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Photo courtesy of Reuters

Quick, off the top of your head: who was the last player not named Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi to win the Ballon d’Or? It has literally been a decade, for starters. It’s a period of shared dominance so lengthy that the award itself has changed structure and name twice within that time, and yes, it is a truly enviable time to be watching soccer with these two creating magic week after week.

No matter if you didn’t come up with the answer quickly; the dichotomy of these two stars, whose orbits encapsulate seemingly the entire history of the game they have perfected in wholly contrasting styles, is so clear and sustained that you’d be forgiven for thinking the game hardly existed before them. But once upon a time, a Brazilian with flowing locks and a million-real smile was the best player in the world, sporting a combination of skill and native moxie that catapulted him to superstardom. This morning, Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, better known as Kaka and as the answer to that question until further notice, announced his retirement from soccer.

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A magnificently threaded through-ball eludes four nearby defenders to find, all alone in the opposing box, the world’s best soccer player, who dances with his mistress for a moment long enough to attract the attention of an entire defense, along with the world. A shot on goal ricochets under the goalkeeper, whose effort provided only the briefest moment of respite preceding the inevitable. A trailing teammate, a regular on the B squad, tracks the ball and slots it into the back of an empty net, winning the game for his dominant side at an abnormally late time.

This was the scene in Sunday’s match between FC Barcelona and Villarreal. For the Catalans, these moments are a dime a dozen. With Lionel Messi, all is possible except for failure, which is a distinct and unacceptable impossibility. My adulation for him, at this point, goes without saying. In this case, the focus belongs to the other two players involved in the movement, Brazil’s fallen hero Neymar, the catalyst, and the Barça B wunderkind Sandro Ramírez, who scored the goal, his first ever for the senior side and in his first La Liga appearance. At just 22 and nineteen years of age, respectively, these two (literally, at times) have the world at their feet, leaving the rest of us to admire immortality and ponder its antithesis.

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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+USA+v+Portugal+Group+G+2014+FIFA+iDqCtKEDtjcl And just like that, another American dream ends painfully at the feet of Belgium. Years of preparation and tough decisions, not without controversy, went into the U.S. Men’s National Team’s run into the knockout stages, an arduous and heart-pounding journey from the depths of the Group of Death and through the Amazonian rain forest. Landon Donovan was nowhere to be found. Jozy Altidore became an ineffectual cheerleader, for all intents and purposes. Michael Bradley commanded the midfield with the force of a dead battery and held possession in a way which undoubtedly made several Spaniards blush, but who were they to judge?

Tim Howard was brilliant. Clint Dempsey embodied the American ethos, playing through a broken nose and exhaustion. Jermaine Jones struck every ball with passion and unparalleled intensity. Matt Besler fearlessly stood tall against some of the world’s best strikers. This team, for all its follies and missed opportunities, represented its country perhaps more closely than any other at this World Cup. This was truly an American team, despite (or because of, depending on your disposition) all the talk of German-Americans and under-the-table deals preceding Jurgen Klinsmann’s first major tournament on a world stage. Victory again eluded the U.S., but that wasn’t really the goal anyway.

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Staving off the insurrection.

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

Saturday, June 28th

“So, is his name really Hulk?” I asked Blog Lord Rory Masterson as I stared at the back of the vibrant yellow jersey on the Brazilian strong man.

“No, it’s just a nickname,” Rory told me, as the officials called back a goal due to an offside position.

We were watching the Brazil – Chile match in a parking lot behind the Latta Arcade in downtown Charlotte. There was a large, white trailer parked behind a row of old, brick buildings that held the gigantic projection screen which a crowd of mostly Brazilian faithful watched with anxious eyes. I was surprised that there seemed to be a contingent of Brazilian ex-pats rather than Americans-turned-Brazilian fans. Then again, Charlotte is the second-largest banking city in the country.

There were a handful of Chile fans among the bright yellow and green. You could hear them every time Arturo Vidal failed to convert a goal. The Brazilian fans looked at them with ire after Chile would zip through defenders only to an provide unfulfilling play. There were groans on both sides as each team refused to give up a goal. For Brazil, it was a matter of the team winning on its home soil. For Chile, it was a chance at the unthinkable.

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Memo Ochoa stuntin’ on ’em

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 17

I was staring at my screen in bewilderment at 9:05 AM. I was watching all of the American reaction videos to the second goal by John Brooks to win the game against Ghana for the United Stated. There were showers of beer, people acting in hysterics all colliding together with their wares of red, white and blue. I still couldn’t believe it. By 10:30 AM, I was still in a state of awe but it was concerning a ranking I saw on the music blog, Consequence of Sound. Lana Del Rey’s Ultraviolence received an A.

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Courtesy of FIFA

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. 

Thursday, June 12th 

The broadcast on my work computer showed blurry images of smiling Brazilian fans who were all wearing the bright, sun yellow jerseys associated with their home country’s national team. The din of people talking and looking for their seats emitted out of my old Apple headphones. A huge sphere sat in the center of the arena; the camera would toggle between this global metaphor of a centerpiece after a few crowd shots. There was hardly a Croatian fan in the crowd, nor one that ESPN cared to show. The focus was purely on the Brazilian people. This seemed more like a fitting opening ceremony than the nightmare fuel that followed.

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argentina vs portugalOn Thursday, the 2014 FIFA World Cup begins in Brazil. While many eyes will be on the home team, which is the nominal favorite to capture its record-extending sixth World Cup title, thirty-one other teams will be vying to bring the glory of the beautiful game’s most hallowed prize to their homelands. Many of these sides have legendary players in various stages of their primes. Some seem simply to be along for the experience of playing on a senior international level as a sort of deposit for the future (See: Green, Julian). For all the acclaim of Brazil’s joga bonito, Italy’s azzurri and Die Mannschaft of Germany, two individual players are carrying the weight of their countries perhaps more heavily than anyone else, with the outcome of the tournament potentially dictating their places among the game’s all-time greatest.

I am, of course, talking about Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina’s Lionel Messi.

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“And when good soccer happens, I give thanks for the miracle and I don’t give a damn which team or country performs it.” – Eduardo Galeano, Soccer in Sun and Shadow

With less than two weeks to go before the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, club competitions are wrapping up, and international managers are hoping no injuries hit their key men. As it was in 2010 with Spain’s pronouncement of dominance, this year’s edition promises to be captivating, with many story lines in play. Will Brazil be fit and ready to host in time? (Spoiler alert: Probably not). Is this the major tournament when Spain, the world #1, finally relinquishes its throne? Is Germany set to finally claim it for the perceived golden generation? Can either Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, the twin peaks of this footballing epoch, lead their respective countries to the promised land? Can the United States do anything worthwhile?

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The Soundtrack to Your World Cup Summer

Songs crafted solely for the World Cup are nothing new. This has been happening since 1962 when Chile hosted the tournament. Official songs gave way to unofficial songs and then to a whole anthemic soundtrack that serves as half souvenir and half advertising campaign. This year is no different with FIFA officially sponsoring another soundtrack entitled The 2014 FIFA World Cup Official Album: One Love, One Rhythm. The cover art alone is a vibrant collage of people dancing, a soccer ball, and a toucan that converge to illustrate someone’s face. The album includes “banging pop tracks by artists from around the globe”, according to iTunes. That is why Pitbull is the first artist featured on this album.

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