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Only a few hours to go, people, and I can no longer contain my excitement. I need to start talking about this World Cup now! Here are some patented El Bolso strong takes on some current World Cup issues:

The Heat of the Moment

Sepp Blatter
“I will give the world Cup to Qatar unless you pay me… 1 MILLION DOLLARS!” (Wikipedia)

Rumors have been swirling about corruption the 2022 Cup bidding, won by Qatar in a stunning upset over Australia and the US. I ask you, when have FIFA executives prioritized their own pockets over the health of the players and the best interests of the sport itself? NEVER, buddy, that’s when. Anyway, things aren’t looking too good for Qatar right now. First it was Sepp Blatter saying that the Cup would have to be shifted to November or December because of temperature concerns, and now vote buying allegations could lead to the Cup being taken away altogether.

Sorry Qatar, you ain’t getting bupkus. For months now we’ve been hearing from highly placed FIFA executives (including Blatter himself) that this was a mistake, and that means it’s a done deal. For those of you who aren’t up to speed on international soccer, FIFA doesn’t discuss controversial issues, and it doesn’t apologize for –or even acknowledge– mistakes. The fact that this discussion is taking place in public is a clear signal that the 2022 World Cup is going to take place in Australia, or the US, or anywhere except the Middle East. Everything else (including sponsors like Adidas and Sony joining the chorus in recent days) is just window dressing, designed to make it seem as if FIFA is responding to public pressure on this issue.

And don’t even for a moment think that this has anything to do with bribery or human rights. No one is talking about taking away the 2018 World Cup from Russia, and if you think there was no funny business involved there, I have some beachfront property in Bolivia to sell you (let’s not even get into Russia’s human rights record). FIFA finally realized that holding a major tournament in 120-degree heat (but it’s a dry heat!) is a bad idea, and that sponsors tend to frown on players (or fans) dying of heatstroke. Moving the tournament dates isn’t really an option because it would disrupt European league schedules (again, not the kind of thing Adidas and Nike enjoy), so they’re going with the corruption story. But hey, if it means El Bolso gets a Cup in his backyard (or gets to plan a month-long vacation down under) it’s all good. Play ball!

The End

Landon Donovan
Old and busted… (Wikipedia)

USNMT coach Jurgen Klinsmann has been in the news lately, and boy is he going all in on this Cup! First he dismissed National Hero Landon Donovan from his squad; then he went off on the American worship of superstars like Kobe Bryant. Jurgen seems to believe that you should earn playing time on the practice field and in actual matches rather than relying on sports page sycophants and misplaced nostalgia (Joe Girardi may want to pay attention). Look, I think Joe Gaetjens was a wonderful player, and he had a starring role in the biggest moment in US soccer history, but I wouldn’t want him on this squad, mainly because he was killed by Papa Doc Duvalier’s thug squads in 1964. Now, Donovan isn’t dead, he just runs like it (Hyooooooooooooo), but it is the coach’s job to name the team, and if he thinks Donovan has run his course (so to speak)  as a national team player, that’s his call, and he will be judged on how that affects team performance. He doesn’t owe Donovan a spot if he doesn’t believe Landon has earned it. So Mr. Donovan should go home and polish all the hardware the US team has won during his tenure (that should take about ten minutes) and otherwise keep his trap shut.

Love Bites

Luis Suarez
…new hotness. (Wikipedia)

As I told you before, El Bolso is reluctant to write about Uruguay this time around, but I’m just about sick and tired of this redemption narrative that the US sports media has attached to Uruguay striker Luis Suarez. Guys, I know you mostly follow soccer through the back pages of UK tabloids, and you like nothing better than a good “human interest” story you can beat into the ground regardless of how closely it matches reality, but El Bolso is telling you, give this one a rest. If you want to talk about Suarez’s transgressions until the cows come home, be my guest, but let’s not weave them into an endless discussion about what this World Cup means to Suarez’s legacy. If, against all odds, he’s able to lead Uruguay to glory, he’ll be one of the best five soccer players on the planet, which is exactly what he is now. It won’t make him a better or worse person. If you think he’s scum now, and you change your mind based on a few goals, that speaks more to your character than his. If, on the other hand, you think he’s a wonderful player who has good and bad qualities, both on and off the pitch, and you accept that the same drive that makes him one of the best can also get him into trouble, then you are allowing nuance and complexity to enter your life, and that is never a bad thing.

Lay off. Don’t Bob Costas your way through this tournament. He’s just a soccer player. He loves his wife (and is not leaving her to chase after pretty young things like some other Uruguayan forwards I know), he cares about his kids and he finally seems to have figured out how to put in the work necessary to be one of the world’s best. He has done some stupid things, and will probably do more of that before it’s all said and done, but that doesn’t make him evil, no matter how much you try to pigeonhole him into a Hollywood script. That’s the beauty of real life; you should try writing about it sometime.

Also, if you’re still complaining about that hand ball against Ghana, please be so kind as to grow the hell up.

About El Bolso

El Bolso is Uruguay’s foremost soccer-fan-in-exile, a true authority on the Celeste and its favored son, the Club Nacional de Football. He believes in precision passing, tireless marking, and strong finishing, and is not above the occasional slide tackle from behind when the situation calls for it.

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