Category Archives: Football/Soccer

“United Passions” a Decent Work of Fiction

The film United Passions was an interesting one to see. Unfortunately for the filmmakers and FIFA, the main financial backers of this film, the release of United Passions in the United States has coincided with the arrests of a number of high ranking officials at FIFA on corruption charges. In light of those arrests, it’s hard to look at a film such as United Passions in a positive light, considering its fairly uplifting portrayal of recently resigned FIFA President Sepp Blatter. But for many of us in Europe and North America, it can be hard to view Mr. Blatter, and his predecessors in a positive light. In this sense, United Passions has lost a significant amount of credibility despite barely being screened anywhere in Europe or North America. In fact, only ten cinemas are showing the film here in the United States.

However, the filmmakers made certain to include a brief preface, stating that United Passions is to be seen as a work of “dramatic fiction.” In short, it is an interpretation of events, but not an official history, certainly not an exact record of what happened. Critics have claimed that FIFA’s backing of the film forced the filmmakers to depict a more positive image of the world football federation, thus enforcing this film’s status as propaganda.

The declaration that this film is dramatic fiction makes sense when one considers the fact that British born-New Zealander Sam Neill was chosen to play former Brazilian FIFA President João Havelange, and Englishman Tim Roth was likewise chosen to play the aforementioned Mr. Blatter, a native of Switzerland. In my own opinion, had the filmmakers wanted this piece to be taken as a work of meticulous history, they would have cast a Brazilian to play Havelange and a Swiss actor to play Blatter.

However, as a work of fiction, I would certainly say that the filmmakers made good decisions in the realm of casting. Gérard Depardieu, who played FIFA’s third president Jules Rimet, Neill, and Roth were at the centre of the film, and did a pretty good job in their roles.

With all that said, some certainly do see this film as FIFA’s attempt to preserve the image and legacy of at least these three of its past presidents. As a viewer, I admired these figures attempts at making soccer a global affair, not just the sport of Europe. Perhaps this film’s biggest image problem comes from allowing its subject to also play the role of main financial backer.

The photography was very good, reflecting the style of camerawork that has become the norm in both French and British cinema. The sound was also well done. In cinematic terms, the biggest flaw with this film is its script, which was sometimes hard to follow, with frequent cases of bulky dialogue.

Overall, I would rate United Passions as being just another period piece. It’s nothing special, and when the time comes that those FIFA officials who already have been, and have yet to be arrested are put on trial, I have little doubt that this film will already be forgotten.

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The Fantastic Growth of American Soccer

Kansas City – If I were to tell my 13 year old self who didn’t care at all about the 2006 World Cup in Germany that I spent the entirety of this afternoon and evening watching the 2014 World Cup from Brazil, my younger self would probably be shocked. For me, like many of my fellow Americans, soccer is a very new phenomenon. We knew it existed back in Europe, Latin America, and Africa, but it simply has not made good roots here in the United States until very recently.

In the Summer of 2006, as the football/soccer world converged upon Germany, I was far more focused upon the old classic summer sport here in the States and Canada: baseball. I did not really care all that much that France and Italy made the final, though I knew they did, and remember my parents watching it while I played MLB At Bat in another room on my PlayStation 2. That being said, within two years I would have caught the soccer bug.

You’ll notice that throughout this article, I am referring to the sport known commonly the world over as football by its name here in the US and Canada: soccer. This is simply because we already have a sport called football, American Football, which frankly I’ve never really understood or cared for. The first soccer match that I ever watched in full was a repeat broadcast of the 2008 FA Cup Final on Fox Soccer. I chose to support Southampton over Cardiff City because of Southampton’s association with my own family, as my great-granddad Thomas Kane spent some time in Southampton with the American Expeditionary Force on his way to the trenches of France during the First World War. I know, it’s not the best of reasons, but it worked at the time.

At about the same time, the domestic first tier league here in the US and Canada, Major League Soccer, was just past its tenth anniversary, and beginning its expansion and meteoric rise to prominence that we are still in the process of witnessing. It would be another year until my parents and I made it to a MLS match, when during the summer of 2009 we went to see our local club, the Kansas City Wizards, take on Chivas USA at the Wizards’ then home CommunityAmerica Ballpark, the proper home of the Kansas City T-Bones Baseball Club. What an experience it was!

When the Wizards announced they would be building a soccer-specific stadium a few blocks east of the T-Bones ballpark, which was just a few miles east of my family’s farm, we knew we had to get season tickets. The 2010 World Cup was truly when the sport became prominent here in Kansas City, when our official watch party at the Power and Light District was featured a number of times on ESPN’s broadcasts of the USMNT matches in South Africa. Later that year, in December, the Wizards ownership group announced the rebranding of the team as Sporting Kansas City, and from there on out this city was on its way.

Since the start of the 2011 season, I have attended a good majority of all Sporting KC home matches, and have quickly found a great appreciation for the sport itself. It’s funny how things work, how a sport can change one’s life. When I first started watching soccer in 2008, I found other European based sports like rugby and cricket to be odd and confusing. Now I watch more rugby than American football, and follow cricket just as much as I do baseball. At about the same time that I was introduced to soccer, I was also introduced to my family’s current favourite sport, Formula 1.

Nationally, soccer has grown exponentially over the past few years. One major announcement that came earlier this year in the favour of the new sport was that it was just as popular among 19-24 year olds as the national pastime, baseball. As noted in an article on Al Jazeera America by David Keyes, a former editor of XI Quarterly, soccer is “now second only to basketball (above baseball and football) in youth participation numbers.” The youth of this country are becoming enthralled with the beautiful game. With the additions of New York City FC and Orlando City SC in 2015 and Atlanta in 2017, soccer is truly becoming a major sport in the United States. The world will know how far this country has come when our men’s national team wins the World Cup.

One added benefit to the growth of American soccer is the timing of the regular season here. Rather than play in the winter like the majority of the world’s leagues, which would be nearly impossible in much of the north, including my hometown of Chicago, our league plays from March to December. This ends up working out well on a global scale for viewers around the world, or at the very least for those of us Stateside, as when the MLS is off the European, and Mexican leagues among others are on. On the other hand, if you are like my family, my Chicagoland readership, expats included, or I you’ll spend the MLS offseason watching the Blackhawks.

That’s the beauty of the sporting scene here in the US and Canada, we are already used to having multiple sports going on at once. Just look at your average November or December Sunday: the NHL, NFL, and NBA will all be at play, often with franchises from the same city playing at the same time. Adding another sport to our springs, summers, and autumns is nothing new. I am more than happy to be following the Blackhawks, Sporting KC, the Bulls, and my two favourite baseball teams (the Cubs and Royals) all at once. Multitasking is something of a speciality for a triple major like me.

So, looking at this year’s World Cup being played out in Brazil, I find myself gleefully watching every moment I can. This played itself out to the extent today that I ended up watching three of today’s four matches in full. Come Monday though, it will be all for the USMNT.

13 June 2014 – Football

There is something to be said

that trumps any negativity held

by those doubters of the world

about the sport known as football.

To be clear, I refer to that

which in the States is called soccer.

But that aside, what football can do

to unite the world is splendid!

Football is a common language

a common love, a common passion.

It is belov’d by many, despis’d by few

and in so it draws the many together in joy.

Let the World Cup be a testament

to humanity’s virtuous passion for friendship.

Despite playing under different flags

or wearing different jerseys, we are all human.

We share a common love for football.

So when the Sun sets in a month

when the World Cup leaves Brazil,

what will be remember’d?

The riots, the protests, or the games and the fun?

I doubt the former and choose the latter.

What’s to come in March

Kansas City – March is always a big month on the calendar. It’s the Trinitarian month, the month when the activities of Winter begin to give way to their Summer counterparts. It’s a month of change. Often, for my fellow Catholic and Orthodox Christians, March is completely consumed in one of the holiest seasons of the year: Lent.

If you want to know my views on Lent, don’t worry, I’ll be brief: Yes, if it is in your tradition do observe it! I take a more simple route compared to some of my fellow Catholics: no meat on Fridays, and fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. This means only 2 big meals and 1 small meal on those days, and no meat. Also, key is the giving up of something which you feel can keep you from Christ. I tend to take this more spiritually than physically, meaning that I don’t give up sweets or chips (fries). Rather, in the past few years I’ve given up negative emotions and mentalities such as hate, irrational fear, and this year excess and unnecessary worry. Yes, I haven’t always been successful with these: hate was simpler to give up than irrational fear, but I find it to be a good exercise in self control, which is a habit that is necessary in any and every social setting.

A huge part of this is foregoing the self, not focusing on one’s own person as much, and instead focusing that energy upon the wellbeing of society in general. We should try to challenge ourselves to forgo having “I” at the top, favouring “We” instead. Many Christian mystics have argued that the first step towards a fuller relationship with the Divine is to forgo one’s own self in favour of the will of another, in this case God.

Now that’s sorted out, onto some of the articles you can expect to find on this website in the coming weeks.

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Courtesy of Red Bull Racing

Thursday evening for us in the States (Friday morning for Europe and the Middle East, and Midday Friday for Australia and New Zealand) marks the start of the official race schedule for the 2014 Formula 1 World Championship! This weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, taking place at Albert Park in Melbourne, is sure to be a thriller. With longtime contender Mark Webber out of the running, the starting grid will seem a bit more empty, and without the old V8 engines it’ll certainly be a wee bit quieter, but undoubtedly it’s bound to be an eventful and exciting race weekend from the capital of Victoria. I’ll begin my coverage of it on Friday afternoon with thoughts on the Practice sessions, continuing Saturday and Sunday with the qualifying and race results in due course.

One thing to make note of regarding Formula 1: considering that I’m writing from North America, most of these races take place in the middle of the night my time, as I’m on Central Time (March to October GMT -5, November to early March GMT -6) I’ll probably be posting my articles up to 24 hours after the actual events occurred, in part because I’ll be watching tape-delayed, and also because as much as I do enjoy F1, it’s not generally something that I’ll get up at 3 in the morning to see. Now, I will write on the races in Western Europe and the Americas closer to time, but I’ll let the lads at NBC Sports do the graveyard shift for the rest of us here in the States.

Next, and closer to home, is the start of the summer sporting season here in the US and Canada. In particular, I’m referring to Major League Baseball’s Spring Training and Major League Soccer’s season’s start. I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys baseball to watch the season opener between the LA Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks in Sydney, Australia. It’ll be broadcast as a double-header on Saturday 22 March at 3.00 and 22.00 CDT, and will be nationally broadcast in the United States on MLB Network. The Cubs’ home opener will be on 4 April vs the Phillies at 13.20 CDT, and will be broadcast as per tradition and reason on WGN (hopefully nationally as well.) The Royals’ home opener will also be on 4 April at 15.10 CDT and will be broadcast locally on Fox Sports Kansas City.

Major League Soccer began its 2014 season last weekend with much gusto! Though Sporting KC didn’t leave Seattle with a win, they still played quite well over the course of the 90 minutes. I was also glad to see the Vancouver Whitecaps give the New York Red Bulls a stunner, beating the Supporter’s Shield winner 4-1 on Saturday evening in Vancouver. Hopefully tonight Sporting KC can return home and play for a win over Mexico’s Cruz Azul in the CONCACAF Champions’ League. We’ll just have to see…

FIFA World Cup groups announced

Kansas City – The newswires began buzzing around the planet today at about 10.00 CST, as the group draws for the 2014 FIFA World Cup took place in Brazil. To start, there are 8 groups of 4 teams competing. Each team will play 3 matches, one against the other teams in their group. The groups are as follows:

Group A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon.Image

Group B: Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia.

Group C: Columbia, Greece, Côte d’Ivoire, Japan.

Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy.

Group E: Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras.

Group F: Argentina, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Iran, Nigeria.

Group G: Germany, Portugal, USA, Ghana.

Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea.

Now, as you may have noticed, if you’re reading from the United States, is that the Waldos have been put into a group that is so bad it could not have been devised by all the fiends of Hell. However, no matter what the outcome may be it will certainly be a good challenge for the USMNT, and if they are able to pull it off and make it out of the group, it will be the moment when the United States can say it has joined the top tier in the world of football. It’ll also be a fantastic thing for MLS, as the league is the source for many players for the national team during the recent victories in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, during which the USMNT went undefeated.

The USMNT will play the following matches in group stage. All times are Central Time (Chicago, Kansas City). The following comes from the BBC.

16 June 2014

Ghana v USA, Arena das Dunas, Natal, 17.00

22 June 2014

USA v Portugal, Arena Amazonia, Manaus, 15:00

26 June 2014

USA v Germany, Arena Pernambuco, Recife, 11:00

Meanwhile, our friends south of the border are in just as tough of a group. I feel sorry for Mexico more and more now a days, as their national team has gone from sorrow to sorrow, from a humiliating defeat in the Gold Cup, to being forced to play in a playoff against the All Whites of New Zealand just to punch their ticket for Brazil. If they do make it through the group stage, just as if the USMNT is able to overwhelm our 2010 nemesis Ghana and the two European powerhouses Germany and Portugal, I hope Jürgen decides to start Graham Zusi, after all México owes him a favour.

ImageWhile I’m on the topic of football (soccer), let me just finish with these words:

I Believe That We Will Win!!!!

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Photo courtesy of Yahoo News.

 Correction: the USA v Portugal match has been pushed back by a few hours.