Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Map attack

Geography has always fascinated me. As far back as fourth grade, I can remember poking through encyclopedias and being fascinated by entries on countries I never knew existed. Sometimes all it took was a cool-looking flag (Kenya was a particular favorite) to get me hooked. It was right around that time that my school started holding a geography bee -- like a spelling bee, only with less spelling and more geography. After being in the running in fifth and sixth grade, I came in second in my school (to brainiac and all-around good egg Paul Steinbeck) in seventh grade and finally claimed victory the following year.

That love of geography has stayed with me, so I can't help but have my head turned when I see an interesting map. Gizmodo flagged up just such a map this week, a map of the United States identifying each state by the brand for which it is best-known. The map is the work of Steve Lovelace. (HT Joe. My. God.)

For Nebraska, Cabela's might not leap immediately to mind if you're not into hunting or fishing, but with 2012 revenue topping $3 billion, it's hard to question its inclusion. Check the links if some of the states are too small to read. You might not immediately recognize the Hawaiian Airlines logo with so little of it showing. Also, Microsoft might be a better option for Washington than Starbucks, but the creator didn't go into his methodology and, given how far he likely had to dig to find some of these companies, I'm not inclined to quibble.

There's another fun map below the fold.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The wild, wild East

People ask me why I prefer living and working overseas. "Why not stay here," they ask,"find a nice part of the country and cover football?" My reasons are plentiful -- I've lived in the United States for more than 25 years, there are vast swathes of the Earth I haven't seen, newspaper jobs are increasingly scarce here, American football doesn't interest me that much, etc. One of the reasons I didn't know until I left the country was that there are some types of stories you just don't get in the developed world.

For example, Malaysian soccer authorities are offering fans a bounty to catch their fellow supporters misbehaving at the upcoming FA Cup final.
The FAM said supporters would be given 1,000 Malaysian Ringgit ($320) for their 'policework' during the showpiece final between Kelantan and Johor Darul Takzim at the National Stadium on June 29. 
"We have decided to take a different, and positive, approach to preventing crowd trouble during the Cup final," FAM competitions committee chairman Hamidin Mohd Amin was quoted as saying by Malaysian media on Friday. 
Johor's semi-final second leg against Pahang was abandoned due to crowd trouble, while Kelantan were fined 40,000 Ringgit last year after their fans caused a long delay to a Cup match when they threw bottles on to the field.
Rat out your friends and neighbors for fun and profit! Another outstanding idea by the FAM, which always does what's in the best interest of Malaysian soccer and in no way has a problem with accepting criticism. Nope, none whatsoever.

There is some overlap in these stories, of course. Among the most notable is the increasing prevalence of European clubs flocking to Asia and North America in search of new revenue streams their adoring fans.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

There's a handball joke in there somewhere

An update on a post from a few months ago. The next sexy times these referees will have will come ... in the big house!
A Singapore court jailed a Lebanese referee for six months on Tuesday for accepting sexual favours to fix a soccer game, a day after two fellow countrymen were jailed for the same offence amid an international investigation into soccer corruption.
Ali Sabbagh, a Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA)-accredited referee, had admitted having sex with a woman hired by accused Singapore match-fixer Ding Si Yang, who has denied wrongdoing. 
Ali Sabbagh and two Lebanese assistant referees were convicted of accepting sexual bribes to fix a future match, but no specific game was identified by the prosecution.
He was withdrawn as referee only hours before an Asian Football Federation match between Singapore's Tampines Rovers and India's East Bengal on April 3. 
Singapore has been the focus of a probe into soccer match-fixing, with European anti-crime agency Europol saying in February that hundreds of matches had been fixed by a global betting syndicate based in the Southeast Asian city-state.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the official media in Singapore is keeping this story at arm's length. Today runs with an AP article, while the Straits Times apparently can't even be bothered to acknowledge the story.'s Singapore site (helmed by the always excellent Cesare) at least gives the story a bit of run.

It's disappointing how little play incidents like these get, especially when you consider how they fit into the larger picture of corruption in soccer. Some great investigative work by Declan Hill, the Invisible Dog team and others has illuminated the shadowy underbelly of illegal betting and match-fixing that continues to plague the world's game. Careers and lives are being ruined and the very integrity of soccer is at stake, but because certain high-ranking officials desperately want to preserve the appearance of Singapore being an oasis of clean governance, the likes of Dan Tan and the Kelong Kings are free to operate with impunity. Match-fixing has tarnished World Cup qualifiers, UEFA Champions League matches and leagues of increasingly prominent stature -- even the United States isn't free from this scourge. FIFA, meanwhile, continues its cosmetic campaign of raging against the symptoms but allowing the disease to roll merrily on. Odd how FIFA is reticent to pull the trigger in one of the rare instances when its leaning on a government might actually do some good.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Job done?

It's becoming abundantly clear that Jurgen Klinsmann is bound and determined to outdo his predecessors as US national team coach in drama, if not in results. Things are just never easy with this bunch. What started out as an assured, professional performance away from home frayed at the edges with bad, old habits rising to the surface before the newest New Hotness saved the day. Brad Evans' stoppage-time goal gave the United States a 2-1 win at Jamaica on Friday, its first World Cup qualifying win in Kingston.

Going by the numbers, the United States is in great shape to make the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. As I've said before, 16 points is the magic number in the final round of Concacaf qualifying. That's been enough to at least secure the Jack Warner Memorial Fourth-Place Playoff Spot (TM) since it came into existence two World Cup cycles ago. The United States is almost halfway there with seven points from four games of the 10-game Hex, and it has four of its final six games at home. In truth, it could stand to draw one of those home matches and probably still qualify with room to spare.