Tagged: simon kuper

Barcelona and the future of soccer

Really fascinating piece by Simon Kuper in the Financial Times. So many tidbits. Here’s one I was gratified to read:

[Barcelona coach Valverde says,] “This is a continuous sport in which the coach has barely any influence. […] Football belongs to the players. For 45 minutes at a time, non-stop, the player takes his own decisions. I have to say that the great players analyse the game better than I do.”

https://www.ft.com/content/908752aa-3a1b-11e9-b72b-2c7f526ca5d0

One more:

The first statistics that became widely available, from the 1990s, were the easiest ones to measure: number of passes, tackles, shots etc. These “event data” — measures of what a player does on the ball — are still often shown on TV. However, the average player has the ball for only about two minutes a game. The main question of football may be how he positions himself in the other 88 minutes. Is he controlling crucial spaces and creating space for teammates?

ibid

Once again, the link is here. FT.com allows free reading if you give your email.

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.