Slide Tackle

Tackling: The Anatomy of a Loaded Weapon

You are a full back. A winger has been getting the ball on the touchline and running full speed at you at every opportunity. Every time you catch your breath, he’s back, accenting his invasions with flourishes that regularly paralyze the crowd with anticipation, threatening your livelihood with every touch. It’s relentless. Not to mention kind of selfish. He’s faster and technically superior, that much is clear; but you have a size and strength advantage.

The clock continues its ascent to 45 and, in your mind, there’s no mistaking that the game has become a battle: you vs. him, and the other twenty players on the field are simply a supporting cast providing sub-text.

In the back of your mind is the mantra: win your individual battles and you win the game. Continue reading

Bar

Bethlehem and Beirut: A Story of Outraged Fans

The bar opens early every Sunday. Like clockwork. Aside from opening, the routine also includes sanitizing the scene of the previous night’s debauchery at some point between closing and opening, erasing it from the city’s collective memory so that residents can pretend that last night didn’t happen while the sun is up. Every morning, a new palate is needed.

Every Sunday, without fail, out in front of the establishment, a rickety, aged chalkboard, displaying barely legible fixtures from around the globe in green chalk, stands on top of the spot where chaos reigned just hours earlier. That chalkboard serves as the lazy man’s Google Search. Continue reading

Mics

Gus Johnson and America’s Relationship Nightmare: No One is Good Enough to be the Voice of American Soccer

Is it possible you wouldn’t know an authentic American soccer voice if it hit you in the face with the sweet, super-sized sound of freedom and fireworks?

As you’ve already heard, SI’s Richard Deitsch reported that Fox is grooming American play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson, primarily a basketball man, as the voice of the 2018 World Cup. Johnson’s first major gig was yesterday’s under-the-radar UEFA Champions League tie between European minnows Manchester United and Real Madrid.

After several years of major U.S. networks announcing the addition of non-American voices to the soccer booth, Fox’s decision to position Johnson to join the lovely and talented Arlo White, Ian Darke and Martin Tyler in the let’s-talk-about-soccer-on-American-TVs ranks should be welcomed with USA! chants and a Harlem Shake video, right?

Well, for some, not exactly. Continue reading

DOWNLOAD: 2013 Africa Cup of Nations Mix

 

[soundcloud id=’77829533′ color=’#ff0900′]

In the spirit of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, DJ Sepp Blatter hastily assembled a mix from across the continent while waiting for a taxi. Included you’ll find a nice blend of new sounds and a few beats you’ve probably heard before. There’s some jazz, South African house, a hint of chili pepper, azonto, and more — all mixed together for your listening pleasure. Before you’ve finished listening, you’ll have touched Cape Verde, South Africa, Senegal, Mali, USA, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria.

Enjoy.

Track List:

Cesaria Evora – Fado (Cape Verde)
Hugh Masekela – Stimela (South Africa)
Soweto Gospel Choir – Malaika (South Africa)
Alif – Douta Mbaye (Senegal)
De La Soul – Ring, Ring, Ring (USA)
Hugh Masekela – The Rainmaker (South Africa)
DJ Walker feat. Senyaka – Shesa Mpama (South Africa)
Brenda Fassie – Vuli Ndlela (South Africa)
Amadou & Miriam – Beau Dimanche (Mali)
Fatoumata Diawara – Bakonoba (Mali)
Soweto Gospel Choir – Jikela Emaweni (South Africa)
Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Zephyr Song (USA)
Sarkodie – Onyame Eyhira (feat. Castro) (Ghana)
Mafikizolo – Lotto (South Africa)
Sarkodie – You Go Kill Me (feat. El) (Ghana)
Magic System – Ca Me Degban (Cote d’Ivoire)
Mafikizolo – Ndixolele (South Africa)
Magic System – Soleil d’Ete (Cote d’Ivoire)
P-Square – Alingo (Nigeria)
Magic System – Kit Dit Mie (Cote d’Ivoire)
Teal Choir – Nkosi Sikelel iAfrica (South Africa)

 

Blackstars

Africa Cup of Nations Group B Recap: Mastering the Art of Compliment-Criticism

No Kevin-Prince Boateng (retired), no Sulley Muntari (recovering from injury/left behind), no Michael Essien (perpetually injured, pulled out), no Jordan Ayew (excluded for “footballing reasons”), no Andre Ayew (failed to turn up for a medical assessment), no compelling replacement for veteran goalkeeper Richard Kingson, and a captain, Asamoah Gyan, who, at the ripe age of 27, is still scoring buckets of goals, but in the UAE Pro-League. Yet many voices, presumably on reflex, have been adamant that the Black Stars are the team to beat at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations.

Go on, raise an eyebrow. Continue reading

Africa Cup of Nations Group A Recap: A Thin Line Between Caricature and Genius

He has the reputation of being one of the most sophisticated soccer minds around. He’s a philosopher, a sports psychologist, a leader, and so much more. But of all of his special gifts, what stands out the most — aside from his uncanny, Houdini-like ability to escape from precarious situations — is his psychic ability.

We will be in the final because we have no problems.

These are the words world-famous soccer expert and South African President Jacob Zuma shared with a group of what South Africa coach Gordon Igesund believed were his nation’s finest unretired, uninjured players in the days preceding the first throw-in at the 2013 Orange Africa Cup of Nations. Continue reading

Mbira

Taste the Music Behind the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations

It’s that time again. It’s that moment to share stories about my favorite country-within-a-country, Africa. It’s that time to delve into narratives that don’t involve warfare, starvation, Sally Struthers, Bono, Madagascar or Madagascar II: Escape to Africa, Madonna adopting Malawi, or any other variation of mega-celebrity adoption, or, as I call it, Afrodoption. I know, contain yourself.

That’s right, the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations … I’m sorry, the 2013 ORANGE Africa Cup of Nations kicks off today (Saturday) at Johannesburg’s FNB Stadium … I’m sorry again … National Stadium. Johannesburg’s National Stadium. Keeping track of all these naming rights wrinkles is proving to be quite the challenge for a simple person like yours truly. Like the majority, I’m just interested in watching people in matching outfits kick a ball around well-manicured grass that was, in my imagination, hand-cut with barber scissors by a solitary and official title-wielding groundskeeper named Thabo.

But I digress.

What you are witnessing in the video above is an official promo from South Africa’s undisputed ESPN, SuperSport. The official-sounding theme music you hear in the background, behind all the fancy sound effects and that faux-American-sounding Casey Kasem radio/TV voice (which is a subject to be bookmarked), is Nigerian artist D’banj’s “Top of the World.” That’s fun, isn’t it? Which brings us to a favorite topic around here – music. Continue reading

The Gap

Indiscriminate Ramblings on #USMNT v. Mexico: Defending, Gilberto Silva, Jose Torres, “The Gap,” Commentator-Cheerleaders, etc.

After the opening whistle for the USMNT-Mexico match, Ian Darke released the following words from his lovely mouth: “Mexican football on a huge high at the moment after winning the Olympic championship – for the men, of course – at Wembley at the weekend against Brazil, and they hope to continue that path here against their greatest rivals, the United States.”

What happened next was not that. Ninety minutes later the USMNT players were grinning and embracing each other after beating Mexico on Mexican soil for the first time in 8.4 billion attempts. And Ian Darke was drenched in what I hope was Tecate.

Maybe this was a part of Mexico’s master plan. Maybe Mexico’s plan all along was to lull the USMNT into a false sense of security by accepting a friendly at Azteca, having a half-crowd, and then losing so that the USMNT would be ill-prepared and full of false expectation the next time they made a trip south of the border for a game that mattered (which could possibly happen during World Cup qualification).

But it certainly looked like Mexico was going for it. It just happened that, in spite of having the lion’s share of possession and creating more opportunities to not score, it wasn’t meant to be. Continue reading

AztecArt

USA vs Mexico: Defeating Imaginary Dragons and Warlocks in Aztecaland

It has been described as cauldron-like, historic, legendary, famed, and raucous. In fact, science has shown that it’s virtually impossible to discuss Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca, site of today’s USMNT-Mexico unfriendly and official home of the Mexican national team outside of the United States, without a descriptor and a Surgeon General’s warning.

WARNING: AZTECA CAUSES UNBRIDLED FEAR, PROJECTILE URINATION, VISIONS OF DRAGONS, HOBBITS, TROLLS AND WARLOCKS, UNPREDICTABLE AMATEUR METEOROLOGY IMPULSES, AND WAVING — MEXICAN WAVING. SMOG. THERE’S ALSO SMOG.

It’s an explosive, magical place, Azteca, the type of place that, if you close your eyes and follow the adjectives, would be the setting of a pivotal scene in a Tarantino movie about the Spanish invasion of the Aztec empire, a movie that would star Samuel L. Jackson as Montezuma’s low-level assistant for that unexpected, dramatic effect. ESTADIO AZTECA. And if you purchase a ticket to this mythological wonderland, stuffed with all the trimmings of the Advanced Rivalry Language (ARL) package, at some point you will notice that the USMNT isn’t just facing a team of Mexican soccer players, but also a fire-breathing dragon and warlocks. And that is terrifying. Continue reading

Hope Solo ESPN

Win, Praise, Ignore, Repeat: The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team’s Unhealthy Relationship with U.S.

In the United States, there’s a euphoria that swirls around the U.S. women’s national team during major tournaments that is difficult to comprehend, especially when juxtaposed against the relative lack of euphoria that exists between tournaments.

It’s almost like a long-term relationship where you only tell someone they really matter on birthdays and Valentine’s Day. They know they’re being taken for granted, waved in front of friends and colleagues like a trophy in a beautiful dress, selfishly celebrated only during moments of triumph with the faux-zest of someone who likes to look like they care when the light is shining. Few would question if they decided to walk away. But they can’t, because let’s face it, they’re in love with the game. And so we continue to use them for their love. Continue reading


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