The Sweeper: 10 Soccer Stories You May Have Missed

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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.

4. “Does Anyone Care About England Anymore?” asks FourFourTwo magazine.

Nope.”

5. “Lifestyles of the Rich and Footballers”

What’s more impressive, the landscaping of Graeme Souness’ lawn or mustache?
The Guardian presents another fascinating flashback slideshow, this time of the home lives of 1980s footballers. I was disappointed not to see Trevor Francis not sporting the tracksuits lovingly referenced in the classic “Only Fools and Horses” outro theme song.

6. “The Feel of the Printed Page Between your Fingers”

Howler is one of several new magazines coupling beautiful design with intelligent writing. You can pre-order their new issue here and marvel at Peter Diamond’s epic Tim Howard portrait.

7. Longshanks: “The Trouble with Scotland is that it’s full of Scots!

Next week, Scotland will vote on an independence referendum that could end up dissolving the union of two kingdoms that has endured since 1707. When Saturday Comes’ Gordon Cairns delivers a timely review of “Born Under a Union Flag,” which explores the unionist Rangers club’s complicated relationship with its country. Tangentially, if the Scottish vote “Yes,” making the “United Kingdom” name obsolete, should the country comprising England, Wales, and Northern Ireland be renamed Nando’s Premier League of Nations?

8. “Shine a Light”

Pele, on behalf of a British tech startup, unveiled a new community soccer pitch in Rio that lets its users power the field’s by playing. World Soccer Talk’s Peter Quinn explains how. Of course, a lack of playing space, whether at night or during the day, is hardly just a Brazilian problem. Look around your community. Do you see a place to play at night? Communities complain of the cost without considering the heavy price of sedentary citizens.

9. “Washing, wearing Wranglers, I think that I’m in love / Straight leg or a bootcut, legging, darling, please / Stay with me forever, don’t take off those jeans

Riff Raff and Katy Perry, America’s new royal couple, made a resplendent appearance at the VMAs last month with their matching Canadian tuxedos. The look has flown from the award show runway to on-field fashion as MLSsoccer.com reports on Napoli’s new denim-look kit. It’s far too subdued, and moreover, the USMNT wore it first, and far better, back in 1994.

10. “Watching all our friends fall / In and out of Old Paul’s / This is my idea of fun / Playing video games

FIFA 15 drops September 23rd, and in advance of your life becoming utterly consumed and completely ruined. Like any good drug dealer they’ve given the fiends a taste via their playable demo. Kotaku and the Daily Mirror rate it highly for its intelligent and beautifully rendered gameplay.

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