ESPN – By Brent Latham
When it comes to the Spanish national team, much of the world of international soccer has found it difficult over the past few years to avoid a constant state of awe.
With perhaps half a dozen of the world’s top 20 players among its ranks, Spain commands plenty of respect. It has earned it on the field as well, with a European championship in 2008 — part of a 35-game unbeaten run that ended last year at the Confederations Cup. La Roja haven’t lost — or even tied — since that defeat at the hands of the U.S., finishing their World Cup qualifying campaign with a perfect record in 10 games, and cementing their status as co-favorites to take the World Cup home this year.
So why is it so hard to get anyone at the Royal Football Federation to talk about the history of the Spanish national team? Calls to Madrid in search of some insight for this article went unanswered, and usually chatty contacts suddenly turned quiet. It seems most everyone in Spain would prefer to concentrate on the present, and forget the past.
In the context of Spain’s long and somewhat tortured soccer history, that wait-and-see approach makes plenty of sense. Though the current form of the national team, and the deference it commands, might suggest a proud history for Spanish soccer, the nation’s track record in international play is far less impressive than a casual fan might suspect.
Everyone knows Spain’s hard-luck story these days — the typical “always the runner-up, never the champion” tale. Much of the attention focused on the team in the run-up to the World Cup has been built around questioning if this is finally Spain’s year — with the subtle insinuation that the country has come close many times, without ever winning that world title.
But the history books say differently. In reality Spain’s track record is not nearly so achievement-laden as one might think. In fact, in 13 World Cup appearances, Spain has never really come close to winning a world title. Its best finish? Fourth place, way back in 1950…
When it wasn’t sheer underperformance that impeded the Spaniards in recent decades, it was bad luck. The most infamous example came in their 2002 quarterfinal loss to South Korea, decided by shambolic refereeing. By the time a favored Spanish team at the top of its game met neighbor France in a round of 16 clash in 2006, losing early round knockout matches had become something of a Spanish tradition. The team didn’t disappoint those expectations, and La Roja had earned a firm reputation of a team that couldn’t handle the pressure.
The hope in Spain is now that the European title in 2008 — which included a bit of good luck along the way, when La Roja eliminated Italy on penalties — may have signaled a change of fortune, and instilled a championship mentality in a group that had always succumbed to doubt at critical moments.
But few are willing to stake too much to that hope, just yet. Whether the Spaniards can call on that newly found champion’s edge when they need it in South Africa is the largest question surrounding this talented team. There’s no doubt Spain has a roster full of game-changers, with the weapons and style to dismantle all comers, and make some new history to match its now fearsome reputation. So respect for Spain is due — but for its present, more than its past.
Politi Page – Posted by Kevin Kristy
Biden’s been focused like a laser-beam — he deserves break!
[Politics Daily] — Members of the U.S. World Cup soccer team recently paid a visit to the White House, where they were greeted by the impressive trio of President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton. Goodwill was in the air — on Saturday, the U.S. team will face the English in a match that is expected to draw one of the largest audiences in the history of televised sports. The presidents, for their part, were especially enthusiastic about the team’s footwear…
Instead, Obama announced that Vice President Biden would be “live” on the scene for the opening ceremony. To which Biden cracked, “It was a painful assignment.”
Reuters – By Jon Herskovitz
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – An unabashed U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told President Barack Obama on Friday he was sorry for leaving him behind to manage the oil spill but was thrilled to be watching the World Cup.
“I am honored to be (here) representing the United States. The president is angry,” Biden told a group of dignitaries at the U.S. consulate in Sandton, near Johannesburg.
Biden, who arrived in South Africa with several family members about a day ahead of the kick-off to the sports spectacle, told the group not to take the U.S. side lightly.
The United States play England in their opening Group C match on Saturday and the Irish-American Biden expects to be in attendance cheering on coach Bob Bradley‘s side.
“In the spirit of a genuine Irishman, we are going to beat England,” Biden said.
The British oil company BP’s Gulf of Mexico spill has given President Obama one of the biggest problems of his presidency.
The Vice President also offered his condolences to former South African President Nelson Mandela whose great granddaughter was killed in a car crash on the eve of the World Cup opening.
Fifa says it will take action if it finds grounds to do so
Guardian – Owen Gibson in Johannesburg
Their cacophonous din has so far been a soundtrack for the World Cup, to the delight of some and the profound annoyance of others. But organisers said that the vuvuzela, one of the most visible and certainly most audible motifs of the tournament’s opening weekend, could yet be banned from inside stadiums.
Organising committee chief executive Danny Jordaan said he would continue to monitor their use and that a ban could be enforced if there were “grounds to do so”.
Fifa and organisers have already said that they will ban the instrument if any are thrown onto the pitch or used as a weapon and urged fans not to blow them during national anthems.
“We did say that if any land on the pitch in anger we will take action. We’ve tried to get some order. We have asked for no vuvuzelas during national anthems or stadium announcements. It’s difficult but we’re trying to manage the best we can,” he told the BBC.
“We’ve had some broadcasters and individuals [complaining] and it’s something we are evaluating on an on-going basis.” The BBC and ITV have received complaints from viewers about the background noise and, while both have said they will monitor the situation, they have also made the point that it is important to reflect the atmosphere of the tournament.
Fifa has previously shrugged off complaints from broadcasters, players and coaches about the noise from the plastic horns that are being sold on every street corner in South African host cities.
Following last year’s Confederations Cup, there were complaints from coaches, players and broadcasters about the noise. But Fifa said that the horns formed part of the unique African atmosphere of the tournament and refused to ban them.
But Jordaan himself, who battled for 16 years to bring the World Cup to South Africa, said he would prefer the 10 stadiums hosting the World Cup to ring to the sound of singing and dancing than the drone of the vuvuzela.
“I would prefer singing. It’s always been a great generator of a wonderful atmosphere in stadiums and I would try to encourage them to sing,” he said.
“In the days of the struggle (against apartheid) we were singing, all through our history it’s our ability to sing that inspired and drove the emotions.”
This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Innocean Americas.
It was founded on October 30, 1998 (Maradona’s 38th birthday) in the city of Rosario, but it wasn’t until 2001 that they had their first gathering. They now reportedly count over 100,000 members from more than 60 countries around the world.
It could be seen as a type of syncretism. It’s clear that the passion between the different members is what glues them together. As Alejandro Verón, one of the founders tells us “I have a rational religion and that’s the Roman-catholic church, and I have a religion passed on my heart, passion, and that’s Diego Maradona.”
Supporters of the Maradonian Church, supposedly from all parts of the world, count the years since Maradona’s birth in 1960. It is popular among the followers of this religion, and also among other football fans, to use the neo-Tetragrammaton “D10S” as one of the names of Maradona. D10S is a portmanteau word which fuses Maradona’s shirt number (10) and Dios, the Spanish word for God.
According to the church of Maradona it is the year 49 AB (After Birth).
- The ball must not be stained, as D10S has proclaimed
- Love football over all things
- Declare your unconditional love of football
- Defend the colours of Argentina
- Preach the words of D10S all over the world
- Pray in the temples where he preached and on his sacred mantles
- Dont proclaim the name of Diego in name of an only club.
- Follow the teachings of the Maradonian Church
- Let Diego be thy name, and thy one of your children
- “No ser cabeza de termo y que no se te escape la tortuga.” (Meaning “don’t be a hothead and don’t let the turtle escape you”)
Since the church was created many Argentinians have not responded kindly to the idea of Maradona as a God. Especially after Maradona’s drug problems most of the population feel insulted when the famous football player is seen as a national symbol, and the fact that he is also seen as a son of God makes things worse.
Related Link (The Argentimes): La Iglesia Maradoniana – Argentina’s real religion?
ESPN: Maradona fires back at soccer greats “Pele has to go back to the museum”
Wash Post – By Steven Goff
RUSTENBURG, SOUTH AFRICA — Since the World Cup draw was staged in December and the United States was placed alongside England, forging one of the tournament’s tastiest matchups, every story line has been exhausted.
It’s the inventors of modern soccer facing the historically backwater upstart. It’s the teams’ first World Cup meeting since the Americans shocked England 60 years ago in Brazil. It’s a collection of U.S. players facing the country that employs many of them in its celebrated professional league, which has a strong following in America.
Six months in the making, the U.S. national team has come to this remote outpost at the base of the Magaliesberg mountains in northern South Africa to play arguably the most anticipated match in its history.
“It’s an unprecedented moment,” U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said. “It’s one of those opportunities you don’t get very often. It’s a dream game.”
There have been more important U.S. games in recent years — against Brazil in the round of 16 in 1994 and Germany in the 2002 quarterfinal, and perhaps the Confederations Cup encounters with Spain and Brazil last year.
But the long wait between the draw in Cape Town and Saturday’s kickoff at Royal Bafokeng Stadium, combined with the deep cultural and political ties between the nations, has stoked the emotions and contributed to heightened awareness in the otherwise soccer-indifferent United States.
“For the last six months, all we have seen is U.S.-England,” midfielder Landon Donovan said. “So if you were a casual sports fan at home, you might think that this was the World Cup final: U.S. versus England.”
Far from it. But beating England would reverberate around the sporting world and help win over casual U.S. observers watching a rare network telecast of soccer.
U.S. players have proved their worth in the famed English Premier League for years, but “if we now can do it on the national team level against them on a big stage, it only takes the ball a little bit further,” Coach Bob Bradley said.
Added Donovan, the U.S. team’s career scoring leader: “Every time we have an opportunity to play, we have an opportunity to grow the sport, and we clearly understand that every four years, that is magnified and multiplied by a lot.”
Compared with past World Cup appearances, the United States does not face a particularly daunting schedule and is widely regarded as the second-best team in its group. It will play Slovenia on Friday and Algeria five days later.
Advancement would help purge memories of their winless performance at the 2006 tournament in Germany. “Everyone thinks we’re an underdog and England has all the pressure,” midfielder Clint Dempsey said. “We have pressure too. We’ve got to advance out of the group.”
The Americans enter the England match bursting with confidence but bracing for one of the world’s finest strikers, Wayne Rooney, and top-class midfielders Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard.
Bradley said his team’s “ability to keep track of [Rooney] and make it hard for him is a very, very important part of what we need to do in order to win.”
Uncertainty about the U.S. backline has added to the challenge. Will Oguchi Onyewu, the 6-foot-4 center back who started in the previous World Cup, receive the nod after not playing all 90 minutes in any of the three tuneups? If not, will Bradley shift assignments in order to fortify the middle?
Other mysteries linger. Will Maurice Edu or Ricardo Clark join Michael Bradley in central midfield, where the Americans will need to disrupt English possession?
Bradley did answer one big question: Forward Jozy Altidore, who suffered a mild ankle sprain last Wednesday, will start — a decision that seems likely to thrust speedster Robbie Findley alongside Altidore.
For the players, after a week of training camp at Princeton, two home friendlies and almost two weeks in South Africa, the England match couldn’t come quickly enough.
“We get tired of kicking each other, we get tired of training,” goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “We are together forever. We are just ready to get it on and see what we are made of. All the talk is over, or soon will be over. We are prepared. We know exactly what type of game we are going to be in — we are under no illusions. It couldn’t be a better challenge than to be the first game for us.”
U.S. note: Twice on Friday, the U.S. team bus had its trip interrupted because an elephant was in the road. For two days, the delegation has stayed at a lodge on the edge of Pilanesberg National Park, 23 miles from Rustenburg.
Related Link (ESPN): Bradley not sure of Howard’s injury
Soccer is running America into the ground, and there is very little anyone can do about it. Social critics have long observed that we live in a therapeutic society that treats young people as if they can do no wrong. Every kid is a winner, and nobody is ever left behind, no matter how many times they watch the ball going the other way.
Whether the dumbing down of America or soccer came first is hard to say, but soccer is clearly an important means by which American energy, drive, and competitiveness is being undermined to the point of no return.
What other game, to put it bluntly, is so boring to watch? (Bowling and golf come to mind, but the sound of crashing pins and the sight of the well-attired strolling on perfectly kept greens are at least inherently pleasurable activities.)
The linear, two-dimensional action of soccer is like the rocking of a boat but without any storm and while the boat has not even left the dock. Think of two posses pursuing their prey in opposite directions without any bullets in their guns. Soccer is the fluoridation of the American sporting scene.
Let me conclude on a note of despair appropriate to my topic. There is no way to run away from soccer, if only because it is a sport all about running. It is as relentless as it is easy, and it is as tiring to play as it is tedious to watch. The real tragedy is that soccer is a foreign invasion, but it is not a plot to overthrow America.
For those inclined toward paranoia, it would be easy to blame soccer’s success on the political left, which, after all, worked for years to bring European decadence and despair to America. The left tried to make existentialism, Marxism, post-structuralism, and deconstructionism fashionable in order to weaken the clarity, pragmatism, and drive of American culture. What the left could not accomplish through these intellectual fads, one might suspect, they are trying to accomplish through sport.
Yet this suspicion would be mistaken. Soccer is of foreign origin, that is certainly true, but its promotion and implementation are thoroughly domestic. Soccer is a self-inflicted wound. Americans have nobody to blame but themselves. Conservative suburban families, the backbone of America, have turned to soccer in droves.
Baseball is too intimidating, football too brutal, and basketball takes too much time to develop the required skills. American parents in the past several decades are overworked and exhausted, but their children are overweight and neglected. Soccer is the perfect antidote to television and video games. It forces kids to run and run, and everyone can play their role, no matter how minor or irrelevant to the game. Soccer and relevision are the peanut butter and jelly of parenting.
I should know. I am an overworked teacher, with books to read and books to write, and before I put in a video for the kids to watch while I work in the evenings, they need to have spent some of their energy. Otherwise, they want to play with me! Last year all three of my kids were on three different soccer teams at the same time.
My daughter is on a traveling team, and she is quite good. I had to sign a form that said, among other things, I would not do anything embarrassing to her or the team during the game. I told the coach I could not sign it. She was perplexed and worried. “Why not,” she asked? “Are you one of those parents who yells at their kids? “Not at all,” I replied, “I read books on the sidelines during the game, and this embarrasses my daughter to no end.” That is my one way of protesting the rise of this pitiful sport. Nonetheless, I must say that my kids and I come home from a soccer game a very happy family.
LA Times: World Cup coverage is nearly unavoidable
ESPN: Scores – Schedule