Grace Under Rain


Edson Arantes do Nascimento, a.k.a. Pelé, becomes 80 today. Still considered soccer’s G-O-A-T, his popularity is intact after half a century of retirement. Despite his difficult relationship with Brazil, he helped it win three out of five World Cups, the most of any other.
A wee lad in the 1960s, I’ve experienced his magic and seized the memory as one of my most precious. As his celebrated Santos played my Grêmio, I understood what means to embody the dreams of an entire nation with the grace of a generous king.  

As he walked off the field, crowd jeers turned into cheers. He held his head down until they grew louder to grant us his royal smile. It took him only a second for all of us to become his.

Pelé, football’s greatest player, had come to town to play my team. But by the end of the first half, there was no memorable greatness to report. It was just another league game, after all; rough skirmishes in the mud and a cold and unforgiving winter to boot. That night though there was also a shining knight among us. And he acted the part with aplomb.
Sports fans are rude, raw, and irrational the world over. Crude emotions are always at the ready but civility is usually checked at the turnstiles. Just like at the Colosseum: Christians and pagans crowded the pitch but to the beasts belongs the hour.
The birthplace of  ‘jogo bonito‘ is no haven away from this world of unbounded brutality. The exquisite touch of skills, the artistry with the ball are reflected on the Mondo Cane sensibility at the bleaches, the cursing, the unholy screams, and every obscene gesture to match.
Let’s not get into the urine-bag throwing at random, the foul-smelling bathrooms, the fights that break at chance between rivaling factions. And the slurs throw at women, let’s just not go there.
In such a freezing and wet Wednesday, as only a place that close to Antarctica can be, 30,000 or so of us were braving elements and odds but for a glimpse of a special player, to whom songs, and toasts, and accolades are still being raised.
Chanting our undying commitment to follow our blue team ‘barefoot if necessary,’ as its Anthem promises, that’s where we were at that very night. And for a chance to see how memories are built to last.
Ours was the no-nonsense team, whose physical game had almost no room for finesse. We’d kick the ball and the opponent with gusto, and if we’d sneak an offensive play, it’d usually be like a cannon aimed at the other end of the field. All fancy schmancy and flair had no place in the squad.
It was 1969 and Pelé had already won two world championships with the national team. By then though, he was close to retirement, his great glory days left smashed in the grass of England three years earlier. For all it counted, he had nothing else to prove and a lot of reasons to just fade away.
No one knew then that a year later, he’d rise and enchant the world all over again. Football is a game for the minute. All else (more)
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Read Also:
* Pelé At 70
* National Tragedy
* Don Diego de La Argentina
Continue reading

Evolving Mores

Undies, Mother Teresa & Brazilian
Prostitutes: They All Got Upgrades

We all have expiration dates. In fact, pretty much everything about us, life and everything has a rotting point, beyond which it must evolve or it’ll dissipate. The same with clothing, reputations, and things people do for a living: it’s either reboot, or become as good as an old BlackBerry.
Take underwear, for instance. There’s no telling what they mean to so many, even those who don’t consider them a priority. Or Princess Di’s favorite poor of West Bengal, whose notoriety is under heavy artillery right now. As for the Brazilians, it’s all about professional improvement.
More often than not, change is good. One needs to keep on tiptoes if something will ever get done, and many a fine and exquisite way of doing things, in a certain, exquisite way, well, went the way of the Dodo. It simply couldn’t withstand these times of instant reward and viral videos.
Then again, some industries take advantage of this natural cycle to push their wares, as anyone who’s ever wondered why they wound up being stuck with this year’s model, when the one parked nearby is still running, would rush to tell you. We’d tell you more, but your smartphone probably would need an upgrade to put up with so much data.
In any event, we can’t help it. We crave the new, as long as it’s shiny, and smells fresh, and has a big logo, or set of functions, we’ve convinced ourselves we absolutely can’t live without. Even if last year’s is still perfectly fine, and running, and takes all calls, thank you very much. We just never care to pick it up.
So in anticipation of the new season, and whatever new crap they have in store for us, at a premium price, we’re got this first-world problems thing really down. After all, there’s something else common about these three themes that follow: they’re all much older than your mother.

CAGE-FREE-RANGE PANTIES
It seems that everywhere you look, everything is getting an organic version of it. This wave of labels may have started with food, but now it’s spreading like a malware throughout the fabric of our society, to use a pompous old-fashioned dictum. To the point that such labels may as (more)
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Read Also:
* Old Underwear
* Freaky Links

Continue reading

The Crying Games

Five Rings Above Misery (Telegraph/Getty)

A Bruised Rio Hosts Its
Low-Expectations Olympics

What a difference 10 years make. A decade ago, when Rio begun its cavalcade to host the Summer Olympics, Brazil was swimming in optimism. Unprecedented economic growth and a hard-earned period of political and social stability suddenly gave Brazilians much-sought global respect and the drive to dream that yes, they could.
In a country suffused with body culture, nothing would’ve marked that spirit as winning the bid for both the games and also the 2014 World Cup. From that point in history, only those two mega-sport events could represent a fitting coronation to what turned out to be an exceptional but miserably elusive moment.
The Olympics and Paralympics competitions that start officially Friday, however, are taking place in a radically different country. Long gone are the joy and effusiveness that fueled the celebrations for being chosen, in October 2009, by the International Olympic Committee, in Copenhagen.
It seems as if Brazil run out of the luck it never really had. Or that was too disappointingly brief. In one moment, it was a model of sustainable growth and the text book for social promotion policies, only to become, in the next, a continental-size pool of resentment and regret.
Not unlike voters for Brexit, Brazilians woke up suddenly and realized they may have thrown away the baby along the dirty bathwater. Two whole years of street protests against corruption, and all they got was a group of lousy politicians with police records who now occupies the government.
Competitors Will Jump in the Guanabara Bay, no Matter What. (Ricardo Moraes/Reuters)
WAIT, WE MAY STILL WIN THIS
Deeply divided, Brazil is already suffering another global-scale public humiliation, just as it did two years ago, when the then celebrated national soccer team got thrashed by Germany in the World Cup. A look at global headlines about these games has been source of even deeper embarrassment.
Every media outlet, including the country’s own, has reported a corollary of staggering woes brought to light by the magnifying glare of the games. From raw sewage in Guanabara Bay, site of most water competitions, to fears of disease-carrier mosquitoes, it all looks pretty bleak now.
We will return to foes that everyone is hoping against hope won’t tarnish the innate Olympics beauty, but first, as if almost duty-driven, the focus must be on a few good, or fine, or at least, interesting and even inspiration things about the games, even before they start.

SOME SHINING POINTS OF LIGHT
Ok, so we found three, but worth mentioning all the same. Like the 10-people Refugee Olympic Athletes team. Plucked from millions around the world, they will compete in several categories as independents. Since there should be many more, and there aren’t, they will be our own good-for-gold team.
Speaking of athletes, youth bodies, downtime, and a party city like Rio, it all may mean one thing: they’ll get laid. A lot. That’s why nine million ‘Rainforest friendly’ condoms will come in er handy. They’re sustainably-produced, made in Xapuri, the late Chico Mendes‘ hometown, in the Amazon state of Acre, and they’re free. Help yourself.
Finally, like many top world competitors, the third point of light is a cheat. Guilty as charged. But no less meaningful: it’s the (more)
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Read Also:
* Marvelous City
* Fly me to the Alemão
* Games People Play
Continue reading

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

Frozen in Time

A Year Since Its Biggest Lost,
Brazil’s Football Remains Stunted

It wasn’t supposed to be that way. After being thoroughly thrashed by the Germans, at the World Cup held at its home, the Brazilian national team was expected to be, at this time of the year, in full recovery mode, with a few new conquests to boot.
Nothing of sorts has happened. And judging by the once again totally undignified way it got kicked out of the recent Copa America, the beatings will continue until someone can no longer say, ‘Brazil’s the nation of football,’ without sounding deranged.
There’s a growing sense that neither we’ll have the will to fix the very structure of the sport, so it can provide the support and background to nurture a new generation of outstanding players, nor the talent needed to win another World Cup has even been born yet.
Also, there are very few voices still interested in discussing what actually happened on that saddest of all Tuesdays, a year ago today, in Belo Horizonte. Even the Brazilian press has hardly focused on its causes and possible solutions so that could never happen again.
A year ago, we managed to line up a few of just such conditions, lacking or needed, so the future would be rewritten. But there was already the sinking feeling that, despite all the pain and the crying Brazilians on the Internet, that too would be forgotten.
So we’re republishing the post, hoping it makes a bit more sense today. It may be a tad too heavy on the Seleção Brasileira and its woes, and not as fair as it should to the German squad that beat it. But it’s still on the money, as far as we could see then.
Once again, I’m still very sorry, Brazil.

National Tragedy


Germany Humiliates
Brazil at Home: 7X1

To say that this was a loss would be an insult to all teams that have lost during this and previous World Cups, despite fighting their hearts out and carrying their nations’ hopes. To say that it was about Brazil is also unfair to the great German squad. It was their win to celebrate.
But what did happen on this sad afternoon in Brazil was that reality has finally caught up with the Seleção Brasileira. Not just for what it’s shown during the tournament but for past decades of completely lack of preparation from the ground up, to protect its soccer traditions.
World Cup 2014 LogoFor since it has won the World Cup only 12 years ago, not a single Brazilian club has climbed the rankings among the world’s best, despite a few wins in the Intercontinental Cup, and the state of organized sports in Brazil has only got even more appalling, from the foundations of its business model to the very own field of games.
In fact, to watch a regular Brazilian league soccer game has become one of the most unpleasant and dangerous experiences for the fans, as well as a pathetic display of incivility, with so many illegal tackles and ugly bumps, to disgust even the most fervent supporter. And the state of the stadiums only enhances such perception.
So guess what team had the record number of faults in the World Cup? Even though it isn’t alone in allowing its players to fake injury to gain benefits from the referee, Brazil has been a shameful adept of the brutality on the field, and arguably the serious injury Neymar suffered was an involuntary payback by the Colombians.
The league is also one of the unfairest, forcing well supported teams to compete, and play, in under par fields all over the enormous country, for great part of the year. Many a time, a club simply refuses to be downgraded to a lower division, using political influence and the courts in lieu of the lack of quality of its soccer.

INGRAINED UNACCOUNTABILITY
Brazilian clubs also fester with mismanagement, corruption, traffic of influence, and behind-the-scenes deals with empresarios, who treat promising players like commodities and reap considerable, and mostly unreported, wealth out of trading them to foreign leagues.
Finally, for a sport that mobilizes obscene amounts of money, club management in Brazil is mostly a cash and carry structure, with no accountability even as it’s supported by taxpayer money. Fans have little saying on the financial decisions of the clubs they support.
So, no wonder that when Brazil was chosen to host the World Cup, the first thing that was done by the Brazilian federation, CBF, was to map where the games would be played, not on the basis of infrastructure or tradition, but according to political favors owned and paid back to local bosses.
No wonder either that some of these extra multimillion dollar stadiums (at least three) that were built for the competition went over budget and will probably slowly decay as they were erected in cities without a single team competing in the country’s main soccer league. Most blatant example: Brasilia, site of the government.

A WORN OUT LEGEND
Still, for a while, the Seleção has managed to support the archaic idea that Brazil still plays the best soccer in the world, an idea easy to market, and custom made for Fifa to promote, and profit, from the sport. While most Brazilian clubs wilted under continental and global tournaments, the national team kept scoring.
Last year’s Confederation Cup, a shorter tournament which Brazil won with honors, showed that at times such disconnect between the national squad and the quality level of soccer played within the country is not always as flagrant. It was foolish, however, to believe that the miracle would keep happening over and over again.
And no wonder too that the biggest and most massive rallies since the final days of the military dictatorship irrupted in Brazil’s major cities, driven by the sinking feeling that all the wealth the cup would eventually bring to the country was not about to find its way to its lower classes, or even stay within its borders.
Even though to rally against the World Cup, once it’d been established that it’d take place in Brazil, was misguided, Brazilians on the streets were absolutely right: the great majority was going to be left out of the great party as research has showed that some 60% of the average stadium attendance is white and middle class.

SOUL SEARCHING TIME
That conflicts with racial percentages of the general population, reflecting also the under-representation of blacks within the top circles of power and political elites of Brazil. The straight reason was, they simply couldn’t afford the price of the tickets.
So, what was defeated today at Mineirão stadium, we surely hope, was not an idea of how soccer should be played – for Brazil hasn’t really been close at proposing one at this time around anyway – but the business of ‘futebol brasileiro’ that has got to change, if we have any hope for such disaster not to be repeated.
You may hear talk about lack of endeavor, exertion, faith from the part of the Brazilian players, and how they ‘didn’t show heart’ on the field. Don’t believe it. Even if some of them weren’t as intensely religious as they are, they gave it as good as they possibly could. Beware of anyone who says otherwise, for they may have ulterior motives.
On the strict account of what went on the field, Brazil was totally outplayed by a superior team that has managed to inflict the worst defeat in its history, even if doesn’t go on to win a fourth World Cup (it did). It’s also poised to seriously challenged other records, even if it won’t break the World Cup one just yet.

THE DREAM ANOTHER DAY
This will hurt Brazilian national pride perhaps, and unfortunately, even more than its slums, the poverty of its shantytowns, the indifference of the wealthy and the politically connected, all on plain display for the world to see during the tournament. Maybe now more people will care.
A defeat of such a magnitude will also affect the way poor children see the game as a ticket out of the social miseries, as some of them were out on the field today, wearing the famed yellow jerseys and being thoroughly humiliated in front of billions. At the very least, it’ll give the country pause to think why the World Cup is so important like that?
It may force us, those millions around the world who have been parading the past glories of this team as a tattoo of our own personal achievements, to consider giving it a rest, since this day too shall pass. But in the meantime, it has given the rest of us an excuse, an urge, a compulsion even: to find quickly a place to hide.
We’re really sorry, Brazil.

Curtain Raiser

Heartbreak & Immigration Dreams, Colltalers

Last week’s pictures of the appalling conditions that hundreds of children, who crossed the U.S. border illegally, face at an Arizona holding center may stop for a full minute the juggernaut of obliviousness and draconian tactics that has marked immigration policy by current and past administrations.
After that moment under the spotlight, though, despite all outraged and semi-heated debates over the issue, chances are it’ll return quietly to the back burner of political expediency, the control of a quasi-vigilante mindset and, ultimately, the corporations running the border’s jail system.
For the immigration debate seems stuck in the mud of faulty assumptions and a questionable moral compass. Short of compassion and integrity, any attempt at reforming it is compromised by grandstanding and ulterior motives. Pity those who still believe in the founding ideals of this nation.
The photos, published by a conservative Website, had the obvious intent of indicting the Obama administration over its treatment, or lack thereof, of illegal immigrants. But that could backfire and serve as an indictment also of the Republican Party as it has consistently fight the issue from making progress in Congress. They did it again last month, blocking efforts to offer residency for those who came here as children and joined the military.
And before we move on to other aspects of what has become a moot issue in American life, that of people who, despite living, working or fighting for this country, or even being born here, are still considered aliens, most of ‘Mexicans’ coming to the U.S. are not from Mexico at all, but mainly from Central America. In fact, immigration from the south of the border country has been drastically reduced in the past decade.
Also, even if it’s painful to see unaccompanied kids being thrown into the gruesome detention centers at the border, the issue shouldn’t depend of pulling heartstrings, as if we’d care more if they’re children. No immigration policy can be serious if it ignores the tightly wound familiar ties of many Latin American societies, and the economic realities that force parents to send their young to brave such a brutal trek to the U.S.
Conservatives all over, however, do share a trump card on their criticism of President Obama: the over two million undocumented immigrants who have been deported under his watch. And who, for the most part, unlike the administration’s claims, were honest, law abiding citizens.
Perhaps no other issue, with exception that of the prosecution of whistleblowers or the escalation of the war in Afghanistan, show with more clarity the profound disconnect between the president’s arresting oratorical talents, and the devilishly pragmatic approach of his administration’s policies.
At times, it seems as if Obama, the candidate, is still on the campaign stump, arousing us with his libertarian ideas, tolerance, and all that, while Obama, the president, has been more often a leader of continuity, meaning, preserving many of the restrictive and unfair policies that preceded him.
Such schizophrenic appraisal of the president who went through an unprecedented political bashing for pursuing an outstanding, albeit imperfect, piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act, and is committed to bring all active troops home, although not soon enough, may sound itself unfair.
But it is not too farfetched when it comes to immigration reform, even though enacting the overhaul of such a wide reaching law, which just like the Obamacare, will have long lasting impact on American society, is no task for a single man, even for the admittedly most powerful one on earth.
It is, however, a task that will have to be tackled better than it’s been since the times when promoting immigration was a condition to fuel progress of this nation. It’s ironic that a country that rose to the top of the world on the backs of its immigrant force, now can’t find ways to address the issue, without involving xenophobic fears, arming to the teeth its border patrols, or providing business to a corrupted private jail system.
We’re halfway through 2014, and over 140 thousand have already been detained at the Rio Grande Valley. Most of them will spend months of idle imprisonment, waiting to get deported, Continue reading

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

Evolving Mores

Undies, Mother Teresa & Brazilian
Prostitutes: They All Got Upgrades

We all have expiration dates. In fact, pretty much everything about us, life and everything has a rotting point, beyond which it must evolve or it’ll dissipate. The same with clothing, reputations, and things people do for a living: it’s either reboot, or become as good as an old BlackBerry.
Take underwear, for instance. There’s no telling what they mean to so many, even those who don’t consider them a priority. Or Princess Di’s favorite poor of West Bengal, whose notoriety is under heavy artillery right now. As for the Brazilians, it’s all about professional improvement.
More often than not, change is good. One needs to keep on tiptoes if something will ever get done, and many a fine and exquisite way of doing things, in a certain, exquisite way, well, went the way of the Dodo. It simply couldn’t withstand these times of instant reward and viral videos.
Then again, some industries take advantage of this natural cycle to push their wares, as anyone who’s ever wondered why they wound up being stuck with this year’s model, when the one parked nearby is still running, would rush to tell you. We’d tell you more, but your smartphone probably would need an upgrade to put up with so much data.
In any event, we can’t help it. We crave the new, as long as it’s shiny, and smells fresh, and has a big logo, or set of functions, we’ve convinced ourselves we absolutely can’t live without. Even if last year’s is still perfectly fine, and running, and takes all calls, thank you very much. We just never care to pick it up.
So in anticipation of the new season, and whatever new crap they have in store for us, at a premium price, we’re got this first-world problems thing really down. After all, there’s something else common about these three themes that follow: they’re all much older than your mother.

CAGE-FREE-RANGE PANTIES
It seems that everywhere you look, everything is getting an organic version of it. This wave of labels may have started with food, but now it’s spreading like a malware throughout the fabric of our society, to use a pompous old-fashioned dictum. To the point that such labels may as Continue reading

Losing the Past

Brazil’s Threatened Archeological
Sites Include the Little Horny Man

In the 1970s Brazilians heard often that theirs was ‘the country of the future.’ The cliche was a weapon in the psychological warfare military rulers waged against those it could not control. And it met its match, in the form of a perfect comeback: ‘We just need to survive till then.’
Brazil may not be waiting any longer for that future, but its past may be gone even before it reaches it: recently discovered sites of ancient human occupation are already under threat. Mining and World Cup projects, and lack of regulation may doom efforts to preserve them.
Archeologists are racing to document and study more countless sites in several states where human artifacts and markings have been dated to some 8,000 years ago, before miners start digging for minerals, and construction crews rushed to finish long-delayed infrastructure projects. There’s little question about where the odds stack in this race.
It doesn’t help the situation the fact that the archeologists’ cause is far from being as popular as the Amazon Rainforest, or the indigenous peoples living in there. Although still facing the prospect of a quick demise, the cause for preservation of the forest has plenty of support and even glamour enough to remain relevant.
Archeological digs, on the other hand, are notoriously devoid of much appeal. The process of finding signs of early humans is daunting and time consuming, and often ignites more questions than answers about our origins. In other words, not sexy enough to justify annual, star-studded concerts at Carnegie Hall.
On top of that, or rather underneath it all, is the fact that Continue reading

Bag of Pardons

Hiding the Poor While
Laying the Red Carpet

The Jiangxi province, in Nanchang, China, came up with a novel way to prevent beggars from bothering those attending a religious festival: it built metal cages to house them for the duration of the event. For the poor, it was either that, or literally get out of town.
It was a particularly crude display of business expediency by local officials. But China’s has shown before that it places a higher premium on its global image than on its underclass. That’s why poverty was nowhere to be seen during the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.
Of course, pious souls of all stripes chimed in, bless their hearts, calling the Jiangxi’s initiative barbaric, akin to the promotion of a human zoo. But, abstracted the blatant insensitivity, the action seems in line with the general trend, in Western societies too, to regard the poor as lepers used to be, hidden and as far away as possible.
It’s happening again in Spain and Greece and throughout Europe: despite the failure of the ‘austerity to everyone but us’ policies, officials and politicians continue to prescribe it. Unemployment and economic stagnation remain rampant, sowing misery and massive disruption of Continue reading

Favela Carioca

Rio de Janeiro Struggles to
Live Up to its Beauty Billing

For a city of such a staggering natural beauty, Rio de Janeiro is surprisingly picky when it comes to its public image.
The point was underlined yet again, a few months ago, when city officials complained to Google that it was giving too much prominence to its 600 or so favelas. The search engine giant obliged and its map of the Rio now displays more wealthier neighborhoods than before.
Now, in anticipation of Brazil hosting the 2014 World Cup and 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

Don Diego de la Argentina

Brilliance & Controversy,
Maradona’s Legacy at 50

One of the greatest soccer players of all time, Argentine Diego Armando Maradona, reaches his 50th birthday, marked by unique achievements on the field and embarrassing mistakes off of it.
His playing ability and skills remain unmatched and it’s his arguably the most beautiful goal ever scored in a World Cup, against England in 1986, Mexico, in the second title won by Argentina.
It’s also his one of his country’s most vexing moments, in the 1994 cup when Maradona failed a drug test and was banned from the competition. Since that quick exit, Argentina’s still to win another trophy.
His volatile personality, a magnet to controversy, threatened at times to obscure his achievements as a player. It also doesn’t help that to most he plays second fiddle to Brazil’s Pelé, who won two more tournaments than him, and far outscores everyone else in the game, almost 40 years after retiring.
In fact, Maradona’s public feud with Pelé is now part of the lore of the world’s most popular sport and a polarizing issue for its fans. Even his biggest victories seem to be multiplied by those of Pelé, except in what run-ins with the law and fan devotion verging on the bizarre are concerned.
His trials with illegal drugs and personal drama were often played out in public, and yet Argentines of all stripes would gladly light up candles for him anytime. Some went as far as to create the Church of Maradona, founded in 1998, and that counts 2010 as the year 50 D.D., Después de Diego (After Diego).
Still, to soccer lovers the world over, it’s more than simply coincidence that its two greatest idols were born exactly 20 years and a week apart, in two countries known for their petty but intense rivalry.
Thus, Maradona would be the Dionysius to Pelé’s Apollo, the dark, younger, unbound tango god and the sunny, wiser, hedonistic king of samba. Such over-the-top characterization, though, always gets in the way of a fully appreciation of such a complex and vulnerable public figure represented by the one once known as ‘Dieguito.’
But it seems appropriate that unlike Pelé’s 70th birthday celebrations last week, Maradona’s will be considerably more subdued because of the national mourning in Argentina for the sudden death of its former President Nestor Kirchner.
Once again, for a freak of destiny, his long-anticipated coronation will be somewhat shortchanged, and he won’t be able to completely rule the headlines in his own birthday, sharing them instead, with the commentary and reflective news on the death of another powerful populist figure.
Or it may all be a bit of payback from that infamous ‘Hand of God.‘ Whereas it once graced Maradona with an illegal and crucial goal, now it may be reminding him of its moody, counterbalancing whims. For if anyone’s greatness or disgrace would be close enough to be touched by the powers that be themselves, that would clearly be El Pibe de Oro.

(*) Originally published on Oct. 30, 2010. 

Paul Is Dead

New Evidence May Point to
Coverup in Octopus Demise

The German news agency DAPD said that Paul, the octopus who successfully predicted the outcome of the World Cup of soccer last July, was found dead Monday evening by what’s is being considered natural causes. According to reports, the cephalopod extraordinaire was in good spirits early on. He had his usual dish of boiled squid and watched his favorite show on Continue reading