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Tag Archives: soccer

The Brain and the Ball #WC2014

Almaty, Kazakhstan 

The World Cup is over. The German perfect machine won, the pretentious teams that thought their name would win for them lost, and teams who bet on their country’s youth fared well. But here I briefly look at my favorite players. 

I wasn’t that good at playing football/soccer/calcio: not so fast, not so good at handling the ball, with bad eyesight… what made me almost a provincial champion half-my-age ago, then? Apart from my monstrous team, my brain. I knew where to be in the pitch, read my opponents well, and loved to break their game, get the ball and pass it to my more talented teammates. That’s why I can get excited for Argentina-Netherlands 0-0, a semifinal that excited 1% of the watchers, while the other 99% complained it didn’t show as many goals as Brazil-Germany 1-7.”Boring” they say, I say “genius”. If three players aren’t that good for one night (Van Persie, Higuaín, Agüero, I’m talking to you), it doesn’t mean that the other 19 on the pitch didn’t play well or weren’t exciting.

What  fascinates me is their ability to read the game and to change it through their intelligence, rather than their talent. That’s why in this list you will not see Messi, Robben, James Rodriguez, Ochoa, Götze, Neymar, Sanchez, or Di María (the latest being the best player I’ve seen in 2014) – all of them are intelligent players, but their skills are disproportionate with respect. You will see through Benzema‘s short hair which were made stand on hand by Neuer, look into Mascherano‘s wide eyes, get scared by Vlaar and Lahm‘s eyebrows, and get yelled at by Müller. The formation I created represents my selection of players who would play for a sort of “Clever FC”, which could not be beaten by a corresponding selection of the most-valued players in activity today. Germany demonstrated it: whatever name is on your jersey, you will be destroyed by our team’s football intelligence. Rojo and Darmian‘s great performances demonstrated that even young players can be tidy and cunning. Pirlo is probably growing so much hair because he wants to hide all the cerebral matter that is overflowing his cranium. Hummels is one of the best defenders of our time, Kuyt and Shaqiri run more than is humanly possible, but don’t get tired because they run with a clear idea in mind. Lavezzi is above Di María in this one because the latter needs to learn from the former about teamwork. A special mention goes to Argentina’s Perez, you’ll see what I mean in the nearest future.


My very own "Clever FC" for the 2014 World Cup

My very own “Clever FC” for the 2014 World Cup



Giarre, Italy

I haven’t posted a thing in a while, mostly because of my crazy schedule for the last 45 days. Today it’s raining and I have to do several other things, so here I am posting a very French story. In other news, I have updated my list of publications in English and Italiano.

So, a French calcio-player that I never liked (Anelka) celebrates a goal with a gesture invented 4 years ago by an Anti-Zionist (and a little too far right) French comedian, which was quickly linked to anti-*semitic* behavior. French president (Social Democrat) bursts: “We must approve and support the government and the interior minister in the face of words or actions whose anti-Semitic character cannot be denied,” Hollande told journalists during a visit to Saudi Arabia.

In this instance, I find myself on the side of the player and the comedian. When I first read the news, the gesture was characterized as anti-semite on the title and anti-zionist in the body of the articles. Which goes to say how well educated journalists are nowadays. However, Jewish (and also Zionist) associations started shouting around that this behavior was inadmissible. The president did the same, from his very socialist political position and from his visit to the very democratic country of Saudi Arabia [I think I had an overdose of sarcasm here].

How can a self-declared revolutionary socialist stand by a far-right (so the papers say) comedian who invents a stupid gesture that looks like (with a bit of imagination) a reverse Nazi salute? Because if it’s an anti-zionist gesture, it is as another person said in a video: “You the Zionists who using the Holocaust to terrorize us and to prevent us from criticizing a neo nazi state that is the state of current Israel, this manipulation does not work anymore, that’s what it means”.

“But they do those gestures at Holocaust remembrance sites”, they say. Well, that might be offensive, but can also be a rupture with the self-censorship that refrains from saying that what was wrong then is wrong now. There cannot be a double-standard with the subject who, alas, created the first standard. The suppression of Arabs, the colonization of their land, and the increasingly uncompromising stance in international relations by the Israeli leadership clearly define who’s far-right and who’s against them.

Then again, this could be just a cover to justify Nazi behavior and anti-semitic hatred in Europe (would they accuse Israel of Nazi behavior, though? I’m not sure). But wasn’t it a (Communist) Frenchman who warned of the existential glitch in the personality of Jews that could turn them into involuntary anti-semites?

Homeless + off a luggage + on the move = not writing

Glasgow, UK

Since my last post, I’ve been in three countries, slept in a few airplanes and many beds, used a swimsuit and a windproof coat. My feet were wet on the beach, my feet are wet in the rain. Still hunting for a flat here in Glasgow.

I’ll be back once things get sorted out.

There’s only one pressing task that I can do in the meantime: I need to switch from “soccer” to “football”. Not an easy task, at least speech-wise.

Guid cheerio the nou!


SF (Ingleside)

As my birthday was approaching, I had the opportunity to talk about my professional development in soccer – or “calcio”, as I prefer to call it – with a few growing companies.

The typical American stress on statistics and quantitative data tends to foster individualist strategies within such a team-based sport. Unlike many other sports in the U.S., soccer is one of the least dense (number of players over playing surface) and team-play is key. Soccer is the sport in which one player, when not supported by the team, cannot be consistently decisive. Journalistic obsessions with nominating MVPs, best players, top scorers is unnecessary for the game and fruitful for marketing.

In this case, a comparison might come handy. The NBA is arguably the most individualistic sport in the United States (OK Toronto, North America) and one of the biggest sports market in the world. However, team-play is key. Looking at statistics at this point in the final series, one can infer that LeBron James and Shawn Marion  have had very similar performances (points, rebounds, FTAs). Nonetheless, Jason Kidd could be more decisive than Dwaine Wade even without scoring (game 4) and Dallas’ defensive effort is not well depicted by the sheer number of field goals allowed. Game 5 reinforced my point as James scored a triple-double, proving to be a very talented player once again, but his team was beaten in the final rush by ageing opponents.

A similar stats-bias occurs in calcio. When I used to take notes of matches, I would record fouls and shoots… but to what purpose? What can you tell by such information?

The value of the individual player is substantiated by team work. And notwithstanding the anglo-american mania for stats, soccer remains a qualitative sport. The evaluation is to be based on qualities such as vision of the game, situation-reading capabilites, more than just technical skills. No coach likes a circus juggler on a team.

Again, the cleavage is formed between the two sides of the Western world. Soccer is a European sport more than a – Northern – American one. This might help explain why BBVA (a Spanish – oops, Basque – bank, sponsor of the NBA) centers its commercials on team-play.

The social value of soccer as a team sport is hardly comparable to any other sport. Like all other games it carries a “random component” that renders it unpredictable. However, it enhances a peculiar interaction, as the individual players involved are fully dependent on the performance of the whole team. Solidarity, cooperation, and mutual respect are common values that one can witness during the games.

I’ll leave it here, but more posts will be dedicated al gioco più bello.