World Cup

The developing world has provided 90 percent of worldwide urban population growth recently, and in 2008 made human beings majority-urbanite for the first time in history. You could perhaps find no better emblem of this trend than Brazil.

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They think it’s all over? It is now, thank God. I’ve waited for others to vent their spleen over my unfortunate country’s performance on Sunday. At least it was no surprise, and no one said we wuz robbed, because we wuzn’t. Truth to tell, England have never won a European championship or a World Cup except once and then they didn’t deserve to. Nobody who can remember 1966 (as I fear I can) and who has any feeling at all for the game would deny that Brazil were the best team that year.

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As the game progressed I kept muttering to myself, “Why, why, why?” Like Sasha, I grew up in awe of the Dutch. Cruyff, Neeskens, Gullit, and the god of gods, Bergkamp.  We now get de Jong, van Bommel. What’s the point of having two holding midfielders if the only thing they can hold is their junk? If Edgar Davids were dead, he’d be rolling in his grave. If Edgar Davids were dead, he’d still be quicker than van Bommel. Bring him back. Bring Cocu back.

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Eurovision

Some years, the calendar unfolds beneficently. The summer comes wide and open, leaving many hours to peel away from work to watch the World Cup or the Euros. Then, there are other summers, like this one, when you have a new job that chews away all possibility for furtive ventures to the Lucky Bar to watch Poland play Greece. Since I’ve only been back at The New Republic for a few weeks now, I’d be committing professional malpractice to fully cave to the implacable desire to watch every minute of this coming tournament.

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Hero or Zero?

Pakistan’s democratic institutions—a president, a parliament, a prickly judiciary—generally struggle for recognition and relevance. But not at the moment. The country recently saw three major campaign rallies just days apart. (Elections are slated for 2013, though they could be moved up.) First, Shahbaz Sharif—the chief minister of Punjab and brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif—led his party, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), in an impassioned rally.

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Germany vs. Spain. Texas vs. Florida. These aren’t predictions for the next World Cup final or BCS title game but rather examples of the regional divergence in economic performance and fiscal outlook described by Gillian Tett in the Financial Times last Friday. She argues that while international attention has been focused on the divergence of the Eurozone (between countries with strong, growing economies and those without), the U.S.

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How shrewd is Vladimir Putin? In his bid to host a World Cup—an event that would inevitably turn into a grotesque advertisement for his regime, if one reasonably assumes that he’ll still be repressing Russia in 2018—Putin feigned contempt. He called the whole process of bidding for a World Cup an “unfair competition,” suggesting it had been rigged to favor his western European competitors. Then, of course, he turned around and entered the unfair competition in the ruthless manner it was meant to be played.

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[Guest post by James Downie] Today, the talk of the soccer world is Barcelona’s sublime 5-0 destruction of Real Madrid. Come Thursday, though, for a brief moment at least, international soccer will grab the spotlight once again, as FIFA announces the hosts for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

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George Carlin (RIP) used to do a bit about America's unwillingness to leave Vietnam, despite the certainty of defeat. Imitating the heads of the US military he would say, "Pull out? Doesn't sound manly to me, Bill. I say leave it in there and get the job done!" Carlin, who would have made a great grammar teacher, loved to play with language and to discuss language choices. He famously riffed on Stuff, Dirty Words, Airplane Safety, and Baseball and Football.

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Standing on the streets of Barcelona – capital of Spain’s Catalonia region – last Saturday, one would have had no idea that the country was preparing to watch its national team compete in the World Cup the very next day. That afternoon, over a million people flooded the downtown to protest a decision issued Friday by the country’s constitutional court striking down some provisions of the territory’s 2006 autonomy statute. That legislation devolved a number of important powers to the region, but was challenged by the country’s conservative political party, the Partido Popular.

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