Love and Death

I would like to interrupt Bill Archer’s tireless, entertaining, and eye-opening accounts – our version of TMZ, I guess – to bring you a story about a footballer. You remember them, they are the ones that are tasked with putting balls in the back of the net, and are only occasionally compensated with large envelopes full of cash.

In case we forgot, the Gold Cup starts this week. I will be at the Death Star to watch the Group A double header. Keen to watch Mexico, but really curious to see Cuba. There will be someone else in Jerry’s temple of gaud. He might be there in person, but his mind will be miles away.

Antonio Naelson “Sinha” was a fundamental part of Chepo’s success while coaching Toluca. In Chepo’s scheme, the 35 year-old is the conductor, for better or worse, and will play the same role for Mexico. Doesn’t really matter that his level of play has been slowly deteriorating, he’s Chepo’s guy.

Every coach has there stubborn inclusions, and Sinha seems to be Chepo’s. And that makes him a lightning tower for criticism. But that’s why they are there, right. For us to skewer them when things don’t go as planned, and begrudgingly give them props when they exceed our limited expectations. They aren’t human, they are futbolistas.

But all that just doesn’t matter. Sinha has returned to his native Brazil because his father, Antonio Matias, has passed away. May he rest in peace. It turns out Sinha is human, like the rest of us.

The trip to his hometown will take 3 flights, and some highway travel. Around 24 hours in all. 24 long, solemn hours. He’ll take care of his family business and be back with the team by Saturday, after another 24 hours of travel. Godspeed.

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I have always found it interesting that FIFA brings down the hammer on any nation’s FA when their government gets involved in the administration of the sport. Politics, after all, has no place in the beautiful game, right?

Yet here we are, (thanks to Bill’s exhaustive [obsessive?] reporting), with the curtain finally lifted and FIFA suddenly exposed as the vile, corrupt caretakers we knew they were, of the sport we all love unconditionally. Cut through all the muck, and it’s just politics and power.

Just like those governments that FIFA abhors when they intervene.

I can’t say I am really surprised at everything that has happened in the past few days, or even Sepp Blatter’s insistence that there ain’t nothin’ wrong, as far as he’s concerned.

Take his stance on Mexico’s multi-ownership dynamic in their local league.

“Sure we know about it, but no one has ever lodged a protest. So we will not be intervening unless we are asked to… officially”

His position is pretty clear: as long as no one complains, then feel free to do whatever you want.

People are complaining now.

It was Blatter who put in motion (or at least continued) the culture of slush funds, kickbacks, and greased palms. He even encouraged the bidding countries to “be competitive” in the bid process. He awarded bids for two world cups at once. Who does that? That is a lot of grease.

As Bill pointed out, his press conference on Monday was a PR catastrophe. One would expect he would do the rational thing and step down, but He’ll be re-elected, of course.

Despite all of the extreme nastiness that has been brought to light, not to mention the nastiness that has yet to be unleashed, Blatter did something in his press conference that, in my mind at least, was unforgivable.

It was his shameless hiding behind the Champions League final to show how healthy the sport is. That really set me off.

The sport is healthy despite FIFA, but I guess that is what makes it a perfect host.