Soccer will never take off in this country. It is not in our culture to truly enjoy it, we will never spend enough money to develop great players we will never be in a position to develop a league that is stocked with the best players and in general, the whole culture and appeal has passed us by. Even though the US team tied England and looks to have a real shot to go far, no one thinks of a tie as a win.
Now that I got that out of the way, soccer is an insanely fun and easy sport to follow, especially at the international level. You never have to worry about games going long, it looks beautiful in HD, you can multitask when you watch it and due to the beauty of watching a sport that primarily takes place in another country, you can follow it at your own pace and on your time with the use of a DVR. And the World Cup is the culmination of everything i just typed and more.
But, you may ask “how the hell can I even begin to follow all of this madness?” There are people who dress oddly (insert weirdly dresses folks), people who go insane over this and it appears that everyone outside of the US seems to take it really really seriously. Well, allow me to help. Here are the main people to pay attention to and watch for.
Editor’s Note – This article made me want to watch soccer. Previously all I wanted to do was pretend to like it so I could feel up promiscuous Euro chicks. Now it’s different. Everything has changed for me. Except my wanting to feel up promiscuous Euro chicks. That’s the same. So read on! Acadia. Also; JW does a weekly podcast that is at both times awesome and better then awesome. Twenty9cast for direct download, or subscribe by searching your i-tunes for twenty9cast.
1. Lionel Messi (Argentina)
The best soccer player in the world as of right now is a 5 foot 7 inch 22 year old guy that looks disturbingly like Roman Polanski in the 1970’s. Growing up in Argentina he was discovered in 2000 at age 13 by Spanish club Barcelona and moved there with his family, in part because the team offered treatment for his growth hormone deficiency. Because of this there is a concern that his heart is with Barcelona and not with his home country.
He’s the youngest player to play in the Spanish La Liga at age 17, and has been scoring goals, setting records and winning awards ever since. Messi can be compared to The NBA’s Steve Nash in his speed and play and gives Argentina the best possible chance to win it all, depending on whether his coach can stay sane. Speaking of the coach….
2. Diego Maradona – Coach/Soccer Legend (Argentina)
The best way to describe Maradona is to use the internet meme style for Chuck Norris. Here’s a few bullet points about one of the best and craziest players in the history of soccer:
- Is considered either the best or second best soccer player ever, either behind or in front of Pele. Named FIFA player of the century, sharing the award with Pele.
- Almost single handedly won the World Cup for Argentina in 1986 making him a national hero.
- His status as a national hero is so high there that people often overlook the fact that he did Tony Montana levels of coke and bedded hookers like Charlie Sheen while winning the cup. He’s been suspended for failing drug tests (cocaine) and was sent home from the 1994 World Cup for testing positive for ephedrine.
- Scored the most controversial goal ever in the ’86 quarterfinal against England by using an illegal handball (remember, soccer is hands free) that has come to be known as “la mano de Dios” or “the hand of god”
- His autobiography is called “I am The Diego” and he donated the Cuban royalties of the book to Fidel Castro.
- After becoming coach of the national team Maradona was suspended for two months during a post game press conference after Argentina qualified by telling members of the media to “suck it and keep on sucking it” (ed note – awesome). He also “accidentally” ran over photographers after a press conference while yelling at them to move.
- Has promised to run naked through Buenos Aries if Argentina wins the cup.
Basically Maradona is the ultimate wild card, a man who makes Ron Artest look like a priest and who’s actions will either make Argentina go home in failure or victory. He’s the guy that everyone will watch, because in theory he may literally run out onto the pitch (field) mid-game.
Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast)
While the World Cup is being held in South Africa, the reality is that the home countries teams have little chance of winning it. Many of their teams are just not stacked enough to go far, except for Ivory Coast, who’s captain and star player has the entire continent on his back and gives the continent a glimmer of hope.
Drogba is both athletic, passionate, whiny, captivating, aggressive and charitable. He plays like a hybrid of NFL receiver like speed and strength (think Terrell Owens or Ocho Cinco) and NBA player like aggression and swagger (think Dwayne Wade). Novices to the sport would be best served to watch Ivory Coast’s games as Drogba makes a decidedly boring at times sport look stunning and exciting. To say that his captaincy means a lot to his country is an understatement as Drogba has been credited with bringing peace to the Ivory Coast by pleading with warring factions to cease a five year long civil war after qualifying for the Cup in 2006. He recently suffered a fractured elbow in an exhibition game against Japan that put the nation in full on crisis mode. However, he immediately went under the knife the next day and is expected to play in Ivory Coasts’ first game against Portugal where he will play against a main rival of his….
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
The captain of The Portuguese national team has model looks, overacting abilities for drawing fouls, insane dribbling skills and is the most expensive player in football, drawing a $132 million deal for his transfer from England’s Manchester United to Spain’s Real Madrid.
Named after his father’s favorite actor Ronald Reagan (yes the former US president), the 25 year old is a natural for the game and is considered the second best player behind Messi. He models for Armani and Pepe Jeans, he’s the player you love to hate based on his flopping and looks and he is dangerous in both his superb skill and his overwhelming arrogance. In response to his critics he was quoted as saying “maybe they hate me because I am too good”. He had a brief fling with Kim Kardashian in which her confidants were worried about her being with a guy who allegedly “hired prostitutes for his many orgy – like parities and events”. Every sport and aspect of life needs a guy who’s a little too talented and too good looking and Ronaldo fits the bill.
His full name is Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, but he’s known by “Kaka”. Perhaps the best named athlete ever, Kaka (i’ll wait until the laughter subsides) started playing at 8 years old and was discovered at 15 by Sao Paulo FC where he got his first professional contract at 15.
At the age of 18 years old Kaka suffered not only a career threatening but paralysis threatening spinal fracture as a result of a swimming pool mishap. He made a full recovery and attributed said recovery to the power of God. He has since donated 1/10th of his income to his church, which considering the fact that his current contract with Real Madrid is for 85 million well… that church probably has very very comfortable pews to sit in while worshiping. His religious fervor plays heavily into his sport, as he has worn t-shirts that have
statements such as “I belong to Jesus” and “God is faithful” that he will show off after goals. Rooting for Kaka is like rooting for the man himself, so if Brazil wins it all this year one can attribute some of it to higher powers.
John Terry (England)
The classiest thug ever, John Terry is a multiple time defensive player of the year and has been described as “a man’s man” by teammates. He was believed to be the only guy who showed up at the last World Cup for England, a nation that feels sort of like Red Sox fans felt pre 2004 about their countries success in the tournament. But it is his off the field behavior that makes him interesting and a great bad guy for US fans to hate, especially for one incident. Here’s a few fun facts:
- After being signed by English team Chelsea in 2000 he was involved in an incident with teammates and charged with assault.
- In 2001 he was fined two weeks pay for drunkenly harassing grieving American tourists mere days after the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has since apologized and recanted but as David Carradine once said in Kill Bill, “some things, once you do them you can’t undo them”.
- Plays with an almost insane physical recklessness. You Tube him and eventually you will see a clip in which Terry dives in for a header shot and is kicked in the head full force by an opposing player who was playing defense. He was immediately knocked out, went to the hospital but returned the next day to celebrate the win with his team.
- Was involved in a scandal of immense proportions in England in January, 2010 when it was revealed that he had carried on a four-month affair with former teammate Wayne Bridge’s girlfriend Vanessa Perroncel. The tabloids covered it with zeal, Bridge furiously quit the English national team, an injunction was filed in the British courts to block the media from covering the story, Bridge famously refused Terry’s handshake a week later during a Premier League game and Terry was stripped of the captain position on the English squad.
– Even though he makes roughly $200 thousand a WEEK for Chelsea FC, Terry’s mother and mother in law were arrested in 2009 for shoplifting flip flops, a tracksuit and leggings. His father also was caught dealing coke out of a wine bar that Terry purchased for them to operate.
Let’s say that Terry has a lot to redeem himself for with a World Cup victory.
Wayne Rooney (England)
Imagine a 24 year old, 5 ft. 10 sawed off monster with Kobe Bryant’s competitive streak and Rasheed Wallace’s fatal flaw of letting his mouth and behavior get him in trouble and you have Wayne Rooney, England’s best offensive hope of winning unless he gets thrown out of the game in the process.
With a look like a guy who should be in the crowd brawling with the hooligans, Rooney is masterful at the skill part, intense at the attitude part and is just crazy enough to either carry the country to victory or send them back to just coming up short-ville. The Irish born Rooney was signed by English team Everton to a special contract at TEN years old and became the youngest goal scorer in Premier League history just five days before he turned 17. He’s the lone striker for Manchester United (think the Yankees of the Premier League) and one of the biggest stars in the game. Carefully avoided the “too much too soon” curse by marrying young and then later revealing that he often solicited prostitutes while dating his future wife.
Rooney has one of the best tattoo ideas ever, a quote from his favorite band: “Just Enough Education to Perform”. Many athletes have biographies published; Wayne Rooney signed a 5 million dollar advance plus royalties to have a minimum of FIVE books published over a five year period. He’s an iconic figure for England, with a poster of him in a cross like pose, screaming and painted to look like the English flag. The team will live and die by him, and thankfully for them he will kill himself to win.
Landon Donovan (USA)
If you are going to include a US player on this list, the best possible choice is Landon Donovan. New fans, patriotic Americans, meet the best hope you have to go anywhere in this tournament.
Remember being a kid and playing (or knowing people who played) youth soccer? Landon Donovan is one of you. He started like everyone else, but became famous and successful in doing so. When he was six years old he asked his mother to join an organized league and scored 7 goals in his first game.
Donovan was a member of the inaugrial Under 17 US National Team, he finished 4th in the FIFA Under 17 World Championship and then signed with German team Bayer Leverkusen. Unhappy there, he requested a transfer to the San Jose Earthquakes of the MLS league and later went over to the Los Angeles Galaxy to play alongside David Beckham in the United States attempt to make more people care about professional soccer. He was the first man to be named US Soccer Athlete of the Year for two years in a row, he is the top goal scorer and assist leader of the US National Team and he has even proved that he can hang with the teams overseas, scoring goals and performing well for England’s Everton Club.
Let’s get down to brass tacks; if he plays out of his mind great (entirely possible; just look at his work in the U.S. vs. England) the US can upset some very good teams. He has international experience, he is the best US guy on the team and if the rest of the team was made up of guys on his level we’d probably be a lot more into the sport.
Thank you, jeremy, for giving me this awesome pic for the article. It’s no biggie, Acadia. I do what I can.