Archive for the ‘Soccer Culture’ Category

Two weeks after its debut, Fox Soccer Plus still isn't available in Philadelphia for Comcast subscribers.

If you are a Comcast subscriber in the Philadelphia area you are about to enter your third weekend without Fox Soccer Plus. The new channel, which began broadcasting on March 1, replaced Setanta USA, which had previously only been available in two or three select Comcast markets.

Without Fox Soccer Plus you’ve missed Portsmouth’s FA Cup victory over Birmingham. You’ve missed having the choice of watching Lyon stick it to Real Madrid live at 2:30 p.m. in the Champions League rather than having to wait for the delayed broadcast at 5pm on FSC. This weekend you will miss a classic London derby between West Ham and Chelsea as well as Manchester United against Fulham. Next Sunday you will miss Manchester United against Liverpool.

Of course, if you subscribe to Direct TV or Dish Network, you already have Fox Soccer Plus.

So what’s the deal with Comcast? (more…)


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The BBC World Service recently ran a segment concerning the confluence of faith and football. It was interesting in that it depicted how nuanced and sophisticated, as well as deeply entrenched, one’s spiritual beliefs can be with their sporting life in the beautiful game. The discussion ran the gambit from small town English clubs that are inseparable from the local church (in a manner akin to Everton’s start, as they related) to the use of juju by African footballers.

The piece, in many ways, spoke to the psychology of the game, in that, regardless of one’s beliefs in a higher power, it did demonstrate the need for mental preparation that permeates all sports. And in that regard, the skeptic who would decry any benefits as stemming from a “placebo effect” would be well placed to level judgment on where demonstrations of faith belong in the game, since as with anything divisive, religion always needs to stick to the sidelines ( sorry Kaka, but come June, FIFA would be sagacious to explicitly ban any religious displays on the pitch).


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After reading about 4,237 different best XI of the decade lists, I thought I’d switch it up a bit.  I wanted to consider not just the most gifted players of the Premier League or La Liga or Serie A, etc. but rather the most talented footballers who also possess the uncanny ability to make babies cry and camera lenses crack.  Yes, it’s that time- the All Ugly World XI!  These are the 11 players of world football who simultaneously make us cringe and smile.  The footballing geniuses that fell off the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.  Players like Carles Puyol:  the Barca hardman who once took a ball to the face, prompting Gol TV commentator Phil Schoen to yelp, “Ouch!” and Ray Hudson to wittily (and accurately) retort, “Ah Phil, it doesn’t matter anyway, poor Carles”.

These eleven masters of the beautiful game aren’t just ugly, they’re downright hideous.  And they aren’t just great players, they’re the cream of the crop; starters for their respective national teams and heroes at club level.  They don’t win beauty contests, but they sure do win football matches.  If you’re lucky enough, you might even see their deformed faces at this year’s World Cup in South Africa or in HD, or better yet- experience their hideous genius in 3D!

Whatever medium you choose, you can’t miss these eleven world beaters, those players with the unique ability to make you both erupt in applause and turn to stone.

Without further ado, here is our All Ugly World XI team for 2010:


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Better than Leiva Lucas

When you spend so much time with soccer, the lingo becomes a part of your life. “Bolton Sacks Megson”, “Gerrard Backs Aquilani to Shine”, “Adu On Loan To Local Bakery”, etc.

Every now and then, the footy-specific vocabulary finds its way into the rest of your life to hilarious effect.

In that vein, I give you Butterstick the Panda

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Very Nice, Readers!

Soccer fans everywhere anxiously await the second half of the season. January arrives with a new transfer window: a month-long binge in the footy speak-easy, where clubs gamble on high-priced additions who are all described as The Missing Piece (did Afonso Alves really cost Middlesbrough over 10 million pounds?). It’s also a chance for smaller clubs to sell their top players at premium prices (Portsmouth turned a 14.5 million pound profit on Lass Diarra after one year).

For the past two years, the transfer window has been an afterthought next to another January arrival: Special1TV. Formerly titled “I’m On Setanta Sports”, Special1TV is a five-minute long puppet show that plays at halftime of games on Setanta Sports. The show is hosted by Jose Mourinho, with Sven-Goren Erickson (called “It” by Jose) and Wayne Rooney (“The Boy”) in supporting roles.

It sounds cheesy, hokey, and silly. And it is. But isn’t that a small price to pay for something that is a consistent source of bellylaughs? The show returns January 2010. Below is a highlight video of the best moments from 2009’s show and one of my favorite episodes (check out the photo of Nani before you watch). You can subscribe to the Special1TV youtube channel. Be Champions. (Videos and photos after the jump.)


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"But if Jimmy cracks corn and no one cares, why does he keep doing it?"

Last week, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger commented that throw-ins may be the wrong way to restart play from the sidelines. Wenger argues that the throw-in gives an unfair advantage to teams who feature long throwers, noting that soccer is a game played with the feet. The Arsenal manager somewhat obliquely suggested that eliminating the throw-in would contribute to the purity of the beautiful game.

“Football is the most popular team game in the world and one day some crazy guy said ‘we don’t use the hands.’”

The throw-in is similar to the sideline restart used in rugby. Two hands on the ball, over the head, feet on the ground. In a rugby match, play resumes on the referee’s whistle, which allows both teams to set up. This also gives the referee control over the placement of the restart, something lacking in soccer’s throw-in rule. Often we see soccer players (ahem, Patrice Evra) move upwards of ten yards forward from the spot that the ball left play.

Wenger’s complaint is that players uniquely gifted with strong arms should not be rewarded in a game played with the feet. He envisions a game in which the goalkeeper is the only player allowed to use his hands. The Arsenal manager’s solution? The kick-in.


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My Team of the Decade

The end of the decade brings with it a lot of really annoying end-of-the-decade lists.  Everyone from the Guardian to Soccernet to the guy from your indoor team is compiling their world football team of the decade.  While these carefully selected lists include some of the greatest players ever to lace up boots, they don’t exactly reflect the spirit of the assignment.  It’s the team of the decade, not the best players from the first half of the decade or the best from the second half, but the whole decade (I know I’ve used up my italicized-point-of-emphasis technique for the decade).  Considering I rejected those other lists using this qualification, I had to hold myself to the same standard.   Here is my team of the decade:

GK:  Buffon

RB:  Cafu

CB:  Cannavaro

CB:  Maldini

LB:  Carlos

RM:  Nedved

CM:  Makelele

CM:  Xavi

LM:  Giggs

ST:  Gerrard

CF:  van Nistelrooy

Subs:  Nesta, Ferdinand, Figo, del Piero, Gattuso, Casillas


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