For Premier League fans, like James Bond in The World is Not Enough, Christmas comes twice a year. First, when August brings a three-week tease of action, and then again when the Prem triumphantly returns replete with new transfers after a torpid international break. Before Saturday’s slate, let The Sweeper fill you in on some of this week’s scintillating stories.
1. “But how do you pronounce Cymru?”
World Soccer Talk founder Christopher Harris take you to the land of Rob Brydon and Catherine Zeta-Jones in his entertaining second travel essay on his journey home to Wales. Part one is available here.
2. “A Royal Pain”
NBC ushered in a golden age for American Premier League fans when it began broadcasting every single match. But imagine the nightmare if your club were to be relegated and duly cut off from regular television coverage. Jacob Sundstrom, in a wonderful piece for The Classical, describes what it’s been like to support a club like Reading with passages such as, “[t]his is what a typical Saturday morning looks like during football season: get up at 6am, make a pot of coffee, shower, and put on my Reading shirt. I may be sitting on an Ikea couch with a cup of store-brand coffee — I am, as it turns out — but it’s the little things that make the experience more authentic. Or as authentic as listening to a football game on the Internet at 7am from 5,426 miles away can be, anyway.”
3. “Team America: Rush’n Attack”
Younger fans accustomed to soccer as a mainstream sport and automatic US qualification for the World Cup should read up on the dark days that engulfed the game only 30 years ago. In 1983 the NASL was on the verge of collapsing due to overexpansion. America hadn’t qualified for the World Cup in 33 years and wouldn’t qualify for another 7 more. In a desperate attempt to revive NASL interest while improving the national team, the league launched “Team America.” Playing out of D.C.’s RFK Stadium, the national team would compete as a club against the likes of the Cosmos. Coached by Greek-American hero Alkis Panagoulias, the team was an utter disaster and folded after just one season. Its legacy is a logo that served as the inspiration for the 1994 World Cup and current USMNT brands.
Now Russia may be drawing up a gameplan from that failure’s ashes. The Guardian reports that Russia may buy out its national team players from their clubs to form a fearsome “Team Russia” to compete in their domestic league ahead of their World Cup 2018 hosting duties.