Tag Archives: soccer

Leicester City: The Greatest Sports Story. Ever.

 

By Nate Flax

As the clock hit the 96th minute of the Tottenham – Chelsea match, the entire soccer world realized that the greatest underdog story in sport history had concluded. After trailing 2-0 at halftime, Chelsea came back to draw with the second place Tottenham Hotspur, thanks to a brilliant 80th minute equalizer by Chelsea’s Eden Hazard. As the final whistle blew to end the heated London Derby, Tottenham’s title hopes were dashed and for the second year in a row, a new Premier League champion was decided at Stamford Bridge. However, this time it wasn’t one of England’s heavyweight contenders, but instead a club that had been written off before the season even started.

Leicester City

Located right in the heart of England, world-famous clubs, always surrounded Leicester with Manchester just to the North and London to the South, but until this year, very few that did not follow the BPL closely even knew a soccer club existed there, even though the team was founded in 1884 (132 years ago). The Leicester City Foxes were simply insignificant, finishing at the bottom of the table the year before and had only received promotion into England’s top league the year before that. They entered the season 5000-1 odds to win the title this year and featured a team that had cost just £80 million to put together (to put in perspective Manchester City spent £80 million on one transfer alone earlier in the year). Billy Beane’s Moneyball scheme wouldn’t stand a chance against this. Other recent previous 5000-1 odds as explained by ESPN’s Paul Carr included 16-year-old Paul Chaplet’s chances at this year’s Masters (where he shot 21 over par and finished dead last) and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ chances to make the playoffs with a month left in the season and their record sitting at 14-35. The odds for Elvis Presley being found alive were also 5000-1.

Being written off before the season even started, Leicester really had no chance of failing any expectations given to them, quite frankly because there were no expectations to start with. But that’s when everything clicked. Led by Riyad Mahrez, Danny Drinkwater, Jamie Vardy, and seasoned manager Claudio Ranieri, the Foxes outdid themselves by continuing to be that pesky opponent that just wouldn’t give up even though they seemingly had no business competing with powerhouses like Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea. Yet somehow, with Chelsea holding Tottenham to a draw, Leicester City sat seven points clear on top of the table with just two games to play, making it impossible for anyone to catch them, and crowning them the kings of England. With the third smallest budget in the Premier League, the Foxes became the first team not named Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, or Chelsea in 21 years to win the title, and just the sixth to win out of 48 that have tried since 1992. After a season that proved that money can’t always guarantee a crown, Leicester City concluded the fairy tale of a season that underdogs could previously only dream of.

Alexi Lalas: Moving to Fox Sports

By Kaleb Page

Quality soccer commentary in the U.S. is at a premium. Especially for commentators that are from the U.S. and can actually articulate not only the names, but the chess match that is soccer. ESPN had this premium in more ways than one with commentators Taylor Twellman and Alexi Lalas. Recently both of these key American soccer analysts went their opposite ways.

In the world of soccer, America is looked at as a lackluster soccer playground. Especially when it comes to the knowledge of the game and the subtle nuances that lends itself to the phrase “the beautiful game.” This past summer with the success and valiant efforts put forth by the U.S. men’s national soccer team, it started to show the change here in the states. In Brazil the following by the U.S. could not be mistaken and those that could not make it showed tremendous support unlike most World Cup’s in years past.

Twellman and Lalas both brought a knowledgeable American voice to the forefront of soccer. Something that those not up to par on their soccer could look to and get their facts in order to really learn the game. I think over the years these two have built more of a soccer following here and allowed more people to actually know what they are talking about with soccer (possibly why Brazil had such a successful following). With Twellman and Lalas exclusively on ESPN, it provided a platform to reach the masses and it opened the eyes to the rest of the networks.

Recently the contract for Twellman and Lalas came up at ESPN which led to Fox Sports jumping in to sign them away. With a battle between the two networks it came down to the two analysts to make a decision. For Twellman it was to stay with ESPN, and for Lalas it was to move on to Fox Sports. In something he said was like them giving him the godfather treatment.

Fox Sports still has to officially announce that Lalas has made the move, but for Lalas it was a no-brainer move. Creatively Fox Sports is one of the best sports outlets for soccer coverage, and some would say even better than their counterpart ESPN. Fox has these key soccer fixtures under their rights: 2015 Women’s World Cup, 2018 Men’s World Cup, a new MLS package and their already great coverage of the Champions League, FA Cup and soon the German Bundesliga. For any soccer analyst, especially one as outspoken and knowledgeable as Lalas, this network is a dream come true. This move also allows Lalas to be closer to his kids. Lalas lives in Los Angeles and Fox Sports has its studio in LA, which for Lalas is a 20 minute trip instead of his ESPN 3,000 mile flight.

For myself I would say it is a blow to the ESPN soccer analysis to lose the likes of Lalas since he gives such an honest take on what is going on in soccer. To be honest in years past I would be in the group of Americans who had little knowledge of the game and the tactics. With the help of a friend like Seth Glover, countless soccer matches on TV, FIFA videogames and analysis by those like Lalas; I now have a better understanding. It will be interesting to see how Lalas is incorporated to Fox’s already vast array of soccer coverage, and is able to give more of the country knowledge on “the beautiful game.”

Racist Tweets Sent to Midfielder Toure

By Alex O’Connor

Manchester City midfielder, Yaya Toure has been the target of recent racist remarks on Twitter. On Monday, Toure received several racist messages in a matter of a few hours. Toure rejoined Twitter yesterday and was greeted with several racist remarks. Toure describes the messages as a “disgrace” and has noted that he wants “Those people to understand what they’re doing is wrong.” Per BBC Sport, the Greater Manchester Police have received the complaint and are thoroughly investigating the issue. Toure was off of Twitter for over five months due to un-warranted distractions. Unfortunately, there have been additional distractions only a day into reestablishing his Twitter.

Though Toure is facing adversity on the social media spectrum, an anti-discriminatory organization known as Kick it Out has come to his aid. Kick it Out is an international organization that vies for equality and inclusion in all aspects of sport, having their primary focus in soccer. Kick it Out’s official statement read: “We are disturbed by the fact that someone can be treated this way. It makes footballers start to question why they should use these platforms. We are offering Yaya Toure our full support.” This response shows immediate defense to Toure while hammering home the message that racism has no place in soccer.

One specific tweet was caught by authorities and was proved to be written by an avid Chelsea fan. The tweet read: “shut up n*****.” The UK’s DailyStar reported that the fan had apologized, but directly to Toure. His apology was given through Twitter, and was sent to the DailyStar. They are connecting the insincerity of the apology, claiming that his apology was not administered the right way. This is another way in which social media has hurt not only Toure, but the original messenger.

Toure took a five month break from Twitter, because of distractions to his playing. However, just over a year ago, Toure was the subject of racist messages from fans during a Champions League group stage game in Moscow, Russia. There were even suggestions that black players should boycott the upcoming 2018 World Cup in Russia. As a result, the Etihad Stadium in Moscow will be forced to not have any fans present when Toure and Manchester City travel to Moscow. This is a significant revenue loss not only for the stadium and surrounding city, but the entire sport as a whole. Governing bodies are going so far as to prohibit fans from even watching a soccer game in person. In the midst of this situation and Toure’s most recent entanglement, City manager Manuel Pellegrini is confident the latest issue will not effect his performance on the field. Toure has had several poor experiences with social media, and now this incident has proven to be detrimental to the entire sport.

The Fault in Our Fields

By Kaleb Page

For many playing football, lacrosse, soccer, or even field hockey it meant playing on a grass surface. With more advancements over the years synthetic turf started to take over as the better alternative to grass. For one the maintenance is relatively cheaper than a sod or natural grass field, and to the eye these fields look great. However, these fields could have a major fault in them that could have a massive impact.

Turf fields, as many would know that have played on them, have tons of small black pellets spread across the entire field.  These pellets are called “crumb rubber” because like the name states, are the leftovers from ground up tires and any other ground up rubber product that can be recycled. Seems like a good idea right? Grind up rubber and re-purpose it to have a second life instead of ending up in landfills compounding that problem we have even further in this country. It is definitely a good idea but at what price?

While it would be a mistake to automatically jump to the conclusion that synthetic turf is causing cancer; the signs are all pointing that direction. As the old adage would say “where there is smoke, there is fire.” The evidence billowing out like smoke all across the country is pointing directly to the fire, the fire so many children and professional athletes play on.

This issue is in the forefront now, but in actuality it has been a growing concern for years. In 2008 synthetic turf fields at Thomas Jefferson Park in Manhattan, NY were found to have high levels of lead in them (eventually those fields were removed). Soccer coach Amy Griffin in an interview with NBC, said that even in 2009 she had suspicions over the black dots when two goalkeepers she was coaching were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In the video below the interview with Amy, which aired earlier this October, chronicled what she experienced along with other startling points as more people are searching for answers now.

It is surprising to look at this topic because I never thought that the playing field put in my hometown could potential be somewhat of a ‘cancer field.’ It is estimated that there are over 4,500 synthetic turf fields across the country and nobody has even let it sink in what the cost could be of playing on this type of surface. The EPA even has a list which states the chemicals that are in tires and other rubber products. What are those chemicals you ask? Well a good part of those chemicals are carcinogens which are contributors to cancer. The EPA is hesitating to make a full judgement, and they stand behind their own studies saying the effect of turf pellets are proven to be insufficient. However, they do admit that there should be more testing done.

It will be interesting to see where this develops and what else can be done to fix this problem. It cannot be ignored anymore and for all the technology we have there should be a way to find a middle ground. One that allows those who are proponents of having turf to keep their turf, while at the same time giving parents, coaches, and players the peace of mind that they aren’t playing on something which could give them cancer someday.

Who knows what the future may hold and what we could see happen. One thing is that we could find ourselves looking back on doing synthetic turf and scratch our heads in amazement. Amazement at the major fault we let go for so long, letting countless players come down with cancer before we even took any action.

Has the Media Forgotten Hope Solo?

By Kate Roth

Over the past few weeks, sports media has been flooded with story after story involving a domestic violence issue, with majority of subjects being players from the National Football League.

After the Ray Rice incident, the media seemed to put the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL on blast for how they were handling the situation.

With the increased pressure coming from the media, the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell felt he had to take action. In doing so, Goodell suspended Rice from the league all together and implemented a new policy to help deal with future offenses.

Upon hearing the news of the new suspensions for players involved in domestic violence incidents, the media may have felt that like they had a part in starting that implementation. What the media failed to realize is that while they were so zoned in on attacking the NFL incidents, there were other situations going on in other sports that needed to be addressed as well.

Take for instance the Hope Solo case. Solo, who has had domestic violence issues in the past, has now been accused of assaulting her sister and her 17 year-old nephew. Even with all the media buzz around domestic violence issues in sport, Solo remains active on the Untied States Women’s National Team as she awaits trial in November.

The media has given very little attention to this topic, causing it to fall off the radar. By neglecting to cover this story the media has failed to show the seriousness of the situation and has taken the pressure off of the USWNT to suspend Solo for any period of time.

If the media were to have given the same attention to Solo’s case as they did for the cases in the NFL, the USWNT may have felt enough pressure to address the seriousness of the situation and make an example out of Solo to prevent this from happening with future players.

I think that the media really dropped the ball by neglecting to cover this story and essentially contradicted themselves by giving all of their attention to the NFL issues and ignoring the same issues happening with an athlete in another sport, as if we should pretend that what she did was not as serious.

I hope that if another situation like this were to arise, the media would realize their mistakes and give their attention to all of the serious issues in sport, not just the ones involving the most popular leagues or players.