sent cheesecake pics of its players to Playboy. FIFA's response to the latest imbroglio? A spokesman says that Blatter never said "hotpants." | back to top

  • Rochester, New York | 15 January . . . 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." | back to top
  • Mumbai (Bombay) | 12 January . . . Monday Night Football in the NFL—the National Football League of India—and a legend gains an overdue honor. Neville D'Souza played for India in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, "considered the high-point of Indian football" (Nandakumar Marar, "Recalling Neville's Extraordinary Exploits in Olympic Football," The Hindu, 3 September 2000), The 1956 Indian side. Courtesy hinduonnet.comwhere the side finished fourth and D'Souza scored a hat trick against Australia. The Mumbai District Football Association honored D'Souza, who died in 1980 of a brain hemorrhage, before a fixture between Mahindra United and Vasco of Goa. D'Souza's widow, Lyra, tells the Times of India that "it took nearly 25 years since his death for somebody to recognise his achievements, but better late than never" (Nitin Naik, "Mumbai Salutes Soccer Legend," 13 January). Brother Dereyk de Souza, a former goalkeeper for the national side, also laments Neville's slide into anonymity, attributing a nation's short memory to the lack of television coverage when Neville played. In the article in The Hindu, de Souza remembered Neville's characteristics:

    Neville's greatest quality was his humility. He hated to talk about his own achievements, however extraordinary. Even the Melbourne Games hat-trick did not come up in our football discussions. He would talk about Melbourne as something I should experience. See the march-past, the Indians walking in with turbans and the Olympic atmosphere. He would goad me to aim for an Olympic place. I knew this was going to be my role model. | back to top

  • Washington | 12 January . . . 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. | back to top
  • London | 10 January . . . The Times is asking readers to identify Britain's all-time greatest manager. Alex Murphy has Stately Herbert Chapmancast his lot with Herbert Chapman of Huddersfield Town and Arsenal ("Revealed: A Ruthless, Pioneering Genius Who Ranks as the Best British Manager . . . Ever!"). Under Chapman, Arsenal won the FA Cup and two championships; more important, though, Chapman set a standard for managerial control over team affairs. Murphy writes that Chapman

    stands out as the pioneer who shook British football out of an age-old slough and was a tireless innovator decades ahead of his time—a champion of such ground-breaking concepts as floodlights, numbered shirts, clocks inside grounds, white footballs, team meetings, physiotherapy and synthetic pitches, to name just a few.

    Chapman also had enough pull to influence renaming the Highbury-area Tube station from "Gillespie Road" to "Arsenal." . . . In another interesting take on managerial trends, the Telegraph writes supportively of Southampton manager Gordon Strachan's decision to step down at the end of the season, citing "medical and personal reasons" (Paul Hayward, "Punch and Judy Show Is No Fun for Merry Saint"). Hayward likes Strachan's "simple, human statement," and adds: "Our culture of machismo and denial requires us to yabber about how well paid football managers are, and how much fun it must be to pick your own Premiership team every week." But "managers exist in a twisted and hyper-cynical world: not middle England but middle earth." . . . Simon Kuper identifies another aspect of the contemporary European game—the near-impossibility of mid-sized clubs such as erstwhile Champions League competitors Fiorentina claiming major silverware ("M-Cities March Over European Soccer Map," Financial Times). As top players gravitate toward the "M-towns" of Milan, Manchester, Munich and Madrid, so do trophies: "These M-towns are big enough to produce the required fan base, yet provincial enough to generate a Medicean yearning for global recognition. Local fans and sponsors invest in the club partly because they feel civic pride is at stake. In the middle ages they would have built a cathedral instead." | back to top

  • Rio de Janeiro and Exeter, England | 8 January . . . Ninetieth-anniversary celebrations of the Brazilian national team's first match—against Exeter City—are being planned (Tom Dart, "Exeter Prepares Big Devon Welcome for Cream of Brazil," The Times [U.K.]). July 21 is a target The Exeter City grounddate for a rematch in Rio, with Nike already producing a ninetieth-anniversary Brazil kit. Exeter, now relegated from the Nationwide League, lost 2-0 to Brazil in 1914, and one might expect far worse the next go-around. Getting Brazil to play in Devon will also require a lobbying effort. "In our centenary year we'd like to get a big team to St James' Park and we'd like it to be Brazil," says Ian Huxham, Exeter's managing director. "We were able to assist in the (origins) of the game in Brazil and they could help to save the future of professional football in Exeter by appearing in a sell-out game." | back to top
  • San Salvador and Harare, Zimbabwe | 7 January . . . We learn about the mysterious The El Salvador team returns. Or does it? Photograph from El Diario de Hoy, San Salvador.El Salvador national side that was not the El Salvador national side. Or was it? Investigations by reporters at the Herald in Harare determined that the El Salvador–Zimbabwe friendly on 4 January featured just two regulars from El Salvador's full national team; in addition, the coach, Juan Ramon Paredes, did not bother to make the trip (Steve Vickers, "Zimbabwe in Controversy," BBC Sport). For their part, the Salvadorans say they never knew they were being billed as the national team (Orestes Membreño, " 'No se nos dijo que éramos la Selección,' " El Diario de Hoy, 9 January). In any case, they fared pretty well, drawing 0-0. Zimbabwe's Sports Commission has started an investigation into how they were duped, if, indeed, they were duped (Tendai Ndemera, "Investigations into Fiasco Begin," The Herald, 9 January). Regardless of the outcome, one institution that seems to have prevailed is The Herald, which is proud of how its curiosity came to capture, momentarily, the attention of the world-football press.

    What began as routine investigations by The Herald has turned into a global story that is making headlines around a world bemused by how a group of impostors could masquerade as a national football team and play an international friendly in a foreign country. . . . Normally local football stories in this country barely go beyond our borders but the story about the fake El Salvador national team, unmasked after investigations by our journalists, has spread across the world. (Robson Sharuko and Lawrence Moyo, "Fake El Salvador Saga Dominates," 9 January) | back to top

  • Bamako, Mali, and London | 4 January 2004 . . . Club-vs.-country controversy, permutation 15,184. This time the dispute involves Tottenham Hotspur's Frédéric Kanouté, who wishes to play for his father's native Mali in the upcoming African Nations Cup (Jan. 24–Feb. 14). Oh shut up, PleatLatest developments include Spurs caretaker manager David Pleat further upsetting Mali officials with his bizarre comments, such as "Do you know the population of Mali? Neither do any of my players," and, "I don't even know where Mali is" (James Copnall and Amy Lawrence, "Club v Country Row Grows as Angry Africans Slam 'Contemptuous' Spurs," The Guardian). Pleat adds that, though he is cloudy concerning particulars on Mali, he is not sure Kanouté is up to the task of playing internationally: "I am not sure Freddie is that equipped to play in that intensity. He's a player who is very sensitive to his body parts: his ankles have to be right, his knees have to be right, that's the way he is." Bavieux Traoré of the Mali Football Federation, however, objects. "Mali is a country, Tottenham is a club. Why should we be subordinate to their wishes?" The Guardian's Richard Williams, for one, has chided both Pleat, who wants Kanouté to help Spurs in a potential relegation battle ("Pleat and Allardyce Fail to See the Bigger African Picture," 31 December 2003), and Bolton Wanderers manager Sam Allardyce. Jay-Jay Okocha has been the object of Allardyce's lobbying—bald-faced statements to tempt the Nigerian from international football, using the "lure" of a potential Carling Cup final: "He hasn't played at the Millennium Stadium and I think it would be wonderful for him to have it on his CV." Such disputes are not only occurring in the English Premier League; witness the problems between Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o and his club side, Real Mallorca. In other coverage, the Financial Times calls Kanouté the prodigal son for his previous flirtation with France (James Copnall, "Prodigal Son Returns to His Roots," 7 January 2004), and Sepp Blatter again blasts the G14 for trying to interfere with African players' international ambitions ("Country Always Outweighs Club," Financial Times, 7 January 2004). | back to top