Over at The A.V. Club, Rowan Keiser has a solid post about how things have changed (and not changed) for men’s soccer in the United States – with an emphasis on who we’ve been listening to when we watch it on television:
If you flipped on ABC or ESPN for a World Cup match this year or in 2010, you were almost certainly greeted by an announcer with an English accent. For the four World Cups prior, between 1994 and 2006, ESPN had used American voices like O’Brien—but the decision to change announcers wasn’t merely an aesthetic one. The networks took sides in an ongoing war over the nature of American soccer, where announcing is one of biggest battlegrounds about whether the sport should be Europeanized “football” or reflect a home-grown American soccer. It’s a conflict that encompasses media culture, fan culture, and even the overall philosophy of U.S. Soccer’s attempts to improve the national team.
Read the rest, then come back here. For my money, Ian Darke puts the rest of the ESPN World Cup announcers to shame when it comes to play-by-play (and the less said about Gus Johnson’s efforts to this point, the better). I don’t watch enough (read: any) MLS to know if there are any home-grown announcers up to the task yet, but I do hope that 4 years from now, when the World Cup is on Fox, we hear from some talented American voices.* Or at least some other voices that have more to contribute than just a smart-sounding accent.
* Can a voice be talented? Also, anybody think Gus is capable of getting good at this by 2018? He was atrocious in that Atletico/Real Madrid game a couple months ago.
International football is actually all about glory. There’s money in it for Sepp Blatter and his mates at FIFA but it’s not a serious business like European club football; livelihoods and futures don’t depend on the result. Why try to grind out a nil-nil draw and win on penalties when the whole world is watching? Why not try to score more goals than the other team?
I’d have been predisposed to enjoy Nick Hornby’s World Cup sum-up anyway, and then he went ahead and declared Belgium/USA “probably the best World Cup match of the 21st century”.
When Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup, everyone pretty much agreed that they had bought it illicitly. Qatar is utterly unsuitable for a massive outdoor sports tournament, and utter corruption is more or less how FIFA rolls. As The Telegraph discovered… yep:
Jack Warner, the former vice-president of Fifa, appears to have been personally paid $1.2 million (£720,000) from a company controlled by a former Qatari football official shortly after the decision to award the country the tournament.
Deadspin‘s analysis notes Warner’s history of suspicious circumstances:
Warner, the former president of CONCACAF, is no stranger to controversy. In 2011, the Trinidadian was accused of demanding cash and gifts from England’s FA in exchange for his 2018 World Cup vote. Later that year, Warner was caught on tape urging Caribbean Football Union members to accept envelopes full of money to back Mohamed Bin Hammam’s bid for FIFA president.
Bin Hammam was banned for life; Warner stepped down, putting him beyond the reach of any FIFA punishment. But the FBI is said to be investigating the Caribbean-based fraud (payments for which, according to the Telegraph, were routed through American banks). “It’s shaping up to be a major case,” one U.S. official told Reuters.
The FBI is investigating, while the relevant parties in the United States are surely quietly sending emails with subjects like “you know, our reliable, well-maintained, fully-functional infrastructure is available in 2022…”