For the second time in two months, my heart is with the North Korean football (soccer) team.
News reports say the team – which turned in a gutsy and sportsmanlike performance at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa – and its coach have been publicly shamed in a 6-hour harangue by party officials and ministers. As the Telegraph wrote:
The players were subjected to a “grand debate” on July 2 because they failed in their “ideological struggle” to succeed in South Africa, Radio Free Asia and South Korean media reported.
The team’s coach, Kim Jong-hun, was reportedly forced to become a builder and has been expelled from the Workers’ Party of Korea.
The coach was punished for “betraying” Kim Jong-un – one of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il’s sons and heir apparent.
Following ideological criticism, the players were then allegedly forced to blame the coach for their defeats.
Sure North Korea went out in the first round.
Yes, they lost miserably to Portugal 7- 0.
And, yes, *sigh* it is hardly surprising
to hear the North Korean regime express displeasure.
But the truth is that the ruling cadres are just missing the point.
Continue reading North Korea LoveFest
It went down to the wire….. My pre-tournie pick to win – The Netherlands – fell to a well-deserving side from Spain in an extremely “colorful” nail-biter of a final match.
No doubt the real winner of the 2010 FIFA World Cup was Africa. As former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the BBC:
South Africans should be proud of what they have produced. It’s been an organisational and logistical feat, some doubted them but they’ve proven them wrong and it’s also been good for the continent.
We have proven we can organise, we have proven we can receive, welcome and make people feel at home. And I think people have also discovered there’s another side of Africa.
South Africa did an amazing job welcoming the world’s football fans and putting on a great show. The tournament itself was a treat – with some amazing matches, phenomenal play and quite a few refereeing controversies.
Continue reading A World Cup to Remember
So here we are … the morn of the 2010 World Cup semifinals.
For football fans, this is the week we relish when it comes along every four years. For World Cup haters, it means the torture is almost over (and I’ve got a special treat for you, just to get you through.)
The Netherlands – my pre-tournie pick to win – is going to square off on the pitch against spunky Uruguay and my new football fave Diego Forlan. Tomorrow Germany will face off against Spain.
The first match will hurt no matter what, because I want both teams to win. The second is clear cut – Spain all the way. (Though to be honest, the Germans are looking mighty tough so far.)
There have been some seriously amazing – and some not so amazing – moments during this tournament that will keep football fans talking until the next World Cup. I’m thinking:
Continue reading Vuvuzela Dogpound?!?!
The battle lines are drawn. Tension is running high. Passion is only slightly behind. The world is abuzz with the vuvuzela. We are on the verge of the first knock-outs of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
As football (soccer) fans around the world gear up to roar their chosen sides onto victory, there is one team people around the world should all be rooting for:
This side, put together by the world’s largest grassroots human rights organization Amnesty International, features a roster of true heroes – individuals who see wrong in the world around them and choose to stand up and act.
Continue reading The Real World Champions
It was supposed to be a World Cup blowout. One of the best teams in the world teaching upstarts a much needed lesson.
Brazil was going to stomp North Korea – and I was going to cheer every second.
But North Korea was spunky. No silly theatrical dives, no overly-dramatic facial expressions or picked fights. They ran like the wind. When they fell or tripped, they got right back up – and patted the back of any Brazilian player involved. They held off the Brazilian side well into the second half of the match out of sheer grit and determination. As the minutes ticked by, I couldn’t help but admire these men for standing firm against a football institution like Brazil.
And by the end of the match? Well, we all knew they couldn’t win going down 2 goals to nil against the Samba Kings but I found myself cheering — like, jump up and down, pump fists in the air, cheering – when North Korea scored in the 89th minute.
Continue reading To North Korea, With Love
What I’ve learned so far from the World Cup ….a.k.a. a primer for Yanks
- It’s fooball, futbol, the world’s sport ….. NEVER soccer (even if the U.S. commentators or desk jockeys say “soccer” regularly)
- Fluorescent yellow or orange colored footwear is very distracting.
- The Germans still look like a well-oiled machine. This is a World Cup standard that never seems to change.
- Football players are pretty good actors. Their ability to roll around on the pitch (that’s the field), writhing in agony, only to jump up again when they realize the ball is still in play is quite often award worthy. See the world’s best hambones here.
Continue reading Lessons from the World
Which country will emerge the victor? Can reigning champion Italy secure a repeat? Will the host country South Africa beat the odds? What about the secretive North Korean team? Can England finally repeat the victory of 1966?
Those are the question the world ponders today as 32 teams representing countries from every region of the globe begin the quest to capture the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
The pundits have their guesses – and so do you dear readers and Twitterati.
Per responses received via email, Twitter direct messages, Twitter shouts and comments, your collective prediction for the winning country is ……
Continue reading The Quest Begins …
The time has come….and, believe it or not, I am ready.
Supply of microwavable popcorn? Check.
Face paint? Check.
Large-screen television? Check.
Country flags? Check.
The goose bumps have started ….. the 24 hour countdown until the start of the 2010 FIFA World Cup is in full effect!!!
Continue reading When the World Unites …
Nelson Mandela is my hero.
Oh now, I know, I know …. I should qualify that before anyone goes off in a tizzy.
If I applied a magnifying glass to every aspect of his personal and political life I’m sure I would discover plenty of chink’s in my hero’s armor. Did he keep every promise? Did he make no mistakes at all? Did he sometimes compromise when he should have stood firm? Did he endorse violence? Support dictators and strongmen? Is he really the picture perfect specimen most would like to believe? Is South Africa now the best run, most prosperous country in the world because of his leadership?
(For the record? No. No. Yes. Yes. Yes. No. No.)
Let’s be honest here. If we discounted every potential hero on the basis of mistakes or personal indiscretions, I doubt even Ghandi would make the cut.
Continue reading The master of his fate …
What do you get when you mix groups of Palestinians, Americans, South Africans and a bunch of Europeans? Proof positive of the commonalities we all share as citizens of the world.
Residents in the Gaza Strip got a rare treat this weekend as home region favorites squared off against Italy in the inaugural match Saturday of the United Nations Development Programme-sponsored “Gaza World Cup” – running until May 15. (For the record, the Italians won 1-0.)
Football – or soccer as Americans usually call it – is the world’s game. A great equalizer. A sport with unrivaled global popularity that can – and does – see kids from the harshest megacity streets to impoverished rural villages reach for their dreams. (Yes, yes, cue the Ricky Martin muzak.)
Continue reading Rooting for Hope …