Soviet soccer-themed matchbox labels, 1966.

Thorsten & Sieglinde Explain It All

Over on Grantland, I have a preview of the Champions League final. Things it includes: a dramatization of the creation of the English language, a definitive guide to defending Arjen Robben, and a very lovely picture of a horse. Enjoy!

Sir Alex in 13 Paradoxes

What made Alex Ferguson the definitive manager of the Premier League era wasn’t only the wins; it was also the way he embodied all the contradictions of modern football. Here’s my new Grantland column.

Hi Xavi :)

EXCLUSIVE: Pep Guardiola’s email to Xavi following Barcelona’s 7-0 loss to Bayern in the Champions League. 

Excerpt:

Seeing your future not only defeat your past, not only taunt your past, but drop your past from high above into the path of an oncoming sport-utility vehicle — try to imagine the sensation that gave me. To see your past lose all its defenses, to see it exposed as a naked, mortal, vulnerable thing. A moment ago I overheard a woman coming out of the Qdoba say to her companion, “That was one weird burrito bowl.” I have considered her words, and I have realized that, with the economy of a poet, she has described what the Champions League semifinal was for me.

It was one weird burrito bowl, Xavi.

Read the whole thing here.

Death and Information

It’s a grisly coincidence that the Boston Marathon bombings and the Hillsborough Stadium disaster happened on the same day. I wrote a piece about what the two tragedies have in common.

The Return of Matt Le Tissier

Here’s my new Grantland column on his improbable, small-scale comeback.

Matt Le Tissier is coming out of retirement, and I’m going to type that again, because it contains words that deserve to be repeated. Matt Le Tissier is coming out of retirement. If you don’t know who that is — and there’s a good chance you don’t, if you’re American, not a soccer fan, or under 25 — watch the YouTube clip of him scoring against Newcastle on October 24, 1993. This is the second season of the Premier League, all lunging tackles and signboards for Street Fighter II. Le Tissier’s playing midfield for Southampton, the team in red-and-white stripes. The ball comes flying over the left flank to the Southampton striker, Iain Dowie, who heads it down toward the middle of the pitch, where Le Tissier’s running forward at a smooth trot. It’s a bad header; the ball scuds directly behind him. The move should be over. But watch what Le Tissier does….

Read the whole thing here if that idea seems appealing to you.

Maradona, Then and Now

Here’s my new Grantland column.

Soccer Is #*%!ed

I wrote a cheerful piece about match-fixing.

I am a midlevel Hungarian gangster. You are a Finnish referee. So here’s how it works. I get a call from a lieutenant in the syndicate — not from Dan Tan himself, the boss has to be protected, but from a middle man somewhere in Asia. Maybe Singapore, where Dan Tan is based; maybe someplace else. The caller says: We need so-and-so to happen in such-and-such soccer game. So I fly to Helsinki from Budapest and take a train north to Tampere, where you’ll be officiating a match in the Ykkönen, the Finnish second division, between FC Ilves and FC Viikingit. We meet. It’s not as if I’m lugging a duffel full of cash. The money will be laundered; we have the systems in place. I want you to be comfortable, after all.

You can read the whole thing at Grantland.

GUS JOHNSON, WORLD CUP ANNOUNCER

OH MY GOODNESS!