Don’t tread on Nike

I have a love/hate relationship with Nike. On one hand, they’re a huge, indie-culture-stealing empire that pays chinese infants one cent a week to make $80 soccer jerseys that don’t fit me. On the other hand, they made the coolest hoodie ever and they’ve somehow turned self-centered pompous miscreant Eric Cantona into the Wayne Coyne of soccer. (Thierry Henry is so freaking awesome in that clip). It’s happening. I’m starting to get excited about the World Cup.

6 thoughts on “Don’t tread on Nike”

  1. Zinedine Zidane announces retirement after ’06 WC. Do you think this distracts the french or adds an extra level of emotional impact to the 98 champs?

    It does mean one of the cooler names in soccer history is about to retire.

  2. I was never a big Zidane fan, probably just because he never played in England, and that’s the only league I follow, and I used to dislike France despite the fact that half of Arsenal play for them. Now that I’ve been there, maybe I’m developing a soft spot for them. I’m sticking behing my usual faves, USA (out of obligation), England (because i actually know the team), and of course my fair-weathered choice of Serbia or Croatia (whoever’s better at the moment, usually Croatia). Those teams generally bring me heartbreak, but the beauty of soccer is that just about any national team can luck out and win a few tough matches in a row, so hope springs eternal, or at least every four years.

  3. Did you get my text last night? I was at the bar ‘restroom’ (where it’s best to stay on your toes) and saw the league TV schedule and saw that Arsenal played yesterday. How does this Champions League thing work?

  4. No, no text, weird. (SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t seen the match, avert your eyes)…

    I’ll try to keep this short… The international governing body of soccer, FIFA, has divided the world into five regions. Each region has a regional tournament every four years and then of course the World Cup is on the alternate fourth year. Those are for the national teams (Brazil, USA, England, Scotland, etc). Any time of year in any year, national teams are playing to qualify for the regional tournament or the World Cup, or if it’s slow, they’re playing “Friendlies” to keep in shape.

    (it’s already too long) Aside from the national teams, there are “club” teams like Arsenal, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Brighton and Hove Albion, Grasshoppers Zurich, Nagoya Grampus 8, Chicago Fire, and so on. Each team plays in its national league (English Premier League, La Liga, MLS, Bundesliga, etc.) But unlike US sports, they’re playing for several different honors. First off, there’s the “league,” they want to place highly in their league for the season. Then they’re in a tournament (or sometimes multiple tournaments) within their national governing body (so teams from lower divisions are also in the tournament). That’s sort of like “playoffs” but they run concurrently with the season, rather than at the end. Winning the league cup AND coming in first place in the standings is called a “Double.”

    Most domestic leagues have “relegation” where the best teams in lower leagues move up, and the worst teams move down to a lower league. That keeps things interesting for the weaker or stronger teams in a league, for instance in the US, the Chicago Blackhawks would have gone down to the AHL this season, and the Chicago Wolves would now be an NHL franchise.

    On top of that, the top teams in the top leagues (from the previous season) get to play in international (usually regional) club tournaments. The biggest is the Champion’s League, which (for instance) features the top two teams in the English Premiership, the top two teams from France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Scotland, and then maybe the best teams from another dozen European leagues. Then there’s the UEFA Cup which features usually 3-4th place teams. At one point, teams eliminated from the Champion’s League are added back into the UEFA Cup to keep things interesting (and profitable). So if a team wins the Champions League or UEFA cup on top of a league championship and a league cup, theyv’e won the “triple” Arsenal almost did that a few years ago, and Manchester United actually did it a couple years ago.

    So, with luck, say someone like Thierry Henry, who plays for Arsenal and France, could win the World Cup, a league championship, a league cup, and the champions league in one year. He wishes, but it could happen.

    Each cup, and tournament has it’s own system for matching up teams, For the Champion’s league, there are a couple “group stages” where teams are put in groups of four and play three games and the best from each group proceed, then there are a couple quarterfinal and semifinal legs where the teams play home and away. In Arsenal’s case, they beat Villareal 1-0 at home last week, so since they drew 0-0 yesterday, their cumilative score was still 1-0 so they’ll proceed to the final (and play Barcelona). If they’d lost 2-1 for instance, the cumulative score would have been 2-2 but they’d have had one away goal, which counts for more, and they’d still proceed. If they’d lost 1-0, there would have been extra time, then a shootout if necessary.

    Anyway, winning the Champions League is pretty much the top achievement for any European club team (there’s a world club tournament, but it’s not taken very seriously, it’s more a FIFA PR deal to get famous teams to play overseas). Winning it the same year you win your league and league cup is awesome. Unfortunately, Arsenal did not kick much ass this year (they were eliminated from the FA cup ages ago, by Bolton, and are likely to finish fifth (of 20) in the Premier league, so winning the Champion’s League will give them something to brag about (and get them back in the Champion’s League next year, since their league rank isn’t good enough to get them back in)

  5. That is so complicated. Or arbitrary. I can’t decide.

    So are there just thousands of ‘proffessional’ soccer players that are supported through this system? Or are the minors just like here where they should probably have an off season job unless they got a big signing bonus. Are there drafts for the best 15 year old players? Does FIFA control that?

  6. The minors in most leagues go very deep and are far more popular than here. In england, for instance, the Football Association oversees the Premiership (top-flite), then a first, second, and third division, each with 20 teams (iirc). Remember, with relegation and promotion, well-known teams may rise and fall between leagues yearly, and fading stars often play out their careers at lower-ranked teams. The local team that won the European Cup when you were a kid might be in the third division now, and you can get a season ticket for next to nothing, in the hopes they work their way back to the top.

    There are no drafts, college soccer means nothing in Europe, kids are yanked from grade school to play for club team’s youth squads, a club team might have a few youth teams, a reserve team, a women’s team, and the “first” team. (and perhaps also a tennis team, and a rugby team, and so on) Teams buy and sell youth and reserve players so it’s rare when someone “comes on the market” out of nowhere. Lower-division teams make plenty of money unloading stars to top teams, and clubs invest lots of cash into their youth programs in the hopes of developing homegrown talent. Which doesn’t explain why most british teams have about two english players in their first team.

    In the FA, the premiership and some first division players make schloads of cash and even in the second division good players can make a reasonable amount of money. I’d guess it’s a hard living playing in the third division, and there are also several non-FA, but professional, leagues where players are paid a salary, but would definitely need to augment it with another job.

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