Friday, February 25, 2011

World Striker: The Soccer Manifesto

Welcome to World Striker, New York's first multilingual newspaper.

Our newspaper’s release coincides with what is possibly the greatest wave of soccer interest this country has ever seen. Some claim that soccer is finally arriving, while others believe that it is already here. I would argue that it is already here. As ESPN’s Tommy Smyth told me, soccer “is everywhere,” and that all one has to do, is “look around.”
Soccer is here. The problem is – at least in New York City - that our soccer culture is concealed, hidden behind television and computer screens, clustered in neighborhoods that are, for the most part, disconnected from each other. There are only a few hubs where fans of all different backgrounds congregate to watch games, and enjoy the game that manages to bring the world together every four years, during the world cup.
It was exactly last year’s world cup that proved that there is indeed an enormous fan base in this country, and that it is hungry for a more overt soccer culture. Fans want and need to see each other, in order to celebrate, debate, and commiserate about the beautiful game. World Striker aims to support these fans, and ultimately help the sport to grow even further.

Of course, there are those who will tell you that a newspaper like ours cannot survive in an age where the Internet has all but rendered print obsolete. Perhaps they are right. But while the Internet is a wonderful tool that supplies us with soccer information at the click of a button, it robs us of a community of fans that is essential to making soccer a part of our mainstream.

I can’t think of a better time to be a soccer fan than now. In FC Barcelona we are witnessing a team that is quite possibly the best ever; Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are waging a two-man battle that could propel them to the level of Pele and Maradona; the Cosmos are fashioning the most unlikely of comebacks; and the MLS is expanding to cater to an ever-growing audience.

World Striker will cover these stories, and many more. We will offer analysis ranging from the world’s best leagues, to local youth events, and we will spotlight the sport’s biggest stars, as well as the city’s emerging talent. We also want you, our readers, to contribute to our publication by submitting letters expressing your views on the issues we cover.

We hope that you will join us on this adventure, and look forward to your readership.

Monday, December 6, 2010

I’m Wesley Sneijder, Remember Me?

When FIFA’s Ballon d’Or gets awarded for the first time next January, someone in Barcelona’s locker room will be added to the contentious list of the world’s best player. Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, and Lionel Messi have been shortlisted by FIFA as the three potential winners, and while neither of the three is a surprise inclusion, there is a shocking exclusion, that of Wesley Sneijder.

Only a few months ago, the Dutchman was being touted as a runaway winner, having guided Inter Milan to an historic treble, as well as his country to the world cup final, where a Spanish team conducted by Barcelona’s brilliant duo defeated him. Sneijder’s fall from grace has been precipitous, but perhaps not all that surprising given his club team’s recent poor run of form. In a sport where the question “what have you done for me lately?” takes on an increased significance, the award unfortunately applies to the calendar year rather than the actual season. Thus, everything that Sneijder did during the first half of Inter’s historic season doesn’t count, while everything he hasn’t been doing since September, does. But what about his tremendous world cup and Champions league campaigns? Well, those were moths ago, and with Barcelona’s current butchering of all opponents on the backs of the aforementioned triumvirate, easily forgotten.

This dissonance between the award and the actual season has been a recurring problem for FIFA, but like with so many other things, soccer’s unblemished governing body will reluctantly change. That is, unless some of soccer’s more prestigious writers start voicing their disapproval, like bestselling author, and tweeter extraordinaire, Grant Wahl, who has publicly alluded to the problem on Twitter.

Friday, November 12, 2010

My Recent Hiatus

Dear Readers,

NYC's Multilingual Soccer Source
As you've probably noticed, i haven't posted any articles during the past two months. I apologize for this recent neglect. Lately, i've been devoting an inordinate amount of time to setting up New York City's first soccer specific multilingual newspaper, World Striker. Barring any unexpected delays, the weekly edition should be available at city newsstands this December. You will be able to follow the World Striker on Twitter at WorldStrikerNYC for any updates.

I will be posting new articles this weekend on Bigsoccerhead that will include:

  • A discussion with ESPN's Tommy Smyth about US soccer.
  • A call for tougher consequences for dirty tacklers.
I'm very grateful for your readership and continued support.


Eric Krakauer

Friday, September 10, 2010

Silly Blatter Says: 'Golden Goal' to Save Football

a pensive Blatter (photo: guardian uk)

Sepp Blatter has given football fans all over the world another reason to rub their foreheads in befuddlement, once again. In an attempt to eradicate negative tactics from football, the seemingly increasingly incompetent head of FIFA has announced that football’s governing body is considering bringing back the ‘golden goal.’

The decision to reconsider the games’ playing format comes after the 2010 world cup failed to produce a lot of goals. In fact, the group stage tallied the least amount of goals ever in a world cup. Blatter blames the defensive strategies used by the coaches, who overwhelmingly lined up their teams with only one striker (all four semifinalists resorted to a strategy that employed two holding midfielders).

Bierhoff celebrates winning goal
Although one can’t criticize Blatter’s push for more positive football (positive being a euphemism for more goals), resorting to an already failed experiment as a potential remedy is senseless and reeks of desperation. Introduced by FIFA in 1993 to correct the same issue, the ‘golden goal’ quickly proved to have the opposite effect. In the 1996 and 2000 European cups, as well as the 1998 world cup, teams that went into what was then referred to as ‘sudden death’ resorted to more defensive tactics in order to avoid surrendering a fatal goal. The cagey 96 final between Germany and Czech republic was the first major tournament decided by the rule, after Petr Kouba mishandled Oliver Bierhoff’s weak shot. The European cup in 2000 also included a dismal final that was decided by a David Trezeguet ‘golden’ goal, but only after the French beat Portugal in the semis with a controversial penalty shot converted by Zinedine Zidane. Which brought about another problem: what was to be done about refereeing decisions that would prove so decisive? The rule was abolished in 2004 after FIFA received a tremendous amount of criticism.

Finding a solution for ‘negative football’ could prove very difficult. In part because negative tactics are probably not the sole reason for the decline in goals. Football today is a lot different from football twenty years ago. Teams that used to be pushovers then, can now cause problems for traditional powerhouses. Even teams that were regularly thrashed in double figures have found ways to reduce the number of goals they concede. For example, Andorra and Lichtenstein, two teams that were routinely thumped by their opponents are now proving to be far tougher. In their last European cup qualification matches, Andorra only lost to Ireland 3-1, and Lichtenstein suffered the narrowest of defeats against Scotland, in Scotland. Ireland and Scotland are certainly not football powerhouses, but the gulf between them and their respective opponents is enormous.  One can argue the reasons behind the closing of the gap between good and bad teams, but one can’t argue that there is more parity in the game today than ever before.

One thing is for sure: Sepp Blatter is once again focusing on the game’s trifles instead of the things that do need correction. Like video replay. Or have we forgotten about that already?    

Worst Goalkeeping Mistake Ever?

 Moroccan club  FAR Rabat's goalkeeper, Khalid Askri, celebrates a little early