Watching the U.S.-Chile last night, I couldn’t help feeling that we’ve finally entered the era of bilingualism in U.S. football. The game was a showcase of new players from both sides, pitting two teams in the midst of promising and exciting development. (You can read a great analysis the debates and controversies surrounding Chile’s team, and it’s coach, by Jeffrey Richey here). It was fast, open, and especially in its second half thoroughly entertaining. The fans were, it seemed, pretty evenly split Chile and U.S., and both sides had good chants, decorations, and flags. Like a real game, someplace in the world.
The first goal, by Chile’s Esteban Paredes, was a true beauty, incredibly set up and finished, impossible to stop by entering goalie (a dual citizen of Jamaica and the U.S.) In the second half, U.S. newbies Juan Agudelo (born in Colombia, he moved to the U.S. when he was eight) and Teal Bunbury (son of Canadian footballler Alex Bunbury) proved electric, and managed to squeeze out a goal thanks to a penalty kick. To top it all off, there was the hilarious Spanglish commentary on Telefutura, complete with a spontaneous song to Bunbury.
Is the era of truly American fùtbol, hemispheric in scope, within reach?
I found this video, produced by the Qatar bid, to be a fascinatingly constructed piece of work, transforming Zidane’s biography into an endorsement of the need for a Middle Eastern World Cup. In it, Zidane returns to his childhood home and talks about his career, and repeatedly refers to the difficulties he faced because of “his origins” as a child of Algerian immigrants. The video was, according to those whose opinion truly counts — bookies — enough to push Qatar’s bid over the top. Zidane, meanwhile, apparently netted 1.9 million pounds, or about $3 million dollars, for his role as ambassador for the Qatar bid. Once a symbol of a now seriously tattered vision of the emergence of a tolerant multi-cultural France, Zidane is transformed here into a spokesman for the “youth of the Middle East,” of their hopes, and of their need for “an event like the World Cup” to show them what possibilities lay ahead. “Football belongs to everyone,” declares Zidane at the end of the video. And now 2022 belongs to Qatar.
This photograph published in the Week in Review section of today’s New York Times (as part of an article called “In Peril: The Arab Status Quo”) is has a curious centerpiece. A crowd in Tunisia (composed, as far as I could tell, entirely of men), is gathered demanding the ouster of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. In the foreground is a Tunisia flag. In the middle of the picture, a man is holding the lone sign visible, providing (in English) the main thrust of the demonstration: “Game Over.” Next to the sign is a young man wearing an MSU Spartan hoodie.
It’s not totally clear whether this makes politics a video game or a football match. But either way the message is pretty clear: you have played the game, Mr. President, and lost. But to whom is the message directed, precisely? In a series of political events in which Facebook and Twitter have once again played an important role, the photograph suggests people are well aware they might be photographed, and ready to make the image apt for travel and comprehension.