Welcome to the 2014 Word Cup coverage!
Assuming you are reading this in the United States, and assuming that your soccer consumption habits are average for a U.S. citizen, you’re in desperate need of an expert or two to tell you how the World Cup is going to shake out. Maybe they’ll explain to you the different variations on the 4-4-2 formation, and what they’re good for.
Here’s where the Addison Recorder‘s coverage will differ from all others: we have no experts. Some of us are part-time soccer enthusiasts, and at least one of us could probably pick out Mesut Özil from a lineup. This makes us the perfect commentators for the U.S. audience — just like you, we’ve watched plenty of international and club soccer when our favorite (non-soccer) sports aren’t on. We know enough to take Alexi Lalas with a grain of salt, and to defer to the opinion of whomever doesn’t have an American English accent.
Yahoo! Sports hay have José Mourinho, but we have people who have an idea of who José Mourinho is. That’s the kind of expertise that you can kind of trust.
Right, then. I guess it’s time to start our actual coverage of the World Cup. Before I grab Alex Bean to join me in previewing all the different World Cup groups, allow me to set the scene for this year’s Cup. It’s not a pretty sight, so here’s a silly music video from a mustachioed man strumming a banjolele.
That was delightful. Now we get to wade into the shit of the World Cup. So, take a deep breath, because we’re going to start with the rotting, bloated corpulent Sulla sitting atop the corrupt Soccer Empire that oversees all this Roman-esque spectacle: FIFA.
All the Power of Organized Religion, None of the Pausing for Ethical Quandary
Are you a diehard college sports fan? If so, then international soccer has a very familiar theme that’ll help you feel right at home. The NCAA has done a stellar job of branding itself as a cabal of corrupt assholes riding athletes for profit and power. The main difference between the NCAA and the head of international soccer is a matter of scale. FIFA is gargantuan, and its level of corruption and terrible acts scales exponentially.
Honestly, I cannot even properly convey this scale. Imagine a collection of old plutocrats who are an unholy combination of multi-national drug cartel and the Vatican, but without any of the redeeming qualities of drugs or religion. Selling out impoverished nations, living on others’ work & money, turning the other way as thousands die… Yup that’s FIFA.
You know what, just watch John Oliver’s brilliant summary from last week of how absolutely corrupt FIFA is. Watch, laugh, then vomit at the idea of how much influence Sepp fucking Blatter has in this world. Then laugh again, but this time because you’re light-headed.
But we couldn’t set the scene without talking about the World Cup hosts…
We Aren’t Rioting in Celebration, Just Rioting
At this point, every story about the World Cup 2014 hosts should be talking about the Maracanazo, the 64-year-old kick to the teeth that Brazil figuratively and collectively endured the only other time the country hosted the Cup. And most World Cup stories mention this ‘curse’, including an interactive piece from the New York Times. But the traumitizing memory of Brazil’s 1950 loss is overshadowed by the fact that Brazilians have been rioting over the World Cup (and the upcoming 2016 Olympics).
On the surface, that doesn’t sound odd. Sports-based riots are not unheard of, and Brazilians are known for their love of The Beautiful Game. (Successful insertion of reference to soccer as “The Beautiful Game” — check. Bonus points for using it along with Brazil.) Nobody would be surprised if Brazilians rioted over winning a huge soccer game. But this is different; this is folks rioting because they don’t want the damn World Cup in their country, if it comes at the cost of everything else. The Brazilian government drops $11 billion to make FIFA happy is rage-inducing all on its own. When there’s apparently no money left to make sure the country isn’t falling apart, it makes a ton of sense that even the most soccer-crazy nations will riot. they choose the latter over Sepp Blatter.
I’ll let a Brazilian filmmaker explain (posted during the riots at last year’s Confederation Cup):
It didn’t have to be this way. The story in this World Cup is — and should be — about the ass-backwards priorities of filling FIFA’s coffers over the basic human needs of Brazil’s population. But if that wasn’t the case, American sports fans could totally get sucked in by the story of the Maracanazo — especially fans on the north side of Chicago. If you can understand the Curse of the Billy Goat, Merkle’s Boner, Steve Bartman, and 100+ years of championship futility at Wrigley Field, you can totally understand this:
Making Cubs Fans Look Downright Cuddly, By Comparison
Back in 1950, when Brazil hosted the World Cup for the first time, they went into the final game heavily favored over South American rival, Uruguay. Heavily favored. Like, “Dewey Defeats Truman” heavily favored. The presentation was ready, the medals engraved for the Brazilian team. In the fateful game, played at Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Uruguay and Brazil were unexpectedly knotted at 1-1 late. With only 11 minutes left, Uruguayan winger Alcides Ghiggia broke through the Brazilian defense. The best play for Ghiggia to make was a cross-pass to a speeding teammate, forcing Brazil’s superstar goalie, Barbosa, to range across the goal in an effort to save the shot.
Instead, Ghiggia shot the ball. Barbosa, expecting the cross, was just far enough out of position. The shot trickled past Barbosa’s fingers, giving Uruguay a 2-1 lead, which ended up as the final score.
Brazil’s fans where in utter disbelief. They had failed their group sanity check, and their stunned tears reflected the crumbling belief in all that was good & fair. And due to the fact that humans are irrational animals looking for an easy target onto which to cast their grief, Barbosa was blamed. Not just blamed, but turned into a national scapegoat. For decades.
Here’s the difference between the Maracanazo and the century of futility at Wrigley Field: if the Cubs ever won a World Series, everybody would be forgiven. Brazil has won FIVE World Cup championships since the Maracanazo, and Barbosa still died penniless and a pariah, unforgiven by the fans. I know this because the ESPN 30 For 30 documentary is on heavy rotation lately.
Because nothing gets you ready for 31 disappointed teams & their fan base like the depressing tale of a man unfairly scapegoated.
WHO’S READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?!
Erm, I mean soccer.
(Join us next time when Alex and -J. give terrible analysis that you totally should not take to your local betting establishment!)