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A couple of Britons brought a ball from their trenches and a lively game began. How fantastically wonderful and yet strange. The British officers experienced it just the same—that thanks to football and Christmas, the feast of love, deadly enemies could briefly meet as friends.
Kuper notes that the last soldier known to have played No Man's Land football, Bertie Felstead, who played in a match at Christmas 1915, died in 2001 at an old-age home in Gloucestershire. He was 106. | back to top
At the soccer team's 90th-birthday celebration last Friday—the very day Parmalat admitted it had faked a more than $4 billion bank account—hundreds of fans gathered in the main piazza to root on the team—and Mr. Tanzi. "He put our team on the map," said Paolo Medioli, head of the team's national fan club, raising a plastic glass of prosecco sparkling wine. "He will always stay in our hearts."
Tanzi is also lauded for his modest lifestyle, consisting of "casa, chiesa e fabbrica" (home, church and factory). For more background on AC Parma, see Roberto Gotta's recent review ("Trouble in Food Valley," ESPNSoccernet.com, 17 December). | back to top
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. | back to top
Europe's leading clubs conduct themselves increasingly as neo-colonialists who do not give a damn about heritage and culture but engage in social and economic rape by robbing the developing world of its best players. If we are not careful, football may degenerate into a game of greed—a trend I shall vigorously oppose.
Blatter makes explicit early on that he refers to the so-called G14, which actually groups 17 top European clubs as an advocacy and lobbying force. Blatter's essay has been prompted by the request that FIFA reimburse G14 clubs for national teams' use of G14-member players in major international events. The FIFA leader rebuts that such reimbursement is the responsibility of domestic football associations. Blatter, however, appears a bit disingenous about FIFA's authority, saying the organization exists to distribute funds and lets FAs make decisions. Yet he threatens lifetime bans against players on steroids—singling out Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand for special mention for failing to take a September drug test—and immediate relegation for the players' clubs. Blatter may be right about rich clubs prospecting for talent around the globe, but he must acknowledge that, in sport, there is no organization like FIFA: setting rules, schedules and protocol for clubs big and small, men or women, handicapped or fully abled, futsal or 11-a-side. | back to top
All athletes (and managers) live on a knife edge. All are only as good as their last performance. All are incessantly reminded that there is only one way to go after reaching the top, and that's down. The situation of footballers is the most precarious of all. As the last in the pecking order, after club owners, directors and managers, players are denied adult status. They are "lads" or "boys" to be bought and sold, transferred or dropped or left on the bench; as they are denied autonomy, we can't be surprised if they lack responsibility. Their survival depends on luck and is as fragile as a hamstring. Much of the concerted misbehaviour that ends in catastrophe begins as an attempt to discharge accumulated tension, which is no excuse. | back to top
On plenty of Monday mornings back when I was in junior high (say after Atlético had only managed to score on its own goal over the weekend), I wanted to stay home, so as to avoid the inevitable ribbing from my classmates, most of whom rooted for the Club América. América was the Dallas Cowboys, or the New York Yankees, of Mexican soccer. When it imported a Brazilian player, he was likely to be someone who had played in the World Cup. When a Brazilian happened to join my team, it was because he'd rather play somewhere, anywhere, than drive a bus back in Rio. | back to top
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. | back to top
Near the end of June, the occupation-appointed adviser to the Ministry of Youth and Sport, Don Eberle, presided over a farcical "turning-over" of the Olympic Stadium. The occasion included a scrimmage between a hastily assembled team of Iraqi professionals and an even more hastily assembled team of Marines. There were snipers posted around the stadium, and behind the standard ambulance a medical unit sat on a tank. Artillery holes pockmarked the bleachers, which were sparsely filled with bored-looking troops who rooted for the Iraqis. The home team trounced the Marines, 11-0, in a physical but friendly match. The quintessential American problem: great at war, not so good at playing the world game. | back to top
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. | back to top