Monthly Archives: December 2010

Turned-Ankle Thought Pattern

In the moments that immediately following an excruciating turn of my left ankle on Sunday (and my recollections of those moments eight hours later), I can remember a thought pattern going through my head.

1. Is it broken? Please, let there be some crazy deity of preventing any further injuries to my ankles! I’ve turned my ankles dozens of times, sprained them at least three times apiece, and broken the right one once. I blame my Achilles’ heels. They’re too close to the impact zone not be related.

2. If I can still walk then I can still run. My injury history established, I’m firmly in tune with my ankles. (Simply, they hurt a lot). Having sustained so many different degrees of damage, I know pretty quickly what the damage is. And oh crazed deity of ankle-injury prevention… it really hurts. Start trotting.

3. If I can run then I need to keep the ankle warm with even more stretching. Circulate the blood, circulate the blood, and keep it all from rushing to my head as I jockey up and down the touchline. Did I mention I was refereeing a youth soccer match when this happened? Sweet crazed deity, save me!

4. I have to continue to chase these kids back-and-forth, up-and-down this touchline. Can I continue to chase these kids back-and-forth, up-and-down this touchline? As an Assistant Referee in a AYSO U-14 semifinal, it is my responsibility to follow my half’s second-to-last defender, or the ball, whichever is closest to the goalkeeper. Oh my dear crazed deity! This be-otch hurts. Those little kids can run pretty fast. The ball is even faster. I probably didn’t impress any referee scouts before, and I certainly didn’t after.

5. My running style cannot be described as compact. A slight limp probably made me look like a wounded ostrich. Or at least Big Bird. Oh crazed deity, you’ve won! And now that I realize I can go on, I realize I’m probably embarrassing myself. But what are you gonna do? Stop?

6. Don’t be a sissy! (I think the adrenaline is kicking in). Keep going! Keep going! I don’t care if it hurts! (Yeah, the adrenaline has kicked in). I’m at the mercy of my hormones and I’m loving it.

7. Two ten-minute overtimes and a lengthy penalty-kick shootout? Sure. Let’s do it. This ankle be damned.

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Filed under Referee

Not So Easy To Interrogate

Most high school coaches absolutely love to talk to reporters. Most high school players either hate it, are completely inept, or both.

Take Friday’s boys varsity soccer match: both coaches couldn’t get the words to come out fast enough, yet the one player to whom I spoke (his team’s best player) was a deer in the headlights. He actually said, “I don’t know,” when I asked him what he thought of the match.

I said, “You don’t know?”

“Uh-uh,” he said.

“Are you sure?”

“I thought we played good,” was his final statement.

Poor English aside (or maybe because of), I started to feel uncomfortable as hell, and thought to myself, ‘What am I doing here?’ I reflexively asked him about the team’s goals for this year to try to get something anything out of him. He regurgitated some words about league and CIF, but they were nothing I was going to use. My aim was simply to end the conversation with substance of some kind, and then get the hell out of there.

It was a canker sore on the mouth of what had been relatively cheerful post-match interviews.

Both coaches were surprised that someone was there to cover such an early-season match, answered all of my questions and then some they posed to themselves, like “Can we get better? I think so.” Needless to say, they were easy to interrogate.

Then I had to talk to the player. I just had to. He had scored a goal in each of his team’s first two matches, he’s a tremendous attacking player, and I wanted to see what he was all about. Maybe I scared him. Maybe his English was indeed poor. Either way, he wasn’t talking, at least not to me.

Maybe next time I’ll bring the interpreter.

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Filed under Journalist

FIFA Failed Its Biggest Test

It was supposed to be the biggest and best day to be a soccer fan in the United States. We were going to be awarded the 2022 World Cup. We were going to host Earth’s most prestigious soccer tournament, and we were going to do it in just 12 years.

Well, so much for that.

FIFA awarded the ’22 World Cup to the tiny country of Qatar, population 1.7 million. Known best as the home of the U.S.’s largest military base on the Arabian Peninsula, Qatar is oil rich and overflowing with natural gas reserves. Which, clearly, makes it essential to U.S. foreign policy; not a place to hold the world’s most essential sporting event.

Aside from FIFA’s inane reasoning, three main questions loom large moments following Thursday’s decision:

1. Where will the matches be played? Qatar has just one legitimate soccer stadium, in Al Khor, and little infrastructure outside the capital of Doha to accommodate a circus like the World Cup. Will Qatar’s run-up be different from that of South Africa in 2010, and Brazil in 2014, whereas construction issues plague progress and last-minute replacements are discussed?

2. When will the matches be played? The average temperatures in Qatar in June and July are 106 and 115, respectively. Players and fans will literally melt unless the games are played in the middle of the night, when temps dip to just under triple-digits. Purportedly, Qatar’s World Cup bid included provisions for air-conditioned stadia and other amenities to help beat the heat. But really, is there anything that can be done to limit stifling 110-degree heat in an outdoor arena?

3. Isn’t there any worry about the increased likelihood of a terrorist attack, given the location and demographic into which the tournament will be landing? Qatar is neighbors with Saudi Arabia, and just across the Persian Gulf from Iran. Doesn’t this scream Mumbai to anyone else? And while on the topic of terrorist states, how could FIFA completely overlook Israel’s bid? What about Iraq’s? Did those countries have too many blown-up buildings? Or not enough cash?

Just a mind-boggling day from FIFA. Not only did the corrupt organization, led by kingpin Sepp Blatter, fail its biggest test, but it actually denied long-term gains in favor of short-term goals. In awarding the ’18 event to Russia and the ’22 event to Qatar, FIFA has achieved intended consequences — soccer will reach new locales. But in denying England in ’18 and the United States in ’22, FIFA has also achieved unintended consequences — displaying complete disregard for the game’s oldest and newest commodities.

What was supposed to be the biggest and best day for soccer fans in the United States now ranks among the worst.

Will there be a bid for ’26? For ’30? Can either of those succeed without serious financial consideration toward FIFA and its maniacal caregiver Blatter? And how much is enough to secure a decision?

It may not seem like it’d be worth it now. But come eight or 12 years from now, when FIFA makes its next decision(s), do we do want to again be the only ones that didn’t bring Doha, Doha bills to the party?

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Filed under Soccer, World Cup