Tag Archives: World Cup

We’re Having a Heat Wave!

I meant to write about ANA today, but my brain is a bit fried from the heat wave that the northeastern half of the United States has been experiencing. New England isn’t supposed to have weather like this—so air conditioning isn’t necessarily as ubiquitous as in other parts of the nation. My second floor apartment is sweltering, and my second floor office boils. I only have a tiny floor fan, and an open window which is letting in hot air. Returning to my hermetically sealed office after the 4th of July (US Independence Day) weekend, which was also relatively hot, meant the air inside was literally cooking, and it made me physically ill to sit inside (not kidding).

After work I took a DVD to the library so I could at least cool down in the air conditioning for a little bit. Unfortunately my little dog, who is covered in thick black fur, couldn’t come with me. I felt so bad for him and gave him four cold showers over the course of the evening to try and cool him down. AS said it was so hot that she saw squirrels walking around like dazed zombies, too hot and tired to scurry anywhere.

So in the meantime, if you are in the heat—stay cool, if you are a football fan—enjoy the final World Cup matches this week, and… don’t worry, I have lots to talk about once I stop sweating.

In keeping with the theme, enjoy this 1963 hit single from Martha Reeves and the Vandellas— “Heatwave

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The World Cup and the Burglary

This weekend opened the World Cup, which means I have spent much of the past three days (at least in the mornings) plastered to a television or computer screen, along with our house guests, neighbors and various friends. I’ve mentioned before that soccer is more than just a sport in our household, it’s like a religion (as seen in posts “The Real Football” and P’s one and only guest blog piece “Joga Bonito Henry“).

I had watched a few World Cup matches before, but it wasn’t until the 2006 World Cup that I really started to understand soccer. Before that it was just a game that P enthusiastically played and watched, but after 2006 I could feel the pulse of the world celebrating along with various national teams as they made their way through the tournament brackets. It’s exciting and invigorating, and addicting. It’s going to be so hard trying to concentrate at work when the games are on. Luckily my boss is Danish, so I think we will watch Monday morning’s match together starting at 7:30am. I usually root for the African teams. I was thrilled with South Africa’s tie, and Ghana’s win, but sad that Nigeria conceded a goal. I’m looking forward to the Cameroon and Ivory Coast games this week!

I also have to throw in a plug for one of the “official” World Cup songs (I know there are technically two, but I like the K’naan song better, linked below):

So now the shift to the “burglary” part: P’s dad called yesterday. I’m not the only one who realizes that the whole world is watching the World Cup and thus distracted. Criminals do as well. While in Kathmandu last summer I heard stories about break-ins, and R told me that families having weddings have to be particularly careful about potential break-ins since everyone in the neighborhood knows whats going on and that there will be a lot of gifts and money around. Even on a regular day, break-ins can happen, but when there is a big citywide distraction (like World Cup watching), it is prime time for thievery. Sometimes they climb through your windows at night (many if not most of the houses don’t have screens like in America, so when windows are open, they are really open) and steal things.

Anyway, P’s dad and mom were sleeping in the living room, apparently watching the England vs. USA World Cup match around 2am (the games are airing at night in South Asia). P’s aunt lives on the first floor of the house (and has metal grills on her window in case a thief comes into the compound), but P’s parents live on the second floor and do not have window grills. As they were watching the game P’s dad heard a sound coming from their bedroom down the hallway, and went to investigate and caught several men who had climbed up the wall of the house to the second story and through their bedroom window. The men grabbed the cell phone that was charging in the room (which P had recently sent with our friend KS to give to his parents when she was in town last month), but luckily anything else of value was locked away in the large bedroom cupboards that Mamu literally keeps under lock and key. I guess the thieves were caught off guard by their sudden discovery and jumped out the window and ran off before anything else could be taken, leaving behind footprints and handprints on the wall where they climbed up.

“Oh my god! Did your dad run after them?” I asked,

“Of course not, that would be dangerous.” P said (I guess I’ve watched one too many Bollywood movies).

“Did they call the police?” I asked.

“The police aren’t much help. This kind of petty crime happens all the time. They probably wouldn’t do anything.”

So that was a scary bit of news. When we were there last summer P’s mom insisted on locking up our extra money, our passports, and anything of value in the large cupboards. I thought she was just being over cautious. P and I were pretty careless with our stuff actually… we had a laptop, camera batteries, and cell phones out and charging constantly, with our cameras out and visible most evenings when we went to bed. If the thieves had come last year at this time, through the same window (since P and I stayed in Mamu and Daddy’s room), they would have made a killing. Next time I go, it will remind me to be much more careful. But it is still scary.

Everyone is fine though, the American cell phone and some shaken nerves were the only casualties.

Joga Bonito Henry

P has been very supportive of my writing, and I think he is as excited as I am that people are enjoying the blog. He doesn’t consider himself a “writer” but felt passionately enough about a football match recently (the Ireland v. France World Cup qualifier on Wednesday) that he actually asked me if he could write a guest post. So although it is off topic (though P argues that it is not “off topic” since he loves football, and thus it is “part of our household”), I hope you enjoy P’s take on the game and his very first (ever!) blog posting.

The playoff game between France and Ireland for a place in the World Cup 2010 is going to be the most talked over controversial game in the days to come. I watched the Irish luck run out yesterday evening with two fellow spectators who happened to be Irishmen, and to say we all felt gutted, angered, and disappointed would be an understatement. Thierry Henry clearly handled the ball, not once but twice, which led to the winning goal that robbed Ireland a possible but deserved place in the 2010 World Cup. He later admitted saying “I will be honest, it was a hand ball. But I’m not the ref. I played it. The ref allowed it. That’s a question you should ask him.”

Henry's hand ball, caught on film...

To Henry’s admittance of handball and his sly act to pass the blame to the ref, Richard Williams of the guardian writes, “No, mon brave, but you are the captain of France, the country that gave us the World Cup, and here you had the chance to show us what sport can mean – or, at least, what we tell our children it means.” Not to mention that the French also gave us existentialism and Albert Camus who surely knew about morality and the duty of man as bravery and fair play, something that he learned and valued during his goalkeeping stint for RUA (Racing Universitaire Algerois).

I think Henry had been a role model (this has been also debated lately) up to now with his reputation both on the field and more importantly off the field where he has actively led the anti-racist campaign, UNICEF, and the Joga Bonito (play beautiful) ad campaigns. Henry could have admitted to the ref at the 103rd minute and he would have hit the news headlines for a different reason. But he is human after all and the stakes were all too high. Most players would have probably done the same.

Robbie Keane (Captain of Irish team) consoles Keith Andrews...

The French public, the media, and former players have joined the legions of people who have lashed out at Henry to reveal their displeasure and embarrassment in the manner the victory has come. A major section of the French nation has turned against the former Highbury star. Clearly the French national team has been mismanaged which was evident from its lackluster play and is only thriving in the shadows of its past performances. The Irish were by far the better and more entertaining team.

This game will reignite further debates, first, on the use of video technology in football (soccer). Both FIFA and UEFA are strictly against the use of video evidence and have pushed towards reliance on referees. Then the other issue, which is both ethical and normative, is what constitutes ‘fair play’ in football. The first point in the FIFA code of conduct reads: “Play fairWinning is without value if victory has been achieved unfairly or dishonestly. Cheating is easy, but brings no pleasure. Playing fair requires courage and character. It is also more satisfying. Fair play always has its reward, even when the game is lost. Playing fair earns respect, while cheating only brings shame. Remember: it is only a game. And games are pointless unless played fairly.”

The fact of the matter is Ireland is out and France is through. FIFA will end up turning a deaf ear to the Irish pleas. The country will have to wait another agonizing four years to be able to resurrect their hopes of qualifying to the next World Cup. Should FIFA always try and give an easy passage to the top-seeded teams in the WC qualification playoffs and maintain the hegemony? Perhaps Portugal would have played France and Bosnia played Ireland had the seedings not been included at the last minute in the selection for playoff qualification. I would not mind seeing Džeko instead of Gallas or Anelka. One can only hope FIFA learns some valuable lessons with Ireland’s misfortune. Henry, already in the twilight of his career, will probably lose his revered status among a majority of his supporters and every game he participates in from now on will be fraught with criticism. Like Zidane’s moment of madness in the last World Cup when he headbutted Materazzi, this will be talked about for a while. Love it or hate it. This is football.

The “Real” Football

During my time over in Kenya I undertook an internship at a refugee camp on the border of Sudan. It was probably one of the most intense experiences of my life.

KakumaI had been at the camp for a few weeks, and Thanksgiving was approaching. The days prior had been rough. Daily loss of electricity, a torrential rainstorm that triggered a flash flood through the camp, the oppressive oppressive heat, and just the day to day hardships that one hears as a camp aid worker had worn on me. I was feeling bummed in general—and being far from home on a holiday wasn’t helping.

I had scheduled a phone call home to my family which I knew was gathering at my aunt’s house for the holiday. I had been looking forward to the call for a long time. I thought for sure they would have a lot of questions for me about the camp and what I was doing, or at least about Africa in general but instead my conversation went like this:

Dad: “Hey, Happy Thanksgiving! What’s the time there right now? So, do they watch [American] football over there on this day too?”

Uncle: “Happy Thanksgiving! Don’t worry, I’ll eat your share of the turkey, ha ha, anyway, what time is it over there? Any big [American] football fans working with you? Are they watching the game?”

Aunt: “Happy Thanksgiving! We are watching the game… is it on over there too?? By the way, what time is it there?” etc, etc.

I was aching for some telephone bonding, but instead they wanted to talk about [American] football… which is a longwinded way of getting to my topic du jour—sports.

I think by now you have realized that my dad’s family is big into [American] football. He is a Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys fan (I know, an odd combo, but hey, I guess it can happen). One of my sisters follows the Colts (she even named her dog Peyton!) I have uncles supporting the Bills, the Dolphins, and the Patriots; aunts who like the Bills, Patriots, and the Giants; before my grandfather passed away, he was a lifelong follower of the Green Bay Packers.

Holidays with my dad’s family are filled with lots of people, lots of food, and lots of [American] football. My cousins are into it, the in-laws are into it, probably even the dogs are into it (every family has their dog), and sometimes I don’t know where I came from… I just don’t care about the game. I’m one of those people who grudgingly watches the Superbowl for the commercials and food at the party. When my dad took us to the local college games as a kid, I’d watch the band and the cheerleaders. I apologize to [American] football fans out there, but I just don’t understand the game, I don’t care to understand the game, and I just find it boring. If it is any consolation, I’m not much of a sports fan in general.

D ("the Chelsea fan") and P ("the Man U fan") at a Barcelona game a few years ago

D (the "Chelsea fan") and P (the "Man U fan") at a Barcelona game a few years ago. How is it possible that they can be friends?

Insert P. P is a wild and crazy football fan of a different nature. Football (minus the brackets), or as Americans like to call it… soccer. He played for the university when he was a student in Maine before he transferred to upstate New York and he has played intramural football as an undergrad, a masters and now a phd student. He is an adamant supporter of Manchester United in the British Premier League but also follows teams in Italy and Spain, as well as individual soccer stars like Argentinean Maradona (back in the day).

footballFans

P, D and a friend from college at an Inter v. AC Milan game this past summer

One of his favorite procrastination tactics is watching goal highlights on FootyFilms and ESPN SoccerNet. He often watches games in Vietnamese or Chinese, and doesn’t care that he doesn’t understand the commentary, he just wants to watch the game. I have even seen him re-watch old goal highlights from games in the 70s, 80s and 90s just to “re-live the experience.” I think if he had the chance, he would abandon his phd and become a professional soccer commentator if the opportunity came along (“gooooooooaaaaaal!!!!!”)

The last time the World Cup was on he rented a DVR and ordered cable tv just for the month so that he could record and watch nearly all the games. Out of 64 I think we saw about 56. Now that’s a lot of football!

FootballFan3

P in his Ireland jersey. When people travel, they now pick him up the "local" jersey.

I’m stuck between these two extremes. I have no interest in [American] football, but I’ve slowly grown fond of “the real football,” if anything, because it is always around. What really won me over was the 2006 World Cup. I watched some of the games in 2002, but it wasn’t until the DVR that I really got into the matches, and supported teams. I tend to root for the African teams (surprise surprise), and in 2006 I was excited about the underdogs Trinidad and Tobago (even though I knew they probably wouldn’t go too far). I am actually excited for the 2010 World Cup, and had really hoped to actually go to South Africa (I figured it was a great way to bring together our two interests… football and Africa) but alas poor planning, too much international travel last summer and not enough funds kiboshed that plan. Ah well, there is always a DVR to be rented.

I do appreciate my new found knowledge of football. It really helps when working with international students. Football can be a quick cross-cultural bonding tool. I could connect with Sudanese and Somali refugees at the camp (where big football games were organized), or the Bangladeshi and Jamaican students who I commiserated with last night at work (“I completely understand… I agree it makes more sense to call soccer ‘football’ when the ball is on your foot for 90 minutes of the game”). Although, I usually try to feel someone out before blurting that P loves Man U… its like saying you like the Yankees. Depending on their loyalties, people can go crazy!

For the time being, I’ll stick to the World Cup. I think it will be quite a while before I have a “team” in the British Premier League, so don’t get too excited ;)