Before the World Cup arrives in June, I would suggest a refresher course on the world’s sport.
Starting on Thursday, Hofstra University – my alma mater – is holding the academic conference, Soccer As the Beautiful Game: Football’s Artistry, Identity and Politics.
It will run for three full days, including an appearance by Pelé on Friday, when he will receive an honorary doctorate. And on Sunday at Hofstra will be a clinic as well as a match by the new version of Pelé’s old team, the Cosmos.
I will be on two panels Saturday and on Thursday will moderate a panel about the original Cosmos, still the most famous soccer club in the history of the United States.
Right now, like any coach, I am sweating out the formation -- how to play Roger Allaway, the Soccer Hall of Fame historian, David Kilpatrick of Mercy College, Shep Messing, former Cosmos keeper and analyst for Red Bulls matches, and Leo Glickman of the Borough Boys. I will submit my lineup when the officials ask for it.
The academics are coming from all over the world. I am hoping they will wear period costumes like the Germans and Greeks of the famous Monty Python skit, but maybe not. More to the point, they will expand our understanding of the sport.
I spot one former men’s national player, Chris Armas, now the women’s coach at Adelphi, on a panel on Saturday. And I look forward to seeing – and hearing – friends and colleagues from around the soccer diaspora.
For a full glimpse of the program and information about tickets (and some free events):
Welcome to World Cup 2022, the most absurd thing that the routinely absurd world of sports has ever produced.
Those extreme descriptions were what virtually the entire world, save for those who had walked off with bags of cash from Qatar, called the awarding of soccer’s greatest event to the incredibly tiny, incredibly wealthy country back in 2010.
Twelve years ago, many were convinced this event couldn’t possibly happen: staging the world’s biggest sporting event in a country the size of Connecticut, one with zero soccer culture and even less soccer infrastructure? The tournament couldn’t possibly take place in 120-degree heat, and FIFA, the governing body of soccer, most certainly wouldn’t upend football leagues around the world to change the traditional summer schedule, could it?
And, for God’s sake, what about the beer?
Those were just the logistical concerns. The moral concerns are far more distressing. FIFA, so busy paying lip service to equality, couldn’t possibly expect the world to embrace a country where you could go to prison for being gay, where women’s rights are severely curtailed and female victims of sexual assault could go to prison, charged with engaging in extramarital sex. And all those questions came before the global realization that the World Cup was being built on the backs of migrant labor: modern-day slaves held in Qatar with virtually no rights, low wages and no ability to leave. Migrants make up 90% of Qatar’s stated population of 3 million. The country’s native-born equal about 300,000, or roughly the size of Anaheim.
---Ann Killion, columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle.