Sunday, June 13, 2010

Week 24: The obligatory World Cup post

I love the World Cup. For me, it's better than the Olympics, the Super Bowl, and the World Series combined. I still remember going out late with my Dad to a Budapest bar (my first, I'm sure) at the age of 9 to watch Brazil play the United States in the '94 cup. And how could I forget watching the Brazilians win their record fifth title with thousands of screaming Brazilians on Copacabana Beach? Or seeing France upset the Brazilians from Paris in 2006... While I've yet to attend a World Cup (although I've promised to take my Dad to 2014 in Brazil), I've been lucky enough to watch the World Cup in six countries: US, Brazil, Portugal, Spain, France and Hungary. And the raw emotion and sheer excitement has been palpable in every single country. It's a remarkable feeling, as though an entire nation collectively suits up on game-day, ready to go to battle on the pitch.

This week I decided to watch FIFA's greatest World Cup moments. With goals form legendary players like Puskás to the greatest saves to World Cup bloopers, this is a must-watch. This video timeline reflects the depth, breadth, and timelesness of the tournament. It also highlights the mini-miracles of the past. How unbelievable that North Korea beat Italy 1-0 in 1966 to advance to the next round, and would have made it to the semi-finals had the Portuguese not scored four consecutive goals to earn a 4-3 victory?!

In my opinion, the World Cup tournament is the closest that exits to a shared human experience. FIFA estimates that over 715 million people watched the 2006 final, and the tournament drew over 26 billion cumulative views. The myriad subplots and layers of meaning enveloped by the World Cup - and certainly this World Cup - are enough to overwhelm even the most ardent football enthusiast or global citizen. From the story of South Africa's triumph over apartheid to Maradona's demands for a $2,000 bidet in his hotel suite, there is plenty to follow.

I couldn't be happier that the historic first World Cup on African soil has started with a bang, with two of the three African countries to play (South Africa and Ghana) performing extremely well in the first round. Who wasn't thrilled when the tens of thousands of noise-making vuvuzelas willed the brilliant strike of South African's newest hero, Siphewe Tshabalala, into the upper corner of the net? And who wasn't impressed with the ruthless efficiency of the Germans in dismantling an Australian team that many expected to advance to the round of 16? Anyone who has played sports has to sympathize with English goalkeeper Robert Green's botch, which cost the English a win against the Americans. These moments will live forever.

The World Cup truly is a unique global experience, encompassing creative goal celebrations, individual and collective glory and heartbreak, drama, absurd dives and of course heavy doses of nationalistic fervor. Enjoy it, embrace it, learn from it. Whatever you do, don't ignore it.

15 comments:

  1. World Cup - very nice!

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  2. While the world cup may be cool, exciting, and cultural, the post doesn't quite fit in the spirit of the blog - using free internet resources to learn about something you know nothing about.

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  3. Point well taken, although I did not know much about the HISTORY of the World Cup. For the sake of brevity I did not get into much of what I learned from the video, but for instance I had no idea about the 1966 North Korea win. It's unclear to me how citing a 1+ hour FIFA video is not free or educational. The title of the post also alluded to fact that it is somewhat outside the normal scope of the blog... thanks for reading.

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  4. I wonder how many fans "know something" about Joseph Edouard Gaetjens, the Columbia University undergraduate accounting student playing for the USA, who scored the only -- winning -- goal in the USA-England game played in 1950. The Brazilians who saw the game in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, were so impressed that they carried him off the field on their shoulders. Unfortunately, upon his eventual return to his native Haiti somehow he "disappeared" and there is good reason to believe he was killed by the Tonton Macoutes July, 1964, at the age of 40, just as "Papa Doc" Duvalier declared himself "president for life..."

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  5. Carioca posted:

    Of course in World Cup matters one should never skip over, leave out or ignore Brazilians….Here we are, less than three full days into SouthAfrica2010 and in the very first game South Africa surprised many with that beautiful, powerful, first goal of the tournament, the very first score by an African team in the first ever World Cup held in Africa…Their coach? That legendary Brazilian -- Carlos Alberto Parreira ! The coach who in 1994 took Brazil to its fourth World Cup title and who has also led three other national teams to World Cup play: Kuwait in 1982, the United Arab Emirates in 1990, Brazil in 1994 and 2006, and Saudi Arabia in 1998. The same one who coached Brazil in the Olympics and coached Rio’s Fluminense to two major League titles…not to mention the MetroStars in MLS, Valencia in Spain, Fenerbahce in Turkey, Corinthians in Sao Paulo, etc., etc.

    The second day, the USA tied England to continue as one of the very few countries never to have lost to the “inventors” of futebol in the history of World Cup play. Who was the referee ? Well, none other than the Brazilian veteran referee, Carlos Simon. Assisted by another Brazilian – Roberto Braatz. Despite having refereed in two previous World Cups, Simon has attracted controversy and criticism throughout his career. Apparently, after the 2008 season, Flamengo’s senior officials sent a letter to FIFA calling his performance “inconsistent, unfair and inequitable.” The president of another major Brazilian club –Palmeiras – apparently characterized him as “a crook, a scoundrel…just a shameless bastard.” Aside from the USA-Brasil game, I have never seen Simon referee so I do not have first-hand evidence to back such unusually vocal charges; but, from both Brazilian and English newspapers I know that among elite referees he is one of the most controversial.

    Which takes us to the third day: Germany plays a jogo bonito to overcome Australia 4-0. And who scores the fourth German goal? Claudemir Jeronimo Barretto, born in Santo Andre, Brasil, 29 years ago. The Brazilian striker’s name was judged to be so difficult to pronounce outside Brasil that he became Cacau ! His professional career in Germany started with fifth-division Turk Gucu Munchen in 2000 and he joined VfB Stuttgart in 2003. Cacau became a German citizen last year.

    Long before the Selec,ao starts its quest for a sixth Cup, Brazilians have already left their mark everywhere in South Africa…But their most significant contribution to the continuing history of futebol will begin tomorrow, June 15.

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  6. From the Malaysia Finance blog:

    The big hoo-hah over the World Cup now is the amount of incessant swearing by players. Rooney has been made the poster boy. In fact, newswires now report that the referees for the match between England and USA have been given 20 English swear words so that they can familiarise themselves for that match between England and USA. Trouble is NONE of the swear words were released or published by the media. Only at Malaysia Finance do we try to analyse which 20 words they were. Please read at the latter part of article. Carlos Simon, who has a reputation as a no-nonsense, if also controversial, official is a fluent English speaker but he and his assistants, Roberto Braatz and Altemir Hausmann, have been given a list of 20 English swear words to prepare themselves for England's Group C match against the United States. His fellow assistant, Braatz, added: "We can't do this in 11 different languages but at least we have to know the swear-words in English."
    Simon, 44, is officiating in his third World Cup finals, but has been criticised in Brazil for a series of decisions which led to one of the country's biggest clubs, Flamengo, petitioning Fifa to get him thrown out of the tournament. Hausmann, Simon's first assistant, said: "We have to learn what kind of words the players say.”

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  7. Of all the sports I really love to hate-(American) Football, Baseball, Tennis, etc....Soccer must be near the top, #1 0r #2 at least.

    What can you say about a ball game which outlaws one primary advantage of Human Existence ---the use of the opposeable thumb and abuses the other (human advantage)- the frontal lobe of the brain by smacking it vigorously and frequently with a three pound missile?

    A miserable, cold, wet rainy day on the 100 yard target range shooting a worn out vintage Mauser from WWI beats the heck out of a bright sunny day in the stands with a bunch of drunk Soccer Hooligans who can not wait to break up the game with a street brawl out on the field.

    Always remember and do not ever forget: If you are on an American Highway and see a minivan with SoccerMom stickers on the back be sure to give it a wide berth because the SoccerMom inside can not drive worth a hoot!

    Other than that, a great video!

    Best,
    TJK

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  8. Great comments all around - thank you!

    (although the soccer ball as a 3 pound missile bit much - to begin with, it's only one pound AND it's full of air!)

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  9. One pound is the official "ideal" weight.

    A wet, muddy ball can weigh significantly more, though I now understand new ball materials have diminished the variations in weight over the course of play.

    As usual in these cases, authoritative records of wet ball weight versus dry ball weight or other factors are non-existent or contradictory.

    http://www.headball.com/hazards.html

    At the center of the debate remains the question of possible cumulative brain injury from heading. Recent comments by Dr. David Janda of the Institute for Preventative Sports Medicine in Ann Arbor, Michigan, have once again brought the soccer headball into the media spotlight. Concerned about heading in youth soccer, Dr. Janda has been quoted as saying, "WeÍre creating a bunch of little Muhammed Alis."


    The European studies cited by Dr. Janda originated in Norway in the late 1980's. These reports suggested that repeated heading might eventually result in deficiencies in memory, attention, concentration, and judgment as early as age 35. Changes similar to Alzheimer's disease were noticed on brain CAT scans in one third of a group of retired middle-aged soccer players. Additional studies documented abnormal EEG brain wave patterns in 16% of young, healthy soccer players.



    A soccer player heads the ball an average of six times per match and many more times during training sessions. This can add up to several thousand head impacts over the course of a career. A plastic-coated leather soccer ball weighs about one pound, although older versions became much heavier when soaked with water on muddy fields. A soccer ball can be driven at speeds in excess of 74 miles per hour and can deliver enough force to fracture a cheekbone. The force of heading impacts in adults fall just within the force tolerance guidelines for safety used by the automobile industry for crash safety. These safety limits are exceeded in children when an adult-sized soccer ball is used.

    A recent study has shown that as many as 89% of soccer players have had at least one painful head injury and more than 10% have sustained a concussion.

    Best,
    TJK

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  10. http://gizmodo.com/5564430/how-they-make-the-controversial-world-cup-match-ball

    How the ball is made!

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  11. Weeks 23 and 24 combined on NPR: Music and Soccer

    http://www.npr.org/templates/player/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=127577860&m=127548490

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  12. TJK - I've heard that two things matter the most: one, that the proper heading form takes place and two, that those under 13 shouldn't really be heading the ball. But maybe my view is off base thanks to brain cells lost from 20 years of heading the ball!

    Awesome video about how they make the new balls. They really do seem to fly differently than others...

    D Gull - what can I say, great minds...

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  13. innovation said...

    http://gizmodo.com/5564430/how-they-make-the-controversial-world-cup-match-ball

    How the ball is made!

    Totally cool video!

    Best,
    TJK

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  14. My last comment -

    What do you think is the impact on world productivity of the world cup?
    I know that in my office a large number of employees are either actively watching games online throughout the workday, or checking scores and betting pool brackets on a regular basis. I can only imagine there has to be some form of direct correlation between the world cup and world productivity (at least of non-production based). I can only imagine that in a country like spain or brazil the amount of distraction I'm seeing in my office would at least double.

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  15. Well, here is one estimate of $10B:

    http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2010/06/17/2010061700925.html

    I think it's probably higher.

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