Tale of Two Cities, Tale of Two Halves: USA vs Ghana

By | June 17th, 2014 | No Comments

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June 17, 2014
By Tom McCabe*


The text message came through as “URGENT.” Sylvers Owusu, a former student and player, wrote yesterday: “We just received a city permit to block off Ghanaian Way in Newark for today’s GHA vs. USA match. Please join us for a watch party! DJ Albert will provide music to entertain the crowd. Let’s go Ghana!”

The plan was now hatched: first half in Newark, and the second half a few miles away in what has been called “the cradle of American soccer.” I watched several games at the Scots American Club in Kearny in 2010, including the Algeria match punctuated by Donovan’s last-ditch winner. (I also watched Ghana knock the USA out there).

Back at the Scots Club there was a much more joyous celebration to Dempsey’s early strike [click here for video.]

Ten minutes later the Ghanaian congregation began singing a song, unrecognizable to my ears. Sylvers whispered to me: “It’s a gospel song. We need God now.” Ghana grabbed control of the game, but the USA threatened on several occasions to double the lead. It was an intense, physical start to a must-win match.

At the half-time whistle we headed outside and took in the street scenes. DJ Albert had the place jumping and after some dancing and chanting we got back into the car and headed for the Passaic River. Kearny, home to American stars (John Harkes, Tab Ramos, and Tony Meola), the Scots Club, and the second half beckoned.

We arrived ten minutes into the second half as parking was scarce around the Scots Club, but the USA still had that slim one-goal lead. The bar-end of the social club formed in 1932 was packed with people in red, white and blue. “USA” chants rang out as well as repeated frustration about how the Stars and Stripes couldn’t hold on to possession.

After Ghana leveled the score in the 82nd minute it seemed that they would go on to find the winner, but against the flow of the second half John Brooks powered home a precisely-placed Graham Zusi corner. Understandably, there was bedlam inside the Scots Club once again. Hugs, high-fives, chants, and more hugs. It was a major victory in “The Group of Death” that sets up an epic battle against Portugal on Sunday.

*Tom McCabe is an historian at Rutgers University-Newark where he teaches surveys in U.S. History, History of Newark, and History of Soccer. Follow him on Twitter at @tommccabe5. This post was originally published on his new blog Soccer Brains.

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World Cup Music: “Afri Can”

By | June 9th, 2014 | No Comments



An antidote to Shakira and Pitbull!

“Afri Can” is a charity single by Replay GH, a Ghana-based group featuring Zed Ay Kay (Replay GH), Fuji, Farid, and Gustav. It brings together influence from the five African countries that have qualified for the Brazil 2014 World Cup: Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Algeria, and Ivory Coast.

According to the artists, “the different influences, and styles are seamlessly woven together to produce a modern Afro Beats song for the enjoyment of all football and music fans.” To find out more about Afri Can, visit: http://www.outofafricacampaign.com/afri-can/

A Bribe is Transactional: Alexandra Wrage on FIFA Corruption

By | June 2nd, 2014 | No Comments

20140602-211321-76401452.jpgAlexandra Wrage, a Canadian attorney and founder of TRACE International, a business anti-corruption group, was interviewed by BBC Newsnight about the ongoing FIFA corruption scandal over Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup.

Wrage worked for FIFA’s governance reform commission from 2011 to 2013. In April 2013 she told the Wall Street Journal “that the FIFA executive committee ‘undermined the recommendations we were making’at almost every turn.” She resigned because “you don’t keep doing the same thing if you’re not having an impact.”

Wrage believes change is more likely to come if Swiss law regulates locally based non-profits like FIFA (sic!) more effectively and, perhaps, if a groundswell of popular criticism can compel corporate sponsors to take action.

Click here to watch the 4-minute interview.

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The Ivory Tower and the Press Box: Towards Total Fútbol Writing

By | March 27th, 2014 | 4 Comments



This is my video blog contribution to the Football Scholars Forum roundtable taking place on Saturday, April 12, 2014, at the global fútbological conclave known as the Soccer as the Beautiful Game conference at Hofstra University in New York.

These pre-conference blog posts are intended to launch the discussion about points of overlap and tension in the soccer writing of journalists and academics. Roundtable participants will share their insights on sources and methodologies, topics, audience, market logic vs. academic logic, and the role of digital tools in writing and dissemination.

The rest of the roundtable team is composed of Simon Kuper (Financial Times), Brenda Elsey (historian, Hofstra U.) Alex Galarza (Michigan State U.), John Foot (U. Bristol), and Grant Wahl (Sports Illustrated). To read their posts visit: http://scholars.footy-forum.net

Beyond Vuvuzelas and Samba

By | March 17th, 2014 | No Comments

alegi_flyer_5mar14Listen to “Beyond Vuvuzelas and Samba: Lessons from South Africa 2010 for Brazil 2014,” a lecture I delivered at Brigham Young University’s David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies on March 5, 2014.

The talk analyzes the political, economic, and cultural dynamics of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and its similarities to the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

Click here to watch the video.

Goal Kolkata

By | February 21st, 2014 | No Comments



Celtic-Rangers. Liverpool-Everton. Roma-Lazio. Boca-River. Fla-Flu. Kaizer Chiefs-Orlando Pirates. Mohun Bagan-East Bengal. Wait, what was that last one?

Mohun Bagan vs. East Bengal is “one of the greatest, and most overlooked, football rivalries in the world,” says Kelly Candaele, director of Goal Kolkata, a documentary film set to explore the history and culture of a highly charged Indian rivalry. The film tracks players, team officials, and fans of both teams before, during, and after a recent derby played in front of 120,000 spectators at Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata (Calcutta).

The new trailer (see above) features new footage and interviews filmed in November 2013. It includes important interventions by Indian sport scholars, such as Kausik Bandopadhyay (West Bengal State University) and Boria Majumdar (University of Central Lancashire), who flesh out the origins of the rivalry and shed light on its larger social, political, and economic significance.


Goal Kolkata promises to teach us much about football culture in India while also engaging with broader Bengali and Indian history. For more information about the film and ways you can help support its completion, go here.

South African Goals of the Season, 2011-13

By | February 20th, 2014 | No Comments



Goals galore from South Africa, courtesy of MattMzansi’s YouTube channel. Because you can’t win if you don’t score.

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