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PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA, 27 APRIL 2004
South Africans Hope Freedom a Harbinger for Football
With awarding of the 2010 FIFA World Cup less than three weeks away, timing of South Africa's Freedom Day and the 10th anniversary of its first

Nelson Mandela with one of the supporters of South Africa's bid. (AP)
nonracial elections could not have been more fortuitous. Once viewed as a certainty, that South Africa will host the 2010 event has been cast into doubt by Morocco, whose bid is backed by Spain and France and is apparently favored by the United States. At the inauguration commemorating President Thabo Mbeki's second term, FIFA's delegation no doubt will have prominence among the 40,000 celebrants (Rory Carroll, "South Africa Rolls Out Red Carpet," The Guardian). Gaining the World Cup, Carroll notes, has formed a centerpiece of an HIV/AIDS-prevention group's billboard advertising campaign. "Separated by a football, a young man and woman gaze down with a simple message, 'Love to be there 2010.' Translation: if you want to be around to watch the matches, practise safe sex and avoid HIV." (Not to worry, though: David Beckham is on record backing South Africa.)

Other sources on World Cup 2010

FIFA has posted its inspection group report on the five bidding groups (link opens PDF file), in which South Africa is rated highest. The report is not binding on the 24-member executive committee that, on 15 May, will decide who hosts the event. The International Herald Tribune calls the decision "one of the most significant votes in the history of sports." The body of FIFA's report is worth perusing, if only for small insights into the bidding process. The suits from FIFA, for example, attended a match in Morocco between Raja and WAC, both of Casablanca. "Even though this match was hotly disputed with some excessively aggressive play at times . . . , the crowd displayed remarkable compusure, and not a single object was thrown onto the pitch" (p. 48).

When football and Africa come together, race is central, nowhere more so than in South Africa. Curiously, part of the strength of South Africa's bid is its ability to represent black Africa, though its reacceptance into FIFA in 1992 followed some 30 years of exclusion for a refusal to field mixed-race international sides. Now the nation serves as a touchstone for forward-thinking conversations about race issues: "Many whites, I wouldn't say all, have a particular stereotype of black people," Mbeki told Johannesburg's Mail and Guardian in 2001. "They would deny it, but it's true. They see black people as lazy, basically dishonest, thieving, corrupt. 'They can't really govern any country. Look at what's happened in the rest of Africa.' That would be the argument" (quoted in Sharon LaFraniere, "After Reconciliation, Steering South Africa to a Reckoning," New York Times).

Interesting is to trace football's development through the apartheid era and its consistent importance to black communities. Football grounds were homes for political rallies; even on Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela, prisoner 466/64, was held for 18 years, football was played on Saturdays. "Football is one of those sports which used to sustain us," said inmate Patrick Mathanjana in History of Football: The Beautiful Game,

in terms of not thinking about home, not thinking about your sentence. . . . On [Saturday] each and every section must come with its own best team. Everybody is determined, he's ready. You know, he goes all out. They must win, these guys. And then we even go to the extent of buying books, so that we must know when they say a man is offside, how do they say so? We buy all those books, but only to find out when we buy that book, another one is going to tell us, "No, no! That book is an old book." So we've got to get a new book. It's quite a struggle. Days and days, months and months, discussing about this.

Mandela, although officially uncommitted, is believed to support Orlando Pirates, a Soweto side that includes on its website an account of the 1976 uprising and the Orlando township's involvement. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, along with Mandela, will be lobbying CONCACAF at its congress this weekend in Grenada. Archbishop Tutu also used the pulpit at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, to implore parishioners: "You can help us if you can make these people who decide the soccer venue. Tell them there is no other country really but South Africa to be the host of the World Soccer Cup" (Rob Hughes, "South Africa's World Cup Bid Gains Official Blessing," International Herald Tribune, 6 May). (For much more background on South Africa, the recent elections and race relations, see the BBC election site, National Public Radio's "Mandela: An Audio History," and chapter 14 of Simon Kuper's Football against the Enemy, "Mandela at Helderfontein.") | back to top

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LINCOLN, NEBRASKA, 27 APRIL 2004
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").

• • •

BUENOS AIRES, 21 APRIL 2004
Post-It® Prayers for the 'Bloated Little Man'
The reports read like preliminary obituaries, waiting for night editors to make the inevitable ghoulish substitutions: "Diego Maradona, a footballer beyond the imagination, . . . is critically unwell. . . . He is not quite 44" (David Miller, "Forget the 'Hand of God' Goal: Maradona Was Touched by God," Daily Telegraph, 20 April). Superlatives are being honed, phrases ventured: in

In Naples, where Maradona played for Serie A side Napoli, admirers leave Post-Its®.
Miller's article, Maradona is described as "perhaps the finest spectacle of beauty in motion," "truly the quality of mercury about him." Soberingly for the phrase-makers, Maradona's condition in the Suizo Argentino clinic in Barrio Norte appears to be improving after his hospitalization Sunday with heart and lung ailments; as of 28 April, although still in intensive care, he was walking, talking and taking food; as of the 29th, he had left the facility entirely and had reemerged on the golf course.

English-language assessments range from condemnation of Maradona's lifestyle to appreciation of his iconic status. Rob Hughes of the International Herald Tribune sketches Maradona's archetypal rise from Villa Florito as the fifth of eight children, labeling him the "male Eva Perón" ("The Past Takes Its Toll on Maradona"). In Maradona, to Hughes, we have a troubled man at struggle to find the youth within: "Maradona a week ago indulged in an impromptu game with university students, and looked again a child at play. May he still be doing that when he is 60, and beyond; and may those bystanders who catch a glimpse of it remember that inside this bloated little man is the very essence of the game." To others, of course, Maradona represents the reverse: a boy who needs to grow up. Andrew Cawthorne, former Reuters correspondent in Havana, recalls other kickabouts as Maradona recuperated, at Fidel Castro's invitation, from cocaine addiction. He also recalls Maradona watching Boca Juniors matches via satellite and diving, fully clothed, into a friend's swimming pool in raucous goal celebrations ("My Kick-Arounds with Maradona in Cuba," Reuters, 20 April).

There is no doubt, however, that Maradona's return to Argentina—to contest a legal matter against a former associate—has demonstrated the bonds between man and country. Supporters outside the clinic have created a worship environment, and in their 3–0 Copa Libertadores victory over Bolívar today, Boca Juniors dedicated each goal to "El Diez," Maradona (Mariano Dayan, "De Diez," Olé, 22 April; registration required). "His possession of the human gift of producing and giving joy," writes Eduardo Archetti, "lies behind his incomparable cult" (" 'And Give Joy to My Heart': Ideology and Emotions in the Argentinian Cult of Maradona," in Entering the Field: New Perspectives on World Football, ed. Gary Armstrong and Richard Giulianotti [Oxford: Berg, 1997], 44). (See also the gleanings entry from 9 February 2004.) | back to top

• • •

LONDON, 19 APRIL 2004
Supporters Vent and Sing for Merry Old En-ger-land
The on-stage portion of the "summer of football" launches with Roy Williams's Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads,

Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads opens April 23.
beginning Friday at the National Theatre (Aleks Sierz, " 'They Are Fighting for This Myth of Britain,' " Financial Times). A 2002 World Cup qualifier provides the setting; England supporters watch a 1–0 defeat to Germany—the last England match at Wembley—at a south London pub. Supporters need some way to vent. The playwright takes in the scene:

For an England fan like me, it was bad, but, for a dramatist, it was better than winning—the fans' reaction to defeat was very aggressive and very theatrical. . . . I was enjoying myself in the pub, and then all these drunk guys came barging in, chanting En-ger-land and shouting racist obscenities. And the most appalling things about [David] Beckham's wife. It was uncomfortable but, at the same time, I realised it was a great stage set.

Williams had already written a play about sport: The No Boys Cricket Club, about a Jamaican woman all-rounder. Williams's mother is from Jamaica, although Williams himself was born in Fulham, west London. In an earlier National production of Lads, staged in 2002, Guardian reviewer Michael Billington writes that Williams reaches a sobering assessment in his latest work: "Examine British society at almost any level, implies Williams, and you will find a measure of racism." Says Williams: "Whenever we talk about race, we dismiss it too easily with wishy-washy liberal clichés. If we're going to talk about race, let's get ugly here." | back to top

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LA PAZ, BOLIVIA, 15 APRIL 2004
Can We Blame Him for Losing the Sea, Too?
His home had been ransacked as part of domestic unrest, his wife suffered from the altitude (12,001 ft.) and, on top of it, he lost his job. Chilean national and Uruguayan-born Nelson Acosta,

Nelson Acosta publicly apologized for the loss to Chile, but it wasn't enough. (AP photo)
former coach of Bolivia's national team, has now been replaced by native Bolivian Ramiro Blacut, who will have his third go-around leading the national side ("Nuevo DT propone un cambio total," La Prensa). Acosta's unpardonable sin was losing at home on 30 March, 2–0 to rivals Chile in a World Cup qualifier, a loss made all the more difficult in La Paz by his Chilean connections. Acosta had coached Chile in the 1990s and, given the volatile history between the two countries, repercussions were inevitable ("South American Media Watch: Blame Game Begins," FIFAWorldCup.com, 6 April). Bolivia's anguished history with its neighbor has lasted more than one hundred years; in the now ironically named Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1904, Bolivia ceded territory to Chile, including critical sea passage. In addition to some 1,400 police assigned to the fixture on 30 March, disputes erupted over a planned halftime performance of the diablada, a dance celebrated during carnival among native populations in the Chilean and Bolivian Andes. No agreement could be reached, however, on which version of the dance should be celebrated, so no one danced at all ("La Diablada no se bailarà en el partido Bolivia-Chile," Bolivia.com, 11 March). In the meantime, Chilean football suffers its own decline, signaled by anemic crowds and violence ("Chilean Football Hits 'Big Crisis,' " BBC Sport, 31 March). "We're in a black hole," says Mauricio Israel, a Chilean sports presenter. | back to top

• • •

ATLANTA, 13 APRIL 2004
The Word 'Cruciate' Means Crossed
Injuries to the knee's anterior cruciate ligament have become a curse to women's athletics, to women's football in particular. A survey in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution summarizes recent research and asks about the injury's

The anterior cruciate ligament goes from the back of the thigh bone, or femur, to the front of the shin bone, or tibia.
emotional impact (Virginia Anderson, "On a Tear"; see also accompanying diagram). Generally speaking, doctors are studying how women move and how they land to explain why female athletes sustain ACL injuries at up to eight times the rate of men. "If I hit the ground, the ground hits back," says Tim Hewett, director of the Sports Medicine Biodynamics Center at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital. "Girls let the ground hit harder, making the knee work like a ball and socket. In boys, it works like a hinge." New training regimens could reduce the frequency of injury, although some researchers have doubts. There is no doubt, though, of the simple fact that sustaining the injury makes life harder. Mallory Springfield, a youth soccer player outside Atlanta, "did not become depressed after she tore her ACL last fall," Anderson writes,

but she did have to work hard to keep up with her studies. For weeks after her September surgery, she had an hour of physical therapy every day before school. "It was tough staying awake at school," she said. A striker on the Concorde Fire soccer club and also for her school team, Mallory tore her ACL after colliding with a goalie during a match in New York. She landed flat on her back, with her right knee twisted behind her. . . . As she lay on the field, she worried most about what most competitive athletes worry about when they are injured: missed playing time. "I was thinking, 'Please don't let it be serious,' " she said. "I wanted to play so bad."

More-technical data about ACL injuries are available through the Center for Orthopaedic and Biomechanics Research at Boise State University in Idaho ("Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries in Athletics"), and extensive links through the National Institutes of Health online reference page. | back to top

• • •

MONACO AND LONDON, 6 APRIL 2004
The Tonsured Not Always Triumphant
Dare we give away too much and call this Black Tuesday? With both Arsenal and Real Madrid unexpectedly exiting the
Click for film website
Zidane and Guti embrace on Tuesday. The Real Madrid advantage was short-lived. (AP photo)
Champions League at the same hour, we had to staunch the saliva that was flowing in anticipation of a dream semifinal between the Gunners and los galácticos. Our zest for Zidane had been piqued on the weekend in the essay by Andrew Hussey ("ZZ Top," The Observer, 4 April), who covered some familiar ground by tracing Zidane's Algerian heritage and cultural significance. The University of Wales scholar, whose specialty is French anarchism, was most engaging, however, in restaging his encounter with Zidane at the Real Madrid training ground off the Paseo de la Castellana. David Beckham arrives in "an absurdly huge four-wheel drive" and attracts an entourage. Not so for Zidane.

The first thing I notice about Zidane is that for a player of such commanding elegance on the field, he is, in person, rather awkward, even gawky. He even sits delicately, like a girl, legs together, hands folded in his lap. My second thought is that he probably is genuinely shy.

A number of cultural scholars and poets have taken their stabs at Zidane, enough that "Zidane lit" is becoming almost a subgenre. See also the New York Times Magazine profile from 1999 (John Vinocur, "Just a Soccer Star, After All," 14 March 1999), where Zidane's Berber heritage and talismanic status for a "new France" were well exegeted, and Mounsi's 20-page prose poem ("Zizou Zidane—The World's Best Player," in Le Foot: The Legends of French Football, ed. Christov Rühn [London: Abacus, 2000], 94–113): "In the stands, on the terraces, everywhere the crowd yells this exclamation: / 'Zizou! Zizou!' / The diminutive makes a circuit of the stadium. / Your comrades clasp you to them. /You kiss Emmanuel Petit." | back to top

• • •

CANTERBURY, ENGLAND, 5 APRIL 2004
Archbishop: God Has Given Us All Space in Life's Midfield
The phrase "tempest in a teapot" was coined for items such as these. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, writing in his diocesan newsletter, Outlook ("Archbishop Rowan's Easter Message to the Diocese," April 2004; link opens PDF file)—a

Archbishop Rowan in cope and mitre.
friendly jumble of updates on missionary life and bad clip art—correlates, in an allusion to 2 Corinthians 5:16, St. Paul's "works of the flesh" with the British serial Footballers' Wives. "For St Paul," Williams writes,

living in "flesh" is living by the standards of a world enslaved by rivalry, fear and self-seeking: the "works of the flesh" are almost all to do with different kinds of selfish behaviour, behaviour that is destructive of other people's welfare or safety or reputation. "The works of the flesh" are what you see on "Footballers' Wives" on television and what you read on lots of websites (including Christian ones . . .)—a world in which charity and fairness, generosity, a sense of perspective about yourself are all swept aside.

That is the extent of his comment. Goaded by the press, however, the show's executive producer felt called to launch a spirited defense, noting viewers' ability to distinguish between reality and fantasy and then, in a parting salvo: "There are probably more people watching Footballers' Wives than attending Anglican services." It sounds to us like Williams has good taste—a fan of the Simpsons rather than the Wives' mythical Earls Park FC. We have not seen Wives, but the Guardian's David Liddiment may be on to something when he calls the program "a drama of its time" ("Footballers' Wives—A Morality Tale").

Last week's episode was a case in point. Its big set piece was the annual team party (echoes for Dallas fans of the annual Ewing barbecue). This provided the stage for the whole cast of characters to come together for a particularly tawdry story climax: closeted gay footballer is caught on camera in flagrante with a male prostitute, watched by all the team. The drama of the moment, the humiliation felt by the gay character, the homophobic reaction of many of his team-mates, were all undercut by the fact that the entire cast were in outrageous 70s fancy dress. The joke was on the characters, perpetrated by the producers, and the audience was in on it. | back to top

• • •

HONG KONG, 5 APRIL 2004
'Mighty Iron Leg' Kicks Sweet-Bun Habit
Long deprived, American audiences can now thrill to Stephen Chow's high-flying Siu lam juk kau (Shaolin soccer). New York Times reviewer Elvis Mitchell refers in his
Click for film website
The Siu lam juk kau website on the "hooking leg" technique: "[G]yrate around your body's central axis, break it down, and get funky with your bad self."
opening paragraph to the film's three-year journey to U.S. cinemas, noting that the mo lei tau–genre martial-arts comedy is "fatty, chewy and funny—and slightly gamy, given the amount of time it sat on the shelf" ("Chop-Socky, Thy Name Is Stephen Chow," 2 April). Like other Chow films—he has made more than 50, to become a major player in Hong Kong cinema (see Dave Kehr, "Fearlessly Taking Martial Arts to the Soccer Field," New York Times)—Shaolin Soccer is apparently its own animal, with Chow as Sing, a kung fu and football master with a corrosive affinity for sweet buns. Bun chef Mui (Vicki Zhao) plays an important role as Sing's love interest, as Sing gathers down-and-outers for a pivotal match with Team Evil. Chow tells Miramax publicists that football training did not occupy much of his one-year preparation for playing the role: "I kick-boxed and jogged almost every single day. Of course, I sustained quite a few injuries as well since I spent half the time on wires." One must therefore acknowledge that Shaolin Soccer is not intended for the football purist. "Two young men sitting directly behind me were in hysterics the entire film," writes reviewer Richard Horgan, "luxuriating in the stream of inside references to Bruce Lee, classic kung fu films and Japanese anime. This pair, without a doubt, represents the film's core audience." | back to top