Football match on Antarctica, 1914
I wrote a new piece for Grantland about Everton and the impossible position of the medium-sized Premier League club. Read it…if you want to.
Here’s my new Grantland piece on the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team and their controversial-but-awesome Olympic gold medal.
Here’s my new Grantland piece on Klinsmann and the USMNT at the start of World Cup qualifying.
Ever been tabbed to speak at someone’s going away party?
It’s a more exigent task than you’d imagine. It necessitates an examination of your relationship with that person yet simultaneously compels you to divorce yourself from it, because if you truly care about them, it becomes impossible not feel a little sad, a little hurt, a little abandoned that they’re moving on.
As the captain of a midtable side, I imagine Antonio Di Natale is well-versed in that conflict, at least in psyche if not actual practice. From David Pizarro to Vincenzo Iaquinta, Fabio Quagliarella to Alexis Sanchez, Di Natale has watched his contemporaries at Udinese saunter out the door for better opportunities at bigger clubs, leaving him to recite staid dialogue and dutifully hand out cake before shouldering another share of club’s ballast. Somewhere along the way, he became Sam Waterston in Law & Order, perpetually standing still as his recast cohorts drift further away from his date of birth but stubbornly refusing to start over someplace else. And — as is also the case with Waterston — you invariably stumble upon at least one Udinese match per season when you weren’t even looking for one, only to find Di Natale making one of his usual imperious runs through traffic and you incredulously blurting out things like, “Wait, he’s still there?!” and, “Doesn’t he have somewhere else better to be?”
Do you know what hate, in its essence and heart-wrenching ugliness, truly is? Not only the concept of genuinely disliking something with every fibre of your being, but the sensation of slowly falling into a black hole filled to its brink with unhealthy, dirty thoughts? It is a feeling that, when activated deep below our day-to-day, unextraordinary consciousness, completely robs us of our humanity and compassion. It brings out the worst in us. Basically, hatred is what keeps Turkish football in 2011-2012 alive.
Today, my newfound and football-crazed friends, we have reached the proverbial impasse. Regardless of what happens tonight at the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium in Kadıköy, Turkish football has lost its vigour. Papers were definitely pushed, Lira in great quantities were definitely suddenly found in sports bags where they did not quite belong, and the Turkish Football Federation has made a complete and utter mess of the proceedings and an even bigger ass of themselves. 10 people have been given jail sentences for bribing players, staff members, club officials in order to fix scores (“bought matches”, in layman terms). All the criminals acted, in one way or another, to give a certain club a certain edge, and yet said club has remained without judgement or penalty. So, in this final week of Turkish football in what will forever be known as a truly tainted season, quelle surprise, as Platini would say: It’s all about Fenerbahçe again, standing as ever in the spotlight and on their very own stage this time around, with Galatasaray trucking along on the ride in a supporting role.
It is January 25, 1939. You reside in what is left of Barcelona. The Spanish Civil War has raged for several years. At night, the bombs fall. Franco’s forces have surrounded and strangled your beloved city, Within, moral and societal decay have gripped the institutions you loved. At first, democracy was the war cry. Viva la Republica! Then, the anarchists arose and spoke of the need to collectivize, collectivize, collectivize. Then, the Stalinists sprang up and called for nationalization. The summary executions of suspected Franco sympathizers made you feel uneasy. Now, the anarchists and Stalinists shoot one another in broad daylight. Food and water have disappeared. Retreating Republic forces burn warehouses & offices before fleeing to France. When Franco’s forces arrive the next day, chills run up and down your spine. To your astonishment, people take to the streets and cheer and applaud and wave and welcome their arrival. You weep quietly.
It is April 26, 2012. You are Pep Guardiola. You are the coach of FC Barcelona, a team that has won three La Liga titles and two Champions League trophies in the last four years. Some injuries and bad luck derailed the current season, but plenty of talent lines the roster. The city adores your team, your players love you, and the best goalscoring machine in the world wears the Azulgrana #10. However, for the last few years, battles have raged behind the scenes. The President that hired you, Joan Laporta, has been sued by the current President Sandro Rossell for accounting irregularities. The same Sandro Rosell that sat at the Board of Directors for Barcelona but resigned in 2005 due to Laporta’s “authoritarian tendencies.” Rather than settling, the case went to trial. In sum, your current boss is running your ex-boss (who hired you) through the accounting grinder, even though hidden debt in Spain is as ubiquitous as sangria. At least Laporta took care of the tax man, unlike Atletico de Madrid. Your hair turns grey, then disappears. The next day, you announce your retirement.