South Africa

Cruyff's Choice
July 08, 2010

Whom will Cruyff be supporting on Sunday? The question arose during some Twitter chat I had this morning with Brian Phillips of Run of Play. In a piece on Slate, Brian makes a compelling argument for rooting against Holland. One, Spain plays if not with the creative, hypnotic elegance of Cruyff’s 1970s Dutch teams, then at least with something that can be perceived as stylish (if you like what the Guardian’s Fiver today described as “hypnotic death-by-a-thousand-cuts style of tiki-strangulation”).

Is the World Cup Too Long?
July 07, 2010

It’s not that I want fewer games or fewer teams or anything.  What I’d like to avoid is that sad feeling of diffusion, mixed with an odd short-term nostalgia, that always rears its head around now.  Remember the first match, that thrilling 1-1 draw between South Africa and Mexico?

Africa Is Dead, Long Live Holland
July 07, 2010

Lots of debate out there about soccer and national pride, and whether the expressions of nationalism the game provokes are good or bad. But I gotta say, down here in South Africa among the fans rather than the commentators, what they mainly look like is thin. I watched the Uruguay-Netherlands game last night in Cape Town, and it was funny to see how swiftly and totally the local fans had abandoned their undying loyalty to the black African teams and embraced their historical ties to the Dutch, the first South African colonists.

In Praise Of Whom?

July 03, 2010

I apologize in advance to all Manchester United fans, including, but not limited to, my brother, his son, Alex Ferguson, and the majority of the 79,005 people on the last day of July, 2003, who traipsed to the hateful Giants Stadium in Rutherford, New Jersey, to watch the Reds play Juventus in a pre-season friendly. I apologize because I’m about to state that the best player in this South African World Cup—and the best player by far—is none other than Diego Forlan. My hand doth shake to even type such a claim; I should probably drink deeply of some kind of poison, and thank god that’s not a da

The Good, the Bad, und die Rache
July 01, 2010

With the group stages over, the sextodecimal matches played, and the quarterfinals about to begin, what kind of a World Cup has it been so far? It has been good for South Africa, with large, happy crowds and none of the violence that pessimists predicted, altogether nothing worse than the horrible vuvuzela. The home nation were eliminated, but not before a glorious victory over France, who scuttled home in disgrace, as did the Italians, and then the English. No, it hasn’t been a good year for Europe, even with Germany, Spain and Holland in the last eight.

The Unbearable Weight of World Cup History
July 01, 2010

To anticipate Argentina versus Germany or Brazil versus Holland is to again hear World Cup history whisper ever more urgently as the tournament approaches its conclusion. The coaches and players will insist that such talk is nonsense; a distraction. The game must be won on the pitch in South Africa. Eleven against eleven. The future scripts are yet to be written. What's past is irrelevant.

Is the Internet Making Americans More Willing to Intervene in Faraway Countries?
June 27, 2010

My colleague on ‘Entanglements,’ Adam Kirsch, posted a perceptive column a few days ago that asked both why we are—as we seem to have been since at least the advent of the middle-class newspaper-reading public in eighteenth-century London, Edinburgh, and Amsterdam—so passionately interested in the affairs of “leaders and nations we don’t know, never will see, and certainly have no power over,” and whether this avidity for consuming news actually brings us closer to reality or instead makes it harder to “see things as they actually are?” It’s an excellent question, whether or not one agrees (I

First They Ignore You
June 27, 2010

I was en route home from South Africa yesterday—and still haven’t made it to D.C.; I’m sipping a Jamba Juice and typing in the lovely JetBlue terminal at JFK—so I still haven’t seen all 120 minutes of USA-Ghana. The last 30, however, I did catch during a short layover in Dubai. I was drained, the U.S. seemed drained. Maybe it was sitting in a quiet airport lounge, listening to play by play in Arabic, with just a couple of American fans in a small group around a flat screen.

Armchair Experts
June 27, 2010

My colleague on ‘Entanglements,’ Adam Kirsch, posted a perceptive column a few days ago that asked both why we are—as we seem to have been since at least the advent of the middle-class newspaper-reading public in eighteenth-century London, Edinburgh, and Amsterdam—so passionately interested in the affairs of “leaders and nations we don’t know, never will see, and certainly have no power over,” and whether this avidity for consuming news actually brings us closer to reality or instead makes it harder to “see things as they actually are?” It’s an excellent question, whether or not one agrees (I

The Boys from Montevideo
June 26, 2010

Let us now praise Uruguay. The Little Country That Did is deservedly back on the world stage and it's splendid to see. In a sense Uruguay are close to the platonic ideal for a heart-warming World Cup story: a tiny country of just 3.5 million souls who, once aristocrats of the game, subsequently fell on hard times but who now find themselves back in the quarter-finals for the first time since 1970.

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