Monthly Archives: November 2011

INFTH Book Review: All Or Nothing

At football’s European epicenter lies the world’s premier annual sporting competition. The Champions League shapes the
ambitions of clubs across the continent; all of them dreaming of the same ungainly, two-handled trophy. All or Nothing is the story of that tournament. The story of the teams, fans and players that make-up modern football’s most defining edifice.

Andy Brassell sets out to understand the Champions League’s transcendent influence on European club football, to examine how the tournament affects competitors big, small and in between. Unfortunately, Brassell’s account of one “season in the life of the Champions League” fails to compel. It’s not fresh, it’s not new and it’s not exciting. Moreover, only eight years after publication, it’s hopelessly out of date.

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Moment #3: England Beat Argentina In Five Minutes

This piece is by Paul Price, sole editor of The Technical Area.

It was a cold, autumnal Saturday evening in November 2005 in Geneva, Switzerland. With England having already booked their place at the 2006 World Cup, they had the opportunity to pit their wits against one of the world’s best teams in a friendly match. But it wasn’t Switzerland that England were facing, it was the Old Enemy, Argentina.

International Friendly. There has never been such a match between these two nations. England-Argentina is a bitter rivalry that goes way back, as far as the 1966 World Cup in fact, when England manager Sir Alf Ramsey ordered his players not to shake hands with their Argentinean counterparts after a controversial affair. Then there was  the “Hand Of God” controversy in the Quarter Finals of the 1986 World Cup, where Diego Maradona used a clenched fist to send the ball beyond the advancing Peter Shilton. Add to that the 1982 Falklands War and you have a history that renders the term “friendly” quite ridiculous.

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MLS Cup Final Preview: Beckham Is Finally Living The American Dream

Finally, after four years of disappointment, Major League Soccer’s prodigal son looks set to propel his team to a legitimately satisfactory finale.

If all goes to plan, David Beckham will gain redemption on Sunday night. Victory for the LA in this weekend’s MLS Cup Final would represent the pinnacle of a tumultuous Galaxy tenure.

Only, it shouldn’t have taken this long.  The blue-and-gold confetti that greeted the United States’ newest idol in 2007 was supposed to have inaugurated four years of revolution. Beckham had promised to stimulate soccer’s growth in America, to push the game into the forefront of previously dismissive minds. Instead, during his first four years stateside the London born star faced up to a grim reality: eradicating the American view that “soccer” is the exclusive domain of children under thirteen would take actual commitment, actual effort.

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INFTH Book Review: Soccer Against The Enemy

Simon Kuper’s Soccer Against The Enemy is a classic of modern sports writing, covering immense cultural ground in its exploration of the game’s political and social influence.

Published in 1994, a time when football’s historical and cultural impact had yet to be fully appreciated, Soccer Against the Enemy convincingly counters the dismissiveness of intellectuals and gives two fingers up to Americans’ happily glorified ignorance. It cast the world’s most popular sport as a key player in games where the goalposts move – where the stakes are life, death and political power, not just a weekend’s three-point haul.

“When a game matters to billions of people it ceases to be just a game-” Kuper writes in the book’s opening lines. “Soccer is never just soccer.” The rest of the book’s 300-odd pages develop that intricate and multi-dimensional thesis, backing it up with mountains of evidence from Cameroon to Argentina, Margaret Thatcher to Maradona. In Kuper’s hands, football’s century of growth, controversy and drama comes to life and the sport comes into its own; not just as a staple of the modern world, but also as a force that holds society in thrall.

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