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Good Soccer Reads: Corruption, Desolation & Cosmos

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Photo: John Wardell/Flickr

Another week, another great selection of Good Soccer Reads as curated on the XI Twitter feed. Starting today, we will also send out a weekly Good Soccer Reads e-mail digest with five of the best reads of the week – subscribe now to receive it in your inbox.

1. Soccer’s New Match-Fixing Scandal

Brian Phillips | Grantland | February 7, 2013

Brian Phillips writes about the match fixing scandal that broke this week, and his conclusion isn’t pretty.

UEFA and FIFA talk about stamping out corruption, but, and I’ll try to be precise here, FIFA rhetoric is to action what a remaindered paperback copy of Pippi in the South Seas is to the Horsehead Nebula. FIFA is eyeballs-deep in its own corruption problems, being run, as it is, by a cabal of 150-year-olds, most of them literally made out of dust, who have every incentive to worry about short-term profit over long-term change. They all have streets named after them, so how could they have a bad conscience? FIFA sees the game as a kind of Rube Goldberg device, or, better, as a crazed Jenga tower, and their job is to keep it standing as long as the money’s coming in. Doesn’t matter how wobbly it gets. Nobody look at the foundations.

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2. A Moth for Mali

Laurent Dubois | Soccer Politics | February 5, 2013

With ESPN picking up the rights to broadcast the current Africa Cup of Nations online, more North Americans have watched the tournament than ever before, but the experience doesn’t quite compare to that of Duke University professor Laurent Dubois. He writes about his experience watching the games while in Senegal last week.

When much of a city and much of a continent is watching something, you can almost feel the collective shifting of moods. There was that moment of seeping dread, late in the second-half game of Mali vs. South Africa with the score skill locked 1-1, when everyone realized that overtime was coming, and after that, most likely, penalty kicks. But Mali’s players, and goalie, controlled the shoot-out from the beginning. Each of them went in, it seems, knowing that if there was a moment to proceed without fear and with hesitation, this was it. Gracefully, they dispatched South Africa without even needing to shoot the full five shots. The cheers were immediate and uproarious: “Mali!”

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3. What Ever Happened To … Jamar Beasley

Nick Firchau | | February 5, 2013

In the latest in their “What Ever Happened To…” series on, Nick Firchau has a fascinating article on Jamar Beasley. Once seemingly destined for stardom, Beasley has carved out a career in indoor soccer, overcoming many self-made obstacles to find stability at last.

Roughly six years ago, he was featured in a piece for the Kansas City Star in which he laid himself absolutely bare: the drinking that derailed his career, being the older brother of a superstar, his dented Chevy Cavalier, the porn DVD on the front seat. He says he agreed to that interview so he could reflect on everything in his career, but it’s unclear if he really wanted it to come out like the casualty tale that it did: Jamar Beasley, don’t let this happen to you.

So yes, he has the right to say no to doing this all over again. He’s earned that. But, somewhat surprisingly, on a frigid February night in upstate New York, he’s game. He’s all smiles and a pat on the back. And he’s actually wondering why people are still wondering about him.

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4. American Soccer in 1985: The End of the Beginning

Will Parchman | American Soccer Now | February 4, 2013

The U.S. men’s national team received a setback this week in Honduras, but once upon a time not that long ago, desolation was the order of the day. Will Parchman reminds us of the last time the U.S. failed to qualify for a World Cup (1986).

Rick Davis slumped forward in his seat in the spartan Murdock Stadium locker room and cradled his head in his hands. The U.S. captain sat that way for a long time, maybe five minutes, maybe longer, his hair matted to his forehead by sweat. He still had on his blue jersey with the three white stripes running along the shoulders. His nerves were rubbed raw.

There wasn’t much noise orbiting his seat in the bowels of the stadium in the urban tangle of Torrance, Calif., just the sounds of men shifting under the weight of another World Cup failure. Outside, a disproportionately large group of Costa Ricans celebrated. Their Chico dancing, which served as the halftime entertainment, stood in stark contrast with the mood in the U.S. locker room Davis viewed through a sheen of tears.

The U.S. was in its violent final throes as an irrelevant player on the international stage, and May 31, 1985, was arguably its blackest day. A 34th-minute goal from Evaristo Coronado shocked the U.S., whose eventual 1-0 loss to Costa Rica that day ended their qualification hopes for the 1986 World Cup. It was a devastating, unforeseen disaster the U.S. players had trouble putting into perspective.

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5. On This Day in 1971: The New York Soccer Club is Nicknamed Cosmos

David Kilpatrick | | February 4, 2013

The redux version of the New York Cosmos recently announced big plans for a new stadium on Long Island. But how did the team get its name in the first place? Cosmos Club Historian David Kilpatrick explains, by talking to the team’s first GM Clive Toye, who outlined his thought process back in 1971:

Cosmos, that is great. It’s a derivation of Cosmopolitan and what is New York other than cosmopolitan? And what is bigger than the cosmos? Nothing, so that’s what we’ll be.

Then I had the problem of convincing the ownership that that was the name. So I offered two free tickets from New York to Switzerland for the winners of the competition for the name of New York’s newest professional soccer club.

Then [we] had the competition and, you can imagine, we didn’t get that many entries, cause we didn’t get that much publicity – this was January of 1971. So I wrote a lot of letters myself, to myself, with different names and addresses, proposing the name the Cosmos.

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