Tag Archives: football

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We Are One (Ole Ola)

Prepping for the 2014 World Cup.

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Michael Sam

These Mizzou Tigers, I tell you. Taking names.

One of the University of Missouri‘s finest athletes, a young man named Michael Sam, has been pegged as an early-round draft for the NFL. Though I have not managed to watch a single Mizzou game this year, I trust this assessment. The Mizzou football team is notoriously talented (even if Mizzou athletics have a history of draining funds which should otherwise be funneled toward academic improvement; that’s another story).

There’s just one catch: Michael Sam is openly gay.

The NFL has never drafted an openly gay player before. But when Sam was featured in a NYTimes story and ESPN spot highlighting that very bit of trivia, it became a bit of a media sensation.

Never mind the fact that the full Mizzou team already knew and didn’t care.

In fact, it is such a non-story that the absurd backlash from news outlets and commenters was met with an outpouring of public support.

Even from the very top:

And with that, I wish my alma mater a very happy 175th birthday. I still don’t know a single word to any of the school songs/cheers. Mazel tov.

Black Stars crush Pharaohs

There is nothing quite like football in Africa.

Towns erupting in cheers and moans corresponding to their team’s successes and failures. The national pride that follows a win is almost tangible. Even in quiet little Ho, the astounding 6-1 Ghana win over Egypt disrupted life for a few hours.

This was the first leg of qualifying preliminary matches for the 2014 World Cup. I, for one, am thrilled that Ghana is one step closer to redeeming its tragic loss against Uruguay four years ago.

In his brief essay on the politi-history of the World Cup, Laurent Dubois sums up that crushing defeat quite nicely:

Nearly everyone in the stadium was a Ghanaian that night. The team had been adopted by South Africans, whose dear Bafana Bafana had been eliminated in the first round. They called the Ghanaians BaGhana BaGhana. As we streamed towards Soccer City, people bought Ghana scarves and Ghana hats and Ghana shirts, got the colors of the Ghanaian flag painted on their faces. Inside the stadium, the buzz and crow of vuvuzelas urged the Black Stars on to victory. I’ve never been at a game saturated with such tense hope and energy.

They lost. […] After Luis Suarez blocked a certain goal with his hand, and Asamoah Gyan missed his last minute penalty kick—which would have sent Ghana to the semi-finals—the game went to a penalty shoot-out. I held my head between my hands for the entire time, somehow knowing in my heart what was likely to happen. I could tell each time a penalty was scored by Ghana from the ear-shattering cheers, and each time one was made by Uruguay by the groans around me. And I could tell when it was all over by the dead, sickening, sad silence spreading out, peppered by the cheers of the vastly outnumbered Uruguayan supporters.

I clearly remember that match – sitting on the front row sofas of RagTag Cinema in Columbia, Missouri, surrounded by friends, and cheering on the sole remaining African team in the first African World Cup. We left disappointed, enraged even, by the unjust calls. But this is football, after all.

It is time for Ghana to reclaim that stolen victory. Here’s to you, Black Stars.

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U-20 World Champions: Les Bluets!

Under-20 World Champions: Les Bluets!

Living for moments like this.
Great win, France!

Football | The universal language

Football is not my first love.

I grew up in the old St. Louis Arena watching SLU basketball games, followed the team to the Kiel Center (alias Savvis Center, alias Scottrade Center), and now to Chaifetz Arena. I played, I managed, I even coached in the world of basketball. It is a part of me.

Football is a my exhilirating second language:
a common tongue to supplement my American dialect.

IMG_1811What is more thrilling than sitting amidst a crowd of passionate fans? Beer flows freely, insults bandy about, and by final whistle the excited babble crescendoes into a harmonic melange of enthusiastic hollers and groans.

That is true of almost any sport, of course, but football is truly universal. Children seeking entertainment often contrive a football from rags or twigs or plastic bags lying about. It is a game instantly recognized anywhere one goes. Its rules are understood regardless of language or culture.

In Ghana, every bar with a television posts the matches of the day. I’ve watched Bayern-München crush Barcelona and caught the final vs. Dortmund after touring Cape Coast Castle. Tomorrow Ghana pits against Nigeria in a hotly contested match to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.

America doesn’t love football the way it loves baseball, American football, and basketball. Someday I would love to claim loyalty to a particular team (though not quite à la Greenstreet Hooligans) but perhaps my heart is already lost to hoops and Chuck Taylors. It’s my mother tongue, after all.

All the same, football has entranced me.