My World Cup Journal 2014

Below are some images and ideas culled from the World Cup tournament thus far in Brazil.  I don’t have anything brilliant to say, really, but just thought I’d post these as items from my FIFA-fever summer.

1401818102402.jpg-300x0The Sydney Morning Herald had a great piece about the Pakistani women who have been largely responsible for making the official “Brazuca” balls for the World Cup.  After the originally contracted Chinese company found itself unable to meet demand, FIFA hired the Forward Sports factory in  Sialkot, a town in eastern Pakistan. Given the issues in years past about child labor abuse in the sports supply industry, Forward is careful to verify the age of its employees. Furthermore, SMH notes,  “Ninety per cent of those working on the Brazuca ball are women, because they are more diligent and meticulous than their male colleagues, according to the Forward Sports CEO Khawaja Masood Aktar.” Pakistanis are, in general, far less interested in soccer than they are in cricket, and it should not go unnoticed that the monthly salary of a Forward worker (about $182) will barely cover the cost of one Brazuca ($172). Still, the image of thse Muslim women diligently working on the World Cup ball is certainly a striking one.

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baby.0_standard_500.0Improbably, Costa Rica won over Uruguay on Saturday. One of the key moments of the game was Joel Campbell’s equalizer at 54′, after which he, well, … as SB Nation put it, “Yup, he grabbed the ball, picked it up, shoved it under his shirt, and sucked his thumb like a baby. Why he was sucking his thumb like a baby while pregnant with baby is somewhat confusing, but never mind. He proceeded to hold the ball under his jersey for a good 15-20 seconds, running up and down the pitch like the proudest soon-to-be-mother-or-perhaps-father-we-don’t-really-know on the planet.” I’m not really sure what Campbell was trying to say with this particular display, but I will admit that it was certainly a memorable one.  To my mind, the image pairs well with the one above it, of the Pakistani woman lovingly wrapping the ball in its swaddling.

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The Dutch have much to be proud of after their 5-1 defeat of reigning world champions, Spain, and the Oranje fans turned out in full glory to cheer them on Friday.  It took me a lot more internet searching than I’ll admit to discover that the costume here, as a pilot, is a roundabout way of paying homage to the “Flying Dutchman.” If you saw the game, you will remember Robin van Persie’s header, the loveliest goal of the tournament so far, as another sort of Flying Dutchman. A former student of mine pointed out on Facebook, by the way, that the Wilhelmus–the Dutch national anthem–contains the line, “Den Coninck van Hispaengien heb ick altijt gheeert” (“I have always honoured the King of Spain”). No doubt this is why van Persie bowed his head as the goal went in!

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As has been widely reported, there is great animosity in Brazil to the World Cup, and demonstrations in the months leading up to the tournament have turned violent and bloody. As the Telegraph reported one protester as saying: “Our goal is symbolic. We don’t want to destroy or damage the stadium,” said Guilherme Boulos, head of the Homeless Workers Movement, whose activists gathered at Itaquerao Stadium on the eastern outskirts of Sao Paulo. “What we want are more rights for workers to have access to housing and to show the effects the Cup has brought to the poor.”  In the image above, the Flying Dutchman is holding a mocked-up verrsion of the World Cup; below, the Cup can be seen on the enormous Death’s head.  The Cup, in different costumes and in different contexts, can mean different things.

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My friend Adam was in the office today, and we talked about the US-Ghana game.  “We didn’t beat Ghana so much as we escaped them,” he said, noting too that it was “not a pretty game.” I couldn’t agree more.  So many of the teams– Brazil, Germany, Argentina, the Netherlands– pass beautifully, and come up with aesthetically pleasing, aggressive attacks. The US strategy seems to be to defend ferociously.  Clint Dempsey’s ridiculously early goal (32 seconds!) seems all too American as well.  Shock and awe, and then the long, long war of attrition.

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jose-holebas-sokratis-papastathopoulos-mark-geigerOnly a classicist would care about things like this, but Greece feature a defender named Sokratis Papastathopoulos. I wonder if he stopped to consider whether the unexamined life is not worth living as he got his yellow card for slide tackling a Columbian player?  I don’t know, but I might have to get a jersey. 

Likewise, the Brazilian keeper is Júlio César Soares de Espíndola.  Júlio César!  When his teammate Marcelo scored an own goal against Brazil in the opening game, did he mutter, Et tu Brute?  Again, I’m definitely getting one of those jerseys. (Postscript: the Júlio César jersey is in the mail!)

Julio-Cesar-Brazil-Pedro-Rodriguez-Spain

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Early in the Brazil-Croatia opening game, a free kick was called. My son began to tell me, “You know what coach taught us?  If you’re on the free kick line, you jump up and down and a little bit forward. If everyone does it, the ref can’t see you’re going ahead.”  He had just finished saying that when the ref pulled out an aerosol can of what? spray paint? shaving cream?  and laid down a white line not to be crossed.  “I’ve never seen that before,” my son remarked, and the TV commentators were saying the same thing.  According to a piece in Gizmodo, the white foam is called 9.15 Fair Play, and was developed by an Argentine journalist, Pablo C. Silva:

772554095931632274“In an amateur league in Argentina, he was consistently watching opposing players encroach on his precious 10 yards. The referee repeatedly did nothing, so he invented the spray to maintain the distance. As for what’s inside, it’s a unique mixture of water, butane, and surfactant, compressed into a small aerosol can. And while facsimiles have existed before, Silva’s patented spray was chosen to debut at the World Cup in Brazil.”  An article on yesterday’s New Yorker blog by Alan Burdick called “Cheating the Beautiful Game” throws an interesting light on this– “It’s tempting to say that cheating is more prevalent than ever, but it’s probably just more visible.”  He notes that there are a variety of ways to cheat in soccer, and a variety of purposes. “In effect, cheating was cheating if it led to a goal but not if it stopped one,” Burdick writes.  Moving a little bit forward on a free kick would seem allowable, in this sense, it’s also highly visible.

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Hassan RouhaniIt took 91 minutes to do it, but Argentina finally overcame Iran’s unbelievable defense today (Saturday, June 21).  I love the Albiceleste, but as the game went on, I was rooting for the underdog Iranian Team Melli.  The Telegraph reported yesterday: One joke circulating on social networking sites is that Iran – or ‘Team Melli’ as they are known – will be adopting an 11-0-5 formation in Belo Horizonte tomorrow. “All 11 players defend and the five holy saints play forward,” it says.  The five holy saints–the Panja Tan Pak (panja is Urdu for “five”; note the etymological connection to Greek pente)– refers to Mohammad, Ali, Fatema (the Prophet’s daughter, and Ali’s wife), Hasan, and Husain (Ali and Fatema’s sons).  Alas, in the first minute of stoppage time, Lionel Messi got by the Panjtan and the eleven Iranian defenders to put in an amazing goal.  It’s been a wonderful tournament, nonetheless, that even the Iranians are enjoying.  In the awesome picture above is President Hassan Rouhani in a track-suit at home watching Team Melli with a cup of tea.

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59116Concerning Messi’s goal against Iran, Argentinian goalkeeper Sergio Romero said, “I’m happy about my contribution but the only reason we won today thanks to El Enano, who rubbed the lamp and settled the match.”  Beyond the Arabian Nights reference, El Enano, “The Dwarf” is Messi’s nickname, in reference to his size and the growth hormones he was allegedly given as a youngster. The name is employed more viciously by Real Madrid fans, who taunt him as the leading player for arch-rival Barcelona. Messi Enano Tu Hijo Es De Cristiano, “Messi, You Dwarf, Your Son is Cristiano’s.”

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2014-June-22-14-10-20It’s a staged photo, sure, but the image of ESPN reporter Jeremy Schaap with cicadas on his shoulder and microphone is hilarious … and revealing too. Manaus is really and truly in the jungle. An AP article earlier in the month had noted that the Brazilian rainforest is full of exotic creatures, including the “flying cobra cicada,” which local superstition says can cause people’s hands to rot upon contact. They helpfully add, Experts agree there’s no scientific basis behind the superstition and insist there’s little risk to visitors. 

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article-2664700-1EFFFCD200000578-301_634x446Tawdriest image from this year’s World Cup?  Yeah, that’s easy. The Daily Mail ran a story on Cristiano Ronaldo on Saturday (June 21th) entitled “Cristiano Ronaldo is being stalked by Miss Bumbum and a giant Donald Duck and has a worrying knee injury – is it all too much for the Portugal star?” with the graphic to the right.  Meanwhile, the New York Times had a piece about a Ghananian witch doctor who cursed CR7‘s knees.

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article-2665819-1F07BC3E00000578-847_634x672The zig-zag haircut Ronaldo was sporting for the US game was the source of much ridicule on the Interwebs. “What’s that supposed to be, a 7 pretending to be a lightning flash, you loser?” etc. Then a story spread that the pattern as a tribute to the scar on the head of a boy whose $80+K brain surgery the Real Madrid superstar paid for last year, “according to a so-far unconfirmed story on Twitter,” the Guardian reports.  The BBC reports today (June 26) that the story has been re-tweeted 50,000 times. But is it true?  Is Ronaldo a big-hearted philanthropist or an unbearable Eurofashionista?  Should we all be ashamed of ourselves for mocking him, when he was in fact raising awareness about a serious issue?  Do we all owe CR7 an apology?  Say it ain’t so.

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 BITE-master675So, in today’s Uruguay-Italy game (Tuesday, June 23), Luis Suárez evidently *bit* Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini who shows his shoulder, on the left. What to say? That’s outrageous, and he’s done it twice before in his professional career, yet there was no red card, or yellow card, or penalty–the ref “didn’t see.”   It’s hard to know what to do with that information. Is biting a personal vice of Suárez’s? A professional risk of soccer?  Evidence of the enormous pressure put on players to succeed?  The Boston Globe ran a story entitled, “From Mike Tyson to Luis Suarez, a look at famous sports bites,” with a big picture of Evander Holyfield’s ear being examined by an official.  (Indeed, Holyfield tweeted after the Suárez bite, “I guess any part of the body is up for eating.”)  As has been reported, Chiellini said, “Suárez is a sneak, and he gets away with it because FIFA wants their stars to play in the World Cup.”  That’s probably true– but FIFA will be investigating, and no doubt the bad publicity will force some action out of them.  In 2010, there was a 7-game suspension levied against Suárez; in 2013, it was 10 games; I suspect we will not see Dracula in the next round, though Uruguay moves on up.

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Update, June 26. The Guardian reports: “The Uruguayan FA also claims that images of bite marks on Chiellini’s shoulder had been Photoshopped to make them appear worse than they were.”  Apparently executives from Suarez’s sponsor, Adidas, have flown to Rio for crisis talks, too.  Bad news for Bite Boy.  Meanwhile tourists are having fun posing in front of an Adidas ad of Suarez.

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BrBqBjrIUAEJJVeYeah, so FIFA has suspended Suárez for nine matches and banned him for four months from any football-related activity. This is a real kick in the teeth for Liverpool, his professional team, notes the Telegraph, which also remarks, “Video technology, assisting referees, is surely closer after the latest failure by an official to spot an offence of such magnitude.” Meanwhile, Will Ferrell, introduced at a USA party in Recife last night as a replacement for Jozy Altidore, tells the cheering crowd that, while he’s not really in shape, he will bite all the German players if necessary.

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Between  matches, my son and I have been playing badminton in the yard, all the while  peppering our games with references to the World Cup.  There have been many flops, calls for red cards, dancing and celebrations after points, etc. Today, though, Daniel claimed that the birdy I served had bitten him, and lowered the shirt on his shoulder in perfect imitation of Giorgio Chiellini.  He has called for an investigation and my suspension from the game.  I can’t believe he’s making such a big deal out of it.

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Conservative columnist Ann Coulter has written a column lambasting American interest in the World Cup as a “sign of moral decay.”  It’s full of her trademark bile, and contains gems like: In soccer, the blame is dispersed and almost no one scores anyway. There are no heroes, no losers, no accountability, and no child’s fragile self-esteem is bruised. There’s a reason perpetually alarmed women are called “soccer moms,” not “football moms.” Also this, Baseball and basketball present a constant threat of personal disgrace. In hockey, there are three or four fights a game — and it’s not a stroll on beach to be on ice with a puck flying around at 100 miles per hour. After a football game, ambulances carry off the wounded. After a soccer game, every player gets a ribbon and a juice box. And of course, No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer. One can only hope that, in addition to learning English, these new Americans will drop their soccer fetish with time. So, some of this is funny, I must admit, but truthfully, I wonder what took her so long to write this–it’s a perfectly predictable piece, a zig when the rest of the country’s zagging.  Good luck with your ressentiment, Ann. And it’s not as if she is alone in her resistance to o jogo bonito:  Boston Globe sportswriter Dan Shaughnessy, whom I have admired since reading his Curse of the Bambino, has been carping about soccer for decades now, most recently in a column right before the US-Portugal game: If you don’t like soccer the Futbol Moonies will insist that you are an aging, unhip, xenophobic, uncultured dolt. And, Fifty years ago American schoolchildren were taught the metric system and told that one day we would be calculating all of our vital stats in meters and liters. No more inches, feet, yards, and pounds. We were going to catch up to speed with the rest of the world. It never happened. We are still 6 feet 1 inch and weigh 200 pounds. And a lot of us still reject soccer as a mainstream professional spectator sport.  Eh, haters gonna hate.

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_75874399_lazeronakinfeevAs can be seen in the image to the left from the BBC, Russian goalkeeper, Igor Akinfeev, may have been the victim of unethical crowd activity in the game against Algeria which eliminated them. As the Russian coach said, “The goalkeeper was unable to do his job. The laser was in his face. It is not an excuse. You can see in the footage.”  Earlier in the tournament, Akinfeev had mishandled a shot from South Korea which one site called “one of the biggest blunders of the World Cup so far,” a poor save bobbled into the net.  Poor Akinfeev–the laser on the forehead just makes him seem even more like George Constanza.

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BrNv_6DIQAAD-MgHard not to be amused by the front page before of Brazil’s Meia Hora today’s Brazil-Chile (June 28) with listing of flight times back to Santiago (from SBNation). It almost did not end up so funny, though, as  Brazil and Chile went to penalties.  The cameras caught Júlio César beforehand in tears from stress.

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During the heartbreaking US-Belgium game (July 1), announcer Ian Darke noted that the Americans might need “a floodlight robbery” to win.  My sons instantly asked me what he meant by that, and I had to admit I’d never heard it before.  A little online sleuthing turned this up story on the Liverpool Echo a few years ago: IT WAS a classic case of floodlight robbery. … It wasn’t just Newcastle’s predator Demba Ba that the Blues had to contend with last night, but an officiating team who seemed hell-bent on denying them at all costs. So the phrase “floodlight robbery” is apparently modelled after “daylight robbery” (with the clever substitution of floodlights), itself meaning a theft undertaken not under the cover of night but in an open and overt fashion. Whether this is indeed to be further traced to the Window Tax of the 1600s is open for debate, I think

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brazil-ap-0709-netBrazil’s loss to Germany in the semifinals yesterday (July 7th)–what to call it? A beatdown, a humiliation, a catastrophe? And yet, we should have seen it coming.  The image above of Júlio César in tears was a foreshadowing of this very moment. As I wrote a Brazlian friend of mine on Facebook, “It’s hard to overestimate the pressure the Seleção were under. Not just the enormous anxiety of the game, but the strong sense that they *had* to win to justify the expense of the World Cup to the country’s many protesters. Crushing, unmeetable expectations, and a meltdown in the face of it all.”  AP’s photo above of Fernando Luiz Roza in his own team’s goal captures the situation well. Am I wrong to think of Aeschylus’s Agamemnon? Most revered Zeus and you, our beloved Night, splendidly adorned, you who gave us the great honour of victory; you who has cast a vast, dark and impenetrable net around the towers of Troy so that neither young nor old can escape the bitterness of slavery and the all-destructive doom.  Woe to the victors who become the vanquished.

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Yeah, so the Júlio César jersey arrived today, the day after the Brazilian 7-1 loss to Germany.  Should I still wear it?  He’s clearly the most disgraced keeper in the world right now. But I feel like I’d be stabbing him in the back if I didn’t … harharhar.

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About Uncomely and Broken

I am a classicist in Sewanee, Tennessee.
This entry was posted in Classics, Emblems, England, Family, Italy, Language & Etymology, Poetry, Sports & Games, Time. Bookmark the permalink.

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