Dec 06 2013

Soccer Satire

 

Satire can be a fantastic way to stimulate discussion about real issues; often, it can be more revelatory than straight discourse.   Laughing at a joke compels understanding and examining why the joke was funny– and in satire, the humor is derived from revealing precisely how ridiculous certain serious subjects truly are.  Satirists are frequently an important part of cultural criticism, from Mark Twain to Bassem Youssef;  humor is an excellent way to make an unreceptive public care about what you want them to care about.  While frequently more ridiculous than incisive, the Onion is one such source; and when I stumbled upon this piece written about the 2010 World Cup, I discovered that many of the premises of the humor of the piece are still distinctly applicable to soccer in the US.

http://www.theonion.com/articles/nations-soccer-fan-becoming-insufferable,17553/

The running joke is that the single soccer fan in American has become insufferable over the World Cup, the humor (and truth) lying in the fact that, of course, while there is more than one, there are far fewer soccer fans in the US than practically anywhere else, despite a deeply entrenched culture of sports spectatorship and participation (particularly, and paradoxically, participation in soccer youth leagues.)  The lone fan, Brad Janovich, is “the only American citizen currently aware that the World Cup begins June 11″; the sources quoted in the article are “only peripherally aware of the World Cup,” and are confused and irritated when he strikes up “several extended but one-sided conversations concerning figures such as “Kaka” and “Ronaldinho,” generally mystifying and alienating everyone he has come into contact with.” I won’t  ruin the genuinely funny piece by quoting further, but you get the gist.  The humor of the piece is predicated on the isolation of the US in its apathy towards the global game, and that the grip soccer has on American audiences is tenuous at best.  These are realities that have seen some movement in the last 4 years, but not much; hopefully this World Cup will do a better job of capturing the American imagination (apart from Brad Janovich’s) better than the last one.

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Dec 05 2013

Le ballon officiel de la Coup du Monde

Filed under Brazil,FIFA,World Cup

Pour élaborer sur le post précèdent de Gilda, je voudrais partager l’annonce commerciale pour le ballon officiel de la Coup du Monde, qui a été présenté mardi dernier par Adidas. (Although my post will be in French, the video is definitely still worth watching!)

Je crois que la vidéo décrire l’ubiquité du football. Il y a les jeunes qui jouent avec la Brazuca sur la plage et dans la rue du quartier. Un moment, on voit le ballon avec les jeunes ordinaires et soudainement, c’est sur le terrain de la Coup du Monde. J’aime beaucoup la juxtaposition entre les deux partout dans la vidéo. C’est un message fort que le foot est un sport pour tous – on juste devoir deux pieds et un ballon. Même s’on n’est pas un footballeur célèbre, on pouvoir jouer avec le même ballon, le Brazuca. On n’a pas besoin d’un grand stade avec milliers de fans pour jouer un match extraordinaire. Le Brazuca est accessible, comme le sport exactement.

L’annonce commerciale est aussi un acte de publicité intelligente pour Adidas. Tant que Adidas a le contrôle sur la conception de la ballon officiel de la Coupe du Monde, il a pouvoir dans l’industrie du sport. Adidas fabriquait le ballon du Coupe du Monde depuis 1970 et récemment, il a prolonge son contrat de parrainage avec FIFA jusqu’en 2030. . Je crois que Nike a un monopole sur la publicité de sport maintenant, comme les vêtements de sport. Mais, sans la pouvoir sur le Coupe du Monde, Nike n’aura jamais le plein contrôle sur l’industrie du sport.

 

Le Brazuca sera un icône mondiale pour la compétition. Avec 32 équipes et centaines de footballeurs, il est le seul ballon utilise sur le terrain. Il a été crée par des footballeurs célèbres comme Lionel Messi et Iker Casillas. Les créateurs a dit que le Brazuca est le ballon le plus testé de Adidas.

J’espère que le Brazuca sera une grande amélioration esthétiquement et aussi en jeu que les autres ballons de Adidas. Qu’est que vous pensez ?

 

Bibliographie:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/05/sports/soccer/brazuca-the-world-cup-ball.html?hpw&rref=sports

 

 

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Dec 03 2013

Brazuca: Adidas 2014 World Cup Ball Promotional

Filed under Uncategorized

brazuca-1

 

Want the “Brazuca” 2014 World Cup ball for free? Well just give birth to a baby tomorrow in Brazil and have a birth certificate handy. Adidas is doing a promotional where they will be giving away free 2014 match balls to all babies born in Brazil on Tuesday, December 3rd. The Brazuca, named after the Brazilian way of life,  is made of six textured panels and has been promised by Adidas to perform more like Adidas’ Finale 13 model. It is supposed to maintain faster flight speed and true roundedness. 

The giveaway is the company’s way of marketing Brazilian soccer culture in a very unique way. Adidas said Friday that parents of every baby born on Tuesday will be entitled to redeem a ball next Friday and Saturday at specific locations in all 12 host cities with proof of a birth certificate. For once and for all, it can now be confirmed that Brazilians really are born with soccer balls at their feet. Pretty cool idea if you ask me.

 

 

 

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Dec 02 2013

L’éternelle question: Est-ce les stades de la Coupe du monde au Brésil seront prêt à temps?

Workers stand near a crane that collapsed on the site of the Arena Sao Paulo stadium, known as "Itaquerao", which will host the opening soccer match of the 2014 World Cup, in Sao Paulo

Une grue s’est effondrée le mercredi 27 Novembre quand il hissait un morceau de toiture de 500 tonnes. L’accident a tué deux travailleurs et a renouvelé questions sur l’état de préparation du Brésil de tenir le tournoi de football. La cause de l’accident n’est pas encore connue, mais les enquêteurs ont déclaré qu’ils considéraient une erreur humaine, un problème avec la grue, et la possibilité que terrain détrempé de pluie avait changé sous le poids. Entreprise de construction Odebrecht a suspendu les travaux sur le site jusqu’à aujourd’hui. Travailleurs de la construction retournés aujourd’hui, cinq jours après l’accident, au stade qui aura le match d’ouverture de la Coupe du Monde. Les travailleurs sont entrés lentement dans le stade de Itaquerao à Sao Paulo avec détermination pour terminer le travail avant la première du Coupe du monde le 12 Juin. « Nous sommes tous Brésiliens et les Brésiliens n’abandonnons jamais. Nous allons faire notre travail et le premier match de la Coupe du Monde aura lieu ici. » 1,350 travailleurs du site ont été autorisés à reprendre le travail sur la plupart du stade à l’exclusion de la zone où l’accident est arrivé. Toutefois, le ministère du Travail a gelé l’utilisation des neuf autres grues du site jusqu’à le moment où les mesures de sécurité adéquates sont en place par Odebrecht.

Brazil WCup 2014 Stadium Problems

La préparation du Brésil pour la Coupe du Monde et les Jeux Olympiques de 2016 ont été troublés par des retards, des dépassements de coûts et une pression constante pour aller plus vite. Les fonctionnaires de FIFA ont publiquement réprimandé fonctionnaires brésiliens sur les problèmes, et une série d’arguments ont parfois éclaté entre les deux parties. Six des douze stades de la Coupe du Monde ont été rendus pour la Coupe des Confédérations plus tôt cette année, et FIFA insiste pour que les six autres à être rendus avant la fin de Décembre. Bien que l’accident de mercredi a fait un minimum de dommages à la Itaquerao, que les fonctionnaires avaient dit était 94% terminé avant l’accident, il est généralement admis que le stade ne sera pas prêt à temps.

Royt Hodgson

Avec le tirage au sort de la Coupe du Monde 2014 approchant et la récente catastrophe dans le stade à Sao Paolo, l’Angleterre est plus concernés par les lieux que l’opposition. Le gestionnaire de l’Angleterre Roy Hodgson insiste que l’endroit plutôt que l’opposition est la plus grande préoccupation pour lui comme il attend le tirage de 2014 Coupe du monde de vendredi à Salvador, Brésil. Son équipe n’est pas ensemencée, donc qu’ils sont garantis à jouer contre l’une des équipes dans le pot haut, soit le Brésil, l’Espagne, l’Allemagne, l’Argentine, la Colombie, la Belgique, la Suisse ou l’Uruguay. Mais il pense dans un pays aussi grand come le Brésil qu’où les jeux ont lieu sera tout aussi important qu’ils vont jouer contre. Il dit, « C’est un jeu agréable à jouer, mais je dois dire que je n’ai pas participé moi-même trop en ce que – nous obtiendrons ce que nous obtenons vraiment, la chose la plus importante est d’être là. Ensuite, on espère toujours que le tirage au sort va être bon pour nous en termes de où nous allons être invité à jouer. Il y a des lieux au Brésil qui sera plus difficile à jouer dans que d’autres. » Hodgson a dit que l’Angleterre va certainement être préparé et il est utile que la Football Association est incroyablement bien préparé. Il y a beaucoup d’expériences entre les joueurs, il y a des choses qu’ils pensaient bien travailler et les choses qui n’ont pas dans les tournois passés. Hodgson avait déjà connu un tournoi du foot international comme entraîneur-chef de la Suisse, il a pris la nation à la Coupe du Monde 1994 aux Etats-Unis. Quand on compare les États-Unis au Brésil, il pense que la participation du Brésil a un rôle supplémentaire parce que le Brésil est le pays que nous associons avec football, aussi bien avec l’Angleterre. « Nous espérons notre mieux, mais c’est comme Forrest Gump et sa boîte de chocolats. Nous allons l’ouvrir et voir ce que nous obtenons. »

Sources:

http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/international/americas/2013/12/workers_back_at_world_cup_stadium_after_accident

http://www.theguardian.com/football/2013/dec/02/world-cup-2014-draw-england-venues-opposition-hodgson-rio-brazil

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Dec 02 2013

The Danish Fairy Tale

A friend of mine is a fan of F.C. København, the most successful Danish league side of the last 10 years. København have won 7 of the last 10 Danish Superliga titles, but are more famous for being a Cinderella team that beat Manchester United and drew Barcelona and Manchester City in the Champions League. Remarkably, however,  København is not the most successful Cinderella that Denmark has produced. That honor belongs to the Danish team that won Euro 1992 against all odds, which wrote a fairy tale that can rival any work by Hans Christian Andersen

The Champions

The Team that shouldn’t have even been there

European football in th 1970s and 1980s was dominated by the Germans and Dutch. These bitter rivals had won 3 of the 5 Euros held in that timespan, and were favored to repeat then dominance in the 1992 Euros. But qualification had to occur first. Sweden, as host country qualified automatically, while the Netherlands, Germany, France, England and Scotland qualified by winning their groups. The Soviet Union qualified, then ceased to exist as a country, but sent a team under the name “Commonwealth of Independent States.” The last team to qualify was Yugoslavia, who had beat out Denmark, Northern Ireland, the Faroe Islands, and Austria for a spot at Euro 1992.

But as so often occurs in football, fate had other plans. After the death of Marshal Tito, ethnic tensions had risen in the Soviet Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The various ethic groups started arming themselves, creating a very volatile situation. In mid 1992, Slovenia and Croatia declared independence, starting the Yugoslav Civil wars. During these conflicts, atrocities such as the last genocide in Europe occured, resulting in the breakup of Yugoslavia. In an effort to calm the situation, the United Nations passed Security Council Resolution 757, which banned Yugoslav participation in global evens. Part g of the resolution banned Yugoslav participation in sporting events

As a result, the Yugoslav team was disqualified from the 1992 Euros. Denmark, the runners-up in that group, were selected to replace them. Barring the disqualification of  the former Yugoslavia, Denmark would not have has a chance to write one of the most remarkable tales in soccer history.

The Danish Team

The Danish team, despite finishing runners up in their group, were actually a solid team. In the 1984 Euros, they had lost to Spain, the eventual runners up, on penalities in the Semifinals. The 1992 team boasted players such Peter Schmeichel, Brian Laudrup, Henrik Andersen, and Flemming Søgaard Povlsen, who all played in the major leagues of Europe. However, the most famous and talented player of that Danish generation, Michael Laudrup, had decided not to go to the tournament due to differences with the coach. Famously, Michael Laudrup though Denmark’s chances were so low that he decided to stay on holiday instead of representing his country

 

Laudrup must have regretted his decision

 

The Group Stages

Denmark was placed in a group with France, England, and Sweden (which was another stroke of luck-they may not have qualified from the other group). In the 1st game, they played England, drawing 0-0. In their second game, Denmark faced the host nation, Sweden, but lost 1-0 thanks to a goal by the Parma midfielder Tomas Brolin. At this point, qualification was still possible, but Denmark was last in their group, with only 1 point (France and England had drawn their first two games, so were ahead of Denmark but behind Sweden). At this point, qualification was not in Denmark’s hands; if England won their game by a small margin, Denmark would have been eliminated on goals scored and head to head results.

But Sweden defeated England 2-1 after falling behind early. It was now up to the Danes to determine their own destiny.

In the last game of the Group stages, Denmark faced France, a team brimming with talent. At that point, France boasted players such as Didier Deschamps, Eric Cantona, Laurent Blanc and jean Pierre Papin. During the game, Denmark took an early lead when henrik Larsen scored in the 8th minute. But Papin equalized for France in the 60th minute. As the clock ticked down, Lars Elstrup scored in the 78th minute.  With this goal, Denmark was through to the knockout stages.

The Knockout Stages

But what chance did Denmark have? They were drawn against the mighty Dutch team, who were mounting a strong defence of their 1988 championship The Dutch boasted players such as Ruud Gullit, Marco Van Basten, Dennis Bergkamp, Frank De Boer, Frank Riijkard, and Wim Kieft. Gullit, Van Basten, and Riijkard had formed the backbone of the famous Arrigio Saachi A.C Milan teams of the late 1980s, which had won back-to-back European Cups (a feat which has not been equaled since).   The Dutch were heavily favored, but football is a game of where any given team can win given the right circumstances.

Those circumstances were provided by Henrik Larsen, who gave Denmark the lead in the 5th minute. The Dutch equalized due to a Dennis Bergkamp goal, but Larsen scored again in the 33rd minute. As the clock was winding down, Denmark seemed destined for a famous victory. But Ruud Gullit scored with 3 minutes to spare, sending the game into overtime. Though both teams threatened, the match went to penalties. It was Peter Schemichel’s time to shine. The newly minted Manchester United keeper has just finished as runners up (to give this a little perspecitive, Sir Alex Ferguson had not yet won his first Premier League). The first Dutch and Danish penalties were scored, but on the second Dutch Penalty, Schmeichel was able to save van Basten’s penalty

 

The rest of the Danish and Dutch scored, so Denmark won5-4 on Penalties, eliminating the defending champions

 

The Final

Still, Denmark couldn’t repeat another miracle, could they? After all, they were facing Germany, one of the best teams in the world. The Germans had won the 1990 World Cup, and boasted future legends such as Matthias Sammer, Jürgen Klinsmann, Bodo Illgner, and Andreas  Brehme.  They had easily beaten Sweden 3-2, with Sweden’s last goal coming in garbage time. Again, the Danes were heavy underdogs.

 

Surprisingly, the Danes took the lead in the 18th minute- John Jensen, who was later bough by Arsenal solely because of his efforts in the final, scored a screamer with his left foot. It was the first real goal scoring oppurtunity, but the Danes had capitalized. But the German seemed determined to score. For the next 60 minutes, they laid siege to the Danish goal. shot after shot was on targer, with Schmeichel performing acrobatic saves to preserve the Danish lead. It seemed that the Germans would eventually be rewarded for their dominance

But the Danes had destiny on their side. During Euro 1992, one of the most touching stories was that of Kim Vilfort . Vilfort was a Brøndby IF player who was a solid if unspectacular player. Picked to replace Laudrup, he was one of Denmark’s few true offensive threats. However, Vilfort had a 7 year old daughter, Line Vilfort, who was striken with Leukemia. During the tournament, Vilfort had to twice leave the Danish camp because his daughter’s condition was deteriorating. However, he was sent back by his family to rejoin the team, and had scored one of the penalities in the shootout against the Dutch.

In pretty much the second actual chance for the Danes, Vilfort shot a low goal  in the 78th minute that evaded Bodo illgner and gave the Danes a comfortable cushion.. They weathered relentless German attempts for another 12 minutes, after which Denmark Were champions of Europe. Sadly, however, Line Vilfort would die soon after the tournament

 

 

Denmark’s victory at the 1992 Euros remains the most remarkable moment in the history of that championship. It showed how a team with no superstars could beat teams brimming with individual talent if they possessed defensive discipline, efficient counterattacking, and a healthy dose of luck. The Danes wrote the blueprint which Greece successfully followed in 2004. Yet, the Danish victory remains the most improbable result in the history of the Euros due to the fact that had it not been for Yugoslavia’s disqualification, the team would never have been in the tournament. Yet, Denmark were worthy winners, writing one of the unlikeliest fairy tales in the history of the game.

 

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Dec 01 2013

What’s Wrong with the England Team?

Boasting the likes of Rooney, Lampard, Terry, and others, it is difficult to fathom the lack of success for the English national soccer team. Since defeating West Germany in 1966 4-2, England has failed to win the Fifa World Cup. England has not reached the semifinal of a major tournament since Euro 1996 and in Euro 2012 they were defeated by Italy in the quarterfinals. Current coach of the England squad and former Manchester United great, Gary Neville, expressed his guarded optimism for the English team at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. He stated, “I don’t think anybody in the England set-up – fans, coaches, players or management – are saying we are going to go to Brazil and win it. When we qualified for the World Cup in 1998 in Rome by getting a draw, everyone thought it was the greatest result of all time (1).”

England squad line up for team photo before their World Cup 2010 qualifying soccer match against Ukraine in Dnipropetrovsk

Neville asserts that the English squad will always face unrealistic expectations by home fans, despite the fact that they have never won a World Cup in South America or in the United Kingdom. Paul Scholes supported Neville’s comments stating that England lacks in quality wins against established squads. Scholes says, “I always get the impression that, whenever England come up against a big nation like those, it is usually a signal that we are going to go out. They’re OK against the Polands and Ukraines — England will beat them all day long — but as soon as a top team comes along? Well…” Scholes goes on to lament the lack of quality players compared to Argentina and Spain.

Capello_flow2

Interestingly, some of the top talent described by Scholes and Neville perfect their craft in the English Premier League (EPL). They forget that the great Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano began their career at lowly West Ham United before joining more established clubs. Thus, although the EPL has come under fire recently for the lack of quality homegrown talent, the league is still widely regarded as the most challenging league in the world compared to Serie A or La Liga due to the physical nature of the English game. In spite of the production of great foreign players, why has this current crop of English players not lived up to their billing in tournaments?

article rooney

One primary reason for this ineptitude by England could be attributed to the lack of an identity for the national team. Although England does have superstars, who will be the leaders on the pitch and within the locker room? Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand argued “People talk about the identity of the English national team, well I’d like to know what it is. If you say ‘we’ve got an identity’, then what is it? Break it down, tell me what it is. If I said to you ‘what’s Germany’s identity as a national team? Resilience? Discipline? They’ve still got a bit of that, along with the new stuff – movement, retention of the ball, and so on. I just don’t know what ours is. I’m not even just talking about our first team. I’m talking about their under-21s, under-19s, under-18s and so on. If you look at any of their [Germany’s] teams, you would say they play the same way. Not just Germany, but Spain too. In ours, I don’t really see that (2).”

To try to solve the issues in the English squad, Ferdinand is involved in the Football Association Commission to try to revitalize the image of the national team. By implementing changes at a grassroots level, he believes England can once again compete at the highest level with other European powerhouses. With some of the game’s top youth academies, England has the potential to mold together a great squad. It may not be successful at this World Cup, but it remains to be seen what the national team’s identity will become in the near future.

What are your thoughts on what’s wrong with the England team?

If interested, there’s another great article in the New York Times discussing these issues.

 

1- http://espnfc.com/news/story/_/id/1633590/england-not-pressure?cc=5901

2- http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/international/10468955/Manchester-United-defender-Rio-Ferdinand-claims-England-national-teams-lacks-an-identity.html

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Dec 01 2013

Territorial Discrimination in Italy

Filed under Italy

AS Roma v FC Internazionale Milano - TIM Cup

Remember that mom who always went back on her word?  The one whose kid would fail his classes, get suspended from school, and then be allowed to go out the next weekend after you thought he’d never see the light of day again.  The mom who threatened to ground her kid for the next two months but always caved and never held firm.  Well that mom is exactly like the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), an organization whose menacing threats are undermined by a severe lack of enforcement.  Specifically, as territorial discrimination by fans in Serie A continues to escalate, the FIGC’s lackadaisical approach hinders the hope of any indelible progress being made.

Despite the increased media attention it has gained over the past year, the issue of territorial discrimination in Italy is by no means a recent problem.  Rather, it was simply overshadowed by the racism and fan violence characteristic of Italian football fans.  Yet while this issue was placed on the backburner in regard to enforcement, the prevalence of this discrimination is almost immediately evident when one visits the Northern and Southern areas of the country.  Stemming from the time when Italy used to be made up of city-states, the North has always generally been more affluent and thriving, while the poorer South of Italy was often hindered by organized crime, such as the Costa Nostra in Sicily or the ‘Ndrangheta in Calabria.  Consequently, Northerners have expressed contempt for Southerners in so far as the reputation the country has gained, and this has manifested itself in racist chants between fans of Northern and Southern football teams.  In fact, Umberto Bossi formed the Lega Nord federalist and regionalist political party in 1991, which has actually advocated secession of the North to form a country called Padania.  And while the North’s resentment of the South is often publicly demonstrated, many of the Southern people are actually loyal supporters of Northern teams.  Football teams from Northern Italy, including AC Milan, Inter Milan, and Juventus have been the most historically successful teams in Italy and throughout Europe, yet this Southern support does not merely stem from these teams’ reputations.  In 1899, Giovanni Agnelli formed the company FIAT which gave many jobs to poor Southern Italians.  In addition to controlling FIAT, numerous members of the Angelli family have served as president of the successful Juventus football club.  In fact, Andrea Agnelli, great grandson of Giovanni, is the current president of Juventus.  Thus, these FIAT jobs facilitated a mass immigration of Southerners to the more prosperous North while at the same time creating thousands of new Juventus FC fans.  Yet even this increased support has not assuaged Northerners, especially when it comes to football matches.  And there still exists an animosity of Northern teams by Southern clubs; for example, one of the famous chants at the Napoli matches is “Che non salta Juventino è! (Whoever doesn’t jump is a Juve fan)” – Juan Zuñiga, Napoli winger and member of the Colombian national team, actually jumped during the chant while on the pitch!

The most marked cases of territorial discrimination, however, have been directed at fans of the Napoli football team.  AC Milan was punished with a partial stadium ban for shouting anti-Neopolitan chants that “express[ed] discrimination based on territorial origin” during a home game against Napoli on September 22, yet since then, the FIGC has begun to impose more flexible sanctions on territorial discrimination.   Discipline is now decreed proportional to the number of supporters involved in racist or discriminatory chanting instead of issuing full closure of certain sections.  Moreover, in a home game against Genoa, Juventus supporters recited discriminatory chants against Napoli (who they weren’t even playing) and were handed a 2 game ban of the Curva Sud.  During a 2-0 domination of Genoa, Juve ultras could be heard chanting “Wash them [Napoli] with fire, Vesuvius wash them with fire!” and “What a smell, even the dogs run away when the Neopolitans arrive.  Oh victims of cholera and earthquakes, you never wash yourselves.”  Despite these offenses, however, the FIGC suspended this ban for an entire year as long as the Juventus faithful did not reoffend other territories.  In essence, the FIGC recognized its own weakness in enforcement and handed out an empty threat on the condition that Juventus fans simply pinky-swear to behave.

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Similar bluffs have already been handed to Inter Milan, Roma, Torino, and AC Milanwho also chanted about Neopolitans and Italian Southerners while playing a Northern club.  The FIGC’s sanctions have been too flexible, and fans have taken advantage of their abominable discriminatory freedoms.  In early October, Inter Milan Ultras in the Curva Nord began a campaign to break all the rules simultaneously just to have a weekend where all matches were behind closed doors.  Clearly the fans are not taking the rules seriously, but when the governing administration of Serie A does nothing to stop it, the situation will only continue to intensify.  Fans are not afraid to challenge something they do not believe in, and currently, collective transgression can overcome the FIGC’s lethargic “rules.”

On November 11, football giants Napoli and Juventus clashed in Juventus stadium for an all-important first meeting.  Yet the 3-0 rout of Napoli was hardly the subject of discussion the following day, as Juventus Ultras once again aimed discriminatory chants against Napoli, despite having their 2-game ban lifted for a year.  As the game proceeded, Juve fans neglected the FIGC rules more than the Napoli defense neglected the likes of Llorente, Pirlo, and Pogba.  A large banner of Mount Vesuvius was displayed with a cut-out through which a smoke bomb portrayed an eruption surrounded by pleas for the volcano to wash Napoli with fire.  Napoli fans have been no stranger to these harmful displays, as notable chants such as “It takes a bar of soap to wash a dirty Southerner” have echoed throughout the stadium since the time of Diego Maradona.  Yet while watching the game, these chants seemed different.  It was as though Juventus fans were actually calling out the FIGC rather than the Partenopei (Napoli supporters).  Chants continued almost in a protest of the absurdity of the need for “rules” against territorial discrimination, as it was something that had always existed and could never be truly expunged.  By asking Vesuvius to destroy their rivals, Juve Ultras were trying to show that we should “laugh at ourselves,” a plea to which even Southern fans applauded.

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Nevertheless, the FIGC was not sharp enough to catch this, and Juventus fans were handed a ban and fined for their discriminatory actions.  A statement from Lega Serie A proclaimed “Juventus have been fined 50,000 euros and will have to play one game without any fans in the Curva Sud (south stand) and Curva Nord (north stand) section of the stadium for territorially discriminating chants…The Lega Serie A also revokes the suspended sentence and orders the execution of the ban handed on October 28, 2013 with respect to the game between Juventus and Genoa.”  Thus, the Curva Nord and Curva Sud will be closed for the December 1st game against Udinese, and the Curva Sud will be closed for the home game against Sassuolo.  However, Juventus fans were not the only ones at fault, as Napoli fans were observed throwing hazardous objects at Juventus supporters.  In addition, 74 seats were destroyed, and “Four Juventus supporters were injured as a result of said acts and required medical treatment.  Furthermore, a girl was hit in the head by a handle, probably torn off one of the doors in the visitors’ section.”

When asked about the chants during the Juventus match, Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis shrugged off the implications, merely suggesting that “To see people insulting another group of people is not disgusting…When I hear that [Mount] Vesuvius should wash us away, then it just makes me laugh.  It’s satirical.  It’s just a provocation to a city which needs to wake up.”  Other Napoli and Juventus management, however, did not take this discrimination as lightly.  Angelo Pisani, president of the Italian consumer rights’ group and solicitor to Diego Maradona (who was a former Napoli player) issued the following statement:

“They were unjustifiable and shameful insults, chants, and banners of a discriminatory and racist nature, illegal actions, gratuitous and prejudicial violence toward Neopolitan citizens from parts of the Juventus Stadium; unsporting behavior with an objective responsibility of the Bianconero club…They are going to have to respond adequately in court to the unspeakable gestures and shameful actions of their supporters.  For this, the citizens of Naples are demanding compensation for all of the damage to persons, the image, the existence and the good name of Napoli fans, calculating in an equitable way 1000 euros for each Partenopeo offended and hurt by the unspeakable actions of the Bianconero fans.”

Yeah, keep dreaming Angelo.

Juventus coach Antonio Conte proclaimed these chants “self-harming,” and general manager Beppe Marotta said, “I would really like it if fans would chant in favor of their own side rather than offending the opposition…It is something that we have got to try to eliminate together.”  Yet even from this statement, the immediacy of the problem of territorial discrimination is not quite conveyed.  Rather, it seems that everyone is merely admitting the problem without doing anything about it.  Except the FIGC, which finally (FINALLY) followed through with their ban, right?  Not quite.

After hearing the ruling of the FIGC, president of the Italian National Olympic Committee, Giovanni Malago, had different ideas.  He proposed that the stadium (specifically the Curva Nord and Curva Sud) be filled with children, citing the success of the Turkish sports club Fenerbahçe when they let only women and children into a league game with Manisapor in 2011 after a pitch evasion.  In his proposal, Malago sought to ban only those that had actually caused the trouble and claimed that it would “…be like when we confiscated assets from the Mafia.”  Perhaps this was another unintentional blight at the Southern Italians, who once again fell short as the penalty for the injustice they incurred was again rescinded upon acceptance of Malago’s plan.  In fact, the game time for the Juventus-Udinese match has been moved up from 20:45 to 18:30 (2:45 to 12:30 Eastern time) to better accommodate the children.  Tickets were administered free of charge to schools, and children from football schools and academies will occupy Curva Sud, while elementary and secondary school pupils will occupy Curva Nord.

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While this is an exciting opportunity and a great way for Juventus FC to make lifelong memories for young fans, I still would not look at this as a victory for the FIGC.  Sure, they were able to boot the Ultras for one game, but I can hardly imagine that the fans are that angry at giving up their seats to children for a game against a team who is not competing for the Scudetto.  In fact, I would say this is a victory for the fans and for the persistence of territorial discrimination, as once again, the ruling of the FIGC has been undermined.  If the FIGC truly wants to take a firm stand against this problem, it needs to start taking itself seriously, which may mean looking for alternative solutions rather than simply banning fans and playing matches in deserted stadiums.  Such bans also do harm to innocent, non-violent fans that are punished at the expense of the masses.

Fans are a huge part of soccer games.  They are why scoring a goal in an opposing stadium is so difficult and thus counts more than a goal scored at home.  And in the case of territorial discrimination in Italy, the fans definitely have the upper hand.  After the ruling against the Juventus Ultras, they threatened to go on strike by sitting in silence for the Champions League fixture against FC Copenhagen this past Wednesday (which did not actually happen).  Such a statement shows that the fans would rather hurl discriminatory chants toward opposing teams, players, and regions of the country than enjoy themselves at a match.

To overcome this problem, the FIGC needs to be strict and firm in its rules and declarations and perhaps start to impose heavier monetary fines to supporters and their respective clubs.  It will be interesting to watch the Juventus match against Udinese on December 1st and to see what impact the children will have.  Yet, regardless of this spectacle, stringent disciplinary actions must be taken to ensure that these young children are not being groomed to turn into the radical Ultras the FIGC is trying to fight against.

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Dec 01 2013

La Fin de l’épreuve de Belounis

Filed under FIFA,Qatar,World Cup

La semaine dernière, Zahir Belounis était autorisé de revenir en France, le chapitre ultime d’une saga incroyable. Belounis, footballeur franco-algérien, est déménagé au Qatar en 2010 pour jouer pour l’équipe el Jaish. Quand el Jaish l’a loué à une autre équipe, le premier club a cessé ses paiements de salaire. En réponse, Belounis a intenté un procès à el Jaish, mais il n’a pas réussi à obtenir son salaire. Au contraire, el Jaish a refusé de le payer ; en plus, le club ne lui a pas permis de sortir le Qatar avant que Belounis renonce le procès. Belounis ne pouvait pas sortir le pays sans accord formel du club grâce aux lois kafala, un groupe de lois qataries qui subordonne des travailleurs—même des footballeurs—aux employeurs. Pendant cette épreuve, Belounis ne vivait pas que de la générosité de sa famille en France, la communauté expatriée au Qatar, et des citoyens qataris.

Mahdi Belounis, le frère de Zahir, tweet un photo de la foule qui attend Zahir à Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle.

Mahdi Belounis, le frère de Zahir, tweet un photo de la foule qui attend Zahir à Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle.

Ce qui me frappe le plus de l’histoire de Belounis n’est pas la violation des droits de travailleur, même si la violation est flagrante. L’aspect que je trouve le plus intéressant est le fait que, malgré l’abus, Belounis aime le Qatar, et il admet que le Qatar peut organiser une grande réussite en 2022. Initialement je n’ai pas compris comment une victime de l’oppression peut apprécier le pays où il est opprimé. Cependant, après avoir lu un article de l’affaire Belounis dans le New York Times, j’ai compris qu’il faut faire la distinction entre l’Etat et une poignée de cadres à el Jaish d’un part, et la majorité de citoyens qataris, qui sont innocents d’autre part. Beaucoup de Qataris ont sentaient de compassion, et certains d’entre eux sont allés au-delà de ce qui aurait été attendu, donnant de l’argent à la famille de Belounis pour qu’elle pût survivre. En plus, il ne serait pas logique pour Belounis de n’avoir que de critique de Qatar, car c’est le lieu de naissance de ses filles.

Malheureusement, l’histoire de Belounis n’est pas le seul exemple d’une tragédie résultant du système de travail au Qatar. Tout le monde a commencé de examiner le système de travail au Qatar parce que la FIFA a choisi ce pays comme pays organisateur de la Coupe du monde en 2022. Le journal The Guardian a découvert en septembre que des dizaines de travailleurs népalais eussent mort pendant qu’ils étaient en train de construire une nouvelle ville pour la Coupe du monde. Selon l’auteur de l’article révélateur, le système de travail au Qatar ressemble à celui de l’esclavage. Les exemples de Belounis et des travailleurs népalais sont un grand embarras pour la FIFA et, par conséquent, son choix de la Qatar comme pays organisateur est souvent critiqué dans les médias.

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Nov 28 2013

World Cup stadium in Brazil collapses

Filed under Brazil,World Cup

A portion of Itaquero Stadium in Sao Paolo, Brazil collapsed Wednesday when a crane fell on it, killing two workers and leaving a third hospitalized in serious condition. The stadium was meant to be the site of the World Cup’s opening match this summer.

Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 12.40.13 PMAlthough Brazil’s 12 World Cup venues were due to be completed by the end of December, FIFA is yet to announce any plans for a venue change despite the recent collapse.

”It is too premature to make any detailed assessment on the situation of the Corinthians Arena as we are still awaiting the technical report to be able to evaluate the scale of the damage,” FIFA said in a statement sent to the Associated Press. ”We will be able to provide an update earliest next week following the FIFA Organising Committee of the FIFA World Cup.”

Despite the tragic nature of this event, it brings the topics of many Brazilian protests to the forefront of the news. A number of groups have complained about mistreatment of workers at the future World Cup sites, and this incident could be the fuel the movement needs to drum up some attention on the global stage. FIFA, meanwhile, issued a statement Wednesday that said the safety of its workers are of the utmost concerns.

With the current debacle of the 2022 Qatar World Cup continuing to unfold, it’s easy to forget about the turmoil that has gone in Brazil during the past few months. It will be interesting to see the responses by both the host nation and FIFA following this tragedy. It appears an interesting political climate in Brazil could have gotten a little more messy.

4 responses so far

Nov 27 2013

A tale of two refs

The art of refereeing is a thankless one. No one respects the ref. Players surround him (it’s always men in Men’s soccer) after a call they dont like. Managers abuse him. Fans curse him, burn him in effigy, and generally blame him.  Wages are low, benefits are few. And in the view of the majority, their team loses because of the ref, or wins despite him.

While most of that sentiment is down to fanhood, there does exist a spectrum of quality among referees. Most lie in the middle, and most refs in the top European leagues are very good (though they could be better with video replay, though thats a argument for a different time). But there are some who are clearly much better than other, while some are so bad that even the most biased observer would admit they were bad.  A example of a great ref is Pierluigi Collina, while one of the more infamous refs of recent times is Byron Moreno.

 

Byron Moreno

It takes a lot for Sepp Blatter to criticize a ref, as they are the ultimate arbiters of FIFA’s will. But even Blatter had to admit that the refereeing by Moreno has been a “disaster” after the 2002 World Cup Match between Italy and South Korea. While South Korea was a very good team, when they faced Italy, a lot of decisions went in their “favor.”

 

Watch this video. It’s biased, but does show at least 2 or 3 fouls that should be straight reds. On the other hand, Italy gets whistled for many otherwise innocous fouls

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4lG2RYalS8

 

Weeks after the end of the world cup, Moreno was suspended by his parent organization, the Ecuadorian FA, due to his actions in a game between Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito and Barcelona Sporting Club. Barcelona Sporting was winning the game 3-2 heading into the 90th minute, when Moreno called for an abnormally long 6 minutes of extra time. He let play continue for 13 minutes, during which Liga Deportiva scored the equalizer in the 99th minute and a winner in the 101st minute, after which time was called. Moreno alos falsified the minutes at which Liga scored their equalizing and winning goals in his match report. After serving a 20 game suspension, Moreno “retired” after he was suspended for sending 3 players off in a 1-1 draw. He was obviously suspected of match fixing in both cases

But the story doesnt end there. In 2010, Moreno was arrested at JFK airport in New York for trying to smuggle over 10 pounds of heroin into the US, hidden in his underwear. Arrested and charged with drug smuggling, he was jailed for 26 months before returning to ecuador

 

Pierluigi Collina

 

Collina was a scary ref

Few Players get onto the cover of a soccer video game. It is a great hoor, and one must stand alongside Messi, Ronaldo, and Thierry Henry to claim such an honor. But only one ref can claim he was the face of a video game: Pierluigi Collina, who was the face of Pro Evolution Soccer 3 and 4 (along with an appearance as an “unlockable” ref in Fifa 2005.

So great was Collina’s reputation. He was widely regarded as he best ref in Europe for nearly a decade. He reffed the final of the 1999 Champions League Final, the 2004 UEFA Cup Final, and under the brightest spotlight, the 2002 World Cup Final, with no major errors or contentious decisions. Respected by players and fans alike, he has become a cult figure.

Above all, he was regarded as “uncorruptable,” which is even more creditable give the fact that he reffed in Serie A for more than a decade. He earned the hatred of Luciano Moggi, the chairman of Juventus, for apparenty being too “objective.” Moggi was the major culprit behind the Calciocopoli bribery scandal of 2006, which saw Juventus relegated and Italian football shaken

Collina has made quite a career for himself after retiring. He has been seen in advertisements from Japan, to Turkey, to Italy. He was a spokesman for the car manufacturer Opel, and counts many rich and powerful among his admirers.

 

It goes to show that quality will shine through, even in refereeing

 

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