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5 Essential FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014 Reads

Today marks the beginning of the second week of the World Cup. And what a week it has been. Even though it’s only seven days into this tournament it’s already shaping up to be one of the most entertaining tournaments in recent memory.

Goals, red cards, penalties, upset, weird sprays, goal line technology and even more goals. That’s been The World Cup 2014 story so far.

APTOPIX Brazil Soccer WCup Croatia

 

Speaking of goals, during this World cup we have been spoilt rotten so far. They have been all kinds of goals. As of day 7 of this World Cup at least 50 goals had been scored. 5 of those coming in one thrilling encounter in which the defending champions Spain were totally annihilated by Spain. *chuckles*. The highlight of which was Robin Van Persie brilliant interpretation of The Flying Dutchman. I am pretty sure Robin Van Persie did it for the vine.

My other early contender for goal of the tournament is Tim Cahill’s sublime volley 70s after the Dutch had scored. The timing amnd the technique was perfect and it is a goal that is no doubt going straight into his career highlights reel. Tim Cahill, he from the land down under who has played in three world cups, the same as Ronaldo, Rooney and Messi and who has now got more World Cup goals than all three combined. Marinate on that.

But, the biggest story so far has to be the elimination of the once invincible La Roja, the Spanish national team. Who after only two matches of the World Cup are booking their flight home and leaving the World Cup trophy behind. It’s the end of an era. Come July 13th we will have a new World champion. Since circa 2008 the tika taka style of football synonymous with Spanish teams has reigned supreme. Many have tried and failed to combat it but it seems six years later the rest of the game has finally figured out how to neutralise its influence on the final result of games.

As an avid follower of the beautiful game I am not at all surprised at this. One thing I have learned is that the game is always evolving. There is no one way of winning football games. Spain have often been criticised for not having a plan B and they paid for it in the most humiliating of ways during this World Cup. Although I must hasten to add that I was completely blindsided by the manner in which things fell apart for the Spaniards. But hey, the game must go on.

Sidebar: My two dark horses for the tournament Chile and Belgium have impressed so far. Brazil my favourites are still on track and Ghana my African team despite being impressive in their game against USA are still to get going. So not not a bad tournament for me so far regarding my picks.

During the tournament I have hardly had time to get any writing done. If I am not watching the games I am voraciously reading any World Cup related articles I come across on the ‘internets’. And they are quite a few gems out there. I would like to share some of them today. The articles range from dealing with the racial complexities in Brazil to why some countries call it soccer and others football. The articles have helped me appreciate the world outside of the football pitch. In the process I have learned quite a few things I wouldn’t have otherwise. I hope by sharing these articles you too can also learn something new.

1. Neymar and The Disappearing Donkey – Africa is A Country

This is a fascinating and enlightening read on the complexities of race in Brazil. The article focuses on Neymar who like many Brazilians is mixed race and how issues of race in Brazil differ from the rest of the world. Make sure to read the comments section as well as they are even more insightful additions to this illuminating article.

You can read the full article here

2. The Burden of Being Messi – The New York Times

This articles looks at how despite dominating Eurpoean football and winning every club trophy and also being named World Player of the year a record four tImes, Lionel Messi arguably of the greatest players the world has ever seen is still not appreciated by his fellow Argentinians. The articles tries to answer the question Why? And the answers is summarised by this quote from a an Argentinian Taxi driver
“We’ve always liked how Messi plays,” the driver, Dario Torrisi, told me, “but we don’t know who he is.” Everybody throughout the Americas loves Diego Maradona, Torrisi said, but “it’s not the same for Messi.”

You can read the full article here

3. The Little Countries That Could – Foreign Policy

This article by Musa Okwonga looks at two countries regarded as dark horses for this World Cup in Belgium and Uruguay. Despite their relative small size and their history as geopolitical doormats they remain competitive on the footballing global stage. The author attributes much of their success not just to a passion for football but also to the inclusiveness of its culture. Uruguay for example had one a black player as their captain as far back in 1950.

You can read the full article here

4. Why Americans Call Soccer “Soccer”- The Atlantic

Looks at why different countries refer to the beautiful game as Soccer or Football respectively and the history the game was started.

You can read the full article here

5. Drogba Shows His Clout On and Off The Field – Al Jazeera

This articles looks at the role of athletes such Drogba and the legendary Brazilian Socrates as activists.

You can read the full article here

Bonus read: Soccer Fan’s Dream Job Has A Catch : No Peeking – The New York Times 

You can read the full article here

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Posted by on June 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Who Needs Batman When You Have Got Robin Van Persie?

I am a life long Manchester United. Well, technically since 1992. That feels like a life time ago though. Last season when we lost the league to Manchester City with Aguero’s goal with the last kick in the last minute, and the last second of the season I was absolutely gutted and heartbroken. Not so much by the fact that we had been beaten to the title on goal difference. No. It was the manner in which we lost that title. For all of a minute, it looked like what had seemed improbable at the start of the day had become a reality. We believed we were champions once again. Then in the most dramatic fashion possible we lost. It was cruel. That Aguero goal and the celebration, in which he gleefully ran around swinging mine and millions of other United heart’s over his head has haunted me since. I also remember the spilt screen shot of delirious Man City fans celebrating juxtapositioned against an image of Sir Alex Ferguson and Phil Jones looking dejected.

Thankfully that memory was exorcised from my memory’s museum last night. All thanks to a sensational hat trick from Man United’s talisman this season Robin Van Persie. His second goal on his way to his 33min hat trick was a master class in the art of volleying a football. It was audaciously awesome. You are more likely to see that playing FIFA on Playstation than in real life. Last night Robin Van Persie toasted his first ever league title in his 12 seasons as a professional footballer with a stupendous goal in the Theatre Of Dreams … Poetic justice. Now that is a memory that will be displayed front and centre in my memory’s museum.

Manchester United winning the league again despite what many might suggest has nothing to do with luck. It was a display of the character that is required to be champions consistently over a period of 20 years. It also is classic example of how to comeback from a setback. Legend has it that after that game on the trip back to Manchester SAF gave a rallying cry on the team bus. He told his players to remember the pain of that loss. He vowed that he will never let it happen again. In that moment of defeat he was already looking plotting how to wrestle the title back from the noisy neighbours. Boy did they not only respond but they channeled that pain into an absolutely dominant premier league campaign. In the process turning around a loss on goal difference to winning the league with 4 games to spare and a healthy 16 point margin. That was the first step towards reclaiming the title from the noisy neighbours.

His second and most inspired decision was snapping up the attacking talents of Robin Van Persie. This was in line with Sir Alex’s declaration that he would never lose the title again on goal difference. He said “The one thing I said to them at the start of the season was: ‘Make sure you do not lose on goal difference again’. Last season was the first time we’ve ever lost on goal difference. We’ve always had a superior goal difference to all our opponents. That was the point where I realised that was the challenge: our goal difference must be better than theirs across the road.” That plus the resolve to reclaim the title propelled United to a record 20th title in the English league. This was Sir Alex Ferguson 28th trophy as coach of Manchester United.Dethroned as champions six times in his Old Trafford rule, he has now brought the title straight back on five occasions. No wonder he has a whole stand in Old Trafford named after him as well as a statue erected outside the stadium. Legend.  Also a player who has been with him since his first triumph is 39 year old Ryan Giggs  who now has 13 Premier league titles the same number as Arsenal (Robin Van Persie’s former club)  have won in their entire 127 year history. Giggs was also the architect of two of Van Persie’s goals on the night.

On winning the tittle last night Sir Alex had this to say

“The players’ focus was fantastic this season. “They didn’t get themselves annoyed by what happened last season. A lot of teams – most teams in the country – would have melted. But not this bunch.

“They went on and did what Manchester United expects of them and raised the bar. You could go on and on and on about losing a title, and we’ve had to do that in my time. I think our consistency for the last 20 years has been unbelievable. It’s been a marvellous performance. We’ve got 84 points with four games left – fantastic.”

Now to the man of the moment Robin Van Persie.

"Fergies new Van" ... Robin Van Persie and Sir Alex Furgeson

Rob Van Persie and Sir Alex Ferguson

He has been a professional footballer for 12 seasons (8 of which he was starved of success at Arsenal). His time at Arsenal became untenable last season when he was the standout player of the league, winning the Player of the season award and the Golden Boot award for the top goal scorer in the league. That was only enough to single handedly lift Arsenal into 3rd place. Unfortunately that was not in line with his ambitions. Subsequently he made bold decisions to take his match winning talents to Manchester.  As in the movie Matrix, when Keanu Reeves’s Neo had the choice between the “red pill” and the “blue pill”, Robin Van Persie chose the former to become “The One”. He reportedly rejected a £300 000/week salary from Manchester City to “Listen to the little boy inside him. “A decision that didn’t go to well in the blue half of Manchester but one that was vindicated when he won his first ever  title  with the red half of Manchester. To Manchester United’s credit they did not hesitate in forking out £24 million for his services. With 34 league games played already this season Van Persie has been the only player to feature in all those games. In the process his goals have earned Manchester United 20 points on the way to their record 20th English title. In the immortal words of the legend that is Charlie Sheen “Winning!”

Robin has been no side kick. Robin Van Persie has been  “The One”. Who needs Batman when you have got Robin Van Persie?

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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