Tagged: barcelona

On the Twitter: Talking with Andy about soccer business model

I replied to an innocuous “pro tip” from Andy Schwarz (@andyhre). It turned into an interesting discussion about what I contend are two contrasting views, or business models, of professional sports. Schwarz’s analyses generally concern the U.S., and I was suggesting that soccer abroad, particularly in Europe, operates with some assumptions that aren’t included in his models.

This recap is for my reference. Turns out that embedding a bunch of overlapping tweets is tricky, so these are not necessarily in a logical progression. (It might be time to check out this Storify thing.)

If anyone wants more context, tweet at me or leave a note in the comments.


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History of Soccer Week 3: Readings and the great Dani Alves

Just a quick post in advance of Thursday’s class. Notes and links to three readings are below, but first I want to share with you one of the most interesting things that happened in world football this weekend. Depending on how closely you follow sports news, you may be familiar with the big story in pro basketball, about the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers and his racial views. An ugly story, for sure.

But yesterday, there was also a racist incident during Barcelona’s game against an opponent called Villarreal. In this case, Dani Alves, an Afro-Brazilian defender for Barcelona, had a banana tossed at him from an idiot in the crowd (the game was at Villarreal). Sadly, racist abuse of players continues to be a serious problem in Europe, particularly Spain, Italy and parts of Eastern Europe, including Russia.

In this case, Alves did something rather remarkable. He was preparing to take a corner kick when the banana landed near him. He picked it up, peeled and ate it, and took the kick. Barcelona came from behind to win the game. Here’s the gif:

I’ll let you follow the link below this paragraph to see what happened on social media, only saying that the people you see in the photos are among the world’s biggest soccer stars, including Marta, seen at the bottom. Also, the Twitter hashtag caught on: #somostodosmacacos: “We are all monkeys.” The president of Brazil, for one, praised Neymar and Alves.

All of this happened last night and this morning.

Might as well take this moment to review two things from last week: At the moment the banana landed, Alves was taking a corner kick, which the offensive team gets to do if the defense is the last team to touch the ball before it goes over the endline, also called the byline. And to review our positions, Alves is a defender, specifically a right fullback or right back. Although as a right back he is a defender, he is an offensive weapon as well, running the length of the sideline, also called the touchline. In that Barcelona build-up I showed last week, he was the one who received the ball on the right, repeatedly, in order to attack the goal.

On to some readings. First, some early pages from a book by our guest speaker this week, Ian Thomson. His book is about American soccer in the 1960s, so it will pull us out of our chronology a bit. (Start with the paragraph beginning, “Soccer was not alien….”) [Link removed after completion of the course.]

But to get a little background on the early years of US soccer, particularly in the few years where it looked like people will still trying to decide if they liked soccer or (American) football, I can’t improve on these few pages by David Goldblatt.  [Link removed after completion of the course.]

This next reading, about soccer and the European political situation in the 1930s, is a bit longer, but I doubt we’re going to be able do much on this topic this week. So, take your time with it! [Link removed after completion of the course.Note that the name of Ajax, the Amsterdam soccer club featured in this book, is pronounced “Aye-axe.”

Note: These files are scanned from books in my possession and they fall under Fair Use guidelines. These filed will be removed after the completion of my course in late May 2014.

Tiki-taka, superstars and artistry: Reviewing The History of Soccer, Week 2

Great class this week, as we just about made it to the turn of the 20th century! Seriously, I’m going to have to speed it up if we’re going to be discussing contemporary soccer issues by week 5, as I’ve intended.

Next week’s class will be divided into two parts. I’ll discuss the offside rule, address other questions about rules and take you on a quick tour of major controversies and developments to World War II, including the brief flowering of women’s soccer in England. The second half will be a presentation by journalist Ian Thomson, who is visiting North Carolina for the weekend. In a follow-up post in the next day or two, I’ll send you a chapter from Ian’s book about a colorful period of American soccer in the 1960s, and a couple of other readings.

With this post, I’d like to elaborate on a couple of topics that came up this week. This first one is kind of wonky and tactics-oriented, and the second is about Lionel Messi.

First, before I go into this tactics discussion, I want to emphasize that it is not a requirement for soccer fans to be interested in strategy. It’s perfectly fine to simply cheer for your team to win, or to applaud good plays when they occur (or, god forbid, goals). These days, I’m not much of a tactics nerd, but during the period of Barcelona’s greatest years (they are in a bit of decline right now), I was reading a lot about tactics and I also bought Jonathan Wilson’s Inverting the Pyramid, which was published around that time.

That said, if you want to read a great blog that reviews recent European games and analyzes the tactics, your destination should be Zonal Marking. Here is ZM’s account of that thrilling 0-0 game between Chelsea and Atletico Madrid, about which the Guardian wrote that passage I read to you in class. (And be sure to check out the comments!)

Even if you haven’t the slightest interest in delving into the finer points of soccer tactics, an interesting takeaway is this: There is an egghead minority of soccer enthusiasts who enjoy dissecting tactics, and this tradition goes back at least as far as the pre-WWII cafés of Vienna and Budapest, as Wilson’s book documents.

Now, to review class (and if you’re just interested in Messi, scroll on down!): When I showed the video of Barcelona in a classic build-up to a goal, there were a couple of very good questions about the sequence. (Here it is again.)

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