I am currently polishing my book about the eight World Cups I have covered, enjoying memories from Barcelona in 1982 to the American rally against Algeria in 2010 on a goal by – now here’s a name from the past -- Landon Donovan.
The bulk of the book needs to be turned in by July 1 so it can be published next May, before the World Cup in Brazil.
However, the last chapter is just sitting there, unfinished and unresolved. Right now it looks like the editor could be waiting for the final chunk of copy in late November.
Our Lads are currently in the middle of six finalists from their region. The American team plays its two final qualifiers, against Jamaica in Kansas City on Oct. 11, and in Panama on Oct. 15. But if the Yanks finish fourth, they will have to play a home-and-home series against New Zealand, the winner from the Oceania Football Confederation, in November.
After watching the Americans once again look inadequate in a friendly against Belgium on Wednesday night, I don’t see them dominating their Concacaf region. Jurgen Klinsmann’s team plays his home nation of Germany in Washington, D.C., on Sunday at 2:30 PM in good old RFK Stadium.
The Germans have not called in regulars from Bayern Munich or Dortmund, who played in the Champions League final last Saturday, but I think reserve players from the Bundesliga could infiltrate the American defense.
This generation – at least the version assembled and coached by Klinsmann – is clearly not working out. After watching the defense bumble against Belgium, I am extremely nostalgic for stalwarts of the past.
Whatever Donovan has left, can you imagine how he could open up the field with his speed and experience?
As of now, the last chapter in my soccer book is sitting there, awaiting a conclusion.
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.