“The Beckham Experiment” comes out tomorrow.
In case you don’t watch ESPN or follow soccer, “The Beckham Experiment” is book by Grant Wahl detailing David Beckham’s first few years in America playing for the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Beckham, arguably the world’s most popular, recognizable and marketable athlete, starred for European icons Manchester United and Real Madrid and served as captain of the English national side for five years.
In 2007, he headed to America. Wahl, an award-winning sports writer for Sports Illustrated and SI.com, followed all of it, on and off the field. An excerpt from his book, in which the United States’ all-time leader in goals and assists and Galaxy captain Landon Donovan had some controversial comments about Beckham’s professionalism, was released last week.
I’ll be picking up the book tomorrow, but for now, here is a list of the top five soccer books I’ve read, in no particular order.
Part biography, part explanation of England’s obsession with the beautiful game, Hornby’s quasi-diary is a must read. The book is filled with humor as it explains and describes clashes between the police and hooligans, the first time Hornby saw Arsenal play, and the why 22 guys on a field takes priority over girlfriends and jobs.
The movie “About a Boy” was based on one of Hornby’s books, so fans of romantic dramedies might be drawn in with that.
Hill is an investigative journalist, and he put “The Fix” together after snooping around the world’s gambling scene. Hill details the world of match fixing in soccer by organized criminal groups and the desperation some poor players, especially those in impoverished African nations, that lead them to participating. Match fixing is something a lot of people don’t want to talk about, but Hill provides a rather shocking account of not only soccer’s problems with organized crime, but also how it affects other sports like basketball.
If there is a book out there that better explains why soccer means so much to people outside the U.S., then I haven’t heard about it. Kuper explains political turmoil in the Ukraine, Croatia, South Africa and many other places and how the sport has affected it. For those not familiar with Scottish soccer, the city of Glasgow has long been a hotbed for violent activity. One of the sources of it? The two teams in Glasgow, Rangers and Celtic, have centuries old religious prejudice on their side. Rangers is long a team associated with Protestants, while Celtic is strictly Catholic. A must read. Nothing explains the sport’s impact on lives better than this.
Another great work from Kuper. This time, the book focuses on how the world’s game operated in Europe during World War II, but perhaps more importantly, focuses on Amsterdam’s Jewish population and the role Ajax, a popular Dutch soccer team and European soccer legend, and the Dutch played in the resistance against the Nazis. This isn’t just one of the best soccer books I’ve read, but many World War II historians say it’s a masterpiece as a book about world’s most widespread conflict in history.
Thirty-two chapters, 32 teams in the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Each chapter talks about soccer as it relates to the country. Highlights? England’s love-hate relationship with its national team and the globalization of English soccer, Saudi Arabia’s view of playing soccer as training for jihad, and all the accounts of small nations like Togo and Trinidad & Tobago.
Five interns (Nathan Poppe, Emily Holman, Jack Burk, Ashley McKee [edit: McKeen? Where did that come from] and myself) have been working on content for the My Stillwater community guide due out later this year.
One of the stories I am working on is about Nathan Bates, Stillwater’s 26-year-old mayor who also moonlights as an OSU student.
Ashley and I met him at his apartment complex the other day for an interview and photos. When we were nearing the end of our interview, one of the office workers at the complex walked into the clubhouse where we were doing the interview. He was showing a new resident around.
He gave her a quick tour around the clubhouse, and as he was leaving, he said something to the extent of, “By the way, Stillwater’s mayor lives here.”
The girl laughed and said, “Wow, that’s cool.”
Bates chuckled, and we continued our interview.
I’m not going to get cute.
The U.S. national soccer team beat Spain 2-0 today in the semi-finals of the FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa.
Spain came into the game with a 15-game winning streak, a world record, and a 35-game unbeaten streak.
Goals from 19-year-old Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey, 26, shook the undisputed No.1 team in the world to its core.
Spain has arguably the most talented midfield in the world. David Villa and Fernando Torres are the two most sought after strikers in the world. The Catalan defensive duo of Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique are supposedly unshakeable.
But it happened. Spain pressed and unleashed shot after shot, but Tim Howard, the U.S. goalkeeper, kept each of them out. The U.S. defenders, led by Oguchi Onyewu and captain Carlos Bocanegra, put in a valiant effort.
It’s the biggest soccer upset in years.
The U.S. faces the winner of Brazil-South Africa on Sunday.
A lot is said about Iran and the recent controversy about the country’s elections.
Pictures of security officers and protesters fly across our screens day and night. Though it’s a world away, a small understanding of the experience is at our fingertips thanks to the Internet and the instant news cycle.
Several public figures opposed to the current regime have reportedly been detained.
That might be the fate of six Iranian soccer players.
The government took issue with the players wearing green wristbands during a World Cup qualifying match against South Korea on June 17 in Seoul. The captain, Mehdi Mahdavikia, also wore a green captain’s armband.
Green is the color protesters adopted in response to their belief that the government interfered with the election, particularly skewing the results to make sure Mir Hossein Mousavi did not win.
Ali Karimi, Hosein Ka’abi, Vahid Hashemian and Mahdavikia were banned, while none of the team members were given back their passports after returning to Tehran.
Without their passports, the Iranian government can effectively hinder the players from working or traveling should they leave the country.
As of the now, the players have not been detained, but lacking a passport makes it basically impossible to travel and provides a way to enforce the ban on Hashemian and Mahdavikia, both of whom make their living playing for top-flight clubs in Germany.
FIFA, the sport’s ruling body, discourages political expression on the pitch and encourages national federations to impose punishments. The Spanish federation fined French-Malian striker Freddy Kanoute of Sevilla €3,000 in January for revealing a black shirt with the word “Palestine” printed in multiple languages after scoring a goal against Deportivo La Coruña in a Spanish league match..
However, FIFA also has taken action against governments interfering with the sport. Iran was banned from official competition for a little less than a month in 2006 for excessive government interference in the running of the Iranian soccer federation. A similar ban could be imposed should FIFA find the government’s interference in violation of FIFA’s statutes.
Iran played in the 2006 World Cup but failed to qualify in 2010 after finishing fourth in its
World Cup qualifying group.
It was only a little more than three years ago I was in the crowd at the State Fair Arena.
I was painted gold, head to toes. My friends were appropriately adorned in the same way.
It was the 2006 Class 2A Boys Oklahoma High School Basketball Championship game, and Blake Griffin was putting on a show.
Our school, Oklahoma Christian School, beat Washington 57-40 to win its third-straight state championship and fourth in five years. Blake would lead the team to its fourth-straight in 2007, but I was gone.
I graduated that May, a year before Blake and a year after his brother, Taylor.
Since then, my exposure to Blake has been limited to games on TV and a couple run-ins in various situations (outside the 2008 Bedlam women’s soccer game at OU being the most recent).
I never really understood he was famous. OCS is a small school where everybody pretty much knows everybody.
To me, it was still Blake, the kid I knew in high school who asked me how the soccer team was doing and with whom I shared a number (I wore 15 in soccer, he wore 15 in basketball).
Even as Blake destroyed teams in college and won the 2009 John Wooden Award, given annually to the nation’s best player, it never really registered.
Now it has.
Blake, I’ll give you a high five next time I see you.
That is, if you’re not too famous for me.
I haven’t missed a USA national soccer team game in four years.
It’s a streak more important than Kobayashi’s six-year hot dog eating run.
Although people might be afraid that modern technology might eventually take over the world, I’ll happily accept our new robot masters, for that modern technology is going to keep my streak alive.
My digital video recorder will be humming away as the USA faces Italy at 1:30 p.m. today (ESPN, Galavision) in Pretoria, South Africa on the second day of the 2009 Confederations Cup, held the year before each World Cup as a dry-run of sorts.
Eight teams compete, including the six regional champions: Brazil, Egypt, Iraq, New Zealand, Spain and the USA. The hosts, South Africa, and the reigning World Cup champions, Italy, make up the rest of the field.
Thank you digital video recorder. While I’m trying to track down that last piece of information for a story, Landon Donovan and the boys will be facing Italy in a rematch of their 1-1 draw during the 2006 World Cup, a game that saw three red cards and is still fresh in the minds of American soccer fans.
It might be a little Big Brother-esque, but all their actions will be recorded and saved on a cute, inconspicuous black box next to my TV.
I’ll see you tonight, Landon and company. Until then, I work.
I’m loving it more than McDonald’s.