For people who love the sport, the planet, and the diverse world of soccer people.

TBA Announcement


The Flop

Michael Lynch of Australia's The Age has an interesting take on the role of diving / flopping in our game. This is part of our on-field culture that we'd rather not talk about, and its going to hear about the sport's governing bodies trying to find ways to crack down on it.

The phenomenon is definitely not limited to soccer (check out this article about all-time floppers in my other favorite sport), but diving is a lasting image of mine from the last World Cup. It's just one more stop from flopping to utter whining that sometimes gives soccer players the bad sportsmanship reps that we'll occasionally hear.


Stop the flop!


Others Who Get It: FCEarth & The Culture of Soccer

We'll have much, much more to say on why we're FCEarth, and what we mean by "The Culture of Soccer." In a nutshell, we believe soccer - the world's most played and watched sport - has its own unique culture, on the field and off, representative of the diverse people who love it. And we believe that soccer is an incredible opportunity to learn about the world through sport.

In giving credit where it's due, we are obviously not the first to recognize this about soccer. David Keyes is another like-minded person, and his blog, Culture of Soccer, explores the intersection of soccer, the people who play it, and history, sociology, and all other aspects of humanity. My fellow Ohioan Keyes hasn't posted since May- come on back, David!

And even closer to our brand is the post "Cleggy's Blog" about Earth FC - a dream team that this mysterious blogger (no "About Us" available) identified to represent mother Earth in a fictional Intergalactic Cup. What I love about his roster is that its not just the most obvious, most popular players in the world (with the notable exception of Beckham off the bench.) I'd probably still make room for the recently retired Zidane on my squad, but I love where he's going with it.

Who would be on your "Earth FC?"

Women's League Reborn

Last month Jack Bell of the New York Times reported on the Women's Professional Soccer league and its upcoming Spring 2009 kickoff. For obvious reasons let's sincerely hope this league picks up where the former WUSA left off and then some. They seem to have a stronger formula this time, stocking teams with local stars (Heather O'Reilly in New Jersey) and emphasizing cost control- something that was apparently lacking in the WUSA iteration.

With MLS well beyond a decade into existence and gradually easing up on its tightly-held league-centric ownership structure, we know that a model for pro soccer can thrive in this country. Not being a sports marketer, I'm guessing it has to do with the right mix of partners/sponsors and grass-roots appeal. As dominant as our Women's US Soccer is on the global stage, the on-field display should be quality. Unlike in the men's game, the women's league doesn't start life with an immediate inferiority complex towards Europe.

So often in sports we see leagues pursue big money customers who aren't really fans. That's not sustainable. Let's hope Women's Professional Soccer budgets itself enough time to build a fan base in American families and young student athletes to be thriving ten years from now.


Rich Sport, Poor Sport: Wednesday Reader

While one of the underlying messages of the FCEarth community is that soccer is a truly universal sport that can be enjoyed by anyone, anywhere, of any socioeconomic status- and can be inspirationally adopted by young athletes with nothing more than a makeshift ball and competitive spirit- we are also often reminded of the other extreme, the sports wealthy luminati, led by the mind-bogglingly valuable clubs of the European leagues. Case in point: Forbes' list of the most valuable soccer teams in the world.

#1, not surprisingly: Manchester United (EPL) at $1.8B.

Trivia: the most valuable Major League Soccer Club is...(answer below)

Photo: Man. U owner Malcolm Glazer sitting on a $1.8B club. Or is he?

South African Schools Adopt-a-Nation, Learn and Compete
Inspiring story from BuaNews (South Africa) on a recent youth tournament in Johannesburg. The next World Cup host nation's "2010 School Adventure Program" has nearly 8,000 South African schools competing to qualify for next year's scholastic Confederations Cup tourney. In some districts, schools adopted FIFA nations- US, Iraq, Italy, etc- for the recent tournament and spent time learning about their adopted countries' culture, geography and music. A glowing example of how the sport can be used as a tool to educate and inspire kids to learn more about the world.

Soccer Fitness: Better than Jogging?
Here's a reprint, found at the homepage of Northport Cow Harbor United Soccer Club, of a 2007 Newsday article by Maria Cheng. Cheng reports on a Danish study of 30+ males who played soccer vs. those who jogged and found greater benefits in the footballers. This is why my grade school gym teacher would call soccer a "life sport." You can play it at any age and it literally makes your life longer.

To Loan?
Something most American sports fans don't easily relate to: the concept of "lending" players between pro clubs. US teen star Freddy Adu is currently on loan from Portugese club Benefica to Monaco (France), while it appears David Beckham will join Italian super power AC Milan following the current Major League Soccer season of LA Galaxy, which has been a huge disappointment for the club. There's nothing like it in sports. Can you imagine the Yankees lending A-Rod to the Yomiuri Giants of Japan? But Beckham's desire is sound- he needs to be in playing shape to be considered by English coach Fabio Capello for qualifying matches next year. And besides, this is a tradition that has gone on for years in soccer.

Trivia Answer
The most valuable Major League Soccer team is LA Galaxy at $100M, according to Forbes.


Two Important Organizations- One Big Idea

The soccer world, with such global participation and such socioeconomic differences in its people, is the perfect place to make a serious social impact. Two existing organizations are favorites of ours in terms of their mission and reach.

The first is Passback. This long-established joint effort between US Soccer, MLS and Eurosport has a simple and admirable goal: collect used (but still usable) soccer gear and redistribute it to kids who need it- be they in NYC or Zimbabwe, according to the site. If you're an American soccer person you may have a duffle bag full of old gear...Give!

Right To Play is a Toronto-based organization that uses Playing Soccer to teach children on basic yet critical issues - from educational development to hygiene and health to community building. It capitalizes on the unifying power of the sport and a simple idea: bring kids together with soccer, and take advantage of that time together to make them informed advocates on these issues.

adidas recently jumped into the fray with a "Buy the Ball, Join the Movement" promotion. Their participation is very similar to the first movement that we are planning here at FCEarth, but that's okay- there's plenty of need, and plenty of room to harvest the social power of the sport.


Grab Bag: Home Field, ESPN, Erikkson, Scousing

A glut of compelling stories recently on the cultural side of culture (side rant: most of these are written by real newspaper writers and posted online. Support your local paper into the 21st century- read them on the web and look at their sponsors!)

One of several recent compelling articles on the sport from the New York Times: Daniel Altman's look at why home field advantage is such a factor in soccer- maybe more than in any other sport. I believe it comes down to one thing: passionate fans, especially in Europe and South America. That's why I think the best parallel here in the US is in college sports.

The other thing to note in that article are the cool names of the European stadiums- Camp Nou (FC Barcelona) and Craven Cottage (Fulham of the English Premier League) being two great examples.

Right: Craven Cottage. For more on the old grounds click here.

Here's an informative NY Times story (Jack Bell) on ESPN's increasing commitment to soccer and US soccer. The network will cover 12 US Men's team matches in 2008 and paid $100M for 2010 and 2014 World Cup rights. Personally I love it when I'm watching Sportscenter and they chime in with a quick ESPN Deportes clip- usually 30 seconds of international soccer highlights.

FC Barcelona (headed by Joan Laporta) is throwing its hat into the ring, along with several other South Florida investors and entities (like Florida International U.), for one of the two Major League Soccer franchises to be awarded shortly. While I have secretly hoped that Phoenix Suns' point guard Steve Nash's bid for a Vancouver club would be one of the winners (I just think the crossover appeal of a basketball personality is a nice story), overall I'd say its a great sign that a Spanish Liga powerhouse wants to have an MLS club.

One last from the Times: a story by Billy Witz about Sven-Goran Erikkson, the new Mexican national coach, adapting to a new country (after coaching the English nationals), a new language and a new culture. Often overlooked in this sport is the basic element of throwing players and coaches of all nations and languages into one uniform and expecting communication to be seamless. In the US we tend to have American coaches coaching American players, but the rest of the world has long since adapted to the idea that soccer itself can be the unifying language.

And finally, a deep look at the more colorful side of the language of soccer, by Steven Wells of the UK Guardian. Its a blog post about whether Liverpool fans invented - or stole from Brazil - their infamous stadium chants, and specifically the idea of putting insulting new lyrics to a classic tune and aiming it at the opposition, in the timeless tradition of foul-mouthed fandom.


Homer'ing: Anthony Wayne H.S.

I'm not so editorially rigid that I can't pause for a moment to be a homer and plug my old high school squad for reaching #41 in ESPN's Fall FAB 50 Boys Soccer poll.

Anthony Wayne High School, Whitehouse, Ohio - #41.

AW should surge up ahead in this week's poll- at least beyond #3 in the state-by-state poll, with #1 (in Ohio) Northview losing to Perrysburg last week. AW takes the Northern Lakes League outright and steamrolls into the state tourney led by Coach Chip Smith, senior Mike Mangotic and junior Logan Lipinski. Bonus Coverage: Scott Calhoun of the Mirror covers the AW Generals.

Hey, if you want to homer for your favorite prep team, drop me a line (jeff (@) or take it over to Open Net, our social network.

Who's Your Nation?

Here's a fascinating story by Nick Green of the Daily Breeze here in Southern Cal, about the development of US born international players who have yet to make an impact on the U.S. Men's National time. Green notes that for the first time in significant international play, the US senior men will suit up two Mexican-Americans who play professionally in Mexico - Jose Francisco Torres and Michael Orozco- when we play Trinidad & Tobago this week.

The demographics in the U.S. are shifting and we notice it in every sport. Great Latin-American baseball players have a real opportunity in the U.S. in baseball; Tiger Woods is a historically unconventional "Best Golfer in the World," and Europe is extremely present in the NBA.

Given that it is already the most international game, why shouldn't soccer in the U.S. lead the way in diversity (and by diversity we mean making sure the best Americans of any ethnicity end up in our national soccer pool)? It sounds like Coach Bob Bradley is on board, and this will be a fun development to watch as we continue to qualify for South Africa 2010.

If you were born in American but had international roots, and another country invited you into their national program, would you secretly be hoping the US would keep you here? I'm sure it depends (are you Brazilian or Estonian?), but an interesting question nonetheless.


Join FC Earth!

Much more to come on FC Earth's social network, Open Net...and we mean MUCH more, as we do have some lofty goals for it.

In a nutshell, FC Earth hopes that Open Net will become a lively community of soccer fanatics who are as passionate as this Planet of Soccer People as we are, and that Open Net will be the forum for organizing a movement of Soccer People who get active in helping the planet and its people in countless ways (within soccer and beyond!)

Please check it out when you get a moment. FC Earth's Open Net


Commitment to Community: Brad Friedel

One of our favorite US soccer players- and one of the US players with the most distinguished international careers- is veteran goalkeeper Brad Friedel.

Friedel, from Bay Village, Ohio (a western suburb of Cleveland), is the longtime Blackburn Rovers goalie who also has Liverpool and Columbus Crew on his resume. In a cool symmetry he now tends the net for Aston Villa, which is owned by Randy Lerner- who also owns the Cleveland Browns.

Admirably committed to his home area, and to youth soccer in the US, this year Friedel opened the Premier Soccer Academies (PSA) in a brand new complex in Lorain, Ohio. In the model of famed facilities in Bradenton (FL) and all over Europe, PSA is a residential soccer academy that this year ushered in its first class of American students and 10 international students from Chile, Africa, Venezuela and other nations.

In August, PSA also completed its first international youth tournament, which featured teams from the US and four other nations. A Blackburn Rovers youth squad played in the finals in a fitting finish to the first event at Friedel's facility- an incredible symbol of dedication to the game and to one's hometown.