Monthly Archives: September 2009

Murder Due to Eastern European Hooliganism

I came across a post about a Frenchman who suffered extreme injuries while traveling to Serbia to watch Toulouse take on Partizan Belgrade. Its from a blog that I check out daily called The blog brings up an interesting point that offenses like this cannot go unpunished, but its difficult to punish a club for what happened outside of its jurisdiction (a bar in this case). To resolve this dilemma the writer suggests that football as a whole needs to start being taken less seriously. This was an interesting opinion from a blog which does all it can to promote football from all across the world (visit it and you’ll see what I mean).

Africa Held Back?

In 2010, the World Cup tournament will finally take place in a (cold) South Africa. As the tournament begins, however, there will be thirteen European teams in the tournament, and only six African teams, with one of them — South Africa — automatically qualified as the host.  Of course, it could be worse: at the time of the 1966 World Cup, out of sixteen slots there was one slot left open for either a team from Africa or one from Asia. The best team from each region played each other to gain access to the coveted spot. This began to change as a result of the boycott of the World Cup by African teams (led by Kwame Nkrumah), and Africa’s access to the tournament has increased steadily, if incrementally, during the past decades. The story of Africa’s struggle to gain power and access in world football is well told in Paul Darby’s book Africa, Football and FIFA. (Darby will also be speaking at Duke as part of the Soccer Politics series on October 29th).  Still, given that Europe and Africa both have the same number of member nations and therefore national teams — fifty-three in each case — the difference in access is striking.

Has the time come for FIFA to institute equality in access to the World Cup? Why not accord berths in the tournament proportionally, according to the number of member countries in each regional confederation? At the Football is Coming Home blog, David Patrick Lane has made one proposal for moving in this direction. Obviously FIFA has its reasons and its justifications for maintaining the current situation. Still, as time goes on, and African teams increasingly field world-class players that could obviously seriously compete in the tournament, these are growing thinner and thinner. It’s hard not to feel as if unequal access to the tournament is just a reflection of the power relations that still undergird global football, rather than a justifiable policy. After all, isn’t the whole idea that anything can happen — that anything should be allowed to happen — on the pitch? If football draws so much passion, it is partly because it is one place where the broader political order can every once in a while be overturned, at least for a moment.

Football Match Used to End Modern-Day Feud

We read about football being used for conflict resolution so often in this course. What we see, however, are epic matches in the EPL which rarely serve such a purpose besides entertainment and victory. I thought it was fascinating that Puma and Adidas used football to create modern day peace between their two companies. By mixing teams with players from each company, football was used as the medium to get employees to interact…very cool stuff.

“If God Existed, He’d Be a Solid Midfielder”

The most recent issue of Granta Magazine begins with a wonderful essay with this title by Bosnian writer Aleksander Hemon about how, as an exile in Chicago in the 1990s, he found a community in football. Here is an excerpt:

“. . . this, gentlemen, is what this little narrative is about: the moment of transcendence that might be familiar with those who practise sports with other people; the moment, arising from the chaos of the game, when all your teammates occupy the ideal position on the field; the moment when the universe seems to be arranged by a meaningful will that is not yours; the moment that perishes — as moments tend to — when you complete the pass. . .”

Galeano’s Goals: “Goal by Bettega”

Eduardo Galeano, in Soccer and Sun and Shadow (London: Verso, 2003), provides beautiful descriptions of famous goals from footballing history. Here is one of his descriptions, and a video of the goal. What do you think of the description? Can you find clips of other goals he describes?

“It was at the ’78 World Cup. Italy defeated the home team 1-0.

The play that set up Italy’s goal drew a perfect triangle on the field, inside which Argentine defenders were left as lost as blind men in a shoot-out. Antognoni slid the ball over to Bettega, who slapped it toward Rossi, who had his back to him. Rossi returned it with a backheel while Bettega infiltrated the box. Bettega then overpowered two players and beat the keeper Fillol with a tremendous left.

Though no one knew it then, the Italian team had already begun to win the World Cup that would take place four years later.”

Galeano, 156-157

Galeano’s Goals: “Goal by Sunderland”

Eduardo Galeano, in Soccer and Sun and Shadow (London: Verso, 2003), provides beautiful descriptions of famous goals from footballing history. Here is one of his descriptions, and a video of the goal. What do you think of the description? Can you find clips of other goals he describes?

“It was 1979. At Wembley Stadium, Arsenal and Manchester United were battling the final of the English FA Cup.

A good match, but nothing aroused suspicions that this would suddenly turn into the most electric final of all that had occurred in the Cup’s long history since 1871. Arsenal was ahead 2-0 and the game was nearly over. The game was decided and people began to leave the stadium. Suddenly a cloudburst of goals was let loose. Three goals in two minutes: a sure shot by McQueen was followed by a pretty penetration by McIllroy, who eluded two defenders and the keeper, giving United the equalizers between the 86th and 87th minutes. But before the 88th minute was over Arsenal regained the lead. Liam Brady, who as usual was the outstanding player of the game, put together the final play, and Alan Sunderland took a clean shot to make it 3-2.”  Galeano, 157


Galeano’s Goals: “Goal by Gemmill”

Eduardo Galeano, in Soccer and Sun and Shadow (London: Verso, 2003), provides beautiful descriptions of famous goals from footballing history. Here is one of his descriptions, and a video of the goal. What do you think of the description? Can you find clips of other goals he describes?

“It was at the ’78 World Cup. Holland, who was doing well, played against Scotland, who was doing poorly.

Scottish player Archibald Gemmill got the ball from his countryman Hartford and was polite enough to ask the Dutch to dance to the tune of a lone bagpiper.

Wildschut was the first to fall, his head spinning, at Gemmill’s feet. Then he left Suurbier reeling in the dust. Krol had it worse: Gemmill put it between his legs. And when the keeper Jongbloed came at him, the Scot lobbed the ball over his head.” Galeano, 156


Galeano’s Goals: “Goal by Jairzinho”

Eduardo Galeano, in Soccer and Sun and Shadow (London: Verso, 2003), provides beautiful descriptions of famous goals from footballing history. Here is one of his descriptions, and a video of the goal. What do you think of the description? Can you find clips of other goals he describes?

“It was at the ’70 World Cup. Brazil was playing England.

Tostao got the ball from Paulo Cesar and scurried ahead as far as he could, but all of England was spread out in the penalty area. Even the Queen was there. Tostao eluded one, then another and on more, then he passed the call to Pele. Three players suffocated him on the spot. Pele pretended to press on and the three opponents went for the smoke. He put on the brakes, pivoted and left the ball on the feet of Jairzinho, who was racing in. Jairzinho had learned to shake off his markers on the sandlots of the toughest slums of Rio de Janeiro: he came on like a black bullet and evaded one Englishman, before the ball, a white bullet, crossed the goal line defended by the keeper Banks.

It was the winning goal. Swaying to the rhythm of a fiesta, Brazil’s attackers had tossed off seven guardians of the steel fortress, which simply melted under the hot breeze blowing from the south.” Galeano, 135-136

Young Players Under Contract and Football’s “Slave Trade”

We’ve talked briefly in class discussions about what some have called the “slave trade” in young players from the developing world to the power clubs in Europe. There have been two stories in the past week that have brought to light the related issue of European youths who sign binding contracts.

The big story was that of Gael Kakuta who, at age 16, was under contract with the French club Lens but left the club to sign with Chelsea. The punishments doled out are staggering: Chelsea must pay Lens 130,000 euros compensation; Kakuta is suspended for 4 months and must pay Lens 780,000 euros for breach of contract; and most noteworthy of all, Chelsea was issued an unprecedented 16-month transfer ban. For the next two transfer windows, Chelsea is forbidden from registering any new players.

The second is more recent and of a smaller scale, but in one sense a little closer to home: Leeds United, the English League One side for whom Duke University’s own Mike Grella now plays (he has one goal on the year so far), has just had one of their developing 16-year-old players scooped up by Everton. While a tribunal has awarded Leeds 600,000 GBP (could rise to 1.5 mil if the kid plays well), Leeds chairman Ken Bates is saying that money is an insufficient deterrent to “predator clubs” and adding that league points should be deducted, forcing teams that make these types of moves to pay the price in the standings.

(The irony, of course, is that Leeds United would’ve been mentioned in the mix with those very “predator clubs” had their mangled finances not led to the downfall of the club about 6 or 7 years ago. Improper financial practices actually led Leeds to receive a devastating 15-point deduction in 2007-08, so when Bates mentions point deductions he knows of what he speaks.)

The first thing that jumps out at me is that, in both of these instances, the story is always framed around the club: whether its reparations to Leeds or the punishment for Chelsea or Everton, what happens to the player is always a side note (perhaps because the issue deals with players who are so young that they haven’t established themselves on the field yet and aren’t yet of public interest).

How does the issue of exploitation of youth change when the element of the “one-way ticket out of Africa” is removed from the equation? Regardless of background, are these kids really old enough to make contract decisions (and are their parents/guardians pushing them for the right reasons)? Also, does Chelsea’s punishment fit the crime or is it extreme? Is Ken Bates right to call for penalties in the standings as well? (As a Leeds United fan, I personally would say that the times that Bates is right are few and far between, but this could be one of the few.)

I’d love to hear other opinions on either of these stories or the broader “football slave trade”.

– Brad Colbert

Performance-Based Funding and the World Cup

In the past, the World Cup meant everything to national football teams; it was an opportunity to prove their team’s success to the world.

I recently came across an article that made me realize just how crucial the World Cup still is to a team’s success, and in turn, to the amount of funding they receive.  In 1998, the Jamaican team, the Reggae Boyz, was the first English speaking country from the Caribbean to ever qualify for World Cup Finals.  They received the “Best Mover” award from FIFA in 1995 for their newfound “powerhouse” status as they became serious contenders for the World Cup.  Back then, funding for the national team was free flowing since they were reaping the benefits of success for Jamaica.  Now however, funding isn’t quite so free-flowing.  As a recent article in the Jamaica Gleaner reports, corporate giants in Jamaica, Red Stripe, pumped $100 million into the national football program, but implemented stipulations hinging on their success as a team.

“The new contract is expected to span a three-year period which should, in theory, take the team through to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, commonly referred to as the ‘Back to Africa Campaign’.

However, the national team must perform well if it expects to reap the benefits of the full sponsorship amount, as the funding will not go beyond whichever point the national team fails to advance.

Back in 2005, under a similar arrangement, the team managed to claim only $50 million of the total figure of the then ‘Red Stripe Journey to Germany’ deal as it was knocked out of CONCACAF Qualification in the semi-final round after placing third in Group I behind the United States and Panama.

‘Like most things in the business world, this is a performance-based arrangement. It was like that the last time and it is not a new thing, so here we are trying to qualify for another World Cup,’ said Jamaica Football Federation president Crenston Boxhill at the Chinese Benevolent Association yesterday. ”

In the article Boxhill shares his concern that performance-based corporate funding puts the organization under pressure.  Indeed the Reggae Boyz did feel pressure when they failed to qualify for the World Cup this summer.  On June 30, 2009, the Reggae Boyz received a $10 million boost from the Sports Development Foundation (SDF), in order for them to participate in the Gold Cup (a less prestigious tournament held in the US).

“They needed the support because they are really strapped in terms of their programmes because they didn’t make it to the World Cup,” said Grange, minister of SDF. She added that because of the nonqualification, sponsorship was proving hard to get.

“If we did not step in and give the support, they would have had difficulties making it to the Gold Cup,” Grange said.

“We felt this is important and we have to give support to our national teams and we have to give support to the JFF because they need it in order to ensure that they continue to succeed on the international stage.”

I suppose I’ve been subject to a utopian philosophy for too long regarding dealing with the allotment of funding to sports teams, but I didn’t realize that performance-based funding was such a common practice for national teams.  Is it ethical to demand success in exchange for funding?  Isn’t funding crucial to success in the first place?  Is the definition of success only limited to qualifying for the World Cup?

— Kelsey Ontko