Tag Archives: fifa

Women’s Soccer Has A Hope Solo Problem

The United States Women’s National Team opened its 2015 World Cup campaign last week, with a deserved 3-1 victory over Australia. Megan Rapinoe, a creative midfielder whose silky dribbling is reminiscent of Andres Iniesta, scored twice, sending the team to first place in the so-called Group of Death. Rapinoe’s second goal, a run from the halfway line followed by a powerful left-footed finish, remains one of the best of the tournament so far.

But Rapinoe’s impressive performance went virtually unnoticed in the media’s post-game coverage. The United States’ first two World Cup matches have been overshadowed by a controversy involving the team’s goalkeeper, Hope Solo. Earlier this month, ESPN’s Outside the Lines published a lengthy article recounting Solo’s behavior on the night of June 20, 2014, when she allegedly assaulted her half-sister’s 17-year-old son. (In January, a judge dismissed a two-count domestic assault charge against Solo on procedural grounds.) The story also details US Soccer’s half-hearted investigation of the incident: The federation, which has not punished Solo, neither requested police records nor contacted Solo’s nephew.

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Blatter’s Out. Now What?

We don’t know precisely why Sepp Blatter, who sealed reelection last week in typically blatter resignationdefiant fashion, chose today to resign as FIFA president. Was it the New York Times’ report on the involvement of Jerome Valcke, Blatter’s second in command, in a multimillion-dollar bribery scheme? Or the growing possibility that the US Justice Department will include the under-fire Swiss in its next round of indictments? Or was Blatter merely concerned that his troubles would distract fans from all the hot players in “feminine clothes” at the upcoming Women’s World Cup?

Whatever the reason, Blatter’s resignation is great news for soccer fans. But don’t get too excited. The front-runners for his soon-to-be-vacant position include the ringleader of the Qatar 2022 caucus and a member of the Jordanian royal family.

UEFA president Michel Platini, the oddsmakers’ favorite to succeed Blatter, called for FIFA to enact sweeping reforms just hours after the DoJ announced its corruption charges. This from a guy who lobbied hard to bring the World Cup to Qatar – where stadium construction has already cost hundreds of lives – possibly in return for a series of political favors.

The other leading candidate, Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein, lost to Blatter in last week’s election, despite promising to crack down on corruption. But, as Guardian writer Marina Hyde tweeted last Friday, “If he likes elections so much maybe they can have one in Jordan?”

There’s still hope that sanity will prevail. David Gill, the former chief executive of Manchester United, and Michael van Praag, the experienced head of the Dutch Football Association, are both competent administrators unblemished by accusations of corruption. Even Luis Figo has a few smart ideas.

But frankly, I wouldn’t vote for any of them. Soccer journalists have been writing about Blatter’s corrupt regime for almost two decades. So I’d like to take this opportunity to formally endorse Grant Wahl for FIFA president.

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Surrendering the Moral High Ground

Until recently, Barcelona was not only the most successful team in European soccer; it was also thesuarez barca most virtuous. UNICEF’s logo was emblazoned on its jerseys. Its coach, Pep Guardiola, won admirers simply for not being Jose Mourinho. In 2011, longtime captain Carlos Puyol let his teammate Eric Abidal, who had been treated for cancer, lift the Champions League trophy at Wembley.

But as Barcelona’s dominance has eroded – last season, the team didn’t win a single trophy – the club has gradually surrendered its moral high ground. I don’t need to remind you that Luis Suarez made his Barca debut on Monday. Or that a Qatari airline now sponsors the team’s jerseys. Or that Lionel Messi may have committed tax fraud.

Earlier today, FIFA upheld the two-year transfer ban it imposed on Barcelona in April. Apparently, while we reveled in the talents of homegrown stars like Xavi and Iniesta, Barca was illegally importing underage players to its academy. I am thoroughly disillusioned.

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Nicolas Anelka, the Quenelle, and UEFA’s Oppressive Rules

The media rarely misses an opportunity to denounce football’s governing bodies – for corruption, for anelka quenelleincompetence, for awarding prestigious international tournaments to corrupt and incompetent governments. Indeed, over the last few years – amid stories about problematic elections, dodgy sponsorship deals, and nefarious plots to help Cristiano Ronaldo win the Ballon d’Or – anti-FIFA/UEFA harangues have become a staple of football coverage, an easy way for grizzled sports journalists and renegade bloggers alike to stick it to the man.

So it’s more than a little surprising that in the aftermath of West Brom striker Nicolas Anelka’s celebratory “quenelle” – a sort of inverted Nazi salute popularized by a controversial French comedian – football writers have spent far more time complaining about the stupid, immoral, insensitive behavior of pampered players than examining the UEFA rules governing political expression.

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How Will The FA Respond To The Hugo Lloris Controversy?

Last Sunday, at the end of Tottenham’s 0-0 draw with Everton, Romelu Lukaku’s knee – which, for the Hugo Lloris Tottenham Hotspurrecord, is just as big as the rest of his body – crashed into Hugo Lloris’ head. (Despite Andre Villas-Boas’ complaints and Roberto Martinez’s suspicious attempts to change the subject , the collision was almost certainly accidental.) Lloris was knocked out, Spurs medics rushed onto the field to treat him, second-string goalkeeper Brad Friedel prepared to enter the game…and then, somehow, Lloris recovered. He got up and played the final ten minutes, sealing his seventh clean sheet of the season. On the sidelines, Friedel started to chuckle  – that French bastard is so frickin’ tough!

Villas-Boas insists that Lloris felt fine and that the Spurs medical team, the same doctors who saved Fabrice Muamba’s life, decided there was no reason he shouldn’t continue playing. FIFPRO, the world players’ union; the PFA; and even the House of Commons quickly denounced the episode, however, and on Thursday Labour MP Chris Bryant called for “an urgent debate as soon as possible on the dangers of concussion in sport.”

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Is Football Fucked?

If I were gullible and stupid and slightly angry, and if I had just finished reading a couple of weeks’ worth of sepp blatterfootball News And Views, here’s what I would say/think/cry about:

Football’s future rests in the hands of a Singaporean gangster with a rhyming name and a proclivity for avoiding arrest. Within the last decade, he and the rest of his gang have fixed (or attempted to fix) hundreds of matches, including one played in England. Every weekend, greedy, venal, obnoxious professional footballers feign injury in order to gain minuscule advantages. On the sidelines, their coaches wave imaginary yellow cards, the spray-painted boundaries of the coaches’ “technical area” just sort of sitting there, totally ignored. Luis Suarez is racist; John Terry might be. I don’t know whether Sepp Blatter exists, but I’m pretty certain that a zombie with Sepp Blatter’s voice is running FIFA and that Michel Platini has spent the last decade plotting his murder. FIFA, by the way, has faced intense criticism in the wake of allegations that the process by which it selected hosts for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups was just as corrupt as Europol’s 680.

Yaya Toure makes more than 200,000 pounds a week. Yaya Toure makes more than 200,000 pounds a week. I think it’s fair to say that Portsmouth has almost gone out of business more times than is healthy. The guy with the drum, tattoos and wig owns a bookstore – they just don’t make hooligans like they used to. Only, they kind of do: in Holland, youth players kicked a linesman to death. A few months later, AC Milan midfielder Kevin Prince Boateng abandoned an exhibition game because the Italian crowd made monkey noises every time he touched the ball. According to Grantland’s Brian Phillips, “Soccer. Is. Fucked.”

Except I’m not gullible, etc., and football isn’t fucked. Not by a long shot.

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It’s Like Watching Brazil!

The 1970 World Cup was almost a religious experience. The tournament has gone down in football history as the greatest, most exhilarating exhibition of attacking play ever, and anyone who dares to say otherwise, or so the argument goes, is either “too young to remember” or “too fickle to be taken seriously.” This was the stage on which Brazil’s legendary striker Pele redefined the game, playing football with more exuberance and creativity than anyone before or since. It was the moment when the cult of the Brazilian – football’s worship of anyone with decent ball skills and a life story that starts with kicking soda cans in a favela – took root.

When non-football fans think about football, they generally think about Brazil. That has a lot to do with Pele, arguably the best player of all-time, and – largely because he devoted the last three or four years of his career to self-promotion – a recognizable star. People still love him even though, in the years since 1977, when his playing career formally ended with his second retirement, he’s demonstrated just how banal a retired athlete with guaranteed lifetime fame and a cushy administrative position can be. His post-career achievements include winning FIFA’s Player of the Century gong amid controversy – it took official intervention to stop Diego Maradona from walking away with the title – and deflecting criminal charges after his company robbed UNICEF. Still, clips of his greatest goals are a must for any TV montage worth its salt, and the image of a shirtless Pele lifting the World Cup is one of football’s most iconic.

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