I’ve Seen Brazil And It Is Germany
June 14, 2010
A curious thing has happened to Brazil and Germany over the last decade: they have become each other. After losing the 1998 final, Brazil decided–quite consciously, some insist–that jogo bonito had to become jogo para ganhar. They eventually hired Dunga, who always did play the sort of strong football, with some technical flair, usually seen in Munich and not in Rio. It’s been a long time since Brazil has had a truly magical player. Ronaldo could certainly be amazing. I once asked Rafael Márquez what it was like to try to defend against Ronaldo in his prime.
The Evangelicalism of Brazil
June 14, 2010
In his post about Dunga, Frank notes, “the popular conception of Brazil (the country, as well as the national soccer team) is at odds with its history.” In one way, though, Dunga’s 2010 squad reflects one of the most important trends in modern Brazilian history: the explosion of evangelical Protestantism. As the Washington Post noted a few years ago: “The number of those who identified themselves as evangelicals in national census counts doubled, to more than 26 million people in this country of about 185 million.” Evangelicals have also risen to prominence in the national team.
The Italian Job
June 13, 2010
I still remember the moment I found the religion of Italian football—like all religions a story of obsession, agony, and deceit. It was the 67th minute of the first round match between Italy and Argentina, held at the River Plate stadium in Buenos Aires on June 10, 1978. I was in Beirut, squinting through the smears of my black and white television, when Roberto Bettega took the ball outside the penalty box. He passed off to Paolo Rossi, immersed in defenders, then ran into the open toward the penalty spot.
Beyond the Line
June 11, 2010
In early April, silly flags were already flapping all around Beirut. A non-resident would think that dignitaries from the entire United Nations were about to make an appearance, adding a touch of color to our city. According to numerous sources, the flags had sprouted much earlier. As early as January, my sister made sure to tell me. I don’t think any earlier than that, my mother said. People were too busy with Christmas and New Years, and in 2009, Ashura, the Shiite holiday fell at the same time—far too much going on for anyone to concentrate.
The Austere Beauty of Italy
June 08, 2010
A word about the defending champions. Not since Germany's victory in the desperate 1990 edition of the tournament has any victor been so little celebrated. Doubtless this owes something to the fashion in which Italy prevailed and to the sense that those players who remain in the squad aren't the men they once were, while the newcomers aren't the men they're replacing either. So Italy arrive in South Africa overlooked and unfancied and available at 16/1 with some bookmakers.
A Prognostication and a Disclaimer
June 08, 2010
Before prognostication, a disclaimer: I have never been able to pick a winner. Not that it has ever stopped me from trying to. Well, it has stopped me from buying stock, but let’s not talk about that. I picked a winner in 1970. I chose Pele and Brazil but I was 10 and my dad told me to. I came close in 1974. I picked Holland–West Germany in the finals (Ajax and Bayern Munich were by the far the top clubs in the early 70’s) but I thought Cruyff and Neeskens would waltz through Beckenbauer and Netzer. Heartbreaker. Oh well, this was then.
Anyone But Brazil
June 07, 2010
Hello everyone. It's nice to be back and thank you, Frank, for the invitation to join this merry throng once again. You ask: Who will win this thing? The sensible answer, I suppose, is to say that either Spain or Brazil will carry the trophy home. On paper they are comfortably the two most accomplished squads in the tournament. But, as the television pundits always remind us, soccer ain’t played on paper. Nevertheless, should it be a Brazil-Spain final, I very much hope that Spain will prevail. I am, you see and I am afraid, bored of Brazil.
You may remember that during the president’s first trip abroad he spent two days in Turkey. A little much, I thought. After all, a presidential visit is something of a gift to the host country’s government. And why did Ankara deserve such a gift? Well, it didn’t. First of all, in 2003, it had barred American troop movement through Iraq from the north. I don’t know exactly how many U.S. deaths accrued because of this ban. But sober estimates tell us that as many as 500 soldiers may have been killed because of the restriction.
More Oversight Failures In The Gulf
May 05, 2010
Yesterday, William Galston had an excellent piece on our site exploring the snuggly relationship that oil companies had with the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service (MMS), which is supposed to oversee offshore drilling, during the Bush years. The most glaring example: Back in 2003, government regulators decided that oil companies didn't have to install $500,000 remote-control shutoff switches at their rigs—the sorts of devices used in places like Norway in Brazil.
Forget Offshore Drilling Until We Get Some Answers
May 04, 2010
While it may take months to stop the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it’s not too soon to begin asking some questions about why it happened and what can be done to minimize the chance that something like this will happen again.