June 16, 2010
If you tell a sad, woeful story in Peru, hoping to elicit sympathy, someone might just respond with the phrase, “Bueno pues, así es el fútbol.” Meaning: that’s how soccer is; soccer, in this context, standing in for life. Soccer isn’t fair. Neither is life. Stop whining. To understand winning and losing in soccer one must set aside the concept of fairness. The side that plays beautifully might be justifiably proud of its collective aesthetic achievement; but if they don’t score, they’re not likely to win many tournaments.
The Wrong Teams
June 15, 2010
"Why," asks a friend, "is this World Cup so rubbish?" At least, he says, "Italia 90 had a good sound track going for it." And it's true: Pavarotti is better than the Vuvuzelas. But is this tournament a disappointment so far? I'm not convinced it has been. True, there's not been too much spectacular football—though Germany and Argentina have had more than their share of moments—but did anyone really expect much from, say, France? Or England? And wasn't Italy-Paraguay always likely to be a tactical affair?
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.
A Lebanese Whine, an Italian Wine
June 12, 2010
The games have started, and unfortunately, so has the coverage. What am I going to do with these announcers? For a moment, I’ll be xenophobic or what have you and say it: what am I going to do with these American announcers? Some of them might be British, but believe me, they are American.
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.
Soccer and Human Trafficking
June 08, 2010
There’s a lot of happy talk about how this World Cup will aid the cause of Africa soccer. I hope that’s the case. In the meantime, I highly recommend Spiegel’s excellent piece on how the European soccer economy has sunk its tentacles into the continent. A sample of the piece's ugly findings: More than 10 years ago, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights issued a report warning that "a modern 'slave trade' is being created with young African players." In Belgium, the politician Jean-Marie Dedecker investigated 442 cases of alleged human trafficking with Nigerian players.
May 18, 2010
This early in the twenty-first century, the rulers of the Catholic Church have suffered an earthquake of crumbling credibility. Nearly ten years ago, with the initial revelations about sexual abuse of the young by priests, some argued that the problem was limited in time and place, since most of the abuse cases had occurred 30 or 40 years before, and they took place in the United States. There was hope that an investigative and reformist effort would restore the U.S. Church’s authority.
Are Liberals Too Mean To Birthers?
May 17, 2010
Jonah Goldberg sees a pernicious double standard between the treatment of kooks who think Barack Obama is not a citizen and kook who think 9/11 was an inside job. "Birtherism" is dangerous and paranoid and "Trutherism" is quirky and no big deal, according to liberals," he writes. There are two claims here. The first is that liberals understate the craziness of Truthers. Goldberg's sole piece of evidence to support this claim is a New York Times article that he deems insufficiently hostile to the Truthers.
March 19, 2010
Shortly after Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou took office last fall, he learned that he’d inherited a massive booby prize: a budget deficit that was twice the amount the previous government had disclosed. But, when Papandreou came clean and promised to address the problem, the financial markets reacted violently. Interest rates soared, adding billions in debt-service costs to an already dire budget picture.
March 17, 2010
Vincere IFC Films Mid-August Lunch Zeitgeist Films Here, remarkably and remarkable, is a new film by Marco Bellocchio, a survivor of the Italian post-World War II directing galaxy. His first two films, Fist in His Pocket (1965) and China Is Near (1967), announced the arrival of a talented troublemaker. His subject was the bourgeois family in relation to a changing society--“the connection between the family and the wider political universe,” the film historian Peter Bondanella said.