Soccer: Balls and Brothels

In times of trouble I turn to my parents, that is when I run into trouble. But what would I do if my work or club needed quick cash to keep going on? Probably not turn to brothels, but it happens.

Amateur soccer teams in Greece faced a hard time after budget cuts drastically reduced the money received; this is yet another side-effect of the Greek Euro Crisis. In an attempt to keep playing the sport, they turned to sponsors for a cash flow. The new money comes from a range of vastly different places. From kebab shops to funeral homes, feta cheese to a jam factory, variety really is the spice of life. But a small team, Voukefalas club, from the city of Larissa in central Greece, turned to two brothels, Villa Erotica and Soula’s House of History. Just an FYI, prostitution is legal in Greece.

Pictured Right: Brothel owner attends  soccer match with two workers

The deal, initially a joke between the team manager and the owner of the brothel, also known as a bordello, came to reality one remark about getting sponsorship and “other benefits” later. I guess it wasn’t the mutual idea of “play” that made the deal seem natural.

The newly sponsored team now sports pink jerseys that display “Villa Erotica” on their backs, though they are not allowed to play any real matches in them. I can only imagine what effect this has on the players and other teams going against them. Let’s hope it isn’t making the sport too hard.

When the chairman/travel-agency owner/backup goal keeper of the team received question on this action, he responded that “It is a question of survival”. Villa Erotica has already supplied the practice jerseys and 1000 euros ($1312), only a tenth of the 10,000 euros needed for a year of play.

(Pictured Left: Voukefalas Soccer team poses with new jerseys)

Most people in social media have linked to several articles over and over again, but a few have found a way to capture the humor of the situation. Some are using witty sayings,  most people seem to hold a neutral ground. Personally, I think it’s fine. Though I would like to see more “ball play” puns.

I think the teams should look a merger. The Voukefalas club stated that they still lack a midfield, something you would have no trouble patching up with a combination of two teams that are only two-thirds full. But then it becomes a question of there being enough teams to play each other.

Pictured Right: Tweets about the news of Voukefalas Sponsorship  

Does the community see this as a troubling thing? Should the team be aloud to keep their sponsorships? My theory is, if you can legally have brothels, then you can have them sponsor your team. They are a company just like the rest of the sponsors and should not be prohibited from sponsoring due to their type of business. What about your thoughts?

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story/_/id/1193095/brothels-rescue-cash-strapped-greek-soccer-team?cc=5901

http://news.yahoo.com/brothel-funeral-home-bail-greek-soccer-clubs-160930111–sow.html

http://brittneyinla.com/2012/10/19/brought-to-you-by-brothels/

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/soccer/10/17/greece-brothels-voukefalas.ap/index.html

http://frontierfooty.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/sex-trade-saves-greek-amateur-football-club/

Russian Premier League Primer

Champions: Zenit (via Yahoo! Sports)

    The largely popular video game FIFA Soccer comes out soon and the demo for the game drops today. Now, why am I talking about a video game? The sales from the game broke records for fastest and best-selling sports video game of all-time. FIFA broke sales records last year set by the ultra-popular Madden and NCAA Football. This is especially impressive because in the U.S. the main connoisseurs of sports video games are young males – which in America are forced to watch almost exclusively football highlights during the fall (American football, that is) on sports shows.

            So what does mean and what am I talking about? I’m saying that soccer is penetrating young American sports society, which is exciting for the U.S. to finally join the rest of the world in enjoying the sport. For those in the U.S. who are familiar with European football, many people can recognize players and teams from the top leagues such as the English Premier League, La Liga (Spain), Seria A (Italy), the Bundesliga (Germany) and Ligue 1 (France). These are the top 5 leagues in the world according to the UEFA coefficient (a mathematical formula that ranks soccer teams and leagues based on on-the-field success).

My job is to introduce you to the culture and trends of football in another major European country: Russia. This Russian Premier League introduction will briefly prime you on top teams and players, along with the trends going on in Russian football.

Here are the contending teams:

Zenit St. Petersburg – St. Petersburg

Zenit is the 2-time defending Russian champ and one of the richest teams in all of Euro football. Zenit flexed its muscles by just spending 80 million Euro on Brazilian star Hulk and young Belgian star Axel Witsel. Zenit is in the Champions League and believe they have what it takes to win the Champions League within the next few years.

Star Players: Hulk , ST (Brazil). Danny, MF (Portugal). Alexander Kerzhakov, ST (Russia).

CSKA Moskva – Moscow

CSKA is historically the Russian Red Army team in all sports. After a Top 16 showing in Champions League last year, CSKA qualified only for Europa League this season and has already been knocked out by AIK (a Swedish team). CSKA is known for its strong offensive play and the leadership of its goalie Igor Akinfeev and Russian hero defender Sergei Ignashevich. CSKA did not spend much money this year, and could possibly be passed up by richer team Anzhi Makhachkala if they are not careful.

Star Players: Igor Akinfeev, GK (Russia). Seydou Doumbia ST, (Cote D’Ivore). Keisuke Honda, MF (Japan). Sergei Ignashevich, DF (Russia).

Anzhi Makhachkala – Makhachkala

No one had ever heard of Anzhi Makhachkala when they signed Cameroonian superstar Samuel Eto’o away from Champions League winner Inter Milan a year ago. After years of complete oblivion, people actually know who Anzhi is and recognize several players on what used to be a completely unknown team. Anzhi was bought buy natural gas billionaire Suleyman Kerimov and quickly vaulted into contention. The team is filled with international players from Brazil, Morocco, and a couple more Africans. Anzhi is considered the richest team in the Russian premier league and will compete in the Europa League this season.

Star Players: Samuel Eto’o, ST (Cameroon), Mbark Boussoufa, MF (Morocco), Yuri Zhirkov, MF (Russia).

Spartak Moskva – Moscow

Spartak made a splash a few years ago with the signing of Irish player Aiden McGeady to their already international front line of Brazilians Welliton and Ari. Spartak has hung around near the top of the RPL, but has yet to top Zenit in the past couple of years. Spartak is again near the top of the RPL this season, but has already been blown out by Zenit. Some things seem to never change. Spartak is currently competing in the Champions league, but are in the same group as powerhouse Barcelona.

Star Players: Aiden McGeady, MF (Ireland), Welliton, ST (Brazil), Dmitri Kombarov, MF (Russia)

Rubin Kazan – Kazan

Kazan was top dog as recently as 2007-2008, but finished a disappointing 6th last season, but qualified for Europa with a big win the Russian Cup. The team has been passed up by free-spending Anzhi Makhachkala and still has to compete Zenit and the two tough Moscow teams. Kazan has a shot to prove itself in Europa, but will face Inter Milan in its grouping.

Star Players: Gokhan Tore, MF (Turkey). Gokdeniz Kardeniz, MF (Turkey). Obafemi Martins, ST (Nigeria).

Lokomotiv Moskva – Moscow

The third Moscow team is often forgotten behind oft-champions Spartak and CSKA, but Lokomotiv has a solid team and some interesting players. “Loko” has young up-and-coming Brazilian striker Maicon and can pair him with new signing Roman Pavlyuchenko, a former star for Tottenham. Loko also boasts Brazilian keeper Guilherme and new veteran Croatian defender Vedran Corluka. Corluka joins Roman Shishkin to form a solid defense for Loko. Loko is sticking around the top 5 and has a shot to make Europa this year.

Star Players: Vedran Corluka, DF (Croatia), Roman Pavlyuchenko, ST (Russia), Felipe Caicedo, ST (Ecuador).

With every blog post, there will be an update of the Russian Table:

Table courtesy ESPN.com and @ESPNFC

CLUB P W D L GD PTS
Zenit 7 5 1 1 13 16
Terek Grozny 7 5 1 1 1 16
CSKA Moscow 7 5 0 2 5 15
Anzhi Makhac 7 4 2 1 4 14
Loko Moscow 7 4 1 2 3 13
Kuban Krasno 7 4 0 3 4 12
Rubin Kazan 7 4 0 3 3 12
Spart Moscow 7 4 0 3 0 12
Amkar 7 2 3 2 1 9
Alania Vladi 7 2 2 3 1 8
Krasnodar 7 2 2 3 0 8
Kryliya Sove 7 2 1 4 -6 7
Rostov 7 1 3 3 -3 6
Mordovia Saransk 7 1 1 5 -7 4
Volga Nizhny 7 1 1 5 -9 4
Din Moscow 7 1 0 6 -10 3

 

Watching Soccer with Our Ears

Taken from Google.

Nearly five years ago, a German woman by the name of Anna-Maria Adelmann lost almost all of her vision.  An avid soccer fan, Adelmann knew that her passion for watching the games would soon come to an end.  Her team of choice is FC Augsburg, a member of the Bundesliga, which is the top soccer league in Germany.

The Bundesliga has offered accommodations for the blind since 2005, but the stadium for FC Augsburg has only recently added ten seats for the vision impaired.  You may be wondering, however, how it has been made possible for the blind to “watch” soccer games.

Those who commentate for the blind have a much different job than the TV commentators. The commentators for the blind talk constantly for 45 minutes and essentially narrate the entire game to the blind fans.  For the vision impaired, what could happen after a player passes the ball to another player doesn’t matter as much as what is happening right now.  In order for the blind to actually hear what is going on, they receive a special headset before making their way to their designated seats in the stadium.

For example, if, during the game, some of the players get into a fight, the commentator won’t just say, “One member from the opposing team pushed a FC Augsburg player over.”  Instead, they will narrate the entire fight and state what exactly caused the fight (assuming they know the real reason).

I think it is great that soccer stadiums are starting to accommodate the blind.  There’s no reason that they shouldn’t enjoy the game, too.  These new additions to the stadiums should set an example for other sports and their arenas.  Germany and its people are so devoted to soccer, and the need to accommodate everyone is absolutely essential.

Does organized violence still exist in football?

Courtesy of the Guardian

Background

Firms are gang-like supporters groups of football clubs who organize violence against rival firms. I want to find out if firms still exist in English football, or has the increase of money in football priced these rowdy fans out of the seats and into the underground?

The term football hooliganism first arose in the 1960s, and the height of said hooliganism occurred in the 1970s and 80s where fights amongst firms occurred in the stands and outside of stadiums every match day.

These hooligans were mostly working class; football was an integral part of their lives, and they seemed to welcome the attention that their violence received. Notable firms were Chelsea’s Headhunters, Birmingham City’s Zulus, and arch rivals Milwall (Bushwackers) and West Ham (Inter City Firm).

Film portrayals

Movies such as Green Street Hooligans and The Football Factory have glorified the violence. I think they’re eye-opening movies that, for Americans, show an underground culture, but I can understand when people criticize the films as over-dramatized violence.

Green Street Hooligans features the previously mentioned rival firms of Milwall and West Ham:

Has money lessened the violence?

As English football has gone global with pricey television contracts from the likes of ESPN and Fox in America, more money has been invested in more sophisticated policing and stadium security.

Teams have gotten smarter about separating fans of opposing teams within the stadium. Higher ticket prices have also priced out some of the working class fans that used to make up the firms.

Firms likely still exist in some capacity, but if they’re attacking each other, it’s not happening in and around football stadiums as often.

Background info: http://www.sirc.org/publik/fvexec.html#_VPID_9

http://soccerlens.com/football-violence-worst-football-riots/23093/

Arsenal tries to save its season with an injection of international talent


Courtesy of Flickr

After an 8-2 drubbing at the hands of Manchester United in the third week of a young EPL season, reporters went as far as asking longtime Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger if he was set to retire.

Rather than retiring and returning to his home country of France to party with Jay-Z in Saint-Tropez, he got busy adding players to a team in desperate need of a lift. Before the transfer window closed on Wednesday, Arsenal purchased:

  • German center back Per Mertesacker (from Werder Bremen)
  • Brazilian left back Andres Santos (from Fenerbahce)
  • South Korean striker Park Chu-young (from Monaco)
  • Spanish midfielder Mikel Arteta (from Everton)

Also, Chelsea agreed to loan Israeli midfielder Yossi Benayoun to the North London club until the end of the season.

After so many additions, Gunners fans, playfully known as the “Gooners” for their die hard loyalty, won’t put up with anything other than a top 4 finish in the league.

The culture of Arsenal fans might not be to expect big name signings, but rather they expect to keep the young talent they’ve developed. They haven’t liked the losses of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas. Maybe these recent signings will give the Arsenal faithful new hope.

Additional sources: Grantland.com, http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/football-league-blog

A History of Winning, But What About the Future?

Manchester United’s reign over the English Premier League for the last 25 years, ever since Sir Alex Ferguson took control of the club, has been unmatched throughout history. In the last 25 years they have won over 37 major honors, including several league titles, and seeing as the club has been around since 1878 and has won a total of 61 major honors, it’s safe to say they are only getting better.

That being said, they hold the current record for the most league championships won.  Now the question is whether or not they can continue this incredible run.

Image taken from Google.

I think that if they keep pulling in the major endorsements and major fan bases, they will continue to have  proper funding in order to maintain their world-class team. After all soccer is the same as any other major sport anywhere in the world, the team with the most money, gets the best players.  Most people think this is the wrong way for teams to gain players, but in reality who doesn’t like getting paid obscene amounts of money to play a game they absolutely love? But the thing is, the better the team, the more fans, the more money to buy better players, the better the players, the better the team. I agree that it is an unfair advantage over the smaller, not as good teams. Its always been that way, But in the world these days it’s a dog-eat-dog world and only the best survive, and at the rate they’re going Manchester United will be around for a very long time.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manchester_united

http://therepublikofmancunia.com/

Who got knocked up by Ronaldo?

Christiano Ronaldo’s name carries far beyond the sport of soccer. In addition to being a Portuguese soccer star that plays professionally for Real Madrid, he is seen in advertisements and promotions across the world, like the one below:

Ronaldo recently caught headlines around the world when he had a son, but the mother of that son isn’t being revealed. This raises the question, who could the mother be? The only thing that Ronaldo would say about it is:

It is with great joy and emotion that I inform I have recently become father to a baby boy. As agreed with the baby’s mother, who prefers to have her identity kept confidential, my son will be under my exclusive guardianship. No further information will be provided on this subject and I request everyone to fully respect my right to privacy (and that of the child) at least on issues as personal as these are.”

Ronaldo has dated women from all over the world, including from America, Russia, Italy, Colombia, Brazil, India and his home country of Portugal. Most of these women are either models or celebrities. All of this considered, it makes it extremely difficult to try and figure out who the mother of the child is. In this blog post, SoccerLens lists all of the prospects and the likelihood that each one is the mother.

One of Soccerlen’s prospects and Ronaldo’s current girlfriend, Russian lingerie model Irina Shayk, reacted to the news on Facebook, saying:

My boyfriend is now father of a boy.”

Soccer star Christiano Ronaldo sits next to his current girlfriend, Russian model Irina Shayk. Is Shayk the mother of Ronaldo's newborn son?

So who is the mother? Is it Shayk? Or could it possibly be another celebrity that Ronaldo has previously dated, such as:

SoccerLens doesn’t believe any of these are likely, but the rumors of who the mother is do make it interesting, even to people who aren’t soccer fans.

Could it possibly be someone who isn’t even on this list? This blog believes that the mother is an American woman that Ronaldo picked up one night at the bars.

For a pop culture icon to date only date supermodels, it shows how accepting society is of lingerie models. This used to be considered a lowly profession, but now it is one that brings fame and money. The western world adores lingerie models, but also criticizes the eastern part of the world for making the women wear veils, not allowing them to drive, etc. However, the western world is in a way being hypocritical, since it can also be criticized for the way it treats its women, such as making them wear stuff that is “sexy” and “inappropriate” and encouraging them to be as skinny as possible.

Ronaldo and Shayk are rumored to be engaged and planning on marrying in 2011, which begs the question of if Shayk is not the mother, than how is the real mother taking to the fact that her son’s dad is about to be married to another woman? Also, why is the mother willing to give up her son?

Ronaldo captained Portugal during the team’s World Cup campaign in South Africa, which ended with a 1-0 defeat to Spain in the second round. Here are some highlights of the soccer player, who is considered to be one of the best in the world.

Paul the German octopus dies

Paul the Octopus, who became famous during the 2010 World Cup after he predicted all of the correct outcomes of Germany’s matches, as well as the final match, died on Tuesday, October 26 at the age of 2 1/2 years of natural causes in his aquarium in the western German city of Oberhausen.

During the World Cup, Paul would make his predictions by opening the lid of one of two clear plastic boxes, each containing a mussel and bearing a team flag.

Paul the Octopus predicts Spain over Germany during the World Cup.

We had all naturally grown very fond of him and he will be sorely missed,” Sea Life manager Stefan Porwoll said in a statement.

After the World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands, in which Paul correctly predicted Spain to win, his trainers retired him from predicting matches, and going back to his normal role of entertaining children. A large part of this was because of the death threats that he received, after he caused quite the stir-up in Germany when he picked them to lose to Spain.

It says a lot about a culture when the people send an octopus death threats simply because he picked his homeland country to lose a soccer match. Why are people caring this much simply on what an octopus picks? He is probably picking whichever box has the best smelling food, and the country’s flag is just a side bit.

Regardless, Paul’s is an octopus that will go down in history. At the start of the World Cup, he became an instant celebrity because of his picks, and had since been requested to appear all across Europe. He had his own agent, and was even an official ambassador of the England 2018 World Cup bid, since he was originally born in England before being moved to Germany. Also, “El Pulpo Paul” became so popular in Spain that the northwestern Spanish town of O Carballino tried to borrow him and make him an “honorary friend.” That was just one of hundreds of requests that Paul received to go to Spain. In addition, the Madrid Zoo asked Sea Life if it would be willing to make a deal to bring him in as a tribute to the Spanish soccer team’s victory, either temporarily or for good. But the German aquarium turned down that offer, too.

SoccerLens, an international soccer blog, isn’t grieving at all about Paul’s death, and is excited that people will start getting back to normal soccer now.

Some people love Paul, some will hate him since he didn’t predict their team. Regardless of how people feel about him though, it is obvious that this wasn’t your everyday octopus.

La Furia Roja

Spain fans gather to watch the semifinal between Germany and Spain in Toledo - Andrew Green, Creative Commons

Spain is a country divided. Geographically, culturally, and linguistically, Spain has suffered and thrived by these divisions. Catalan, Asturian, Galician and Basque are among Spain’s myriad distinct languages, each tied to distinct cultures, but all part of Spain.

However, this past summer the country was united; by fútbol. The Spanish national football team, known as La Furia Roja in Spain, won the FIFA World Cup for the first time in history. Moises Martinez, who runs the blog Con Ojos Latinos, was in Madrid at the time of the final match and described the scene after Spain’s victory:

Millones se abrazaron, amigos con amigos, novios con novias, desconocidos con desconocidos, no importaba. Muchos jóvenes y viejos cayeron al suelo llorando. No lo podían creer.
“Millions hugged each other, friends hugged friends, boyfriends hugged girlfriends, strangers hugged strangers, it didn’t matter. Young and old alike fell to the ground, crying. They couldn’t belive it.”

The country was ecstatic. But, beyond that, the country was united.

Or, at least, that’s the impression the rest of the world got. But was this an accurate representation of the nation?

Some signs definitely pointed to yes.

Carles Puyol, Andrés Iniesta, and Xabi carry the Catalonian flag, returning from South Africa. - Sportskeeda

Carles Puyol, Andrés Iniesta, and Xabi carry the Catalonian flag, returning from South Africa. - Sportskeeda

Spain’s national team is composed of players from Catalonia,Asturias, Basque Country, Andalusia, Castile and León,the Canary Islands. It can be a little difficult to understand how exactly these partitions work, because they’re not really the same as states in the U.S. These regions are known as autonomous communities, and have unique cultures and centuries-long histories. Thus, the divisions between them are well defined. Xabi Alonso, who plays for Real Madrid, is from Basque country, an autonomous community that has had much strife with the Spanish government in the past. Basque terrorist group ETA is notorious for its relentless use of improvised explosives to demand independence for the Basque country.

Still, the beauty of Spain’s victory in the World Cup, aside from the beautiful soccer they played, lies in the fact that players from all these different regions were able to come together as one cohesive unit. If there was any internal strife or conflict, they didn’t show a hint of it on the field.

I asked my friend Álvaro Guzmán, who writes for The Missourian and is from Pamplona, Spain, about the effect that the team’s performance had on the country.

Durante el mundial, la sociedad española se unió en torno al equipo nacional. Aunque es verdad que hay ciertos sectores que -y están en su perfecto derecho- nunca sentirán a la selección como suya, no es menos cierto que España en su conjunto vibró con el mundial como casi nunca lo había hecho.

“During the World Cup, Spanish society united around the national team. Although it is true that there are certain sectors that -perfectly understandably- will never view the team as theirs, it isn’t any less true that Spain came together for the World Cup like it never had before.”

Este equipo, aparte de hacer un fútbol maravilloso, ha hecho suya a mucha de esa gente por razones que transcienden lo futbolístico. Son gente normal, de todas partes de España (la abundancia de jugadores del Barcelona y de Cataluña, y la presencia de vascos no es baladí) y cuyas personalidades sencillas, sinceras y poco histriónicas han cautivado a toda España.

“This team, aside from playing some wonderful soccer, has appealed to so many people for reasons that transcend the sport. They’re normal people, from all over Spain (the abundance of players from Barcelona and Catalonia, and the presence of Basques shouldn’t be overlooked) whose simple, sincere and not overly dramatic personalities have captivated all of Spain.”

This is the beauty of, if you’ll excuse me, fútbol. It is much more than a sport, as Markus Spier noted in an earlier entry. The simple sport has a unmitigable power unite people, stop wars, and bring joy to people around the world.

I remember going to a local cinema, during the World Cup, that had been showing the games, to watch the United States play Algeria. Most Americans notoriously care very little for fútbol, so I wasn’t expecting much. When I got there, the theater was packed, and the energy was contagious. When Landon Donovan scored the winning goal in stoppage time, the theater erupted.

Donovan’s goal.

Everyone was jumping up and down; hugging each other, and the guy next to me locked me in a compatriotic embrace with such vigor that he knocked over his pint. It was the first time in my life I had been able to feel passionate about the American team, and it was truly a singular feeling.

The country’s reaction.

Watching the video still gives me goosebumps.

If a country that, for the most part, doesn’t care much for fútbol, could be so impassioned by getting into the quarter-finals, it is easy to see how a country that lives and breathes the sport could be united, despite their divisions, by taking home the trophy.

Mesut ist Deutscher

Since the highly controversial publication of Sarrazin’s book “Deutschland schafft sich ab,” Germany finds itself in the midst of a lively debate about integration.

One group of people that has been especially in the spotlight are the Muslims. Just a few weeks ago, when Germany played Turkey in a European Cup qualifying game, the debate reached soccer fans, because both teams had players of German-Turkish origin in their lines.

Mesut Özil (center) during the German national anthem. On the left is Serdar Tasci, who also is of Turkish descent.

Many Germans with Turkish roots also have a Turkish passport and thus can decide what country they want to play for. When Mesut Özil – who is at the verge of becoming a world-class player for Real Madrid – decided that he wanted to play for Germany instead of Turkey, many Turkish soccer fans were in total disbelief. Fortunately, he was mainly treated with a lot of respect for what he has achieved in such an early point of his career, and even Turks are proud of “their Mesut.”

Since then, Mesut Özil has become one of the prime examples for integration. He is portrayed as the friendly young man from a working class background who has truly embraced his German nationality. (And most importantly plays well for the German national team, one might think.)

For 22-year-old Muslima Kübra Yücel, this couldn’t be further from the truth. On her blog Ein Fremdwörterbuch, which was intended to be a blog about her life but now focuses on questions concerning her religious background, she claims that the current debate about integration is a farce.

Ich will nicht wissen, wann und unter welchen Umständen ich als Mensch mit nichtdeutscher Abstammung und nichtchristlicher Religion ein Du-bist-deutsch-Siegel bekommen könnte. Das sind Scheindebatten. Die Realität sieht so aus: Mesut Özil kann – wie übrigens viele seiner biodeutschen Kollegen auch – keinen grammatikalisch korrekten deutschen Satz hervorbringen, ich hingegen schon. Trotzdem gilt er als integriert und deutsch, ich aber nicht.[…] Großartig. Ich habe also einen deutschen Pass, engagiere mich hier, spreche die Sprache und gehe wählen. Aber das reicht anscheinend nicht. Leider kann ich kein Fußball.

[I don’t want to know when and under which circumstances I – a person of non-German origin and non-Christian religion – could get the you-are-German-predicate. These are make-believe debates. Reality is different. Mesut Özil cannot utter a grammatically correct sentence like many of his biologically German peers, whereas I can. Nonetheless, he is considered to be integrated and German and I am not. […] Great. I have a German passport, I am involved socially, speak the language and I vote. But that doesn’t seem to be enough. Unfortunately, I don’t play soccer.]

Kübra Yücel

This incident shows that the current debates about integration are merely touching the surface of the problem. (If you browse through her blog or the blog Just another Hidjabi by her friend Yasmina Abd el Khader, you will find many more.)For Kübra, the debate about integration is ridiculous due to the results and misjudgements about what it means to be integrated when it comes to celebrities (or someone with celebrity status).

She sees nationality as an empty term. She doesn’t say she is German, nor that she is Turkish. On the contrary, she feels that these terms only limit her in what she is and as what she is seen as. She wants to be seen for what she really is: her qualities, ideas, and her character. Maybe Kübra is right and thinking in terms of nationality is outdated. Europe is coming closer together and the EU has been an important step in this development. Furthermore, the western world shares both ideologies and values, and people travel freely between countries. The next logical step would be to include the remaining parts of the world, including the Islamic world. Both blogs give insight into the views of two young Muslimas and utter a call for an open-minded approach to people of foreign cultures in general. As Yasmina puts it: “Wir wollen keine Schubladen mehr.” (We don’t want to be pigeonholed any longer.)

Liverpool FC terrorist fans

Koptalk, a Liverpool FC fan blog, has come up with an interesting way to get rid of owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

A Liverpool FC fan shows his dissatisfaction with the club's American owners at one of the team's matches.

The article titled “Get the baseball bats and ski-caps ready,” in which author Duncam Oldham encourages angry Liverpool fans to use vigilante justice on the pair of American owners, has been quite controversial among the club’s fans, especially at a time when Europe is being threatened by major terrorist organizations that an attack is imminent in the near future:

If George Gillett and/or Tom Hicks remain in control of Liverpool Football Club come the end of the season, I will be calling for such action to take place. I will be urging every passionate Red out there who has a ‘set’ and who is capable of donning a ski mask and waving a baseball bat in a menacing manner, to step up to put the frighteners on these two and everyone they associate with including any companies that support them. While the efforts must be applauded and acknowledged, the only action that I believe will work is militant.”

This is the photo that appears on Oldham's blog site in which he encourages fans to "get out the baseball bats and ski masks" to attack Liverpool FC's owners.

Oldham later inserts a brief disclaimer, stating that he won’t condone inflicting actual bodily harm, before calling for ‘militant action’ designed to “scare the shit” out of Hicks and Gillett.

While I believe in and will call for militant action against the present owners if they are still in charge come the summer, what I do not believe in is anyone getting physically hurt. Tempting, yes, acceptable, no. Now while it could prove difficult to board a 747 to Dallas with ski masks and baseball bats, it’s not difficult picking up a phone. Seriously, it’s time to scare the shit out of them.”

Since the article was published, a police investigation has been launched after a local paper ran with the story that the editorial may have been in breach of “any number of public order offences.” Oldham also posted a follow up on the website, in which he says that the fans that were worried about his editorial “must be a bunch of wusses.” In that article, Oldham justifies his post by saying:

Would I condone stoving Hicks’ head in with a baseball bat? Of course not. Would I condone dousing him in flour every time he turns up at Anfield, yeh, why not? A couple of eggs, some milk and we could bake him alive and make one huge Yorkshire Pudding. Waving a baseball bat around is actually peaceful. It only makes a noise when it makes contact so I would say my suggestion was a peaceful one.”

Oldham isn’t the only Liverpool fan that is frustrated with the ownership. In this YouTube video, Hollywood director Mike Jefferies repeats the message over and over again: that his, as well as other fan’s, patience with the club’s owners has run out.

Regardless of a more civil approach such as that of Jefferies, SoccerLens, a blog that covers multiple types of soccer stories, said in their commentary about Oldham’s posting that they are worried about what a posting like this might cause other fans to do, especially when fans have been known to attack soccer players in the past. Check out this video where a fan comes onto the field with a knife and attacks a player after he scores a goal around 45 seconds into the video.

Nazi Soccer

Soccer derbies are always games of particular interest. The last game between Hamburger SV and FC St Pauli was no exception. Most fans are simply looking forward to a great and exciting game, some idiots see derbies as a chance to not only beat their opponent, but to beat up their fans and sometimes even players as well. Unfortunately, violence and soccer come together every once in a while, but when three Hamburg hooligans beat up Pauli-keeper Benedikt Pliquett, a right wing party saw this as a sign. Their conclusion: If three fans attack the Pauli-keeper – St. Pauli is notoriously left wing (if soccer teams are political) – many HSV fans are in favor of violence against left-wing ideas. At the next home game,  the NPD set up a booth to advertise their ideas.  Fortunately, this really is the exception in Germany and racist or right-wing fans have largely been eliminated from stadiums since the 1980s.

Maura Zarate saluting the team

Italy, sadly, is a different story and racist fans are notoriously violent. Just a few months ago, Italian newspaper “Il Messaggero” published a picture of Lazio’s Maura Zarate raising his right arm to salute the team. This, at least in Rome, is not an exception. Former team captain Paolo di Canio is known to the European soccer world for mainly two things. His tattoo saying dux, which is latin for Führer (Führer here does not mean Hitler but Mussolini, whom he admittedly admires) and his unacceptable gestures toward the Lazio fans.

Not convinced yet? Romanian Adrian Mutu of Fiorentina was insulted and booed at after the wife of an Italian Marine was allegedly killed by a Romanian the week before the game. When playing Werder Bremen in the European Cup, Lazio fans responded to banners against racism (“Zusammen gegen Rassismus”) by celebrating Italian dictator Mussolini. During the game, Werder’s Ivorian forward Boubacar Sanogo was mocked with monkey noises.

Paolo di Canio

Still not convinced? During the derby against AS Rome, a left-wing club, Lazio followers displayed banners saying “Auschwitz is your homeland – the ovens are where you belong!But radical soccer fans are not a Roman phenomenon. In Sicily, soccer fans killed a police officer in riots after he testified in a trial against rightwing extremist fans.

Neither is it a solely Italian phenomenon. Racist fans have become a problem in France, Spain and Poland, as well. But what can be done to prevent these nasty incidents that spoil the excitement of the games? German soccer fans have set a great example. When politicians and club officials were unable to fight racism, the fans took matters in their own hands.

In an interview with 11 Freunde magazine, Hamburg fan Bernd Kroschewski stated, that he and other fans were embarrassed by racist insults toward Hamburg player Souleyman Sané.

Natürlich haben mich auch früher schon Dinge gestört, etwa die rassistischen Rufe von irgendwelchen Neo-Nazis gegen Souleyman Sané. Damals habe ich mich wirklich geschämt, dass es um mich herum solche Leute gab, die im gleichen Stadion stehen und den gleichen Verein anfeuern.

When neo-nazis tried to take over the stands, most fans helped getting rid of advertisement stickers on the stadium walls and simply did not support any kind of agitation against, for example, colored players. The fan body did not allow neo-nazis to take over. Today, the German Bundesliga is comparably family friendly and dads can bring their sons without being afraid of getting caught in between violent fan groups. This is largely due to the fans themselves.

It will be interesting to see how Italy copes with the increased violence. Lately, Italian Minister of the Interior Giuseppe Pisanu announced that he does not have a problem with closing stadiums to the public or even cancelling games. But as Germany has shown, the fans themselves have the biggest influence on what happens in the stands. After all, soccer is just a game that everyone should be allowed to enjoy. Violence and violent ideologies cannot be tolerated.

Lazio fans

European soccer fans riot in Paris

Soccer has never been considered a major sport in the United States.  The soccer scene in Europe, however, is a cultural phenomenon, one where people go out to bars and pubs and socialize with friends, family or coworkers, all while watching the game. European soccer fans sing, dance and stand for the entire match, expending energy at an incredible rate. Meanwhile, American soccer fans prefer to be spectators while relaxing in a “sedentary” state.

Portugal fans begin to riot before their match against Spain in the World Cup in the streets of Paris.

Portugal fans begin to riot before their match against Spain in the World Cup in the streets of Paris.

The joy experienced from being part of a heaving mass of humanity at a soccer match cannot compare with the peace gained sitting for hours on end. My friends and I visited Paris during the 2010 World Cup.  Little did we know that we would have a strong cultural experience by ending up in the middle of a soccer riot. After Portugal tied Brazil in the final round of the group play stage, it was determined that Portugal’s next match in the round of 16 would be against the eventual World Cup champion, Spain.

On our first night, my friends and I took a walk towards the Arc de Triomphe, a monument to Napoleon and his victories. We walked past the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and eventually found ourselves on Avenue des Champs-Élysées, walking towards the giant monument in front of us. After a few minutes of walking, some Portugal fans ran past us, carrying the Portuguese flag around their back. They were running towards a massive mob of other Portuguese fans, all celebrating that their team advanced out of group play.

The pictures that I took this night show how crazy these soccer fans can be when national pride is on the line.

Portugese and Spanish soccer fans rioting in Paris during the 2010 World Cup.

Portugal and Spain soccer fans rioting in Paris during the 2010 World Cup.

Next thing we knew, we were caught right in the middle of these crazy soccer fans dancing around, singing and yelling words that I had no clue what they were or what they meant. On the other side of the street, the Spain fans were doing the same thing: jumping, dancing and celebrating the fact that their team had advanced. After a few minutes, the celebration turned ugly. First, fans ran up to cars driving on the street and wave their respective flag in the cars window, until someone got offended when the other country’s fans went up to the same car as them. Meanwhile, some buses packed with tourists were driving by. At first, it started innocent, with the fans waving their flags at the buses and pounding on the sides. However, with traffic picking up, and the fans getting more rowdy, they attempted to tip over the buses onto the other side’s fans. Luckily, the buses were able to drive away in time to avoid being tipped over.

Portugal fans attempt to tip over a bus driving towards the Arc de Triomphe in Paris during the 2010 World Cup.

Portugal fans attempt to tip over a bus driving towards the Arc de Triomphe in Paris during the 2010 World Cup.

After getting in the way of cars, tipping buses, burning each others flags and a couple of brawls, the riot police came to keep the fans separated. My friends and I, since we’re all journalism majors, had been taking pictures this entire time, and continued to do so when the riot police came, so we could show proof to our friends and family back home that we really did get caught up in a soccer riot while in Europe. One of the police officers caught my friend taking a picture of him, and came over to make my friend delete the picture. After the police got there, the fans started to settle down, but it was an experience that truly showed how crazy some European soccer fans can be.

Riot police block Portugese fans from running in the street and tipping over cars and buses.

Riot police block Portugal fans from running in the street and tipping over cars and buses.

Just a side note: Spain defeated Portugal 1-0.

Riots from crazy sports fans have happened before, with fans lighting stuff on fire, destroying houses and cars, but experiencing a riot first hand is far more frightening than just watching videos.

Some Americans also enjoyed the game in Europe, but not as much as the Europeans. Fifa set up a Fan Fest, and aired the World Cup games in six cities in the world, including Paris and Rome. In the United States, fans took motivation from the fan fest and their peers across the Atlantic and followed the team as the tournament progressed, but still not to the same degree as in Europe.

Soccer falls short in America compared to Europe

This summer’s World Cup in South Africa drew attention worldwide. Most countries in the world, especially those in Europe and South America, view the month-long tournament as a sense of national pride, bragging rights; or, if the team fails, an embarrassment.

For example, in the 2010 World Cup, Spain won their first title ever, and the scenes around the country were of crazy fans celebrating their nation, heritage and culture. Then there was the embarrassment that the French team put on their country, when they refused to practice after a disagreement between a player and the coach.

While the World Cup was seen as a huge event around the world, it wasn’t nearly as big in the US as it was for the European countries. There are several reasons that could lead to this, but for the US soccer teams success in the tournament, it is a wonder why they don’t have the type of following that some other teams do.

Dutch players Dirk Kuyt & Mark van Bommel hug each other after a goal in their World Cup game against Denmark, showing how important soccer is to European countries. Photo by Ryu Voelkel.

Dutch players Dirk Kuyt & Mark van Bommel hug each other after a goal in their World Cup game against Denmark, showing how important soccer is to European countries. Photo by Ryu Voelkel.

Americans often complain that the sport of soccer is too low scoring and often results in ties. Also, there are multiple trophies and championships that the teams compete in, rather than just one, such as the Super Bowl in the National Football League. Some of the famous soccer trophies and championships include the FA Cup, Premier League Championship, Champions League Championship and Serie A. In America, there is only one league, one championship: the MLS (Major League Soccer), which has not seen success since the league was formed in 1993. The European season runs from August to May. The American version goes from March to November. Between the two, there is no off-season; should a fan be interested in only one or the other, the off-season amounts to a month of inactivity, during which international competitions often take place.

The success that the United States had in the World Cup in 2010, in which they won the group play stage before losing in the round of 16 to Ghana, might lead to slightly higher ratings and a larger base for the immediate aftermath, but it appears it will never be at the same level of cultural importance as it is in European countries.