South Africa

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?

Kiwi-Slovak Hypnagogia
June 15, 2010

Preambling, the ESPN commentator tells us that this match promises “plenty of charm,” which sounds like the guidebook account of an alpine hamlet time has forgotten, or else one of those real estate euphemisms, like “cozy” or “many period details.” We learn that that today’s referee is an English teacher in a high school near Capetown.

The Healer
June 15, 2010

BLOEMFONTEIN, SOUTH AFRICA—It was as clear as the film’s most famous scene: The work of reconciliation in South Africa is not done yet. In February 2008, a video appeared online showing four white students from South Africa’s University of the Free State (UFS) hazing their black janitors as if they were new freshmen. There’s a beer-drinking contest, a footrace to “Chariots of Fire.” Near the end, the boys appear to pee into bowls of stew and urge the janitors to eat up. It was supposed to be an in-house joke, a protest against a plan to integrate their dorm, a student residence called Reitz.

The Healer
June 15, 2010

BLOEMFONTEIN, SOUTH AFRICA—It was as clear as the film’s most famous scene: The work of reconciliation in South Africa is not done yet. In February 2008, a video appeared online showing four white students from South Africa’s University of the Free State (UFS) hazing their black janitors as if they were new freshmen. There’s a beer-drinking contest, a footrace to “Chariots of Fire.” Near the end, the boys appear to pee into bowls of stew and urge the janitors to eat up. It was supposed to be an in-house joke, a protest against a plan to integrate their dorm, a student residence called Reitz.

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.

Live From Rustenburg: Savoring English Decline
June 13, 2010

RUSTENBURG, South Africa -- “Well done,” the middle-aged England fan said to me outside Royal Bafokeng Stadium last night after his country’s 1-1 draw against the United States. The civility was less rare than you might imagine. Sure, there was the drunken Brit in the eternal shuttle-bus queue in the red-clay parking lot shouting -- and if you read my first post, you know it brought a smile to my face -- “You’re shit and you know you are!” at a harmless group of flag-clad Americans.

Mexican Destiny And That Lame Ball
June 11, 2010

Am I disappointed? Well, yes. Whenever a team owns the ball for 70% of a match, one is bound to feel frustrated if said match ends in a draw. But I’m used to this. A friend just shared with me what seems like the perfect epitaph for Mexico’s first outing in South Africa: “If football were a game with no results needed, Mexico would be a real contender.” It’s true: We’ve always been masters at possession: the lateral pass is a country specialty and we can cover the ball just like the best of them.

Best of the Web, PM Edition
June 11, 2010

Mike Tomasky doesn't like soccer And Jon Chait is filled with even more rage Zonal Marking's summaries of South Africa-Mexico and Uruguay-France Tshabalala's resume Maradona can still kick a ball pretty well The psychology of excitement at the World Cup The Freakonomics guys talk about soccer Tim Vickery: Lights, camera, action

Make Me Talk About Fútbol
June 11, 2010

I’m finding that I’m reticent to talk about soccer. For one thing, I don’t know much about the game. I have never followed a league championship and, despite being from a soccer-loving country (Colombia), I have never rooted for any local team. After having followed religiously seven World Cups, my ignorance has never subsided and my interest has not increased. With few exceptions, I don’t even remember who won when. I ignore soccer history and my memory seems to be refractory to it. Should I confess, then, that I don’t really care about soccer?

Notes on Mexico v South Africa
June 11, 2010

South Africa, I think, has actual reason for elation about the result. The Carlos Alberto Parriera system worked. His defense is barely good enough (and counterattacking capabilities sufficient) to keep them in any match in their opening group. South Africa will be more than content to retain their viability and hope that some gust of luck and homerism carries them through. Mexico, on the other hand, somewhat disappointed me. As a Barca fan, I’m pleased that Rafa Marquez scored his gimme goal. But you can see why Barca doesn’t use him regularly anymore.

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