It is still the beautiful game, despite the stunted, amoral people who run FIFA. The headquarters will be fumigated, but the sport prevails, still capable of spontaneous beauty. .
Don’t confuse the larceny of the executives, now exposed by the American – American! – justice system, with the talents exhibited in front of the world. Americans used to observe the violence in the stands and streets and blame it on a sport in which ten players cannot use their hands. Now they know better. And their legal system is dredging up the real problem with the world's favorite sport. .
The game belongs to the Messis and the Iniestas, the Moratas and the Pirlos, the sprites and playmakers who make a ball do tricks. The game belongs to the young men and women who would play like the world stars. Far too many so-called leaders in FIFA have apparently kited revenue that belonged to the children of the earth.
But the game will go on, with the men taking a very brief rest from the ruinous schedule approved by FIFA. The women take over for their World Cup, under way in Canada.
The Champions League final in Berlin on Saturday was a fitting way to end this tumultuous season. In the morning, I heard from friends all over the soccer diaspora, gearing up for the game. Most of us figured Barcelona, with its three wriggly forwards and all those weapons behind,would win the title. What’s not to like about Barca?
Still, my wannabe Italian made me lean toward Juventus, even after watching La Vecchia Signora getting all kinds of strange calls from referees in far too many 89th minutes of Serie A over the years. With no personal favorite club in world soccer, I found myself rooting for Juve's charismatic keeper, Gigi Buffon, and its stoic bearded midfielder Andrea Pirlo who makes better passes and free kicks than just about anybody I have ever seen. I confess this to friends who root for Roma and Fiorentina and AC Milan and all the rest. Mi dispiace.
Then they played the game, with Barcelona performing the weave offense like some old-time basketball team in the black-and-white newsreels. Remember, this is the sport that was maligned, a generation ago, in the United States for its reliance on feet. Iniesta and Messi and the rest control a ball with their feet better than I peck away on my strange new iPhone. They wore down Juve, and won, 3-1.
Now, while the lads take their mini-vacations, the women play on artificial turf -- an insult from the home office in Zurich. Who got paid what for that decision?
By some strange form of FIFA bureaucracy, Sepp Blatter still works out of the Zurich bunker while FIFA seeks new leaders who can be trusted with the world sport. There is no lack of charisma and skill. Soccer’s deficit would seem to be honesty.
I had a wonderful time on the #NYTReadalong Feb. 7 with Sree Sreenivasan and Neil Parekh, talking about the Super Bowl and the great paper where I used to work. Thanks to all the nice people who sent messages while I was babbling. The Readalong is Sunday, 8:30-10:15 AM Eastern, and the link is available after that.
has filed an interview with, of all people, me.
It's on his blog. (Just past photo of rat!) My thanks for his interest. GV
David Vecsey's sweet tale of distant love before the Web, now NYT Podcast, narrated by Griffin Dunne. Please see: