June 30, 2006

The World Cup as it once was : "[The World Cup] proved to be not only the "greatest sporting event ever staged in Britain," as the shrewder papers had always claimed it would be, and a conspicuous financial success for the Football Association (and, one must assume, for hostelries and merchants of every description ) but also, in the end, a kind of national fairy tale that will take some forgetting, for, as things turned out, it had about it that incredible sporting perfection that always might, but seldom does, happen—a perfection incarnate in events like Bobby Thomson’s famous home run in 1951, yet a perfection much more gradual and intricately devised, a perfection that a goodly part of those who saw it felt they would nod over happily in their old age, smiling a secret, faraway smile."

posted by yerfatma to soccer at 09:01 AM - 15 comments

I'm going to piggyback this link with one I was tempted to post: The Goal Hitler Hated. This World Cup has been great to follow. With six of the last eight teams having a cup victory to their name, this is likely to be another classic.

posted by rcade at 09:17 AM on June 30, 2006

Two great links in one great post! Highly recommended! One thing to note from the New Yorker piece, it may be the first piece of journalism to predict an U.S. soccer boom, 40 years ago (hurry up boom already).

posted by trox at 09:42 AM on June 30, 2006

Wicked stuff fellas. Still digesting.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 09:54 AM on June 30, 2006

Excellent FPP This should be shown to every new member as an example of using a classic piece for a current happening in the World of Sports. A hardy "Well Done" goes out to yerfatma........rcade super addition to an already outstanding FPP. Thanks

posted by skydivedad at 01:27 PM on June 30, 2006

I shamefully present this pilfered kottke piece, as it dovetails nicely with this discussion. And I follow with the question: Would Iverson be an analogue for Henry?

posted by lilnemo at 02:59 PM on June 30, 2006

lilnemo i agree with a lot of that article. The best athletes from other countries play soccer. Our play basketball, football, baseball and other sports. One of the biggest reasons is that soccer is an "elite" sport here. Upper and upper middle class kids have the advantage. Unless your parents have the $$ to shell out on travel soccer, camps, tournaments, etc... you are out of luck more times than not. It usually cost a kid over $10,000 a year just to play enough to be seen. Basketball, football, baseball are much more affordable to play and more lucrative to succeed in long term. In other countries kids are developed and taken care of early- and it is free to play. You play for fun or you play for money- but rarely PAY big money to play.

posted by urall cloolis at 06:26 PM on June 30, 2006

Henry the Ignorant Part Deux: "When I used to ask my mother if I could go outside and play, she would say no" France F Thierry Henry, who says Brazilian players have better technique than other players because as children they spend more time playing soccer and less in school, than, say, French youngsters. Sounds like Henry should have spent a bit more time in school. This on the aftermath of criticizing one of the French leaders for being racist. What a hypocrite- I just lost all respect for him- first the dive, now this. Arsenal and France will forever be doomed with this Curse of the Henry! Dont really care the reason- is he a faker, is he a racist or is he a crybaby making excuses before the match? Total idiot...maybe his new shoes could be called "Nike Air Whiners".

posted by urall cloolis at 06:40 PM on June 30, 2006

ural and nemo, that seems like a bit of a cop-out. Would the U.S. be great at soccer if that was our biggest sport? Maybe. We have a huge population to draw from. This kind of "what if?" stuff is not correct. It's not about money. Within the next ten years, the U.S. will really be top 10 in the world. It won't be because we sent our kids to soccer camp for $50 a day. It will be because soccer is fun to play. We'll catch on, dude. Let's not make excuses in the meantime.

posted by Samsonov14 at 06:53 PM on June 30, 2006

I agree samsonov, just throwing in a little compare and contrast.

posted by lilnemo at 07:13 PM on June 30, 2006

Oh. It's good thing I don't know the difference between comparing and contrasting. Otherwise we might have a word-fight on our hands.

posted by Samsonov14 at 07:21 PM on June 30, 2006

Screw fighting. We'll use... The Planetary Chance Machine!
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

posted by lilnemo at 07:33 PM on June 30, 2006

samsonov...not making excuses. we lose on the field because we can not put better athletes than other countries do on the big stage. it is a fact. i hope it changes in the future. we also do not have the experts from generations of experience leading us- the Beckenbauers, the Klinnsmans, the Van Bastens- ok, bad example but you get the point. Instead we have a former lacrosse player that was not a great soccer player leading the US. Experience counts as well, we need a coach that has played beyond the US and coached beyond it. Eric Wynalda said it best- (paraphrasing) "Arena has taken us to a new level. But he does not know a higher level because he has never experienced it as a player or a coach. Other than sitting in the stands with a hot dog and a beer".

posted by urall cloolis at 07:41 PM on June 30, 2006

That makes sense, Uralll. Arena was awful.

posted by Samsonov14 at 08:17 PM on June 30, 2006

I'm still reading the intriguing links provided but thought I would include this nugget from Ivan Gazidis, MLS Deputy Commissioner, regarding where the next generation of American players may derive: "I do think we're not producing the type of player with quality, the skill and the imagination of a [Juan] Riquelme or a Ronaldinho. We have the ability to do it. But we need to reach deeper into the Hispanic and African-American communities; look at South American player development." There's another observation I can't find at the moment which basically says the American player from the suburbs has a rigid and organized style but not much in the creativity department. Hard to disagree. It's no excuse; we are what we are. But this country has so much more to offer than anyone we've seen recently.

posted by Texan_lost_in_NY at 09:17 PM on June 30, 2006

I would say that until it becomes a common thing for a kid to go down to the park and get a game of pickup going, the game will never attract athletes of the calibre of Allen Iverson. At least not in any real volume, maybe we'll find a standout here or there. I have often thought that someone like Barry Sanders would have been a monster of a creator in the midfield. But it's not a question of finding Barry Sanders at 5 years old and developing him as a player (the current tennis model), you need to have large groups of people in the system to increase the likelihood of finding one or two players that might develop into standouts. Maybe this will change as a result of the influx of Latin American emigres, but that remains to be seen. On another note, but I lived in France, Italy and Germany for a few years for work and school related tasks. Routinely I would head down to whatever park was closest on a Saturday morning, and get into a game of pickup. First time I did it was an eye opener. Those guys play hard. Full on tackling, fierce challenges and whatnot. If you were going to take the ball through a crowd, you better be prepared to be taken down otherwise you would be in for quite an unpleasant surprise. By contrast, American pickup soccer games in city parks - if you can find them - tend to be somewhat genteel affairs (perhaps owing to the largerly upper middle class suburban soccer tradition that has persisted in this country since the 1970s) which are more casual than competiive. Again, until that ethic appears here, we're lost. I think the proper allegory is street hoops in this country. Though I don't play basketball, I used to live near the West 4th street courts in NYC. As a casual observer, I would say that the level of physicality, fearlessness and ability there was on a par with the sandlot football matches I participated in in Europe. I'd love to know what it would take to get some of those guys to want to play soccer, but I don't think it's likely to happen. At least not without some cultural and attitudinal shifts, and investment at the grass roots level. As a kid, it made a huge difference to raise the level of the sport's profile when Pele came to New York, and managed to jump start the middling NASL and the Cosmos (it made a tremendous impact on me), but sadly, it only lasted a couple of years before Pele retired and the NASL went out of business, and soccer was once again banished third tier status, somewhere behind bowling and funny car drag racing.

posted by psmealey at 07:12 AM on July 01, 2006

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