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Lost in translation October 30, 2013

Posted by michaeltomlinson in The World Cup.
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This is possibly the most awkward youtube video i’ve ever seen.. The premise is basically…. “Don’t have sex with our children.” While I understand this is a legitimate problem in the country that is set to host the World Cup next year, the execution was well, somewhat poor. Also why is Frank Lampard there?

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Even Ottoman geography doesn’t make sense of Capello’s five-Turk claim December 30, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in English soccer, German soccer, The World Cup.
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Fabio Capello’s recent tirade about “player threft” is so surreally bizarre it’s difficult to know where even to begin with it.

Capello apparently said regarding the last World Cup, “Germany had five of Turkish origin who opted to represent them and we all know what happened.”

That’s not true. Germany had only two, Serdar Tasci and Mesut Ozil, at the last World Cup. The Soccernet article quoting Capello makes the very gentle assumption that, when Capello said “Germany,” what he meant was “Germany and Switzerland,” meaning that the three Swiss players of Turkish origin could be counted as well.

It’s bizarre enough that Capello can’t keep the distinction between Central European countries clear in his head. Did he even know what players Germany was fielding against him in the World Cup round of 16? Which five did he think were Turkish, or did he assume he was facing the combined national team of Germany and Switzerland? Is he using a bizarre, outdated definition of “Turkish”? If we define Turkey as “the former Ottoman Empire,” we can squeeze in only two more “players of Turkish origin” (Sami Khedira and Marko Marin).

Half Volley eleven of the year: Goalkeeper December 29, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in American Samoa soccer, International soccer, The World Cup.
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For finally getting the joy he deserved after a decade of the kind of psychological trauma most footballers will never know, for defeating his demons, Nicky Salapu is our goalkeeper of the year.

Photo credit: Next Goal Wins

Ten years ago, Nicky Salapu suffered perhaps the biggest disgrace ever handed out on a soccer field. He was in goal for American Samoa as Australia thrashed the Pacific Island nation dishing out the most lopsided defeat in the history of international soccer, 31-0 during the qualifying tournament for the 2002 World Cup.

That defeat certainly wasn’t Salapu’s fault. A passport dispute meant that American Samoa was forced to field its youth team, since Salapu was the only member of the seniors with proper documentation. At just 21, the keeper was thrust into the role of captain. He played behind a suicidal 3-3-4 formation and pulled off nearly a dozen saves, some of them spectacular, to keep the score down, relatively speaking.

But the game made international headlines and, fairly or not, Salapu’s name became synonymous with it. Caption writers lampooned him, despite his monumental performance.

It wrecked Salapu psychologically. It was a turning point in his life.

“This guy’s got major demons going on,” American Samoa coach Thomas Rongen told the BBC this year. “Totally driven by the 31-nothing, erasing this for himself, for his family. Every time you talk to him that back comes up, to a point where he’s so preoccupied and almost crazed about that. He gets confronted in Seattle (where Salapu now lives), when he talks about American Samoa, and he gets, ‘Oh, are you the guy that gave up 31 goals?’ There’s some incredible scars.”

News outlets reported that the keeper was in tears after the match. Salapu told the Guardian’s Rob Bagchi that he drank to ease the pain for a while. He scored goals ritually against an unmanned Australia team in a PlayStation video game to purge the ill-feeling.

“My teammates were celebrating,” he told the BBC. “I was like, this is the worst thing ever.”

A lesser man would have let the result destroy him. The disgrace was so intense that Salapu intimated to the BBC that his son had even been teased about the result against Australia. Salapu had a stint in Austrian soccer, but he’s an amateur. He has a day job at a Seattle supermarket.

Travelling to the South Pacific to play must be an inconvenience, for a man trying to hold down a job and raise a family. And Salapu’s only reward for a decade of dedication and sacrifice to the team was more pain. The team lost every game it played without scoring once. Salapu conceded more than 200 goals. By November of this year, American Samoa was the bottom-ranked team in the world.

Salapu was determined to keep fighting. This year he finally purged his ghosts. Dutch coach Rongen came in for American Samoa, changed the team’s mentality, and brought in new training methods. In this year’s World Cup qualifiers, the American Samoa team beat Tonga 2-1. It was the first goal and win ever for the team in an official game.

Ten years after the Australian disgrace, American Samoa’s soccer team made worldwide headlines, this time for the right reasons. The same media outlets that had gotten cheap laughs at Salapu’s expense in 2001 were cheering for his team in 2011. Indeed, for a week, the whole world was behind American Samoa.

Unfortunately, it didn’t last. The team needed a win from its final game in the qualifying tournament against its neighbor Samoa to advance it to the next round and keep its hopes of making the 2014 World Cup alive. It held out for 90 minutes, with Salapu putting in an octopus-like performance to keep the team in the game against a Samoa team that dominated the game, before finally conceding in stoppage time. American Samoa was eliminated.

After the whistle, Rongen’s players cried openly. But unlike Salapu’s tears ten years before, these were not tears of utter helplessness. There was disappointment, but between sobs the players also spoke of pride. Nobody was happier than Salapu.

“I feel like I’m just released from prison,” he told the BBC after the Tonga game.


World Cup Post-mortem part 1 July 6, 2010

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Dutch soccer, European soccer, German soccer, Spanish soccer, The World Cup.
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What’s that you say? “The World Cup isn’t even over yet! How can you think of doing a post-mortem?”

To that I say that the only sides that matter to me at the World Cup are the ones from outside Europe. Without teams from the other continents, it’s simply not the World Cup, because the World Cup is an experience richer because it allows new players and new ideas to take center stage in the footballing world. The final, whomever wins between Germany and Spain, will be 4-2-3-1 vs. 4-2-3-1, chic European technocrat vs. chic European technocrat, winger with defensive responsibilities vs. fullback with attacking responsibilities, and Champions League winning captain vs. captain who has at least reached the final of the champions league.

All this from a tournament that, at one stage, promised a reinvigoration of footballing ideas: South American demigods, careworn East Asian ghosts, Argentine revolutionaries, and Iron Curtain throwbacks in chintzy suits and chintzier ties were among the managerial stars. We suddenly discovered three-man defenses working in harmony with three-man attacks, lopsided systems that actually worked, goalscorers and speed-demon wingers repurposing themselves to remarkable effect as trequartisti.

And then nothing. It’s over. Who cares which European giant triumphs in the end? It’ll just confirm that Europe’s trendiest system is the one true God; that a slick, generously subsidized national youth development project in a large country with a sizable immigrant population can yield extremely effective footballers and very successful national teams when welded to a competent bureaucratic structure. That, readers, is not rocket science.

But when we look back on this World Cup, if we look back on it, unless we’re celebrating in roja or oranje on Sunday night, it’s unlikely we’ll remember anything about the Spanish or Dutch (except for what a resolutely negative presence Mark van Bommel is in our lives, and perhaps Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s thunderbolt). And if we remember the Germans, it will likely be in the context of the greater things the likes of Ozil, Muller and Khedira go on to achieve, and how funny it was when they were alloyed with Miroslav Klose, Arne Friedrich and Lukas Podolski.

On the other hand, it will be difficult to forget Diego Maradona’s touchline charisma, the absurd injustice of Ghana’s defeat, Marcelo Bielsa’s thrilling quixoticism, North Korea’s bizarre appearance, Slovakia’s thrilling victory over the World Champions, and at least four brilliant Uruguayan goals.

The final and the champion are of lesser importance. In the greater scheme of things, competent bureaucracy, devotion to youth, 4-2-3-1 win out, but it’s no surprise when things that are well funded and organized come out on top. We don’t watch the World Cup to see that. We watch to see what’s wild and new and free, or at least I do, and with the tournament now rid of all of that, I think we’ll call it a month, no?

Cup Mugs: World Hair Cup June 11, 2010

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Hair, International soccer, The World Cup.
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Maybe you expected some reaction the the exciting Mexico-South Africa game today. I’m too unpredictable for that. Here’s a look at the silly hair arms race at this world cup.

2. I didn’t start at number one, but number two is an eternal contender for the prize. The man who beat him, however, just managed to take this look to the next level. I’m talking about Djibril Cisse. This is more of a lifetime achievement award.

3. He’s not that novel anymore, but let’s get whatever’s on Bacary Sagna‘s head out of the way.

Marek Hamsik‘s also getting old.

“Women’s tennis anyone?” asks Benoit Assou-Ekotto.

Memo Ochoa, one of many Josh Groban look a likes on Mexico. If they ever took their silly head bands off.

It appears Alberto Gilardino’s channeling his inner Smashing Pumpkins fan.

Kim Jae-Sung stands out even in a nation full of bowl cuts.

Meanwhile, Yoshito Okubo is channeling 1970s newscasters.

A rogues’ gallery of douchey soul-patches. Egidio Arevalo, Mauro Camoranesi,

And the douchey soul-patch granddaddy, Marcus Hahnemann.

But the winner has to be Rigobert “Poseidon” Song