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The World Cup Wrap-Up: Why this World Cup will hurt the chances of soccer in America, best goals & national anthem and the underbelly of the competition

July 15, 2010 1 comment

Part 1: An underwhelming World Cup with a worthy champion.

Farewell until Rio...

The curtains have officially closed on the 2010 World Cup and I am surprisingly unfazed. I thought that I would feel anxious and saddened by the fact I would have to wait another four years for my World Cup fix; that simply has not been the case. It may have something to do with the fact that this year’s edition of the world’s greatest sports competition was an oddity. There were few roller-coaster matches, no classic encounters, a visible lack of big stars and a cynical, nervy, often negative final match that was mired by a multitude of fouls and a hesitant referee.

The first act of the competition saw 2006’s finalists – France and Italy – exit ignominiously, while the finale saw two European powers – who had never won the Cup before last Sunday – vying for what was once believed unattainable. For the final matchup alone, this World Cup was intriguing. Spain ended up winning the Cup, deservedly so, for the first time in their history due to their display of a style that celebrated slick possession and movement over direct play and goals. Spain had to work hard for their goals in large part due to the opposition putting their players behind the ball and hoping for a counter-attack. The fact that they won the Cup is a testimony to the failure of this strategy and the superior class of the Spanish side. Bravo. Here’s a bit more insight…

The zeitgeist of this tournament proved to be defense and the counter-attack; a style of play perfected by Jose Mourinho, the current boss of Real Madrid. His Inter Milan squad of 2009-2010 succeeded in defeating the all-powerful FC Barcelona in this year’s Champions League Final using the logic of having the opposition hold onto the ball for the majority of the game while keeping defensive shape and quickly taking advantage on the counter. The World Cup Final pitted Spain, a team largely composed of Barcelona players and founded on possession, against the Netherlands, a team who slowly shed the colorful and flamboyant “Dutch” play for a style most in-line with Mourinho’s Inter Milan. According to the de-facto Dutch national philosopher on soccer matters, legend Johan Cruyff, the Oranje renounced their traditional style and played “anti-football” on the pitch. The embodiment of this unfortunate transformation of the Dutch team was Marc Van Bommel. The ultimate enforcer, he was like your friend in grade school who quietly stirred-up a lot of trouble but was never punished for it. Fact: Van Bommel did not receive a SINGLE yellow card for his malicious and incessant fouling until the final against Spain. It was unfortunate to see a team traditionally respected for its creative use of space and fluidity around the pitch resorting to fouling the Spaniards as their only way to slow them and gain a semblance of control in the game. In the end, the “beautiful”game prevailed but I was left underwhelmed. The interminable histrionics and continual fouling led me to walk away from the final happy for Spain but unhappy with how it all went down.

In contrast, the Germany vs. Uruguay 3rd place match gave us a teasing display of the kind of back and forth game that we wanted to see throughout the tournament; the teams were unafraid to make forays into the opposition’s half and they were willing to give up goals as a result. It was a thoroughly entertaining game.

Bold prediction: this World Cup did not help the case for those in America striving to prove to the traditionalists (American football, baseball and basketball fans) that soccer is an entertaining and enjoyable sport to watch. It’s surely not the fact that the games were low-scoring; the beautiful game has always been low-scoring. Rather, it was the way the game was played and the lack of flair and audacity — the stuff that make people’s jaws drop, bar tabs rise, and spirits lift. It all makes a sad truth for American soccer fans.

Part two: Goals of the tournament, best celebration and best national anthem.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst

Siphiwe Tshabalala

Diego Forlan – World class from the Golden Ball winner

Surprise of the Tournament: Uruguay

Reaching their first semifinals since 1970, the Uruguayans proved to be an industrious, well-organized, and an ultimately creative side to watch. The 3rd place match against Germany was the best tie of the tournament.

Disappointment of the tournament: The “marquee” stars

Rooney, Ronaldo and, to a lesser extent, Messi are just a few of the names on the list of the game’s superstars who failed to perform on the highest stage. What can explain this? I would wager fatigue from long domestic campaigns and, of course, pressure to succeed for their home country and not just for a multinational club.

Best Goal Celebration:

The Black Stars’ celebration after scoring against Australia takes the cake.

Best National Anthem:

One part opera, the other part pop song. I’ll be playing this at a party. Maybe not, but it’s still a cool song.

Part 3: The underbelly of the World Cup.

While the tournament was a bit underwhelming, we can at least say that the social, economic and political gains from having the World Cup in South Africa were significant, right? Well, yes and no. In Soccernomics, Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski point to scholarly research which shows that the anticipated “economic bonanza” a World Cup is purported to bring (jobs, boost in tourism, investment ,etc.) is, in fact, a misleading notion. Countries compete to host the World Cup because it makes them feel as if they are in the world’s elite and fosters a sense of national solidarity amongst the various classes and groups of society. Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa, presides over a country with the largest gap between rich and poor in the world and where a third of the population lives off of less than $2 a day. Before the World Cup, he had to grapple with riots in the shantytowns as well as trying to find new schemes to lower his country’s high unemployment rate. There were many critics who voiced their concern over South Africa hosting the World Cup due to the amount of money that would be spent on infrastructure and stadiums. Improved roads and trains are politically and socially viable goods that can be used after the competition, while the state-of-the-art stadiums will be much harder to fill. (The majority of Japan’s glittering stadiums used in the 2002 World Cup are largely unused to this day; almost lurking in the background to be used as chips for future World Cup bids).

Tom Humphries of the Irish Times recently wrote a decidedly scathing op-ed entitled, “Bye South Africa, thanks for being had by us” in which he sheds light on the underbelly of the World Cup. FIFA, or as Humphries likes to call them – “the pin-striped mafia” – were sitting on €2.6 billion in TV and marketing rights before the competition even began and will walk away with the lion’s share of profits. Underestimating the cost of building the stadiums caused the final price-tag to be 2 billion rand more than initially planned. Host cities were thus obligated to pick up the excess. Upwards of 355,000 unsold tickets forced the South African government to buy up tickets and sell them to their own people at subsidized rates. Meanwhile, 450,000 pre-booked rooms were put back onto the market by Market AG after overestimating the number of visitors. The ubiquitous markers of global capitalism superseded the local culture as colorful street vendors in front of stadiums were replaced by proper sponsors’ tents. What should we make of all of this? Is FIFA essentially offering the glitz and glamour of the world’s most popular sporting even while effectively stripping it of the selected host’s local culture and flavor for the benefit of global capitalism? Was the only truly South African contribution to the World Cup the vuvuzela?

There are all questions that should to be seriously pondered as we head into World Cup 2014 in still-developing Brazil…

Ghosts of the Troubles

July 12, 2010 Leave a comment

The ever-present reminder of sectarianism.

Last night, the streets of Belfast echoed from the ghosts of troubles past. On the eve of the commemoration of the Battle of the Boyne, where Prince William of Orange defeated the then Catholic King James II, riots broke out when Republican sympathizers attacked police with petrol bombs, stones and other debris in a show of defiance against the traditional 11th of July bonfires. The crowd, numbering 200 strong, were countered with rubber bullets and water canons. After the dust settled, three police officers had been shot and 27 others had been injured. This is a disturbing development at a time where Northern Ireland is looking to heal the wounds of the past and move on from the Troubles.

Taken with other recent attacks by Republican elements, renewed violence is unfortunately becoming a pattern. Last March, two soldiers were killed at Massereene Barracks in Northern Belfast. It was the first fatal attack in Belfast in over ten years. As recently as July 3rd and 4th, disturbances in the city wounded five police officers. This all comes, rather strangely, during a time of giant steps forward in terms of Northern Irish independence and Unionist and Republican reconciliation. In February, Britain’s Parliament agreed to devolve justice and policing powers to the Northern Irish power-sharing government. With this, the full devolution, or handing over of power, of Northern Ireland was completed on April 13th. A major step forward. Furthermore, on June 15th, British Prime Minister David Cameron apologized for the Bloody Sunday Massacre in 1972; a monumental concession and step forward by the British. Considering this violence and these developments, we have a rather dichotomous situation on our hands.

It is hard to say if this is a new, disheartening trend or a rogue group of dissidents hell-bent on derailing the almost completed peace process; the latter being the assertion of both unionist and nationalist leaders. I’ll hope that they’re right. Keep an eye on all of this and hope that the ghosts of the Troubles don’t return for good.

Broken Promises

July 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Gleneagles - Location of broken promises?

At the 2005 G8 Gleneagles Summit, the international community pledged – among other things – a $50 billion ramp up in official development assistance (ODA) to reduce poverty, foster productive governance and fight HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria in the world’s poorest countries; $25 billion was to be specifically earmarked for sub-Saharan Africa. Driven by a renewed sense of urgency to complete the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, Gleneagles represented a massive recommitment by the world powers in the fight against poverty and treatable/terminal illnesses. Now we’re five years on from those promises and staring a certain reality in face: the promises made at Gleneagles have not been fulfilled. This is obviously an expansive, convoluted and important topic that will not be done justice by a 500 word blog post; but I will try my hardest to flesh out the most important parts of this undeniably tricky situation.

The BBC ran an article this past week looking at how the Gleneagles commitments have fared in way of their fulfillment. According to the piece, the ODA commitments made at Gleneagles to sub-Sarahan Africa have only been 44% realized; only $11 billion of the $25 billion has made it to ground level. Less than 50% implementation is nothing to be proud of. Last time I checked, in fact, it was a point away from a failing grade. Now this, of course, must be qualified in a couple of ways. First, as we all so intimately know, the past three years have been marred by the newly termed “Great Recession.” Massive job losses, gargantuan governmental bailouts and austerity measures have inevitably cut into the international assistance budgets of G8 countries. This must be considered as a mitigating circumstance. Second, in the past two years, a debate over foreign aid itself has gained new traction on both sides of the Atlantic. Encapsulated most completely in Dambisa Moyo‘s Dead Aid, the question of effectiveness of simply throwing money at culturally sensitive problems – with the added problem of corrupt aid delivery channels – has struck a new cord. Is aid really helping Africa? This is another poignant and important question. I can’t come close to answering it without writing a dissertation so I will spare you. However, I can tell you this: money does provide medical treatment. We know medical treatment works. Understanding that, we come back to one number: 44%.

To be honest, I can’t claim that $11 billion is a number to scoff at; I would hope that no one could be so preposterous. But it is a disturbingly different number than $25 billion. What was the point of promising ODA at such a high level at Gleneagles? It’s level that is, and was, restricted and subjected to economic stability. Was it lip service and an attempt quell our Western guilt over the  suffering “other?” Or was it more hopeful and unintentionally misleading? I’m more inclined, hopeful even, to believe the latter. Either way, it’s unfortunately a broken promise. I’m not laying the blame on any one country or even the whole G8, rather, I’m asking you to think about the motives of ODA and the aid community on whole. Whether you think aid is working to fuel the endemic corruption in a myriad of sub-Sarahan African countries or you believe in the comprehensive development pedagogy of Partners in Health, it is important to remember that this is all about saving people’s lives.

Yes, this is a sticky and torturous situation. That cannot be stressed enough. However, I will leave you with this: at the very least – using the ARV price tag of $295 – the missing $14 billion could have bought 47,457 people triple combination HIV/AIDS therapy. That is a lot of people.

The Week in Fodder

July 9, 2010 2 comments

A comical new Cold War.

Here we are, back again, for our third installment of the Week in Fodder. (Well, technically only the second considering last week’s was never published.) We have a full slate of Fodderific nuggets for you today: the spy swap, more shenanigans from Silvio Berlusconi, same-sex marriage’s proponent in Massachusetts, LeBron’s ego and a man who swam 750 miles down the Yangtze to visit the World Expo. Enjoy!

World Views:

Spy Swap: Unless you live under a rock or in the Laurentian Abyss (thank you, Hunt for Red October), you have undoubtedly heard about the Russian spies caught last week and their unfolding ordeal with the Justice Department. Last night, the U.S. and Russian governments performed the spy swap that had been the subject of rumblings and grumblings for the past week. Landing in Vienna, the 10 Russians switched positions with the 4 Americans on the inbound plane from Moscow and headed back to the Russian Federation. That was that. I’m sure something more will come out of this whole absurd and bizarre spectacle. Until then, however, it seems that 14 people engaged in a service for their countries and are on their way home to debrief and continue their lives. Comical?

Oh Silvio!: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is up to it again. Citing personal privacy protection, Mr. Berlusconi and his Government are pushing a law that would severely restrict law enforcement use of wiretaps. In America, some would see this as a welcome change from privacy encroachments established by the Patriot Act. In Italy, wiretaps are seen in a very different light: they catch corrupt corporate and federal authorities. As recently as last month, wiretap utilization helped discover the extent of a public works contract scandal that ended up involving the Vatican. Considering Mr. Berlusconi  and some of his Cabinet are under scrutiny in ongoing corruption investigations, it seems fishy, at the VERY least , that he would be pushing these new restrictions with such force. But then again, we should not be surprised, it’s just Silvio up to his old tricks.

Sakineh Mohammadie Ashtiani: As of early Thursday Sakineh Mohammadie Ashtiani, an Iranian and mother of two, was awaiting her “death by stoning” sentence to be carried out by the Iranian government. Reports late yesterday are saying that the sentence will be stayed and that Ms. Ashtiani will not die in such a barbaric manner. The fact that stoning is still a legal and practiced form of capital punishment is truly reprehensible, but this stay, if real, is a victory for human rights campaigners and activists; as it was brought about by a sustained internet campaign started by her lawyer. Just as importantly, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s government is not one to kowtow to international pressure. Let’s all hope for the brave Ms. Ashtiani.

Torpedos and the UN: Today, the UN Security Council released a statement on the North Korean sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan. Expressing “deep concern,” the statement lacked any real teeth; avoiding the words torpedo or intent. North Korea even called it a “great diplomatic victory.” Once again, the glaring inability of the Security Council to affect any real pressure on problematic regimes is troubling. I guess we can look at the silver lining here: the statement at least called the sinking an attack.

Raul’s Cuba: Raul Castro assumed power in Cuba in 2006 after Fidel’s health deteriorated to a point where he could no longer run his Communist paradise. Hailed as a possible reformer, the Cuban diaspora saw his ascension to power as a path to loosened personal freedoms, travel restrictions and overall political oppression. However, in his first year or so in office, the world was disappointed with the lack of progress on any of these fronts. It seems though, Cuba might be turning a corner. Yesterday, the Cuban government agreed to release 52 political prisoners; bringing the total number of political prisoners in Cuba to the lowest level since 1959. For sure, a step in the right direction.

American Matters:

Downtown Oakland - familiar with riots.

Mayhem in Oakland: Yesterday, a California jury returned a verdict of involuntary manslaughter in the murder trial of former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle. Mr. Mehserle shot Mr. Oscar Grant, unarmed and facedown on a train platform, once in the back, killing him on January 1st, 2009. Mr. Mehserle maintains that he was reaching for his taser and inadvertently pulled out his gun. Finding enough merit in this argument, the jury did not convict on the greater charge of murder in the second degree. Residents of Oakland did not agree with that verdict. Taking to the streets, in a scene reminiscent of riots past, the people of Oakland made their opinion known. I am obviously not condoning rioting, but I understand it. It seems unfathomable – in a city that KNOWS, so intimately, of racial tension and violence – that this kind of bias can still exist. Keep an eye on this story.

Same-Sex Marriage: On Thursday, Judge Joseph L. Tauro, a federal district judge in Massachusetts, ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Judge Tauro cited the right to access all privileges granted to heterosexual couples and an infringement on state’s right as the backbone of the Act’s unconstitutionality. While it is too early to tell how this ruling will stand up against the plethora of appeals soon to follow, it will add legal kerosene to the fiery debate. Either way, it’s a win for same-sex advocates everywhere! Love those hippies in MA.

Richardson Joins the Fray: In response to the Arizona immigration law, and the fallout between Mexico and the US that has followed, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has offered to mediate the negotiations to keep the Border Governors Conference from folding under the controversy. Mr. Richardson, the former ambassador to the UN, is adept diplomat and should bring a level head to the discussions. Cross your fingers he can keep the conference above water.

Summer Fatigue: A week long heat wave has been plastering the Northeast since last Monday. Stressing power grids, engendering uncomfortable walks for all city dweller and heating bulldogs to the point of utter exhaustion, the heat has brought summer in with a sucker punch. New York City hit 100 degrees twice this week while Philly hit 102, Baltimore 103 and DC 102. So until the heat advisories and water bans are lifted, Northeastern residents will be struggling to do anything more than sit at their computer and read the Fodder all day.

James’ Joke: “King” James left one city in despair and inflated another with his announcement on primetime national television to “take his talents” to the Miami Heat and play with superstars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. The “Decision” was quintessential, popcorn-eating, American sensationalism. That it was held at the Greenwich, CT Boys and Girls Club is patently hilarious—I had no idea there was even a Boys and Girls Club in Greenwich. At any rate, this watershed moment in American sports only serves to reinforce the unattractive reality that loyalty is cheap and sports are a business first and foremost. Cowardly decision? I think so. As a wise Mainer says: “I calls it like I sees it.”

The Yangtze - Don't you want to go for a swim?

Off the Beaten Path:

Yangtze Madness: How badly do you want to attend the Shanghai World Expo? Desperately? You’ll do anything? Well Bao Zhengbing did anything. Mr. Bao swam 750 miles down the Yangtze from central China to Shanghai. Now, 750 miles is a scarily daunting swim under any conditions but just look at that picture to your left. See that? The Yangtze is so polluted it actually turned red. We’ve all been swimming; in a pool, river, ocean, pond. If you swim for more than half an hour, you’re bound to get water in your mouth at some point. It’s an inevitability. Now, extrapolate that out over the time you would need to swim 750 miles. Nope, I don’t think the World Expo is worth it. On the other hand, good for Mr. Bao, that definitely takes some intestinal fortitude.

Cyrano de Bergerac: Just when you thought there were limits to what the internet could replace in human interaction, the burgeoning world of cyber dating has added a wrinkle: one can hire the services of an individual— known as a ghost writer– to essentially write their personal profile in an effort to increase the number of views to their dating page. Wow. There’s steep demand for this ghost writer outsourcing service and as is seen in this testimonial in the BBC article, some people are actually satisfied with the service. More importantly, how does something like this make us feel about the internet? What can you actually believe on the web? Or is this just like applying to a job or having a college counselor look over your resume to make you a more attractive candidate? I don’t know, but maybe all those people on eHarmony.com aren’t the good Christians they claim to be.

Airhead: This story is probably too colloquial and local, but it’s just too good to pass up. A 20 year old man walked in to a Boston-area Mercedes dealership and asked to take a car for a test drive. He then proceeded to try to steal the car with a FAKE grenade. I’m not even sure where to start. Why a fake grenade and not a water-gun assault rifle like the immortal Brendan Fraser? And who is he kidding, how was a real grenade supposed to be confined to hurting the Mercedes employee? Idiocy. Utterly ridiculous.

Winnebago Man: The Winnebago Man. We’ve all seen the YouTube video. (If you haven’t, it’s imbedded below!) Over twenty million views later, a documentary is coming to a theater near you about the man behind the outtakes and profanity. Jack Rebney, the Man himself, now lives a semi-hermetical life in California shirking the technology that has made him an international icon. A truly bizarre story on all fronts… but yeah, I’ll probably pay to see that movie.

Leviathan: Stolen from last week’s missing Fodder, you have to read all the links in this little synopsis. The Peruvian desert has given the world a brand new monstrous creature to inspire fascination: Leviathan. Formally named Leviathan melvillei (yes, in honor of Herman Melville), this beast dined on other whales for snacks and brought 14 inch long (!!!!!) teeth to the predatory table. To put that into perspective, the Great White’s teeth grow up to 3 inches long. I think the real question here is: who would win in a prehistoric ocean fight, Leviathan or Megalodon?

I bet most of our readers think they're the cat's whiskers.

Idiom of the Week:

Tasked with finding the idiom of the week, AWC came back with one that fit for any cat lover: the cat’s whiskers!

This expression comes in handy to describe someone who believes they are better than others in a particular area –beauty, competence, sports, skills, etc.

Example #1: “Ever since she got that promotion, she thinks she’s the cat’s whiskers!”

Example #2: “LeBron James thinks he’s the cat’s whiskers but he hasn’t even won a single championship!

Leave some of your own examples!

Song of the Week: Weekend Girl by the SOS Band

This week’s Song of the Week is going to go back into time to the 1980s when music was delightfully cheesy and slow jams with synthesizers were in full effect. (So, in fact, it’s not really transporting you anywhere because if you turn on your local hip-hop station, you’re sure to find about the same today!) Anyway, “Weekend Girl” by the SOS Band is a classic single from 1985. I would recommend just putting this in the background and fixing yourself one of Captain Adam’s cocktails.

That’s your Week in Fodder ladies and gentleman. Hope you found a conversation starter for the bar, the beach or the cookout this weekend. Until Monday, keep living the good life!

What do an unwashed cashmere sweater, a national anthem with no words, and an erudite octopus have in common?

July 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Answer: The World Cup.

Spain

So here we are. The final stage of the World Cup. A competition filled with utter disappointments, pleasant surprises, heartbreak, and the power of youth. Spain and the Netherlands will go head to head in pursuit of their respective nation’s first ever World Cup trophy. We will see who will prevail. Until then, here’s a quick overview of last week’s quarterfinal and semifinal matches.

1) Brazil vs. Netherlands

Brazil came in as the undisputed champs, at least in their own minds, and in the first 15 minutes they showed their athleticism, guile, creativity, and superiority against the Dutch who were chasing the game. Felipe Melo, the Brazilian defensive midfielder, started the game as the hero and ended it, unceremoniously, as the villain. His sublime through ball to an in-stride Robinho gave me goosebumps, while his childish petulance and histrionics made me cringe. Melo’s rise and fall in the match closely mirrored how the Brazilians played. They started off well, performing in the superb, only to regress to playing like a wounded animal with no place to hide. The Dutch deserved to go through. For their part, the second half was a clinical exhibition of possession and movement.

2) Ghana vs. Uruguay

This game was a true heartbreaker for the neutral fan. With all the hopes and aspirations of a continent on their shoulders, the Black Stars of Ghana were unable to advance to the semifinals of the competition. The game was theirs to win or lose and Asamoah Gyan, Ghana’s star striker, missed his penalty in the 120th minute. Regarding the handball incident that led to the penalty, the uncomfortable truth of the matter is that any soccer player would have done the same thing. While I find the hand ball reprehensible and unfortunate, it was the only play that Luis Suarez had to keep his team in the game. By handing the ball he knew he would be ejected but it luckily (didn’t feel that way at the time) left the fate of the game in the hands of his keeper and the fallibility of the opposition’s kick taker. Gyan missed the penalty kick and Uruguay stayed alive. Well played. Poor penalties sealed Ghana’s fate and left me scratching my head. Not all is lost for Ghana though–they are the reigning champions of the U-20 World Cup and should figure in the World Cup of 2014.

The Netherlands

3) Germany vs. Argentina

Germany absolutely demolished Argentina 4-0 in an impressive exhibition of counterattacking soccer. Argentina failed to adapt their game and remained narrow in their attack with Leo Messi, Carlos Tévez, and Gonzalo Higuaín continually frustrated by the stout German defense. Their midfield lacked creativity while their defense was finally exposed with Gabriel Heinze and Nicolás Otamendi horribly dismantled by the speed of Thomas Müller, Miroslav Klose, and Lukas Podolski.

4) Spain vs. Paraguay

This game started as a bore and then turned into a white-knuckler with penalties on both sides of the pitch within 5 minutes of each other. As expected, Spain dominated possession, leaving Paraguay to chase the game for the majority of the match while creating sporadic opportunities in the front of the Spanish goal. Spain deserved to go through but left a lot to be desired by only scoring one against the pesky Paraguayans.

Semifinal recap:

1) Uruguay vs. Netherlands

This high-scoring affair sure had its moments. Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s master-class strike was one for the ages. While scoring three goals, the Dutch still looked quite vulnerable in the back with Khalid Boulahrouz continually making things interesting on the right side of the defense. When asked what the difference was between the 2010 Dutch team and those of the past (’94,’98), the current crop of players stated that they expected to win regardless of how they got there. Long gone are the days of playing beautifully but not getting the results. They have the confidence and expectation to win but the “Dutch Way” is no longer their modus operandi. Check out this illuminating article by Raphael Honigstein about Dutch soccer and the death of total football.

Uruguay was missing the services of the suspended Suarez – leaving Diego Forlan to create on his own chances, which he did – and the sturdy defender Diego Lugano who would have provided more of a test against the wily and melodramatic Arjen Robben. Uruguay can be proud of making it to the semifinals for the first time since 1970 and will most certainly make noise in Brazil in 2014. Brazil will hope that they don’t. Some Cocktail Fodder for you: Uruguay beat Brazil in the 1950 final in the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janiero 2-1. A rash of suicides in the country befell the country, as well as national competition to change the colors of the Brazilian team uniforms. A 19 year old came up with the winning design and won a yearlong internship with the national team.

Goal of the tournament:

The Prize

2) Spain vs. Germany

The youthful multicultural team of Germany finally met its match in the polished, methodical, geometrically ascetically pleasing, near lull-inducing Spanish squad (whew!). Not even a debonair coach with the unwashed lucky blue cashmere sweater could prepare his team well enough. From the beginning of the match one could tell that the Spanish were going to dictate the pace of the match with the Germans occasionally mounting a threatening counterattack. Now, there is something rather interesting and sobering about the Spanish starting 11 that is worth noting: the majority of them ply their trade at either Real Madrid or Barcelona in the Spanish La Liga. At the start of each season all the teams in La Liga, from Getafe to Real Madrid, have the same number of points (Check out the Alphabetized 2010-2011 standings) However, once the ball is kicked, the season is eventually predetermined with the only tension in the campaign revolving around whether Barcelona will continue its recent dominance or if Real Madrid can overtake them. Valencia finished in third place last year with 25 points between them and second place Real Madrid!  It is only natural that the national team be made up of the players from both squads as they are not only the leagues best paid but also the best players pound for pound. I like to think of this Spanish squad as Barcelona plus 5.

Where it gets even more interesting is in the identity of the player who scored the winning goal in yesterday’s semifinal to propel the team into the World Cup Finals for the first time. Carles Puyol, the shaggy-locked central defender, is from Catalonia; one of the 17 semi-autonomous regions of Spain. Spain could lift the World Cup for the first time thanks in large part to the talent pool generated by FC Barcelona; a well-established Catalonian institution and a sporting representation/symbol of Catalonian independence. I find this quite remarkable. General Franco would be rolling in his grave if he saw what was happening on the pitch.

A World Cup soothsayer?

Here is some more fun Cocktail Fodder for you: the Spanish national anthem has no words. It is one of the few in the world devoid of words. Why is this? Because the regionalism of Spain makes it virtually impossible to create a song that encapsulates what it means to be a “Spaniard.” From Galicia over to Catalonia and down to Andalucía, one finds areas that are politically, culturally, and linguistically distinct from the central government of Madrid. When one of the ESPN commentators noticed that none of the Spanish players were singing the national anthem I almost threw my drink at the screen (not really, but you get my point).

Patrick Cox’s podcast The World in Words from Public Radio International has two excellent episodes in which he touches upon the Spanish national anthem and whether the 2009 Champions league win by Barcelona could be hailed as a win for all Spaniards– definitely worth a listen. Here is the main page (http://patrickcox.wordpress.com/) with the topics of Spain coming up in the first and fifty sixth episode of the podcast.

Finally, check out this article about the “psychic” octopus who correctly predicted that Spain would beat Germany keeping its streak of correct match predictions alive: http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2010/jul/08/soccer-octopus-world-cup-final

Enjoy the final. Until next time, cheers.

World Cup Quarter-Final Predictions

July 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Soccer City

1) Brazil vs. Netherlands. Friday, July 2 at 10 am EST on ESPN.

History is on the side of the Brazilians who beat the Dutch in the 1994 and 1998 Quarter-finals in the United States and France. The first 30 seconds of the 1994 youtube clip is too funny. Hawaii Five-O meets the pitch! Both teams are playing well at the moment but I would put the Brazilians as slight favorites to win against the Oranje.  Expect tight passing games from both teams. While the Dutch will be more of the adventurous type in attack, the Brazilians will play tough defense and wait for an opportunity to pounce and counter.

2) Uruguay vs. Ghana. Friday, July 2 at 2:30pm EST on ESPN.

Ghana’s Black Stars, the last hope for Africa in this tournament, take on the defensively solid La Celeste of Uruguay in the first-ever clash between the two countries. Uruguay is making its first appearance in the quarter-finals since 1970 and their attack force of Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez has scored 5 of the 6 goals for the team so far. Ghana will be without the services of Andre Ayew and John Mensah due to accumulation of yellow cards. I expect Ghana to enjoy the lion share of possession in this game but see the pesky Uruguayans advancing on the back of either a Forlan or Suarez goal.

3) Argentina vs. Germany. Saturday, July 3 at 10 am EST on ESPN.

This is going to be a rollercoaster of a game. Both teams are playing attractive, high-scoring soccer and there is some bad blood between the two stemming from the World Cup in 2006. Watch this match with a group of friends and have the beer flowing as the action will be non-stop and the cards may be flying. This game is hard to call but I give a slight edge to Germany and think they can catch the Argentinean defense flat-footed on one of their trademark counters. Also, if there is any game that Lionel Messi could choose to make his mark this would be the one. He needs to step up.

4) Paraguay vs. Spain. Saturday, July 3 at 2:30 pm EST on ESPN.

I obviously expect Spain to win this match and advance and would not be surprised if they have 70% possession of the ball. Paraguay played an uninspiring match against a much weaker Japanese squad and I just don’t see how they will be able to compete with the Spanish. That said, once the ball drops it is anyone’s game.

Here’s another nice little preview:

World Cup Recap #2: How the English failure to advance can be explained by history, if only Twitter was around in 2002, and why the United States team needs a complete reshuffling — starting with the coach.

July 1, 2010 Leave a comment

In this week’s footie post, I will address the huge disappointments of the English and American World Cup campaigns and attempt to put them in perspective for the Cocktail Fodder reader. Everything else can take a backseat at the moment.

Jabulani

English Ineptitude:

Let’s begin with the English. Their failure to progress beyond the round of 16 is a classic example of a dysfunctional family of overpaid superstars put together and expected to perform when all signs already pointed to calamity; a shaky defense, mediocre goalkeeper options, and a genuine lack of leadership within the squad. (And this is only to name a few.) The pressure to bring home the World Cup trophy for the first time since 1966 hung heavily over the heads of the English players and they caved in. Players like Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney, superstars in the English Premier League, transformed into lamentable shells of themselves on the international stage in South Africa.

After their ignominious exit from the European Championship qualification round in 2008, the English soccer authorities thought it best to bring in a Continental coach with a fresh, more refined, less brutish version of the game for the English to play. As was we have seen, not even a well-dressed Italian tactician, Fabio Cappello, was up to the task of bringing glory to England. So whom is to blame for their exit? The English media are looking for scapegoats but they should look no further than history itself. Here is some Cocktail Fodder for you to use when talking about England’s early exit from the World Cup: In six of their eight last World Cups, England has been knocked out by either Germany or Argentina. From the infamous “Hand of God” by Maradona in 1986, to the most recent 4-1 drubbing at the hands of the Die Mannschaft, the English seem destined by history to continually lose to former wartime combatants in the World Cup. (I picked up this bit of fodder from the entertaining book Soccernomics. Definitely worthy of a read.) The English players are back in England, preparing themselves for another season in the most popular league in the world where the pressure to succeed is high but nowhere near the level associated with playing for country.

The Hand of God:

The 4-1 Drubbing:

The Great Deception

The United States failure in the round of 16 against Ghana was a major step backwards; a blunt reminder of how much work is yet to be done for the country to be taken seriously on the international stage.

Just when one thought the team had effectively turned the corner by winning their group for the first time since 1930, they were quick to revert to being uncreative, mediocre, and one-dimensional; a team unsure how to carry itself and play with confidence. Let me put it bluntly: The 2010 United States soccer team was grossly overhyped due to heightened media coverage. Social media tools, Twitter and Facebook especially, attracted large numbers of soccer converts and casual watchers to take an interest in the cup. The team’s pluck and never-say-die ethos resonated with the general public. This unfortunately imbued them with a belief that the team could actually go far. The party was rocking with high levels of patriotism (red meat anyone?), but the team was destined to fall short.

The high-water mark for the USMNT* was in 2002. In that World Cup, they actually beat a European powerhouse in Portugal and advanced all the way to the quarter-finals only to be robbed of a place in the semifinals by the opportunistic hand of a German. Does anyone even remember who played on that team? Here’s something to think about: Imagine if the 2002 World Cup of South Korea and Japan was held in Europe where there is a shorter time difference and social media tools were as pervasive as today? Would the level of participation, funding, and general excitement surrounding the beautiful game be more significant today? Hard to say, but I am inclined to say yes. What do you think?

US-Portugal:

Robbed by Germany:

What needs to change:

What needs to change in order for the United States to realize its potential? First, the American coach must be replaced by a European—preferably German or Dutch—manager who will be charged with restructuring the team to run with purpose, while conserving energy, and make the ball do the bulk of the work. An American coach should be involved as an understudy to the European to learn the game. Issues of strength, conditioning and nutrition should be kept in American hands. (We are, at least, very good at this.) Second, if the United States wants a winner, they need to take it seriously and correctly finance the program. As Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski rightly state in Soccernomics, “If only Americans took soccer seriously, the country’s fabulous wealth and enormous population would translate into dominance.” With a population of 307 million plus and large immigrant communities from such soccer crazy continents like South America and Africa, there is a surplus of potential soccer stars out there.

The underlying problem with soccer in the United States was astutely underscored by former German national team player and coach Jurgen Klinsman in the post-match segment of the USA vs Ghana matchup last week. America’s first touch–how a player receives and handles the ball when passed it—was inferior to other teams. The first touch in the rest of world is the beginning of a love affair; playing the game becomes second nature and a daily occurrence. Why is this? To keep it short, generally speaking at least, soccer is seen elsewhere in the world as a viable vehicle of social mobility from the lower to upper classes of society. If one has the potential, at least. Children in Brazil are scouted at a young age and whisked to soccer schools where they receive an education, hone their skills on the field, and become upstanding citizens. Here in the United States – football, baseball, and basketball – are the preferred vehicles of social advancement. This is highlighted by the absurd amounts of money the average player makes. As a result, youth soccer players only see the sport as a way to potentially attend a great collegiate soccer program and receive a top education for their life after sports. This is nothing to scoff at but it drastically changes the soccer culture of our country. Can we make those changes? I do not know. We should try though.

*USMNT: United States Men’s National Team

Mugabe’s Diamonds

June 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Western understanding of African conflict, unfortunately generalized, comes through a set of pre-designed hot button words and issues. Corruption. Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Cronyism. Ethnic tension. And of course blood diamonds. Gaining prominence during Sierra Leone’s civil war and solidifying itself in the international psyche with Leonardo DiCaprio’s Blood Diamond, the blood diamond has come to embody the perversion of Africa’s mineral wealth. Once again, they are back in the news. Beginning in January, human rights groups began to raise questions about how Zimbabwean diamonds were being mined. Accusations that the military was using forced labor to extricate the gems began an international campaign to put pressure on Robert Mugabe’s regime to reform their practices. As a microcosm of Mr. Mugabe’s disastrous reign, Zimbabwean’s diamond trade is at a deadlock. As one of the final outlets of wealth in Zimbabwe, does the end of the diamond trade signal a tipping point in the stranglehold of President Mugabe?

Mugabe and diamonds.

As one of Africa’s independence heros, Robert Mugabe assumed the Presidency of Zimbabwe in 1987 and has never looked back. Calamitous land reform acts, ruthless suppression of the opposition and the media and horrendous economic policy have turned Zimbabwe from the African “City on a Hill” to a tragic example of how to ruin unlimited potential. Stuck in a cycle of crippling hyperinflation and with an estimated unemployment rate of 95%, the Zimbabwean economy is in utter shambles without much possibility of improvement. You would think that with such egregious statistics the Mugabe administration would be feeling the pressure to leave office. That has not happened. Other than rampant violence after the 2008 Presidential election, there has been little to shake the confidence of the African big man and his Zanu-PF party.

So what will be the catalyst to drive Mr. Mugabe out of office? It seems counterintuitive that a mechanism of the rich, the diamond, may in fact be a step towards that goal. There may be merit in it though. Mr. Mugabe and his cronies are protected by the military and the elite; those that still have any money at least. Standard neopartimonial theory dictates that “strong man” regimes can only function as long as there is money to keep that strong man’s (Mr. Mugabe in this case.) underlings happy. Reality dictates that Zimbabwe is very close to being completely stripped of the processes in which to accumulate wealth. No wealth, no cronyism. No cronyism, no dictatorship. It is a thought at the very least.

As of today, the Kimberly Process remains at a standstill at what to do about Zimbabwe’s diamonds. Further skewed by the recent arrest of a human rights activist, the trials and tribulations of Zimbabwe’s precious gems and its fallout will have to be followed with keen eye. While this will probably not be the beginning of the end for Mr. Mugabe, it is another step in a road that will eventually lead to his dethronement. Until then, Zimbabwean citizens will have to hope for a better day when they are responsible for their country’s mineral wealth, elections, military, economy and civil society instead of the money hungry, selfish and corrupt Zanu-PF.

The Week In Fodder

June 25, 2010 Leave a comment

The end of another week.

The week in review. How many media outlets have such a section? A hundred? A thousand? I’m not sure I can even google that statistic. For that reason, you have to be asking, “why should we turn to the Fodder for our Week in Review?” I’m going to give you a couple reasons, hopefully compelling, as to why you should tune into Cocktail Fodder on Fridays. First, we’re going to bring you the most succinct but far reaching synopsis of international, national and under-the-radar news stories from the past week and those that will be on everyone’s mind come Monday. I bet you’ll engage in conversation about one of the topics we write about within 72 hours of reading our “Week in Fodder”. Second, this won’t be all news. You’ll get the song of the week, quote of the week, idiom of the week, well, anything we think might be of interest. It’s all fluid. Spontaneity will rule. So please enjoy this week’s review and we hope you come back for more Fodder on Monday.

World Views:

Coke Caught: Christopher “Dudus” Coke was, at long last, arrested in Jamaica. Coke, the alleged Caribbean drug lord, has been in international headlines since Jamaican special forces and police stormed the slum in which he was hiding. The operation led to the death of over 70 people. A tactical and human disaster, the Jamaican push for Dudus underestimated the alleged drug lord’s clout and support among the people. After his arrest, he was extradited to the U.S. where he will stand trial for his connections to the American drug trade.

Greek Turmoil: Late last night a bomb in Athens killed an aide to the Greek Counter-Terrorism Minister. This harrowing attack comes after months of protests over austerity measures passed by the Greek government. Unfortunately during that time radical elements have used the unrest to step up attacks and provocation of the administration. Keep an eye out for further developments.

Saddam’s Spies: The Iraqi police state under Saddam Hussien had the most extensive internal spy network this side of the East German Stasi. When the United States entered Iraq in 2003, they destroyed, shipped to America or locked up the files that showed what neighbor turned in who, how intelligence was gathered and shed light on the fates of those lost. This week, NPR ran an intensely interesting piece on the push to bring the files back to Iraq and open them to the public. Read it, see what you think and how it could effect the fragile stability Iraq has achieved.

Pakistani Terror Convictions: A Pakistani court convicted five Americans on terrorism charges. Claiming that they were only there to “help fellow Muslims,” the five traveled to Pakistan in December and were detained by Pakistani security forces. They were all sentenced to ten years. This is only the latest, and possibly most high profile, example of Americans seeking out their own jihadi future; a disturbing societal development.

Burundian Anxiety: After years of civil war, insurgency and general strife, the leader of Burundi’s biggest rebel group, the Forces for National Liberation (FNL), disarmed in 2009. Since then Agathon Rwasa has become the countries leading opposition voice. Ominously, Rwasa has not been seen since Wednesday stoking fears that he may once again be taking up arms. We’ll follow this story with a keen eye.

American Matters:

General Stanley A. McChrystal

McChrystal Fired: This is all over the news, I know, but this a MONUMENTAL story; one that we will probably write about next week. This week, General Stanley A. McChrystal was dismissed by President Obama over critical remarks he and his staff made in a Rolling Stone interview about his civilian commanders. He will be replaced by General David Petraeus. We’ll leave it at that for the moment. Read these articles if you can and come back for a Fodder op-ed on Tuesday!

Palin’s Illegality: After a formal ethics investigation, former VP nominee Sarah Palin’s legal defense fund was deemed illegal for misleading its donors and ordered to pay back close $400,000. While it seems that the improprieties were in good faith, there are outstanding ethics inquires into the former Governor. This will not be the last we hear of this story.

Ending the Moratorium: On Wednesday, Judge Martin Feldman struck down the Interior Department’s moratorium on deep water oil drilling implemented after the BP disaster. Citing lack of clear evidentiary support, the Judge ruled that drilling could continue and that the Obama Administration would have to make a more compelling case in any future action. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar moved to stay the decision but Judge Feldman denied the petition. A battle, between executive and judicial, as well as Democratic and Republican will inevitably enuse.

The American and the Russian: In his first official state visit to the United States, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and President Obama shared a hamburger and hailed a new era of amiable relations between the historic antagonists. Presumably the Presidents will not catch any flak for their choices of mustard or cheese and this will simply signify an important bond between the two influential lawmakers.

Mexico vs. Arizona: Yesterday, the Mexican foreign Ministry filed a court brief against the newly passed Arizona immigration law. The lawsuit is seeking to overturn the borderline-police state law. Follow this story as it picks up momentum. We may be looking at a future Supreme Court case.

Harboring toxic secrets.

Off the Beaten Path:

Unfortunate Whales: A report released yesterday, discussing the findings of marine researchers, has found that, almost universally, Sperm whales have dangerously elevated levels of lead, chromium, mercury, aluminum, cadmium and basically every other dangerous chemical you can think of. Using samples taken with a dart gun from over 1,000 whales, the study is extensive and compelling. You can rest assure that Paul Watson will have something to say about this.

Hacker-Croll: The Frenchman who hacked into President Obama’s Twitter account was given a suspended two year prison term yesterday. There are so many strange aspects to this story. One, is French President Nicolas Sarkozy so uninteresting at this point that one of his own citizens wouldn’t want to hack into HIS Twitter? Two, what does it say about today that our President has a precious Twitter account? Three, it’s TWITTER. Anyway, check it out.

British Obesity: You read that correctly, British obesity, NOT American obesity. Novel thought, I know. Researchers have found that British children are currently becoming obese at twice the rate of American children. Even with a government push to cut obesity levels, the rise in statistics has not been stymied. Not an encouraging sign.

$800? No Thank You: Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and….. wait there was a third Apple, Inc. cofounder?  Yes, there was. Ron Wayne. Given a 10% stake in Apple at it’s inception, he had early misgivings about the company and was bought out by Jobs and Wozniak for $800 (!!!!!!!!!!). That is not a typo. I won’t even ruin the surprise of how much that 10% stake would be worth today. You need to read the article for yourself. Make sure you’re sitting. So I say to Steve Jobs, no thank you, I’ll take that 10%. (I really am not trying to rag on the guy, hindsight is 20-20.)

Youtube and Marriage: Popular trend: marriage proposals on youtube. Actual proposals, proposal mishaps and everything in between. I guess this is the natural progression, like everything else in the tech age, of asking someone to marry you. I’m undecided on how I feel about this. Either way, here are some to initiate you.

Quotes of the Week:

Blago's future residence?

“It was a 10-minute photo op. Obama clearly didn’t know anything about him, who he was. Here’s the guy who’s going to run his fucking war, but he didn’t seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed.”

– An advisor and aide to Gen. McChrystal. That folks, will get someone fired.

“Patti Blagojevich: ‘… The best option is that you, oh, you know, appoint the African American woman that Obama wants and then you’re happy, the blacks are happy and he’s happy and then you get some nice appointment for that.’

Rod Blagojevich: ‘Right that’s what, that’s the, that’s exactly right. That’s, that would be the best, that would be one of the best scenarios.'”

– Quotes from audio tapes released yesterday by the Justice Department in the former Govenor’s ongoing corruption trial. That folks, will land someone in prison. (Find the whole, ludicrous transcript here.)

And Finally…. the Song of the Week:

Franco and Sam Mangwana- \”Cooperation\”

This week’s Song of the Week comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Franco is a legendary guitarist that few people have actually heard of. Franco and his T.P.O.K Jazz Band were fabled and revered African dance and musical artists for close to 30 years from the 1950s to the 1980s. Sam Mangwana is one of the big hitters of the Zairian Rumba (zoukous) vocalists. He performs to this day and continues to produce quality music. From the first chord of this song you will find it hard to stop listening to. I like to put this on in the morning when I have time to make my eggs and yogurt with granola. It’s a perfect way to start the day. I hope you think so too.

Enjoy!

…Well that’s it. That completes our first week at Cocktail Fodder. I hope you loved it and come back for more on Monday. Until then, keep talking, learning, loving life and remember to enjoy the fodder. Oh yeah, the cocktails too.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Reflections on the 2010 World Cup thus far

June 24, 2010 2 comments

Close to three weeks have passed since the opening ceremonies of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Finals in South Africa. While it started off slow, the plot lines have thickened and the play has gradually improved. From the plucky Kiwis of New Zealand earning a well deserved draw from the cup-holding Italians, to the unfolding soap opera of the French team refusing to practice due to what they deemed to be the unfair expulsion of their teammate, Nicolas Anelka, this World Cup is as much for the soccer enthusiast as it is for the gossip queen.  Today I will blog about the good, the bad, and the ugly of the tournament so far.

The good: Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Chile, Uruguay, Mexico)

With only two losses between all six countries through this Wednesday, Latin America has been the class of this World Cup. Argentina is thriving, Brazil is their usual solid self and Mexico has been steady. More unexpectedly, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Chile are all making noise in the tournament and are marching confidently into the round of 16. We will see if they can continue the trend and truly make this World Cup theirs.

The bad: Africa (Cameroon, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria)

African teams failed to impress due to a lack of team management, unity, and the development of competing cliques within the teams. Cameroon and the Ivory Coast serve as perfect examples. The Indomitable Lions and Les Elephants supposedly had the major perquisites for a strong World Cup campaign: solid European-based squads and a good balance between youth and experience. What they lacked, in spades, were competent coaches and a solid foundation of team unity and purpose. South Africa, on the other hand, had the requisite team unity bolstered by the fact they were the hosts of the tournament. Unfortunately, what they made up for in unity, they lacked in talent and experience to advance. No matter though, the Bafana Bafana can walk away with their heads held high while the two aforementioned teams will walk away with the albatross of embarrassment and underperformance around their necks. Not all is lost though. Ghana is still in the competition and they are not only playing well but have some of the most colorful fans and best goal celebrations. The United States vs. Ghana fixture this Saturday afternoon will be a rematch of the 2006 World Cup meeting in Germany that saw the Black Stars down the U.S. 2-1 and advance to the round of 16.

The ugly: France, Italy, and England.

Where do I begin? Let’s start with the French or Les Bleus as they are known. They leave South Africa in abject failure after losing all contests, staging a practice coup d’état, having a player dismissed from the team, and to top it all off, having the coach refuse to shake the hand of South Africa’s coach after their last fixture. Quel horreur! The team and country are suffering with a crisis of self-identity and purpose. Across the pond from the Continent, England, the gatekeepers on the game, continue in their dogged pursuit to win the Cup for the first time since 1966. They meet their historical rivals in Germany this Sunday which promises to be an entertaining affair. The English looked remarkably better in their last game but I don’t see them overcoming the Germans. Nonetheless, expect the odd World War 2 songs to be chanted. Lastly, the Italians are officially out of the World Cup. They never seemed fit to wear the crown as Cup holders (they won in 2006) and relied too much on their Machiavellian cynicism and theatrics to get through. Amidst all this European disarray, look for Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain to seize the opportunity and go far.

Here are some international links to visit to get your soccer fix:

1) www.guardian.co.uk/football : World Cup Football Daily (English). One-liners and puns galore make this my favorite podcast to listen to each night to get my soccer fodder.

2) http://www.rtl.fr : Mondial 2010: En Route Pour L’Afrique du Sud (French). These guys know their stuff and it’s cool to listen to the game analysis in a foreign language even if you don’t understand everything.

3) http://www.marca.com/futbol/mundial_2010.html : Check out the Calendario : Los 64 partidos in the top right corner. Send it to your friends and wait for the props to roll in.

4) http://www.gazzetta.it/ : Gazetta dello Sport (Italy). The paper version is the color pink—how awkwardly cool is that? The English version is worth checking out online.

5) http://oglobo.globo.com/esportes/copa2010/ O Globo Esportes (Brazil).You might as well check out the sports section from the soccer crazed nation.