A Cup of Russia

Obscure Blogger Breaks
Silence About World Cup

Many readers – ok, three – have asked about Colltales’ lack of World Cup coverage this year. Flattered that they even care to ask, I can only offer that I’m a lazy bone by nature. Deep down though I could come up with a corollary of excuses to justify my apathy.
Like, this team doesn’t make my heart beat faster (a lie); it doesn’t hold a candle to past Brazilian soccer players (that’s actually relative); their win will boost a terrible government (it always does). The reality, however, is that when they step on the pitch, I lose my mind.
I’m sorry that Germany is out, after what they did to the game, and to us, four years ago in Brazil. Their fine display of football had the rare quality of matching their generosity off the grass. The community that hosted them won’t forget their dignity, and donations, for long.
Also, despite my little faith, I’d hoped for a rematch of their 2014 7×1 thrashing of the home team. The upside for Brazilians, though, is that their premature exit represented a big relief: Brazil’s unmatched five-times world title record will remain unchallenged for another four years.
Apart from them, all teams expected to get this far, have made it into the round-robin stage. On its twisted way, the cup is a predictable affair. Past champions Argentina, England, France, Spain, and Uruguay are still pretty much alive, at least until next week. Can’t wait.

THE TEAMS, THE GAME & EVERYTHING
By far, everybody’s sentimental favorite seems to be Mexico, this time around – albeit there’s a place in my heart for Japan too. They’ve been playing with gusto, and Sweden aside, are hot for a first title. Plus, they play next, and are always reeling to beat, Brazil. You’re on.
Up to now, the best game was the early thriller Portugal 3×3 Spain. And Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo has the edge over Argentine Messi and Brazilian Neymar as MVP. That can change but it’s unlikely. It may not be feasible but a Portugal versus Mexico final would be great.
Speaking of coverage, the media has been predictably biased and disappointingly sparse. News organizations, which have spend lots of ink demonizing Russia, seem set on not showing the country’s so-called human side, as it’s customary in this sort of world class sports event.

THE MYSTIQUE OF THE YELLOW JERSEYS
Disgusting displays of hate and racism happened too, but none from host Russians. Scenes of ugly sex abuse of female fans and reporters, burning of country flags, and xenophobic celebrations went viral and caused the appropriate repulse around the world.
But I daydream, sort of. Despite FIFA’s ingrained corruption, referee mistakes, fake injuries, and some boring games, the cup always manages to thrill those, like me, helplessly hooked on its appeal. My, I even consider those world titles my own personal achievements.
I grew up with Pelé, Garrincha, Gerson, Rivelino, Jairzinho, Sócrates, Zico, Falcão, Renato Portalupi, Careca, Romário, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho Gaúcho, Kaká, – and now, the pickings become slim – Marcelo, Dani Alves, and, fine, Neymar, and Coutinho.
I can’t help it, I’m lucky that way and yes, you may hate me for it. So when friends say they’re rooting against Brazil, I tell them (more)
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Read Also:
* Grace Under Rain
* Out of This World (Cup)
* Cold Cups II Continue reading

Ghost Writer

Blog Author Goes Missing,
May Fail to Write New Post

The disturbing news that readers of this blog are about to receive now may be a shock to some. Others will simply throw their hands up the air and say something like, I knew it. Yet, the great majority, the real target to which new stories are published on this space every week, those, well, they couldn’t care less, and probably won’t even noticed anything unusual.
Still, we feel that it’s our duty to let you all know that the writer of these posts, the person to whom we’ve created a public profile, with an avatar and a proper username, has gone missing. We’re out of words. Literally. Seriously, we ourselves couldn’t write a single sentence even if our lives depend on. But we’ve looked everywhere and we simply can’t find the author.
See, since its inception two years ago, Colltales has had an agreement with this person – let’s call him ‘WC’ – and it goes this way: in exchange for food and drinks (no alcoholic beverages), board but not heat, and a walk in the park every once in a while, WC produces a story every day, which can be a completely original or a comment on the world of wacky and odd news, animal reports, unusual sights, etc.
Thing is, lately WC’s been very inconsistent. Often, when we come to collect the story for publishing, WC’s not around, or haven’t finished it, or has to be coached out of bed. Since we absolutely don’t want you, our faithful reader, to be disappointed, we sometimes lose it, we’re very sorry to say. But so far, despite some shouting and shoving, we haven’t failed you, have we?
It always works, or it has. If one positive thing can be said about WC – and believe us, there are not many to report, and don’t even let us start with matters of personal hygiene, attitude or even common courtesy – is that, even if at the last minute, he’s always provided us with something, heaven knows how, that pops out right when we’re already a bundle of nervous about to commit some despicable act.
Often, since WC doesn’t type or couldn’t even begin to understand how to use Word (we’ve tried is, but the laptop wound up cracked on the floor. Don’t ask), the writing is, let’s say, poorly presented. (more)
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Read Also
* The Untamed

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Golden Balls

An Award Ceremony to
Mask FIFA’s Horror Show

No offense to Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Neymar, top contenders to this year’s Ballon d’Or award – and arguably three of the greatest footballers ever – but Monday’s ceremony in Zürich may not be all about rewarding the deserving and honoring the honorable.
Not that we should expect any mention of FIFA’s annus horribilis (and we’re not getting anywhere near that stinky pun either). After all, this is the time to pay homage to these players’ artistry, and whoever wins has proven their worth on the pitch.
It’s just that such artistry, talent, and exuberance, shown throughout an ever more demanding, year-round season, are in stark contrast to the staggering catalog of behind-closed-doors misdeeds FIFA officials have perpetrated on their account.
As of now, former president Sepp Blatter, and the ex-head of UEFA, its European arm, Michel Platini, continue fighting their 8-year ban from the sport, and a stretching number of officials, in many countries, face criminal charges.
It’s also emblematic that the corruption dragnet has caught both Platini, who’s all but squandered his past as a great player, and (more)
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Read Also:
* Frozen in Time
* Trick or Truce?
Continue reading

Heart & Ball

Soccer Bumps
& Best Practices

Sudden cardiac deaths increase during the World Cup, according to studies published before the 2010 tournament in Africa. But some may beg to differ and the wisdom of such studies could be er compromised upon learning what happened to one of the researchers, a long distance runner.
The International Journal of Cardiology reported then a 77 percent spike in heart fatalities, while The New England Journal of Medicine found emergencies to be 2.66 times greater during a cup than before or after it. ‘Beta-adrenergic-blocking’ drugs are recommended to prevent such untimely fate.
Which was, nevertheless, exactly the fate met by the aforementioned researcher (name undisclosed). Despite being in top shape, he collapsed and died suddenly in one of his daily runs. Guess who found his lifeless body? Two smokers, who were leaving a soccer game and probably lit up another one before calling for help.
So if you think you could use some downers, by all means, go ahead and help yourself. You may then watch the 1958 World Cup final, minus the stressful twists and turns of that crazy teenager named Pelé. But if you rather shoot yourself in the arm than miss the final in Rio de Janeiro, you’d better listen to Branco, another Brazilian World Champion, class of 1994.
Branco Scores Against the Netherlands, 20 Years Ago July 9th, Dallas, U.S.The defender, who scored a crucial goal for his side against the Netherlands, told the press that his son was conceived in the U.S. during that cup. According to the sage, “sex is good for you, it relieves tension.” Amen to that, Mr. White.
So it may be time to put aside the research papers and wish you’ll be one of those lucky blokes who’ll die, heart-pumping hard, either when your team is winning or in the sack. Tell no soul but some say that’s what happened to soccer-loving Peter Sellers. Whatta boy.
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* Edited from post originally published on June, 14, 2010.

Brazuca

World Cup Groups Set, a Weary
Brazil Braces for the June Kickoff

The last regulation act before the start of next summer’s World Cup in Brazil took place yesterday: the tournament’s group drawing and first round schedule. It was pretty much one of the few things that happened on schedule. All else is far from running as smooth.
In fact, all six stadiums being built or redone for the games will miss the December deadline, despite staggering costs (and so far, two casualties). Thus, if one could name a single thing that, for sure, will be doing its part, even if all else fails, that’d be the ball.
But apart from that, an engineering feat named Brazuca, Brazilians remain weary about this tournament, despite their now proverbial, and much manipulated, passion for ‘futebol,’ and of course, that it’s taking place in their land. Not many more reasons to celebrate, otherwise.
In June, dissatisfied with the way billions of dollars were being spent with the cup, while a decrepit network of hospitals and chronically underfunded schools were left to rot, hundreds of thousands took to the streets in mass rallies not seen since the 1980s, when similar crowds effectively ended 20-plus years of military dictatorship.
Such dissatisfaction continues to brew, and by the time the ball starts to roll, pent up anger may be virtually impossible to contain. Some expect that a Brazil win could quell such feelings. Others are not so sure. In fact, while many think a win would be great, nice and all that, there seems to be a better sense of proportion this time around.

READY FOR AN UPSET?
Feeling they’ve been taken for a ride, which is reflected in every aspect of FIFA’s fingers on the setup of the games, from the way the competition is being sold to big wig sponsors to ticket prices, prohibitive to most locals, organizers may not have a clear idea what’s coming on their way.
The case of last month’s spectacular collapse in São Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city, of the multi-million dollar, overbudget stadium that’s to host the cup opener, which killed two workers and caused significant Continue reading

Difficult Conversations – Special Edition

Earthquake, Oil Spill &
Dangerous War Secrets

____________

A Short List of What Have Kept Us Awake in 2010,

and What We May Need to Awake From in the New Year.

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THE TOPS
1) July 26, December 19. The biggest story of the year, the two-punch WikiLeaks revelations about our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with the startlingly dispirited diplomacy used to achieve them, had all the limitations of an attack led by drones: all fire, no eyesight.
What was far more revealing was the swift counter punch by the U.S. and its allies in reaction to them. Within days, a case of free speech was turned into a terrorist witch-hunt of the organization’s founder, Julian Assange, the Interpol was brought in and a personal misdeed in Sweden was quickly rolled in for good measure.
The effort to punish the messenger was enough to temporarily derail the essence of the allegations, force Assange to fight expatriation and jail term threats, and land Pvt Bradley Manning, his supposedly source, into an insalubrious location Continue reading

2 X 0

Brazil Beats U.S.A.
But Fans Win It All

A young Brazilian team, the majority of which making their international debut, beat Team USA 2X0 (goals by 19-year old Neymar, near left, and 20-year old Pato) in a friendly game before its new coach, Mano Menezes, and a New Jersey crowd of over 77,000. It was an entertaining match with a bitter sweet taste, for it may be the last with Bob Bradley as the U.S. coach.
Helped by a few special conditions, the 20-something and Continue reading