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Tag: soccer

And then there were six

Saturday, 7 July, 2018

The tournament that began on 14 June with 32 teams is nearing its end on 15 July, but before we reach to the World Cup Final the quarter finals have to be sorted and they began yesterday and finish today. First, a recap.

True to our prediction, France defeated Uruguay in what was an uninspiring affair marked by the absence of the South American’s talismanic striker Cavani and a terrible error by their keeper, Muslera. Adios, Uruguay! What we didn’t predict, however, was Belgium beating Brazil. Big shock, that. The story, here, too, was very much one of striker and keeper, with the Brazilian star Neymar being denied decisively by the Belgian goaltender Courtois. Adeus, Seleção!

And, now, to today’s quarter finals. Candidates: England, Sweden, Croatia and Russia.

England vs. Sweden, Samara. Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (The Netherlands). It’s Captain Kane against the Nordic Giants. The big backs of Sweden are specialists in ensuring that goals are not given away and Harry Kane is all about bagging goals. So, can England figure out a way past the obstacle course, or are they doomed to run and run against the yellow-blue wall until exhausted? On the way to this appointment in Samara, England survived Colombia, while Sweden subdued Switzerland. Both games gave pundits plenty to chew on and our conclusion is that it will be tactical and it will be tough, but football will out. Verdict: England by a foot.

Croatia vs. Russia, Sochi. Referee: Sandro Ricci (Brazil). Croatia have the talent but Russia have the drugs, as one wag put it. The Croats beat Nigeria 2-0, thrashed Argentina 3-0, and crafted a 2-1 win over Iceland to clinch first place in Group D. But they looked ragged grinding out a 1-1 draw with Denmark, to force the game to extra-time and penalties. Despite some wonderful saves by Kasper Schmeichel, Croatia pulled off the win and now face the home side. Anything could happen in the heat and humidity of Sochi. Verdict: Croatia by an inch.

World Cup England


World-class World Cup trolling by @qatar

Thursday, 14 June, 2018

Background: Saudi Arabia claims Qatar is a sponsor of extremist political movements in the Middle East, including Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. Qatar denies the charges and accuses the Saudis of attempting to curtail its sovereignty. It’s a nasty feud and the pot is simmering, as they say.

Today’s World Cup opener between Russia and Saudi Arabia offered Qatar Airways a golden opportunity to indulge in some world-class trolling of the neighbors and the state-owned carrier didn’t miss the open goal in Moscow.

World Cup


Hodgson’s choices (end)

Tuesday, 28 June, 2016 0 Comments

This is the third and final post in a series about the choices made by the England manager Roy Hodgson during the course of his team’s erratic odyssey through the Euro 2016 tournament, from the opening shambles against Russia to last night’s humiliation at the hands of gallant Iceland. The post dated 12 June was scathing, while that of 17 June was positive, mainly. “Later, he brought on the gifted young Marcus Rashford,” we noted on 17 June and last night Hodgson waited until the 86th minute to take off a fatigued Wayne Rooney and replace him with the dynamic Rashford. Too late.

It wasn’t all the manager’s fault, of course. Many of his players served up truly shabby performances. Harry Kane, Eric Dier and Joe Hart, were especially awful throughout.

Roy Hodgson made baffling, damaging, wrong choices from the start to the finish of England’s tournament and must now make the right one. He’s yesterday’s man.

UPDATE: Roy Hodgson resigns after England lose to Iceland


Pelé in Tribeca

Friday, 22 April, 2016 0 Comments

Highlight of tomorrow’s Tribeca Film Festival will be the screening of Pelé: Birth of a Legend, a biopic about the rise of the great footballer, who led Brazil to three World Cup wins. It is written and directed by Jeff and Michael Zimbalist, who made The Two Escobars, a superb film about the Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and the Colombian footballer Andres Escobar. Jeff Zimblast also co-directed Favela Rising, which focuses on the work of Anderson Sá, a former drug trafficker who established the AfroReggae movement in one of Rio de Janeiro’s worst slums, Vigario Geral.


FIFA officials were “Russia’s people”

Friday, 5 June, 2015 0 Comments

The FIFA scandal is breaking news, as they say, so anything published on 29 May looks decidedly old by now. Still, Putin and the FIFA scandal by Kadri Liik for the European Council on Foreign Relations offers useful background and insight on how corruption has become “a constituent pillar of the system” in FIFA/Russia: “If a free press in the West is a means by which societies can control their elites and rulers, then in Russia corruption is the means by which the Kremlin can control the elites as well as societies. It is used in an almost institutionalized manner.”

And this brings us to Blatter and Putin, two sides of a very bent coin. Snippet:

“This system explains why Putin reacted to the FIFA scandal as he did. It is hard to say whether Russia bribed FIFA; however it is evident that an implicit but very clear mutual understanding was established between Russia’s and FIFA’s leadership. So for the purposes of the situation, FIFA officials were ‘Russia’s people,’ and Western authorities had launched an attack on them. For Putin, that means effectively an attack on Russia — an attempt to impose alien rules if not exactly within Russia’s jurisdictional boundaries, then at least in the sphere where rules established by Russia carry the day.”

The FIFA scandal is much bigger than football. It is now about international relations. Putin was unable to save Sepp Blatter and that sends a chilling message to those who want to believe that America no longer carries a big stick. You know all that Kremlin guff that gushes out of the Russia Today sewer? It sounds far less convincing now.


Tim Roth as Blatter! Sam Neill as Havelange!

Tuesday, 2 June, 2015 0 Comments

Oh, the timing! Exquisite. United Passions, a French drama about the history of FIFA, with Tim Roth as the corrupt Sepp Blatter, Sam Neill as the corrupt João Havelange and the corrupt corpulent Gérard Depardieu as the organization’s longest–serving president, Jules Rimet, is making news just as its main character is the news.

This rubbish was 90 percent funded by FIFA, cost an obscene $27 million to make and was directed, to his eternal shame, by Frederic Auburtin. The film was released in Serbia only in June last year and deserved the singular honour, but in light of recent events, the time has come to spread its absurdist message beyond the Balkans.


Visca el Barça vs. mia san mia on the second screen

Tuesday, 12 May, 2015 0 Comments

A number of initiatives have been started in recent years to encourage more women to learn about computing, such as Ada Developers Academy, and Google, for its part, says it has given more than $40 million to organizations working to bring computer science education to girls. The reality, though, is that tech is still very much a man’s, man’s world and this impression was reinforced last week at the EIT Innovation Forum in Budapest, where Emanuela Zaccone was the only female nominee for the 2015 Awards.

Zaccone is the co-founder of TOK.tv, a platform that lets users chat to their friends while watching a game, such as tomorrow night’s Champions League semi-final between Juventus and Real Madrid. As it happens, the two teams are TOK.tv partners and Zaccone pitches her second screen play as a win-win for both sides as their fans, scattered around the world, can sit on the same virtual couch during a match and the clubs can monetize this engagement. And what about tonight’s Barcelona vs. Bayern Munich game, which pits the Catalan Visca el Barça against the Bavarian mia san mia cultures? Zaccone smiles. “We’re talking,” she says. The two teams are global players in every sense of the term and their joint presence on the TOK.tv platform would add considerably to its reach.

Back in 2007, when Emanuela Zaccone was working on her PhD thesis at the University of Nottingham, she had a hunch that a combination of social media streams and audio-visual content would lead to to new forms of audience participation in entertainment. She was right. From her vantage point in Rome today and in her role as Social Media Strategist at TOK.tv, she’s proving that a woman can transform a man’s game.

Emanuela Zaccone


Revolutionary: Watching snow fall

Thursday, 4 December, 2014 0 Comments

In the world of the English idiom, if an activity is like watching grass grow or paint dry, it’s really boring. Watching snow fall is not boring, however, if the place is Bucharest and the year is 1988. Back then, Romania was in the final phase of Nicolae Ceauşescu’s grim Stalinist rule and the most ordinary events assumed extraordinary significance. One of these events was a football match on 3 December between two Bucharest rival teams, Steaua, the Army team, hand-picked by Valentin Ceauşescu, son of the dictator, and Dinamo, the side representing the dreaded Securitate, the secret police.

Despite the wintry conditions, referee Adrian Porumboiu decided that the game should go ahead and it was filmed in low-tech style by three TV cameras. When fouls and fights took place, the director discretely panned over the crowd, almost invisible behind the snow descending in curtains. The film of the game is now a film titled Al doilea joc (The Second Game) and the director is Corneliu Porumboiu, son of the match referee.

The two re-watched the match together, some 25 years later and the father-and-son commentary on the grainy, uncut VHS is layered with meaning. The father can sense the impending national turmoil, the son muses on the archaic poetry of the scene and the whole assumes an extra relevance when one reads about the personality cult and corruption that dominate FIFA, football’s governing body today.


Italy 2 : England 1

Sunday, 15 June, 2014 0 Comments

For commentary on the after-match inquest, let’s turn to Britain’s poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy.

The Shirt

Afterwards, I found him alone at the bar
and asked him what went wrong. It’s the shirt,
he said. When I pull it on it hangs on my back

like a shroud, or a poisoned jerkin from Grimm
seeping its curse onto my skin, the worst tattoo.

I shower and shave before I shrug on the shirt,
smell like a dream; but the shirt sours my scent

with the sweat and stink of fear. It’s got my number.
I poured him another shot. Speak on, my son. He did.
I’ve wanted to sport the shirt since I was a kid,

but now when I do it makes me sick, weak, paranoid.

All night above the team hotel, the moon is the ball

in a penalty kick. Tens of thousands of fierce stars

are booing me. A screech owl is the referee.

The wind’s a crowd, forty years long, bawling a filthy song

about my Wag. It’s the bloody shirt! He started to blub
like a big girl’s blouse and I felt a fleeting pity.
Don’t cry, I said, at the end of the day you’ll be back

on 100K a week and playing for City.


Kicking off the World Cup with an exoskeleton

Thursday, 12 June, 2014 0 Comments

This evening in Sao Paulo, a paralyzed teenager wearing an exoskeleton will walk onto a football field and kick a ball to ceremonially mark the beginning of the World Cup. The technology has been developed the Walk Again project, which is run by a group of scientists and engineers drawn from research institutes throughout the world — the Duke University Center for Neuroengineering, the Technical University of Munich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, the University of California, Davis, the University of Kentucky, and the Duke immersive Virtual Environment — and led by the Brazilian neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis.

The goal is a brain-machine interface controlled by a person’s thoughts. The vision is of a world without wheelchairs in which the quality of life for the disabled would grow dramatically. Let the World Cup begin!

World Cup kick off


Gli Azzurri and Il Canto degli Italiani

Wednesday, 11 June, 2014 0 Comments

Marco Verratti, Andrea Pirlo, Mario Balotelli, Gigi Buffon, Lorenzo Insigne… Italy fans work the national squad into the lyrics of the country’s national anthem: Il Canto degli Italiani. Next stop: The Arena da Amazonia in Manaus.