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.