Exhale. Savor summer’s few remaining days. Fire up the grill. Slither down a slip n slide. Lay back in a hammock while cradling a watery beer. It’s the September international break, and with options like Finland v Faroe Islands, Denmark v Armenia, and Bolivia v Ecuador, the emphasis is on “break.” But before you take a well-deserved weekend off football, let World Soccer Talk’s Sweeper bring you some of the stories you may have missed.
England nullified Norway in a listless friendly played before the smallest crowd in the brief history of New Wembley. The less said about it the better, but the Guardian’s Barney Ronay delivers exactly what you need to know with gems like “this post-tournament belch of an autumn friendly.”
In just the past 20 years alone, 12 North American franchises have changed cities. But in England, Wimbledon remains the only professional club to have relocated. Even in that case, they moved 60 miles north to Milton Keynes – – or only 20 miles more than the 49ers just moved away from San Francisco. Twohundredpercent returns with a strong piece examining former Premier League/First Division stalwart Coventry City’s return home from nearby Northampton.
Buried in the Guardian’s roundup of terrifying vintage football mascots is this shot of Aston Villa’s dusty pitch in the early 1980s. Reminiscent of the Raiders scuffling on the A’s infield, it’s a far cry from today’s verdant fields.
4. “Speaking of Bumpy Pitches”
The Original Winger’s been running a fantastic series of “Soccer in America” photographs. These shots are a helpful reminder that you don’t need a pristine pitch to play. Many communities have been lazily replacing grass fields with turf ones consisting of materials like ground-up tires. Plastic pitches don’t absorb sweat and rain as well as natural ones so they smell terrible in the summertime and only a little less so the rest of the year. Personally I’d rather play on dirt, but no community making efficient use of its tax revenue should have to resort to plastic.
5. “Falcao to Real Madrid”
6. “Remember when I used to eat sardines for dinner”
British Overseas Territory Gibraltar is now the 54th UEFA member and yet another minnow for other countries to feast on during qualifying. The Guardian’s Sid Lowe reports on The Rock ahead of its first European qualifier against Poland on Sunday. With so many members, UEFA really needs to follow the AFC’s lead and have tiered qualifying. For established countries, playing sides like Gibraltar amounts to an at-bat in slowpitch softball – – there’s no pride or congratulations in hitting it out of the park, only shame if you feebly hit it for a ground out.
7. “The Globe and Fail”
Here at World Soccer Talk, Abe Asher ably analyses the many problems affecting Toronto FC. While depressing for residents of North America’s fourth largest city, Asher points out why the Reds may not dwell in mediocrity alongside the Leafs and Jays for much longer.
8. “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants”
25 million people watched the United States draw Portugal in the World Cup this summer. But just a generation ago the squad was known as Team America and playing before bewildered fans like Michael Agovino. Deadspin’s Screamer subsite provides an excerpt from his new book “The Soccer Diaries: An American’s Thirty-Year Pursuit of the International Game”, and in it you’ll read of a distant time when fans like Agovino had “…never seen any fan wearing a team’s jersey.”
9. “The Lottery”
Helen of Troy’s face launched a thousand ships while penalty shootouts have inspired a thousand and one more screeds. But 8by8 magazine’s Corley Miller stands out from the madding crowd with this eloquent piece on why it’s ok that soccer is an inherently unfair sport. “What are penalty kicks but an admission of comparative failure? A confession that, whatever difference does exist between a pair of teams, playing more football is such an inefficient method that it may never be able to determine it—and that the basically random determination of penalties is preferable at least in that it promises an end…We’re beginning to get, generation by generation, disillusioned Occupier by unemployed esquire, that the way things end up may not be the way they ought to be.”
10. “Una Entrevista”
Pep Guardiola’s biographer, Spanish Reporter, and Sky Sports contributor Guillem Balague recently spoke to World Soccer Talk’s Matt Jones for an insightful interview. In it you’ll learn things like “King and Scholes” is an excellent name for a band.
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