The 2018 FIFA World Cup is Here!

The biggest sporting event on the planet is here: the FIFA World Cup. The 31 best teams in the world and Australia will all be meeting in the heat of the Russian summer to try and claim their status as world champions. There will be scandal, drama, excitement, passion, and given that the tournament is being played in Russia, probably hooliganism. So let’s have a look an all too brief look at this event that unites the world, albeit for the briefest of moments..

 

The World Cup is an event fill with drama. Iconic images that define tournaments. Nations rising a falling with their teams. Think the image of David Luiz’s in tears following Brazil’s humiliating semi-final defeat to Germany in 2014. Andres Iniesta ripping his shirt off to reveal the message “Dani Jarque siempre con nosotros” (Dani Jarque always with us) in honour of his dead friend and former teammate as he scored Spain’s winning goal in 2010. Zinedine Zidane’s head meeting Materazzi’s chest as France’s hopes and dreams disappear into a moment of madness in 2006. Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima in 2002. Zidane for the right reasons in 1998. The list goes on, and everyone will have different memories and experiences of the World Cup; such is the beauty of this truly global event.

Let’s start with a fairy-tale from the land of fairies, Bjork, Arnaldur Indriðason’s particular brand of dark, atmospheric crime fiction, a land that has a population less than greater Christchurch, the smallest nation ever to be represented at the World Cup finals; I am of course talking about Iceland. This team that is greater than the sum of its parts won hearts and imaginations as it reached the Quarter Finals of the 2016 European Championship (and comically knocked England out of the tournament and produced the greatest piece of sports commentary of all time). Neutral observers will be watching in hope that they can repeat this feat in Russia, if for no other reason, so their amazing fans get stay at the tournament for as long as possible.

From fairy-tales to favourites: Germany and Brazil. The nations with the greatest footballing pedigrees. Germany, eight time finalists, four time winners; the most consistent team in World Cups. Brazil, seven time finalists, five time winners; the crown jewel of the footballing world. However, these two monoliths of international football contrast in their respective styles.

Brazil is emblematic of the world’s passion for football. Not always the best team, but almost always has some of the best players in the world; this team is no different with the likes of Neymar being present. Brazil are typified by their flair, individual talent, and their “samba” style of football. However, this present Brazilian team cannot be classified within that vintage of Brazilian football as it has a larger emphasis on organisation and discipline; expect midfield ball winner Casemiro to be pivotal to a Brazilian success.

Defending champions Germany are the world’s best team in terms of being a team. There are no obvious weak points in the starting 11, however, there are also no exceptionally standout players. With this said, expect Casemiro’s Real Madrid teammate in Toni Kroos to be controlling the flow of games from midfield with his vision and range of passing. What separates Germany out from the rest is the organisation and discipline, which is currently being set out by manager Joachim Löw, that lead Germany to success in 2014.
Given that Germany and Brazil are on opposite sides of the draw, I will not at all be surprised to see a Germany vs. Brazil final.

But we must not get too caught up in the fairy-tale and the favourites and remember this is a global event. Aotearoa New Zealand’s nearest neighbour, Australia, will be there attempting to draw on their efforts of 2006. Asian footballing giants in Japan and South Korea will be looking to impress upon the world the quality of football in Asia. Iran and Saudi Arabia will be representing the Middle East on the global stage. Egypt, Senegal, Morocco, Nigeria, and Tunisia will be trying to prove that Pelé‘s prediction of an African team becoming World Champions by the year 2000 wasn’t too far off.

Argentina will be looking for a redemption following falling at the last hurdle in 2014 as Lionel Messi seeks to cement his status as one of the greatest ever by holding the World Cup aloft. Peru will be wanting to rightfully reclaim their status as South America’s other top team after a 20 year hiatus from football’s main event. Uruguay will be looking for their first world cup after 68 years without. Colombia will look to develop themselves as one of South America’s top teams and become the 4th team from that continent to lift the trophy (The current three being Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay).

England will be look to lay to rest a thousand demons as they try to reclaim the glory of 1966. Spain will be looking to reclaim their crown as the world’s best team. France will be looking to end two decades of misery. Belgium, Croatia, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Switzerland, Serbia, and Ronaldo‘s Portugal off the back of their 2016 European success will be want to prove that they belong among Europe’s elite. Panama, Mexico, and Costa Rica will be out to show that they truly belong on the world stage. And Russia, oh Russia. Russia will be playing under the watchful eye of the world, the heavy gaze of a certain president whose eyes never seem very far away, and under the weight of expectation of a home crowd that will be expectant of some level of Russian success.

The four year wait is over for football fans, and the world’s only truly global sport’s grand exhibition is here as over 3 billion people worldwide will turn their attention to Russia and await for the drama to unfold.

FIFA World Cup coverage in New Zealand

Find football resources in our collection

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PS We have an eSports tournament on in July, and one of the games being played is a FIFA one.

It’s kick-off time – celebrate with some great soccer books

FIFA U-20 World Cup TrophyThe FIFA U-20 World Cup has kicked off and will run until 20 June. Quite a few of the games are being played in Christchurch so you could even get along to watch a game or two.

The tournament is held every four years and there are teams from all over the world competing, including Hungary, Nigeria, Uzbekistan, Honduras, Brazil and of course New Zealand.

We have heaps of books in the library about football (or soccer as it widely known), from learning how to play the game to stories about soccer.

To find more about soccer try these:

For more information about the FIFA U-20 World Cup see their website.

The Beautiful Game at your Library

New Zealand Army Soccer TeamMy introduction to football (soccer) was a bloody one. Back in April 1971 Mum signed me up for Burndale United (now called Burnside).  The first game of the season took place at Burnside Park on a sunny Saturday morning. Mum joined the other parents on the sideline as her skinny seriously dis-coordinated 7 year old son took to the field. Several minutes into the game, I was lying flat on my back with blood gushing out my nose. My face had taken a direct hit after a player from my team had kicked the ball hard into my face.

Despite this eventful introduction to football I continued playing well into my adult years. And some. As someone who has been closely connected to the football community I’ve noticed that many players and coaches learn the game only on the field. But there is also much learning to be gained from another source: Your local library!

The library offers some fantastic resources covering all aspects of football. Here you can find books on the rules of football, tactics and strategies, improving individual skills and techniques, the art of coaching, biographies about famous footballers and more.

Search the catalogue for Ryan Nelsen's road to the World Cup Search the catalogue for Soccer Beyond bend it like Beckham

Search our catalogue

Glenn
Central Library Peterborough

The beautiful game – in our own backyard

CoverThe annual Global Football Festival is a Christchurch celebration of the worldwide appeal of the beautiful game. This weekend and next, teams from different cultures living in Christchurch  will battle it out over three days of keen competition.

I’ve been to this event a couple of times over the years, and there’s always a relaxed, festive  atmosphere. Think a mini World Cup, but without the mind-numbingly loud vuvuzelas. The food stalls are pretty good too.

This year the eighth tournament will be played at a new venue, Linfield Park on Kearneys Road.

What good are the arts?

Featuring John Carey (What Good are the Arts?), Denis Dutton (The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure and Human Evolution), and Sarah Thornton (Seven Days in the Art World), Friday’s What good are the arts? session has left me with questions rather than answers, and so in the spirit of giving I’m passing them right on to you.  Please also bear in mind that my own educational background has taken the literature, libraries and psychology route, rather than the fine arts and high culture route, and that my current heroes include a lurching zombie and a man wearing an iron suit.  Oh, and check out the Friday night audio wrap-up to hear me possibly insulting one of the world’s best and brightest experts in the art world.  I am on fire here.

Here are a selection of some of the questions I wrote down.  Some are comments from the speakers, some came from the audience, and some are just my own little musings.  Ready?

1.  Is there a rule that art critics and art writers can only use words of more than 5 syllables, all of which must end in -icity, -osity, -ality or -ism?

2.  Is calling someone a neuroaesthetitian a compliment, an insult, or a job description?

3.  If, as the Auckland Festival says, Ideas Need Words, does that make literature the highest form of art?

4.  Can anyone, in fact, claim that there IS a highest form of art, or is all art appreciation an absolutely solitary and individual matter of personal taste?  In other words, are there, as Denis Dutton says, universal and cross-cultural eternal values, or is it the case, as John Carey posits, that “you cannot be another being”, thus making it impossible for anyone to pass judgement on anyone’s taste?

5.  Is there a a shop where you can buy paisley cravats and smoking jackets?  And if so, can someone take me there right now?

6.  If the purpose of art is to make us better people and to draw us closer together, does that make football a higher form of art than painting or poetry or sculpture?

Well, people?  I just know you all have ideas and opinions about these questions …  (Just please don’t get all shouty at me.)

Global Football Fever

Christchurch is in the midst of global football fever. This coming weekend the finals of the Global Football Festival take place at Bexley Reserve.

Supporters from many cultures will crowd the touch lines to cheer on their teams. Delicious ethnic food stalls will help to keep the fans fed throughout the day. The passion that football generates around the world in widely different cultures will be on full display.

About the only thing that probably won’t be happening is the Kiwi football fans’ tradition of stripping off their shirts when their team is winning. For demonstrations of this you can tune in to the semi finals of the A League where the Wellington Phoenix will go head to head with the Newcastle Jets at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington. (An event leading to dreadful headlines like “Phoenix sure to rise at Cake Tin” !).

If you are a football newby we have some great books in our catalogue – try Nick Hornby’s little classic Fever Pitch for a look at serious football fandom.

I went to an all boys’ school. Every one of us stank.

That’s a quote, and quite possibly the most accurate description of a New Zealand school experience I’ve ever read. It comes from the pen of Christchurch’s Ryan Nelsen. The All White and Blackburn Rovers defender proves himself to have quite a turn of phrase in A Beautiful Game: football through the eyes of the world’s greatest players.

Collated by English football writer Tom Watt, this  collection of memories and cultural snapshots delves into the stories of how some of the biggest names in the game started out, explores their childhoods and what football meant to them. It puts a very personal and intriguing angle on the world’s most professional game.

Organised into sections like hope, family, dedication, passion, flair and courage, the book gives a real insight into why football inspires devotion from legions of fans. The photographs are stunning and show people playing football on beaches, arid deserts and streets in places as diverse as Baghdad, Liberia and Cambodia.

For Nelsen it’s a story that takes him from Spreydon Domain to the World Cup finals – and its fantastic that a Kiwi features in a book like this. His story illustrates perfectly the opportunity  and the dream football represents for millions of people around the world. I’d recommend it if you’ve ever wondered why blokes like sport so much. If it whets your appetite, there’s plenty more football resources available online or at your library.

Do you have memories of Big League Soccer, late night F.A. Cup finals or stinking out the classroom after lunch-time battles like Ryan Nelsen? Or were you more of a sportophobe?

Exposure

Sport? Never interested. Shakespeare? Sometimes interested. Celebrities? Always interested. So a book about sport, with a plot based on a Shakespeare play and featuring a couple very similar to David and Victoria Beckham put me in something of a quandary.

On the one hand books about sport make me feel faint with boredom. On the other hand a book where Posh and Becks-like characters fall victim to several of the deadly sins has got to have something going for it.

And so it proved with Exposure, a Young Adult book with something for everyone. Mal Peet writes about soccer well enough to make it exciting to someone who regards not following sport as something of a badge of honour and he’s no slouch at building suspense in a part of the story that’s concerned with political corruption and homeless children. He can even handle romance – the doomed love story of Otello and Desmeralda is believable, romantic and sad without being soppy.

I’m so impressed I’m going to check out his other books – this could be the start of a beautiful friendship. Peet’s a definite must see at this month’s <a title="Mal Peet, appearing at this year's Auckland Writers and Readers Festival.