Why you should care
Because the World Cup is almost here, and reading these stories will give you something to talk about.
Joachim Löw, head coach of the German national soccer team, has an almost erotic relationship with precision. He also comes from the land of finesse, exactitude and hard work, the land that birthed Johannes Kepler and Carl Benz. These characteristics sets him up well as leader of one of the favorites to win the World Cup in Brazil. It’s not just because the German people have a hunger to win. Soccer has the ability to personify — and uplift — a nation. And Germany could do with a bit of uplifting at the moment. But even if you’re not a football fanatic, you can learn a thing or two about Germany — and the effectiveness of German work ethic — by watching Löw at work. Read more here.
Soccer fans in Portugal are suffering because their national team — even with greats like Cristiano Ronaldo — has never claimed a World Cup title. So you can bet they’re looking to put their best boots on the ground this summer. And who better to boost their spirits than a budding young player named Carlos Mané? He’s small and extremely quick, all muscle and versatility. For the national squad, Mané has yet to break through to the first team, but he’s played for all of the youth squads, including currently for its Under-21s. And he’s doing well enough now that he “may be a possibility for a late call-up to the World Cup squad.” Regardless, the world of soccer is never too small for two Ronaldos. Read more here.
At the 2014 World Cup, national teams will use one of the most technically advanced soccer balls the world has ever seen: the Brazuca. Brightly colored to reflect the vibrancy of Brazilian culture, its design is inspired by the meandering course of the Amazon River. And for the first time, people from the host nation selected the ball’s name. After more than a million Brazilians voted, the clear winner was “Brazuca,” an informal term that refers to Brazilians living overseas, as well as Brazil’s eclectic way of life. Although, given the ball’s $160 price tag, few who voted for its name will ever take one home. So far, the Brazuca has received glowing reviews, but the players will undoubtedly find something to complain about. Read more here.
Soccer often has close ties with politics. Such was the case 60 years ago, when the Hungarian soccer team made mincemeat out of British hubris, playing “socialist soccer.” “It was like playing people from outer space,” choked England defender Syd Owen, as he walked out of the People’s Stadium in Budapest on May 23, 1954, after England had just been trounced by Hungary’s Aranycsapat. Not four years later, the “Golden Team” began to dissolve. And Hungary, broken and shattered by civil war, would look back at an era that should have ended in world domination. Instead, it left its national team to become soccer’s greatest also-ran. Read more here.