8
Nov

Exploring the National Football Museum

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MANCHESTER, ENGLAND

It started on the first floor, in the middle of the room on a pedestal under glass. “Footballeur” is a little-known ceramic sculpture by Pablo Picasso, and it greets you at the National Football Museum in the center of the city. Among the artworks, quotes from some of soccer’s greats line the walls—complete with the odd spellings common to a pre-Autocorrect era. It occurred to me, in this microcosm of art and history, that sometimes soccer is not just a sport, but also a lens through which one can view the world and the past.

The museum strikes a balance of stuff and substance, much like what humanity has managed to produce since the rules were written down in 1863 by Ebenezer Cobb Morley. (The NFM has a copy; as it happens, we saw the original Laws of the Game as part of the British Library’s current display in London.) Through the interactive exhibits (which cost a bit more than admission, which is free) for the kids, ephemera for the true nerds and collectors, exhibits of social movements’ effects on the game for the history buffs, and hundreds of tidbits of triumphs and tragedies on and off the pitch, one begins to see the evolution of a beautiful game mirroring the evolution of a little planet growing more and more connected.

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But, at the end of it, I had certainly learned a lot about soccer. Some highlights and conclusions:

— A short video told the story of a women’s league formed in Britain’s WWI munitions factories. It had a lot of similarities to the now-defunct Women’s Baseball League in the US: They were kicking instead of base running and they didn’t wear skirts, but they had a similar amount of grit and tenacity. A woolen outfit from around 1895 for women footballers was also on display. It looked itchy.

— Speaking of grit, after watching a short video about Arthur Fitzgerald Kinnaird, 11th Lord Kinnaird, AKA Lord of the FA Cup (with caps in nine of the first ten finals), I have determined he is deserving of an action figure.

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— Soccer certainly has never lacked for schlock. One of the sponsors is the toy manufacturer Subbuteo, and there is a massive a toy case encompassing everything from early metal figurines, to the plastic tabletop game, to FIFA 13. Upstairs unfolds what can only be described as a groovy collection of George Best memorabilia. From his Mini Cooper to his super 70s workout record, the evidence suggests that Best was not only the first soccer superstar, but that he endorsed everything.

— The museum doesn’t skimp on tactics, however. There was a childishly-satisfying phone you could pickup to get tactical advice from famous managers while discovering how ball and boot constructions have changed play over time. (They’re not as heavy.) There was a moving exhibit about the football tragedies that have occurred on British soil, from Ibrox to Hillsborough, juxtaposed with notes and designs from some of the most prominent stadium designers, next to an original Wembley turnstile. I imagine the pictures of men standing drinking up against the crush barriers (before stadium seating was mandated in the top-flight) would bring back many memories to those who attended.

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After perusing remnants of these rich histories, I feel a little guilty about the favorite fact I learned. Near a Pele jersey and a fashion-forward vintage sweater from West Germany, there was a silly little interactive stand, with holes covered in black fabric for children to stick their hands in to find the World Cup. Encased beside it were a leash and dog collar; above, a drawing of a dog and a sign that read: “Help Pickles find the World Cup!” So there you have it: My favorite new fact is that the Jules Rimet trophy was stolen prior to the 1966 World Cup in England, and was subsequently found in a hedge by a dog named Pickles out for a walk. He was honored for his heroism.

Maybe society has been through so much in the 150 years that league soccer has existed that, taken all at once, it can be a bit overwhelming. I doubt if I read even a half of what was on display. But there must be something buried deep in the human psyche that explains why we just want to sit around and watch animals do things on the Internet, or men run around on a field and kick a ball. It’s simpler and far more relaxing than trying to make sense of George Best’s workout records.

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Images provided by Shanna Van Volt

4
Nov

Trecker’s Travels: London’s “Four Four Jew” exhibit

imageImage: Jamie Trecker

Around the corner from one of London’s flashiest shopping districts, full of green-haired punk kids and French tourists, is a small townhouse with a brushed aluminum door, kitty-corner to a notorious pub called the “Spread Eagle.” You have to buzz to be let in, but once you get past the foyer, a kindly old woman at the cloakroom, you’ll be in the guts of an old piano factory.

“They haven’t made pianos in London for years,” says the guard. “So, we got a nice place to put this mikveh.”

This is the Jewish Museum of London, currently hosting the cheekily-titled exhibit “Four Four Jew,” that celebrates the achievements of English Jews in football. I’d heard about it from my colleague Jonathan Wilson (his book is prominently displayed) and while it immediately made me think of that old Mel Brooks joke about a pamphlet being able to encompass the entirety of Jewish sporting prowess, we went and had a look.

It’s a small but well-curated show, one on the periphery of a number of exhibits around the FA’s 150th anniversary this year. Football was to emigrated Jews in London what basketball and baseball were to the Yiddish-speaking in New York a hundred years ago: a way to assimilate into an alien and, at times, hostile culture that became a passion. For some, football became a path to success. Represented at the exhibition are genuine household names such as David Pleat and Mark Lazarus, alongside barely remembered trailblazers like West Brom’s Louis Bookman, the first Jew to play in Britain’s top-flight.

Read More

26
Oct

High-end fashion: adidas unveils Yohji Yamamoto adizero F50

Never afraid to push the envelope, adidas teamed up with award-winning Japanese fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto to launch these limited edition yet radical Yohji Yamamoto adizero F50 cleats.

Inspired by Japan’s modern sci-fi culture, Yamamoto (the same mastermind behind adidas’ Y-3 brand) crafted these gaudy boots and incorporated imperial lion-dogs who guarded Japanese emperors who lived on sacred grounds during ancient times in the design.

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Image courtesy of adidas

Yamamoto explained:

“My inspiration is a mixture of ancient traditions and modern sci-fi from Japanese culture. I hope the inspiration of the boot harmonizes the players and gives them extra confidence to express themselves without any fear. People should feel free to express themselves. Just follow your own instinct.”

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Image courtesy of adidas

Bayern Munich defender David Alaba and Paris Saint-Germain’s Lucas Moura are just few of the world footballers that will wear the Yamamoto adizero F50 cleat this weekend:

These boots will not be easy to find however. Only 2,000 pairs will be made available globally, making these special boots an ultimate collectors item.

16
Oct

Grandpa hits jackpot after betting on grandson’s international debut

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Image courtesy of Reuters

How’s this for a wager?

In the 87th minute of Wales’ World Cup qualifier against Belgium, 16-year-old Harry Wilson entered the match to became his country’s youngest-ever senior player. As great of a moment as it was for Wilson, it was perhaps even better for his grandfather, who fifteen years ago wagered £50 that Harry would suit up for Wales’ senior team one day:

Wilson’s grandfather, Peter Edwards, was given 2,500/1 odds by a bookmaker in 2000 for the bet, when Wilson was just 18 months old. He’s now £125,000 richer, and, at age 62, is set to retire a year earlier than he planned.

Edwards told the BBC:

"I was shattered because I had to wait for 85, 86 minutes before he came on and I was panicking because they’d already substituted twice, so I thought he wasn’t going to make it.

But when he came on I had another glass of wine. (I was) a proud granddad first for sure.”

If Wilson doesn’t receive the best Christmas present of his life from his grandpa this year, something is seriously wrong.

H/T BBC

17
May

Premier League, Surviving on Top: Part One

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As the season comes to a close, we examine the history and impact of relegation from the Premier League with our three-part series “Surviving on Top.” Various topics during in our discourse include the overview of relegation, the 21-year history of Premier League relegation, as well as statistical and financial analysis on the impact of relegation.

To start, the most recent team to seal their fate to England’s second-tier league - the Football League Championship - were Wigan after their defeat against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday:

Wigan previously held the distinction of being one of 11 clubs that never suffered relegation from the Premier League; with Arsenal, Aston Villa, Chelsea, Everton, Fulham, Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham, Stoke and Swansea also in the list. Conversely, of the 45 clubs that have enjoyed spells in the Premier League, eight of them have been relegated three or more times from the top flight:

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On Saturday, we take a look at the statistical odds of relegation and promotion, as well as the financial impact for each club in their respective league. All of this is leading up to FOX Soccer’s coverage of the final Premier League matchday with nine games live on broadcast across the FOX family of networks.