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kottke.org posts about soccer

Incredible no-look backheel

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 15, 2014

This goal by AC Milan’s Jeremy Menez against Parma over the weekend is just beyond:

No-look backheel. Jeebus.

The World Cup is over. Now what?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 19, 2014

If you enjoyed the World Cup but don’t know how to proceed into the seemingly impenetrable world of soccer, with its overlapping leagues, cups, and tournaments, this guide from Grantland is for you.

Just because the World Cup is over doesn’t mean soccer stops. Soccer never stops; that’s one of its biggest appeals. There are so many different teams, leagues, club competitions, and international tournaments that, if you want to, you can always find someone to cheer for or some team to root against. It can also be a bit daunting to wade into without any experience. Luckily, you have me, your Russian Premier League-watching, tactics board-chalking, Opta Stats-devouring Gandalf, to help you tailor your soccer-watching habits. And now I will answer some completely made-up questions to guide you along your soccer path.

This was basically my situation after the 2010 World Cup, a soccer fan with nowhere to direct his fandom. What I did was:

1. Picked a player I enjoyed watching (Messi) and started following his club team (FC Barcelona) and, to a somewhat lesser degree, the league that team played in (La Liga). I know a lot more cities in Spain than I used to.

2. Watched as many Champions League matches as I could every year, again more or less following Barcelona.

3. Got into UEFA European Championship, which is basically the World Cup but just for Europe. It’s held every four years on a two-year stagger from the WC and the next one is in 2016 in France, which, I’m realizing just now, I should try to attend.

I also watched a few Premier League matches here and there…it’s a great league with good competition. What I didn’t do is follow any MLS or the USMNT, although after this WC, I might give the Gold Cup and Copa America tournaments some more attention. And qualifying matches for the 2018 World Cup start in mid-2015…soccer never ends.

Lionel Messi is impossible

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 03, 2014

An open-and-shut case from FiveThirtyEight: Lionel Messi is far and away the best player in football. Ronaldo is the only player who is close and he’s not even all that close.

By now I’ve studied nearly every aspect of Messi’s game, down to a touch-by-touch level: his shooting and scoring production; where he shoots from; how often he sets up his own shots; what kind of kicks he uses to make those shots; his ability to take on defenders; how accurate his passes are; the kind of passes he makes; how often he creates scoring chances; how often those chances lead to goals; even how his defensive playmaking compares to other high-volume shooters.

And that’s just the stuff that made it into this article. I arrived at a conclusion that I wasn’t really expecting or prepared for: Lionel Messi is impossible.

It’s not possible to shoot more efficiently from outside the penalty area than many players shoot inside it. It’s not possible to lead the world in weak-kick goals and long-range goals. It’s not possible to score on unassisted plays as well as the best players in the world score on assisted ones. It’s not possible to lead the world’s forwards both in taking on defenders and in dishing the ball to others. And it’s certainly not possible to do most of these things by insanely wide margins.

But Messi does all of this and more.

The piece is chock-full of evidential graphs of how much of an outlier Messi is among his talented peers:

Messi Thru Ball Graph

One of my favorite things that I’ve written about sports is how Lionel Messi rarely dives, which allows him to keep the advantage he has over the defense.

Eleven great books about soccer

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 26, 2014

There haven’t been many good books written about soccer, but here are eleven of them worth your time. Franklin Foer’s How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization looks especially interesting.

A groundbreaking work — named one of the five most influential sports books of the decade by Sports Illustrated — How Soccer Explains the World is a unique and brilliantly illuminating look at soccer, the world’s most popular sport, as a lens through which to view the pressing issues of our age, from the clash of civilizations to the global economy.

Foer is one of the contributors, alongside authors Aleksandar Hemon and Karl Ove Knausgaard, to the New Republic’s excellent World Cup coverage.

Soccer: 55 vs. 2

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 25, 2014

Watch as two players from the Japanese national soccer team try to score against 55 kids.

The kids had two opportunities to stop the pro players, once with 33 players and the second time with 55 players. This didn’t turn out how I expected, given how a similar stunt involving fencing ended.

This was posted on Marginal Revolution a few days ago and garnered several interesting comments about how much better professional athletes are than us regular folk. Here are a few:

Rugby: I played against an international player once. Watching him play, I’d seen a chap who ran in straight lines, a strong tackler with a weak kick. Playing against him revealed him to be skillful, agile and possessed of a howitzer kick.

Back in the 1980s a friend was watching a pickup basketball game in Boston and reported what happened when a player from the Celtics showed up. He was so much faster, more athletic, and more agile than the other players that it seemed like he was playing a different sport. The player turned out to be Scott Wedman, who by that time was old and slow by NBA standards, and mainly hung around the 3-point line to shoot outside shots after the defense had collapsed on Bird, McHale, et al. But compared to non-NBA players, he was Michael Jordan (or LeBron James).

My U-19 team (we were very good by local standards) had a practice with the New Zealand All Blacks, who were on some sort of tour. It was like they were from a different planet. I stood no chance of containing, or conversely getting past, the smallest of them under almost any circumstance.

Back in the olden thymes I was a pretty good baseball player. Early in my high school career I got the chance to catch a AAA pitcher. I went into thinking I would have no trouble. The first pitch was on top of me so fast I was knocked off balance. It took a bunch of pass balls before I got used to how to handle his breaking stuff.

The result in the video might also shed some light on the question of choosing to fight one horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses.

Football and Peace

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 23, 2014

For a Visa commercial, Errol Morris gathers a number of Nobel Peace Prize winners and nominees (including Lech Walesa) to talk about how important it is for their countries to beat the crap out of the other countries in the World Cup.

Two quotes in the video caught my ear:

Sport is a continuation of war by other means.

Look, football isn’t life or death. It’s much more important than that.

The first is a riff on Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz’s aphorism “War is the continuation of Politik by other means”. Clausewitz also devised the concept of “the fog of war”, which Morris used for the title of a film. The second is a paraphrase of a quote by legendary football coach Bill Shankly:

Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.

World Cup balls, 1930-2014

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 13, 2014

The NY Times has an interactive look at the balls used in the World Cup from 1930 onward. Here’s the ball from 1930:

1930 Football

Look at those laces! Just like the ol’ American handegg.

How to nerd out about soccer

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 09, 2014

From Grantland’s Mike Goodman, a guide to nerding out about soccer, using the language already spoken by American sports nerds.

What exactly is a good shot in soccer? The nascent field of soccer analytics is hard at work trying to figure that out. It won’t surprise anybody to learn that closer is better, and using your feet is much, much better than using your head. So, much like getting into the lane is of paramount importance in basketball, getting the ball at your feet in front of the goal is just about the best thing you can do in soccer. Getting to the byline (baseline) in the corner of the penalty areas (like where Maicon was in the above video) is a hot destination. That’s where you can cut the ball back for a teammate to have one of those coveted close shots. Hey, look at that - it’s like basketball again: Get to the goal or get to the corners.

Sex and soccer

posted by Tim Carmody   Jun 06, 2014

For the World Cup, the managers of Mexico, Bosnia-Herzogovina, Spain, Germany, and Chile have all banned players from having sex for the duration of the tournament. France and Brazil’s players have to slow down, too:

Usually normal sex is done in balanced way, but there are certain forms, certain ways and others who do acrobatics. We will put limits and survey the players.
— Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari

Intriguing but creepy! (What does “survey” mean?)

Athletics and abstinence have gone together for seemingly forever, but scientific studies suggest that sex as such doesn’t impair athletic performance.

The bigger worry might be the cultural connection between sex and sports, particularly soccer in Brazil: Adidas withdrew two purportedly World Cup-themed T-shirts with the slogans “Looking To Score” (with a woman in a bikini and a soccer ball for the O in “Score”) and “I

There’s a weird dehumanization that happens in sports and sports fandom. Athletes get reduced to their performance, which is usually understood in abstract terms: statistics, salaries, wins and losses. Everything around the game, from families to fans to the ordinary women and men whose lives intersect with the players, is measured in terms of how it affects competition. This in turn justifies all kinds of intrusions into people’s lives, whether from coaches or fans or media, but never for its own sake.

It’s almost as if when you start to think about sex as an act with ethical dimensions, it disrupts (in a good way) the shallow ways we usually consider people’s bodies for the purposes of both work and commerce. When nobody is disposable, it throws the whole system off. That’s a kind of acrobatics that sports just can’t seem to handle.

(“Normal Sex, No Acrobatics” via @webbmedia)

Barry Sanders, GOAT

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 28, 2014

A nice appreciation of Barry Sanders by Andrew Sharp at Grantland.

“Barry Sanders is my new idol,” Bo Jackson said after a Raiders-Lions game in 1990. “I love the way the guy runs. When I grow up, I want to be just like him.”

The Raiders won that game, and the Lions were 4-9 at the time, but it didn’t even matter.

All anyone could talk about afterward was the “little water bug” who “might rewrite history.”

This wasn’t necessarily a metaphor for Barry’s entire Lions career — he was on more playoff teams than people remember — but it definitely covers about half the years he spent in Detroit. Even when the Lions were awful, Barry would still have a few plays every game that would keep people gawking afterward.

Bo Jackson had a similar effect on people, which is part of what makes that old quote so cool. The Bo Jackson combination of speed and power is something we’d never seen before and haven’t seen since. He was a cult hero then, and the legend has only grown over the years.

I’ve always been an atypical sports fan. I grew up in Wisconsin rooting for the Packers & Brewers but switched to being a Vikings & Cubs fan sometime in high school. But despite following the Vikings at the time, my favorite player in the NFL was Barry Sanders. For my money, Sanders was pure symphonic excellence in motion, the best running back (and perhaps player) the NFL had ever seen and maybe will ever see. I wonder if one of the reasons why I like Lionel Messi so much is because he reminds me of Sanders; in stature, in strength, in quickness, in skill. Compare and contrast some of their finest runs:

Diego Maradona’s Goal of the Century

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 06, 2014

For Howler Magazine, Sam Markham writes about Diego Maradona’s second goal against England in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinal, aka Probably The Best Goal of All Time. Markham focuses on how a pair of radio commentators — one English, the other from South America — called the goal.

Morales’s ecstatic commentary of Maradona’s second goal is itself iconic in Argentina, and his lyrical expression “Barrilete cosmico!” (Cosmic kite!) is now shorthand in Argentina and much of South America for Maradona. His narration is a frenzied mix of poetry, yelling, and sobbing that ends with a prayer: “Thank you, God, for football, for Maradona, for these tears, for this-Argentina 2, England 0.”

Even if you don’t care about soccer, you should give this a listen…the dude absolutely loses his shit:

An alternate view of the spectacular goal has recently been found. Oh, and my favorite weird thing about this goal: Lionel Messi is considered by many to be Maradona’s heir (both are small, Argentinian, and otherworldly talented) and in 2007, at the age of 19, he scored this goal against Getafe:

As you can see in the side-by-side comparison, it’s extremely similar to Maradona’s goal. Even the commentator loses it in a similar manner.

The non-World Cup all-stars

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 20, 2013

The teams for the 2014 World Cup are almost all set (one qualifying game remains) and there are a lot of world-class players who won’t be playing in the tournament. ESPN FC has compiled a team of the best players who will miss out:

ESPN World Cup Missing All Stars

Bale, Lewandowski, and Ibrahimovic. That’s an amazing front line. If not for his hat trick yesterday, Cristiano Ronaldo, perhaps the best player in the world right now, would have made the roster in Ibrahimovic’s stead.

Football as Football

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 14, 2013

Football as Football is a collection of American football team logos in the style of European football club badges. Here are badges for the Detroit Lions (in the Italian style) and New England Patriots (in the Spanish style).

 
Football As Football 01

 
Football As Football 02

Wonderful animated soccer vignettes

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 12, 2013

Richard Swarbrick makes these great impressionist animations of sports events, mostly soccer but also cricket and basketball. Here’s one to get you started…the 5-0 drubbing FC Barcelona handed to Real Madrid during a 2010 Clasico:

It’s amazing how much Swarbrick’s illustrations communicate with so few strokes…Mourinho’s face is my favorite. Here’s the actual match for comparison purposes. And here’s Maradona’s sublime goal against England in the 1986 World Cup (original video):

You can find many other examples of Swarbrick’s work on his web site and on his YouTube channel. (via @dunstan)

Soccer’s knuckleball

posted by Jason Kottke   May 30, 2013

“Bend it like Beckham” has given way to “knuckle it like Ronaldo” in European football. During free kicks, players like Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Tottenham’s Gareth Bale put little or no spin on the ball, which tends to give it the unpredictable movement of a knuckleball in baseball. Bale recently explained his technique:

So where does the ‘knuckling’ effect come in?

Well, as we’ve said, if the ball is struck without spin, it is more susceptible to movement as it flies through the air.

If there are imperfections on the ball, such as specks of mud or grass, then random movement is more likely. Bale would be well served to rub the ball around in the grass as he places it.

Even the seams of the ball’s panels can generate a degree of unpredictable movement.

Bale is not the first exponent of ‘knuckleball’ in the game, of course. Ronaldo has a subtle variation that has wowed fans the world over, while the former Lyon player Juninho Pernambucano did much to perfect the style in the noughties.

YouTube is crap for finding good soccer highlights in HD (FIFA, the European leagues, and their broadcast partners are fanatic about yanking footage) so there’s not a great view of Bale’s technique, but you can kind of see it in this video of his two goals against Lyon earlier this year. The knuckler is also in evidence in this Ronaldo compilation, particularly with goals #7 and #3. Especially #7…Ronaldo hits it right at the keeper, who looks completely baffled by the speed and movement of the ball.

One Real Madrid fan’s magical adventure

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 11, 2013

Abel Rodríguez waxes floors for a living in Los Angeles and takes two weeks of vacation a year to work gratis for Real Madrid when the European football club trains in Los Angeles every summer. He had always dreamed of seeing Real Madrid playing their Spanish rivals Barcelona in Madrid, so his family persuaded him to go. He went. With no hotel or ticket to the game, he sat outside the club’s training complex for hours until manager José Mourinho spotted him as he was leaving…”Stop! It’s the guy from Los Angeles.” Thus began Abel Rodríguez’s magical journey.

You never know when karma will come back and reward you for something. For seven summers Rodriguez worked for free for Real Madrid, even when the club was willing to pay him for his efforts in Los Angeles. Now he was about to experience the thrill of a lifetime.

Oh man, I’ve got something in my eye.

Lionel Messi vs. robot goalkeeper

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 08, 2013

Someone built a robotic goalkeeper and then someone else had the bright idea to pit reigning best player in the world Lionel Messi against it:

Iker Casillas, your job is in jeopardy. But maybe not quite yet…by the final attempt, Messi seems to have figured out how to send the goalie the wrong way, at least for an instant. (via digg)

Homemade soccer balls

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 15, 2012

Photographer Jessica Hilltout has documented the game of soccer/football/futbol around the world, from the secondhand footwear to the improvised goals to the makeshift balls:

Jessica Hilltout

A soccer ball for everyone

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 14, 2012

Frustrated by the lack of durability of traditional soccer balls and encouraged by an investment by Sting, Tim Jahnigen invented and is selling a more durable ball made out of hard foam.

Tim Jahnigen has always followed his heart, whether as a carpenter, a chef, a lyricist or now as an entrepreneur. So in 2006, when he saw a documentary about children in Darfur who found solace playing soccer with balls made out of garbage and string, he was inspired to do something about it.

The children, he learned, used trash because the balls donated by relief agencies and sporting goods companies quickly ripped or deflated on the rocky dirt that doubled as soccer fields. Kicking a ball around provided such joy in otherwise stressful and trying conditions that the children would play with practically anything that approximated a ball.

“The only thing that sustained these kids is play,” said Mr. Jahnigen of Berkeley, Calif. “Yet the millions of balls that are donated go flat within 24 hours.”

You can buy one online and for every ball that you buy, one will be donated to a community in need.

The arrested development of Lionel Messi

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 09, 2012

This long ESPN piece about Lionel Messi and his hometown of Rosario, Argentina made me sad.

The next time people in Rosario heard his name, he was a star. “It is difficult to be a hero in your own city,” explained Marcelo Ramirez, a family friend and radio host who showed us text messages from Messi. “He didn’t grow up here. It’s like he lost contact with the people. He is more an international figure than a Rosarino.”

The Argentine national team coaches found out about him through a videotape, and the first time they sent him an invitation to join the squad, they addressed it to “Leonel Mecci.” In the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, playing outside the familiar Barcelona system, he struggled, at least in the expectant eyes of his countrymen. His coaches and teammates didn’t understand the aloof Messi, who once went to a team-building barbecue and never said a word, not even to ask for meat. The people from Argentina thought he was Spanish, and in the cafes and pool halls, they wondered why he always won championships for Barcelona but never for his own country. They raged when he didn’t sing the national anthem before games. In Barcelona, Messi inspired the same reaction. People noticed he didn’t speak Catalan and protected his Rosarino accent. He bought meat from an Argentine butcher and ate in Argentine restaurants. “Barcelona is not his place in the world,” influential Spanish soccer editor Aitor Lagunas wrote in an e-mail. “It’s a kind of a laboral emigrant with an undisguised homesick feeling.”

In many ways, he is a man without a country.

Zidane head-butting statue unveiled in Paris

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 28, 2012

A 15-foot-tall statue of Zinedine Zidane head-butting Marco Materazzi by sculptor Adel Abdessemed has been placed in the courtyard of the Pompidou Center in Paris.

Zidane Statue

The statue, entitled “Headbutt,” is by the Algerian sculptor Adel Abdessemed, and coincides with an exhibition of his work in the museum. “This statue goes against the tradition of making statues to honor victories,” said Phillipe Alain Michaud, who directed the exhibition. “It is an ode to defeat… Zidane’s downward glance recalls that of Adam, chased from paradise.”

But as Michaud knows, and surely as Abdessemed intends, it is both not so simple and much simpler. It is an ode to more than defeat; but it’s also a representation of very basic feelings complicated by literary analogy. The Headbutt was full of anger, stupidity, and recklessness, but beneath them lay a damaged sense of honor. This makes it hard for even the calmest football fan to wholly begrudge Zidane his actions.

The soccer in Iran…is explosive

posted by Aaron Cohen   Sep 20, 2012

Correct me if I’m wrong, but this video of a soccer player picking up a piece of garbage and casually throwing it off the field COME TO FIND OUT IT IS SOME SORT OF EXPLOSIVE DEVICE THAT EXPLODES WHEN HE THROWS IT is crazy. I didn’t want to bury the lede on that one. The game was an AFC Champions League match between Iran’s Sepahan and Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ahli at Foolad Shahr Stadium, and the lucky player was Sepahan midfielder Adel Kolahkaj.

Here’s another version with some more detail/slow mo. I’m not wrong, right? That was totally crazy and not something you would expect during a soccer match? And it’s not fake, is it? (via cosby sweaters)

European soccer disappears from American TV

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 04, 2012

Perplexed and irritated that I couldn’t find any Barcelona FC matches on TV for the past few weeks, I finally did some research and it turns out that’s because Qatar-based Al Jazeera bought up the TV rights to several European leagues but doesn’t actually have a channel to show the games to most American viewers.

Lionel Messi’s and Cristiano Ronaldo’s league matches will disappear from the television sets of many American soccer fans, starting this weekend.

That’s because the U.S. television rights to Spain’s La Liga have switched from GolTV to the new beIN Sport USA network, launched this week by the Al-Jazeera Sport Media Network and available in only about 8 million homes to viewers of DirecTV and DISH Network.

And it’s not just Spain’s soccer that is affected.

Italy’s Serie A, France’s Ligue 1, England’s second-tier League Championship and England’s League Cup also have moved to high-spending beIN Sport, which is taking over all of them from News Corp.’s Fox Soccer.

“The ratings are going to be so low that they will be almost unmeasurable,” said Marc Ganis of the Chicago-based Sports Corp. Ltd., consulting firm. “Considering the push that European soccer is making in the United States, taking additional money and losing exposure becomes fools’ gold. They need to have a long-term strategy, not short-term.”

What. In. The. Actual. Fuck!?

Howler, a new magazine about soccer

posted by Jason Kottke   May 31, 2012

This looks promising — Howler, a quarterly magazine for North American soccer fans started by some experienced big mag editors, designers, and writers. They’re looking for $50,000 to get it started on Kickstarter.

Howler is a new magazine about soccer. It’s a big, glossy publication that will come out four times a year with distinctive, original writing about American and international soccer, as well as some of the most striking art and design you’ll find in any publication being made today. (We know that’s a bold claim, but we really believe it’s true.) We’ve been working on Howler for months, and issue one is nearly ready to be printed, shipped, and in your hands by late summer.

I ordered a year’s subscription. (via @thessaly)

Lionel Messi documentary

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 28, 2012

A recent 45-minute documentary on Lionel Messi, which starts with his discovery in Argentina and runs through the end of last season.

It’s funny seeing Messi playing as a kid…the style is essentially the same, but in an even smaller package. (via @dens)

All of Lionel Messi’s 234 goals

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 26, 2012

Lionel Messi has scored 234 goals in his short career (he’s only 24), making him the top goal scorer in all competitions for FC Barcelona. Here are all of them.

What strikes me about this video, aside from the crappy quality, is that the type of goals Messi scores are not generally what you see from other top scorers. Think of the booming balls of Ronaldo for instance, which may break the sound barrier on their way into the back of the net. Many of Messi’s goals often don’t look like much. They’re chips and slow rollers and even the fast ones aren’t that fast. But what’s apparent in watching goal after goal of his is that what Messi lacks in pace, he more than makes up with quickness, placement, and timing. It’s a bit mesmerising…I can only imagine how it feels as an opposing keeper to watch the same thing happening right in front of you. (via devour)

ps. I also enjoyed reading this piece by Simon Kuper on Barcelona’s Secret to Soccer Success.

Barcelona start pressing (hunting for the ball) the instant they lose possession. That is the perfect time to press because the opposing player who has just won the ball is vulnerable. He has had to take his eyes off the game to make his tackle or interception, and he has expended energy. That means he is unsighted, and probably tired. He usually needs two or three seconds to regain his vision of the field. So Barcelona try to dispossess him before he can give the ball to a better-placed teammate.

Lionel Messi never dives

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 27, 2012

Ever since the World Cup in 2010, I’ve been watching a fair amount of soccer. Mostly La Liga, Premier League, and Champions League but a smattering of other games here and there. As my affection for the game has grown, I’ve mostly made my peace with diving. Diving in soccer is the practice of immediately falling to the ground when a foul has been committed against you (or even if one hasn’t) in order to get the referee’s attention. To Americans who have grown up watching American football and basketball, it is also one of the most ridiculous sights in sports…these manly professional athletes rolling around on the ground with fake injuries and then limping around the pitch for a few seconds before resuming their runs at 100% capacity. I still dislike the players who go down too often, lay it on too thick, or dive from phantom fouls, but much of the time there’s only one referee and two assistants for that huge field and you’re gonna get held and tackled badly so how else are you going to get that call? You dive.

Except for Lionel Messi. It’s not that he never dives (he does) but he stays on his feet more often than not while facing perhaps the most intense pressure in the game. Here’s a compilation video of Messi not going down:

In recent years, efforts have been made on various fronts to apply the lessons of Moneyball to soccer. I don’t think diving is one of the statistics measured because if it were, it might happen a lot less. Poor tackles and holding usually occur when the player/team with the ball has the advantage. By diving instead of staying on your feet, you usually give away that advantage (unless you’re in the box, have Ronaldo on your team taking free kicks, or can somehow hoodwink the ref into giving the other guy a yellow) and that doesn’t make any sense to me. If you look at Messi in that video, his desire to stay upright allows him to keep the pressure on the defense in many of those situations, creating scoring opportunities and even points that would otherwise end up as free kicks. It seems to me that Messi’s reluctance to dive is not some lofty character trait of his; it’s one of the things that makes him such a great player: he never gives up the advantage when he has it.

The origins of soccer

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 19, 2011

All kinds of evidence has been uncovered that organized soccer was being played in Scotland as early as the 15th century.

He discovered a manuscript of accounts from King James IV of Scotland that showed he paid two shillings for a bag of ‘fut ballis’ on 11 April, 1497. More evidence came with we came across several diary accounts of football being played in places like Stirling Castle, Edzell Castle and Carlisle Castle. The games were played on pitches smaller than the current regular football field, and featured between 10 and 20 men on each side.

Maybe we can get that guy who wrote the epic Reddit thread about how a 2000-man Marine unit might fare against the circa-23 B.C. Roman Empire (and got a movie deal for it) to write a scenario in which Messi, Ronaldo, Rooney, Iniesta, et al travel back to Scotland in the 1500s to take on the King and his footballers. (via @tomfossy)

Messi, the genius of football

posted by Jason Kottke   May 23, 2011

The NY Times ran a big feature on FC Barcelona star Lionel Messi this weekend. At only 23 years old, Messi is already being touted by some as the best player ever.

FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 16, 2011

In the next two and a half weeks, Spain’s two best soccer teams — FC Barcelona and Real Madrid — play each other four times. There was today’s regular season La Liga game, April 20’s Copa del Rey final, and then two semifinal games in the Champions League, the European championship. As Mike Madden said on Twitter:

Barça-Madrid 4 times in 18 days. Would be like if Michigan and Ohio State played every week for a month, and everyone in U.S. was an alum.