Monday, January 19, 2009


By "potential", we mean something more than possibility. We mean something there - latent, just beneath the surface and waiting to be coaxed into open air.

It's what kills fans. Feeling the potential for our teams, and yet watching the reality unfold, match after match. And still believing. You feel foolish. And then you look at the people on the pitch, and on the bench - and remember: the potential. You think: Yes, they've lost or drawn or looked awful even as they've managed to wrangle a few points here and there. But the potential is real.

And, of course, it is.

It's one of the things that binds us to them - potential, and our ability to project the wildest possibilities into the future of the players on the field; our conviction that a little tinkering here and there - and that potential will be unlocked!

Look at Barça. They've just set a La Liga record for reaching 50 points mid season.

The realization of Barça's potential makes the season (as it is unfolding) extraordinarily satisfying. You don't have to be a Barça fan to know that this side has long had perhaps the greatest potential of any playing. But recent years have given much cause for suffering. That misery is not caused by the team playing badly - but by the great disparity between the team's performance and its potential. Now, the long tested faith of fans is affirmed by game after game of not just convincing victories but victories won by playing their game.

Events like this feed our need to believe that every now and again, the beautiful maybe you see just there, just out of reach, rises up and becomes real.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Marta. Again.

FIFA just announced the winner of the award for female footballer of the year: Marta. Again. Now, I am a fan. I love Marta, and am thrilled she'll be playing for the LA Sol. (I am learning to embrace the fact that the team is named after mediocre beer.)

But since 2001, this award has been given to exactly three women: Marta (three times), Birgit Prinz (three times), and Mia Hamm (twice). As deserving as these three women are - are there really no other players that the coaches and players casting their votes can think of?  

I think the lack of imagination here reflects the lack of exposure of the sport. These are basically the three players that players and coaches know best - for reasons that have far more to do with access to tournaments, to footage of the players, to, in fact, any information about women's football at the international level. These are the players that everyone is aware of.

But I think that those of us who have been watching Brazil seriously (in not just final matches, but throughout tournaments) would have nominated Cristiane. Five goals in six matches in the Olympics (for example) - and two (gorgeous) assists. She was the top scorer in the 2004 Olympics, too, by the way. Her performance in South American cup competition is also exceptional - and it looks like her presence on your roster guarantees your team silverware.

This is not to take anything away from Marta, but as a fan of international women's football,  I find the lack of imagination in the selection kindof depressing.  Not for what it says about the sport, but for what it says about awareness of the women playing it at the top level.

[Check out this great post from theglobalgame on Marta and her move to Los Angeles - this is possibly the most well-balanced and researched article on her to date in English!]

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