World Cup: Soccer by another name - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

World Cup: Soccer by another name

USA in white against Belgium. Tim Howard prepares to make one of 16 saves.
(YouTube video)

Like many Americans, you’re probably following the World Cup action closely … if you happen to be watching Sports Center or maybe your nightly news. You catch all the important highlights: Which countries made it out of the round of stupid (England didn’t), which players were faking tackles, who took a bite out of who … it’s all there: the drama of world Cup Football.

Trust San Diego Chargers fans when they tell you a Peyton Manning-led team can make up a 10-point difference in less than 14 minutes. (Photo is screen shot from YouTube video)

Trust San Diego Chargers fans when they tell you a Peyton Manning-led team can make up a 10-point difference in less than 14 minutes.

Football? That’s what they call it — everywhere but in the U.S. Don’t those people know nuthin’? It’s soccer! Football is where these eleven guys line up against those eleven guys and then some guy yells, “OMAHA — HUT” and the 22 guys get busy cracking each other’s skulls.

We in the U.S. invented football …

So, this year the World Cup is being held in Brasil …

Wait, wait, wait wait! Brasil? No, it’s spelled B-R-A-Z-I-L. These effin’ foreigners, I tell ya, they ain’t got anything right in this World Cup thing so far. Don’t know why, but the rest of the world chooses to spell Brazil incorrectly, so that’s another annoyance we ’Mericans have to put up with to watch our team — the most exceptional team in the World Cup ever — dominate the sport of football … err … soccer.

England, By the by, got knocked out of the Round of Stupid … err … the Group of Death. The first round of the tournament if you’re not sure what the hell that means. Apparently there were more good teams playing than spots available in the round of 16, so that first round is the “Group of Death.” I tell ya, the people who made this stuff up are a bunch of drama queens.

Anyway, the Limeys were out after the first round and it’s fitting because this week the U.S. celebrates its 238th birthday. As you may recall … and maybe you don’t … we kicked British ass from April 1775 to September 1783 to win our independence from the British Crown in what we now call the Revolutionary War. On July 4, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was ratified and voila: The birth of a nation.

U.S. fans at the World Cup in Brasil. (Photo is screen shot from YouTube video)

U.S. fans at the World Cup in Brasil.

So once again the Brits came to the Americas looking for victory — and were sent home in the Round of Stupid … err, Group of Death. The Brits are our allies now and that’s a good thing. They seem to have the best comedians lately. My friends Eric and Angela are actually visiting England and France right now. Eric has the temperament to be the perfect ugly American, but Angela probably won’t let him … I should have gone to Europe with Eric.

The thing is, England has the reputation for being complete hooligans when it comes to football; the fans are famous for getting into huge brawls over … I don’t know, beer?

Apparently though that happens throughout the world. So much so that the government of Brazil … Brasil … banned all alcohol sales at all soccer matches … football matches.

But, in order to host the World CUP Brasil had to bow to FIFA demands and make alcohol sales legal for all the matches. As FIFA General Secretary, Jerome Valck put it, “Alcoholic drinks are part of the FIFA World Cup, so we’re going to have them. Excuse me if I sound a bit arrogant but that’s something we won’t negotiate.”

Hell yeah, you tell’em Jerome. If World Cup fans want to converge on Brasil, drink way too much and act like snot-slinging hooligans, well then by god they will.

I hope Brasil invested in a few more alternate fuel ambulances for the World Cup ’cause they’re gonna need’em.

One sign says, “FIFA GO HOME.” Protestors in São Paulo, Brasil. (Photo is screen shot from YouTube video)

One sign says, “FIFA GO HOME.” Protestors in São Paulo, Brasil.

That isn’t even the biggest of Brasil’s problems. The country’s citizens have been protesting. Brasil has one of the worst economies in the world and the income inequality is so stark the U.S. pales in comparison.

To build all these football palaces, many of which will only be used for the World Cup, Brazil had to bulldoze thousands of homes, displacing tens of thousands of Brazilian families from traditional favelas, into what most people describe as refugee camps. Favelas are slums, some of the dirtiest, most disease-infested places on Earth, so how bad does it get if the places where the displaced are living are worse than the favelas?

Every night for weeks now protestors have been clashing with the police. Many have been injured and some have been killed.

In São Paulo, Brasil, riots broke out just as a match between England and Uruguay was ending; the city center was a war zone for five hours. Rioters even threw powerful firecrackers into a bar filled with English World Cup fans. Of course there were burning barricades and destroyed businesses, including a Mercedes dealership.

But this is the World Cup so the rioting isn’t locals only. The Argentinians apparently are Brasil’s archrivals when it comes to football. The Argentina fans just hopped on brightly colored buses and arrived in Brasil to cheer on their team. And give their hosts shit over the controversies surrounding the World Cup. The Argentinians even have a taunting song they sing during games and when clashing with Brazilian police. The lyrics include, “Brazil, tell me how it feels, to be bossed around in your own home.” And “Maradona is greater than Pelé.”

Them’s fightin’ words, seriously.

Argentina won’t play Brasil just yet. Argentina’s next opponent will be Belgium and getting past the Belgians won’t be an easy task. Just ask the USA team. Tuesday Team USA took the pitch against the Belgians and lost, 2-1.

  • Team USA in white, Belgium in red, Tim Howard in black. (Photo is screen shot from YouTube video)

    USA in white, Belgium in red, Tim Howard in black.

    Q: Why is it called a pitch?

  • A: Because back in the day players would mark off the soccer … err, football field with stakes, like one would do when pitching a tent. Around 1900 football enthusiasts just started calling the field “the pitch.” Get it? In ’Merican football, it’s the field, got it?

Team USA wasn’t really predicted to make it out of the Group of Death. USA hasn’t been a soccer powerhouse … in like, forever?

In 1930 Team USA finished third, after beating Uruguay and, yep, Belgium. They lost to … yep, Argentina.

Team USA was ranked #13 before the World Cup and their first opponent was Ghana, a team that was supposed to beat Team USA. It ended with a USA win, 2-1. Their second game was against Portugal. Surely the Portuguese would beat the Americans, but the game ended in a tie. For their third game in the first round, Team USA faced Germany and much hay was made of the fact that eight US players were born and raised in Germany, as children of US service members stationed there.

USA’s coach, Juergen Klinsmann, is German. That didn’t help much, the German team won, 1-0.

So Team USA found its way into the Round of 16, facing Belgium, a team with much bigger players. Team USA held it’s own for the regular time, but when the game rolled into “extra time,” the Belgians scored two goals. The Americans were able to score a goal, but when time was up, Belgium won the opportunity to meet Argentina in the Round of Eight.

Team USA goalie Tim Howard became the hero of America with his record-setting 16 saves in a match, most in World Cup history.

Maybe if team USA hired models to parade around in body paint it would do better in the tournament. (Photo is screen shot from YouTube video)

Maybe if team USA hired models to parade around in body paint it would do better in the tournament.

One analyst said, after Team USA lost to Belgium, if U.S. teams wanted to become worthy of winning a World Cup, they would have to improve on being “dishonest” on the field, i.e., learn how to fake tackles and injuries.  What?

Most Americans have no clue how soccer is played; other than people run around a field — the pitch — kicking a ball, trying to get it into a net protected by the other team’s goalie. They might know what constitutes an “offsides” call (not many though), but if you ask them to describe Team USA’s strategy against Ghana for instance they (and me) haven’t a clue.

We have good knowledge of why baseball teams shift on the field for certain players or why a .300 power hitter might bunt, but we don’t know one defensive or offensive strategy from another when it comes to soccer. Our kids play it, but … eh … maybe we should be teaching them from an early age how to fake being tackled.

So, this “coverage” of the World Cup is lackluster at best, sparked mainly by all the faking of tackles and injuries, one soccer star biting his opponent; the rampant and tolerated racism and the demonstrations by Brazilians who have been opposed to the World Cup being held in their country.

Most Brazilians won’t benefit in any way from the tournament being in their country, especially not the poor people displaced to make way for the stadiums and other detritus generated by such a world-wide event. Brasil won’t even benefit from it, other than prestige, which is why the Brazilian people are protesting. It is costing Brasil billions to host the World Cup, money that could be better spent for the citizens of Brasil; better housing, jobs, safer streets — many things that could improve the lives of millions in Brasil.

Graffiti on a building in São Paulo, Brasil. (Photo is screen shot from YouTube video)

Graffiti on a building in São Paulo, Brasil.

Who makes money on the World Cup? FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association), the governing body. All those advertising dollars — hundreds of millions from around the world — go into the bank accounts of FIFA. The host countries don’t see any of it.

Then there is this: FIFA is alleged to be the most corrupt sports organization in the world. Investigative reporter Andrew Jennings wrote a book about the corruption, Foul! The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote-Rigging and Ticket Scandals (Harper Collins) and then the BBC broadcast two news specials about the allegations.

According to the allegations, prospective host nations have to agree to certain terms that are supposed to be kept private during the bidding process. Things like restricting the rights of workers and blanket tax exemption for FIFA and its sponsors. The Netherlands was so offended by the “rules” the country went public, thereby killing their bid to host the 2018 World Cup.

In contrast, the government of Great Britain, specifically Prime Minister David Cameron, was unhappy about the BBC reports because the second one aired right before FIFA made it’s decision on which nation would host the 2018 World Cup. Russia won the bidding war.

The allegations include huge bribes to the people who vote on World Cup bids, including Jack Warner, from Trinidad and Tobago. The Baltimore Post-Examiner ran some articles about the allegations of corruption (HERE).

Tim Howard of Team USA (Photo via Wikipedia)

Tim Howard of Team USA. Maybe if Landon Donovan had played, we could have taken some pressure off of our All-World goalie.

But none of that has made the news in this country; it’s all been about Team USA and their Superman goalie, Tim Howard. That’s good, we should be proud of our team. But it seems odd that we don’t cover any of the issues surrounding the World Cup, like the demonstrations in Brasil, or the allegations of bribes for votes to choose host nations.

Or the racism found in soccer around the world. Black players especially face having bananas thrown at them, as well as racial slurs and taunts. FIFA and other officials just shrug their shoulders and say, “Eh, what are ya gonna do?”

That really was my interest in the World Cup … and maybe the possibility Team USA would advance to the final and win it all. America is a nation of dreamers.

About the author

Tim Forkes

Tim Forkes started as a writer on a small alternative college newspaper in Milwaukee called the Crazy Shepherd. Writing about entertainment issues, he had the opportunity to speak with many people in show business, from the very famous to the people struggling to find an audience. In 1992 Tim moved to San Diego, CA and pursued other interests, but remained a freelance writer. Upon arrival in Southern California he was struck by how the business of government and business was so intertwined, far more so than he had witnessed in Wisconsin. His interest in entertainment began to wane and the business of politics took its place. He had always been interested in politics, his mother had been a Democratic Party official in Milwaukee, WI, so he sat down to dinner with many of Wisconsin’s greatest political names of the 20th Century: William Proxmire and Clem Zablocki chief among them. As a Marine Corps veteran, Tim has a great interest in veteran affairs, primarily as they relate to the men and women serving and their families. As far as Tim is concerned, the military-industrial complex has enough support. How the men and women who serve are treated is reprehensible, while in the military and especially once they become veterans. Tim would like to help change that reality. Contact the author.

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