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Find this photographer/This is begging for a citation

“Soccer keeps people from thinking about more dangerous things.” – Vicente Calderón, longtime President of Atlético de Madrid

It was 2018. Nigeria, ever the underdog, was just under a quarter of an hour into a match against Argentina that would seal the fate of both sides. Nigeria was playing from a position of relative power; Argentina, as ever, was in a place of righteous indignation and suffering from internal ailments.

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For the third consecutive summer, the Argentina national team made it to the final of a major international competition, only to lose by another impossibly thin margin. The greatest player in the world missed his penalty, and the Skip Bayless proxies on social media went to task, questioning the player’s and his team’s toughness as well as their lack of the clutch gene, that peculiar strand of DNA which allows select Homo sapiens the ability to complete tasks in children’s playground games under artificially important circumstances.

In the immediate aftermath of that loss, a 0-0 defeat to Chile in the Copa América Final at MetLife Stadium last Sunday chock-full of deplorable officiating, Lionel Messi announced his retirement from international football, only 29 years old and still in the midst of a white-hot prime. Whether the retirement ends up being permanent is likely in the hands of the Argentine Football Association, which has taken a number of crucial missteps while ostensibly advocating for one of its greatest generations of players. Even insofar as Messi is to blame for a single penalty miss, Messi is still not to blame, and he is still the greatest outfield player ever to knock a ball around a pitch. If that ends up being his last work in the light blue and white stripes, however, a hole nevertheless remains.

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“He’d like to come and meet us, but he thinks he’d blow our minds.” – David Bowie, “Starman

But for the hopeful benevolence of one of the oligarchical Spanish soccer clubs in 2000, we would never have arrived here. A trial, a napkin contract and several seasons of sustained brilliance in one of the world’s foremost leagues and, indeed, the world’s foremost footballing continent have brought us to the only conclusion possible. With his fifth FIFA Ballon d’Or award arriving on Monday, Lionel Messi is the greatest soccer player ever.

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a_nice_place_to_visit_still

Think, if you will for a moment, of your country’s wildest sporting dream. For Canadians, a gold medal in hockey might be just the accessory to go with all that maple syrup. In Australia, winning the Rugby World Cup over rivals New Zealand and South Africa is a source of pride for locals. The people of the United States find it best to rest laurels on domestic competitions, only really getting involved externally if their nation happens to be exerting dominance as a sort of athletic manifest destiny. Regardless of the means, people love putting stock in competition because they believe the payoff far outweighs potential letdowns. It is fun to concoct scenarios, however unlikely, in which your team defies all the odds to win. Be careful what you wish for, however. Living vicariously means dying vicariously, and the only resting place for most is a grave on the world’s most visible stage – the FIFA World Cup.

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The setting for the World Cup’s final scene

Thread count – high

Commission – high 

Hourly rates – high

a minute of your time? forget about it

The line above is from Parquet Courts’ “Master of My Craft,” the first song from their “formal” 2012 debut, Light Up Gold. The song is a smart ass take on why anyone in their position cannot be bothered by street teams trying to peddle political ideology or social change via flyers and “quick surveys.” I know what it’s like to be in their position. Four years ago, I was also stoned, starving and making my way down M Street in Georgetown as the know-it-all with a grand, post-grad scheme. On our way back to the student apartments, we were approached by a young woman who, like one of the antagonists from Parquet Courts’ ode to slackerism, was carrying a clipboard and a pile of paper. “Wanna know what’s sexy?” she asked, her question simultaneously rhetorical and seductive. “Politics,” she said, as she handed me an informational slip from a non-profit I didn’t care to remember. A trash can was nearby. “No,” I chuckled with my friends as I balled the piece of paper up and crammed it into the trash can sitting within earshot of the young woman and her fellow street teamers. This was the same summer that I also shrugged my shoulders with the same passive indifference at the USMNT’s loss to Ghana. “Well, at least we have more money than their country,” I said reductively and offensively as I walked away from the Black Stars’ celebration. I gave soccer all the thought and consideration that I gave the woman’s curbside elevator pitch about her organization’s efforts.

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Tim Howard, a portrait

Tim Howard, a portrait

The 2014 FIFA World Cup is here, and I have a novice’s degree of knowledge as to what’s happening, as well as a small amount of sentimentality for the event. This is me traversing through work, drunken weekends, and Spotify with the World Cup either in the fore or background

Monday, June 30th

I wasn’t really interested in how France – Nigeria, or Algeria versus Germany for that matter, was going to play out. It seemed inconceivable to think that the two African teams would be able to put up a fight against two European powers that were at the top of their rank. So I ignored the matches, which were mostly scoreless affairs until the final minutes. There were plenty of moments when Karim Benzema and Thomas Müller could have knocked in shots to put their opponents in utter despair but some cosmic force was unwilling to give these two teams an easy victory. France would ultimately run away with the game in the final minutes while Germany required extra time in order to advance. Based on both performances, I would say that both teams acted a little entitled throughout the entirety. It would have been interesting if Nigeria and Algeria would have scored, and I wasn’t in the middle of closing financial reports, but, alas, such is life.

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Suajaws

The 2014 FIFA World Cup is here, and I have a novice’s degree of knowledge as to what’s happening, as well as a small amount of sentimentality for the event. This is me traversing through work, drunken weekends, and Spotify with the World Cup either in the fore or background

Tuesday, June 24th

Luis Suarez’s reputation as somewhat of a heel was revealed to me before I headed into the tournament with a wide-eyed freshness of the characters on each team. The Men in Blazers podcast hinted at this during their 2014 World Cup preview with references to Suarez’s previous biting incidents. I investigated this further after Suarez’s masterful, trolling performance of England where there is, in fact, a section dedicated to his previous misdeeds on the pitch. One of them occurred when he was playing in the Dutch league for a team known as Ajax where he dug his teeth into someone and received the nickname as the “Cannibal of Ajax”. This set the wheels in motion for Luis to land in Liverpool but even after a punishment for what was seen as a visceral, knee jerk reaction Suarez struck again in the English Premier League.

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