Love and Blood: At the World Cup with the Footballers, Fans, and Freaks

Overview

Every four years the thirty-two-team, sixty-four-game World Cup captivates the planet’s populace for a month. Work absenteeism skyrockets. Political campaigns grind to a halt. Fans mortgage their houses to buy tickets. And teams employ every means possible—even consulting witch doctors and astrologers—in their quest for national glory.

Veteran soccer commentator Jamie Trecker traveled to Germany for FIFA World Cup 2006. Here, reported from the restaurants, trains, bars, town ...

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Overview

Every four years the thirty-two-team, sixty-four-game World Cup captivates the planet’s populace for a month. Work absenteeism skyrockets. Political campaigns grind to a halt. Fans mortgage their houses to buy tickets. And teams employ every means possible—even consulting witch doctors and astrologers—in their quest for national glory.

Veteran soccer commentator Jamie Trecker traveled to Germany for FIFA World Cup 2006. Here, reported from the restaurants, trains, bars, town squares, hostels, press boxes, and brothels, is his unvarnished account of the games and parties, great plays and fistfights, gossip and tacky souvenirs that turn the largest sporting event on earth into a true world bazaar. With equal measures insight and irreverence, Trecker captures the passion, politics, controversies, and economics that make soccer a reflection of the world.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The FIFA World Cup is the planet's biggest event. Not sporting event-event, period," writes Trecker in this in-your-face firsthand account of the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Trecker, Fox Sports soccer columnist, is passionate about the game ("Munich exploded in the sixth minute when Phillip Lahm, employing his signature move, cut from the left side into the area to sink a powerful right-footed shot into the top of Jose Porras's net") and the players ("What makes Zidane truly special is not that he can control the pace of a match-there are other holding midfielders in the game-but that his motions and instincts are artful, serene, and beautiful"). Unfortunately, Trecker, while covering the sport, the games and the '06 World Cup comprehensively, falls prey to clichéd sports writing. He spends much time describing brothels (in South Korea and Germany), topless women and drunken debauchery-of both fans and the media alike. While not without its pleasures, this is mostly for the already initiated rather than the general reader. (Oct.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
A veteran sports commentator shares the hard-nosed, insider machinations of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. A Chicago-based columnist and analyst for Fox Soccer Channel, Trecker got his first taste of World Cup fever at the 2002 games co-hosted (for the first time) by political rivals South Korea and Japan, in which the United States surprisingly progressed to the quarterfinals. Four years later, the author found himself in the commerce-driven German city of Leipzig, witnessing a rather lackluster team-placement ceremony at the start of a commissioned four-week tour of Germany for the 2006 World Cup. Finely balancing his personal experiences with comprehensive historical detail, and a generous supply of factoid footnotes, Trecker begins with the basics, explaining that the games are the end result of four years of carefully tracked worldwide competitions wherein 210 nations vie for 32 coveted placement slots. He ponders the controversial host-city selection process and profiles such better known team managers as suave, seasoned veteran "Bora" Milutinovic from Serbia and Wayne Rooney, pride of the Manchester team and polar opposite of "remote tabloid figure" David Beckham. A guaranteed cash cow, the World Cup event was positioned by Germany as "the biggest sales event the planet had ever seen," even as that country continued to struggle with spiking unemployment rates and the residual shock of Eastern bloc unification. Trecker traveled to Hamburg, the United States's home-base city; Munich, where he unexpectedly was housed in the gay district surrounded by Asian-staffed brothels and adult novelty shops peddling "World Cup-branded sex toys"; and onward to a spontaneous pub crawl in Frankfurt withthe ever-thirsty English fans. Two weeks into the tournament, however, the author fell seriously ill, delaying his coverage (and the publication of this book). He recovered in time to witness the championship game, in which a game-altering headbutt would send 350-million spectators into a historic frenzy. A devoted and comprehensive tour guide, Trecker delivers the goods with gusto. Agent: Matt McGowan/Frances Goldin Literary Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780156030984
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/1/2007
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 815,984
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Lead soccer columnist for Fox Sports and an analyst for Fox Soccer Channel, JAMIE TRECKER is a contributor to the New York Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as well as the Guardian , the Observer , the Telegraph , and Loaded magazine. He lives in Chicago.

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Read an Excerpt


WINTER IN GERMANY
 
While junkets like the draw seem exciting to fans and outsiders—You’re going to Germany! How thrilling!—the truth is that this part of the World Cup, however important for the teams and the competition, basically entails sitting in a modified hall with a bunch of tables and computer hookups, staring at a large TV screen. In Leipzig, the draw was held like a trade show at a new convention center, essentially a long glass aircraft hangar, full of dour, chain-smoking Europeans desperate to return to the hallway for another cigarette. The center’s entrance was decorated with a steel rose by a Berlin artist. Viewed dead on, the sculpture looked like a thin, flaccid penis atop a set of glass balls—not the best omen. As the drizzle came on and the temperature dropped, the setting seemed increasingly depressing.
 
           In times past, the draw had been a bit more convivial—a great time to meet colleagues, trade war stories, discuss the finer points of padding one’s expense account, and, above all, get five interrupted minutes with a coach or VIP that went beyond your standard, stage-managed interview session. However, this draw set a new low in entertainment value. While the German journalists seemed quite well taken care of, especially in the drinks-and-smokes department, by and large the rest of the Fourth Estate was seen as a necessary nuisance. The VIPs and their hangers-on snuggled and chatted in an entirely different building, carefully segregated from any journalists who might ask an unscripted question. FIFA did present some of the bigwigs for Q&A sessions . . . with the caveat that journalists couldn’t ask anything. Instead, FIFA “media officers” would pose three questions to the VIPs, and the crowd would have the joy of dutifully recording their responses. Some of these “questions” bordered on the absurd, and others were declarative statements that wouldn’t have been out of place in Pyongyang.
 
           All this control freakishness was finally undermined by the bizarre events at the draw ceremony itself. While the world waited for the crucial groupings, we watched magician Hans Klok. This blond, white-shirted Aryan did a routine with the aid of several gamines.* The one clad in a bikini top and tights (who, along with “The Bod,” did not pass muster with Iranian TV censors) didn’t raise eyebrows among the jaded press corps. No, it was the one clad in full-on bondage gear and wielding a riding crop, who stuffed Klok into a steel box, that provoked nervous laughter. I’m still not sure if this send-up of the Nazi S&M stereotype was an example of Dutch humor or a case of slumbering organizers, but most watching in Leipzig sat stunned through the rest of the program. (The English tourist bureau, recognizing that such stereotypes are common, released an unintentionally funny guide for English fans* that pleaded with them not to sing some of the more inflammatory terrace tunes . . . such as the evergreen “Ten German Bombers.”)
 
 
 By now you may well be asking, What is this “draw” thing, anyway? In a nutshell, the draw is a big ceremony where the nations that have qualified for the tournament learn their group seedings. It’s the beginning of the World Cup finals, and the end of the qualification phase. The fact is, the World Cup is not a one-off event, but the end point of a four-year continuum.
 
           Once a World Cup host is selected—usually six years before the Cup in question, to give the hosts time to prepare and to observe a tournament—a marathon starts. The qualification process, 210† nations chasing thirty-two slots for the next World Cup, begins almost as soon as the last one ends. For two years, nations play one another in a variety of competitions, because each region chooses its own qualifying format and schedule.
 
           As a result, the qualifying process varies dramatically—CONMEBOL (Confederación Sudaméricana de Fútbol, or the South American Football Association) has been criticized for what is seen as a punishingly long qualification process. The smaller nations, the Mauritiuses, Vanuatus, et al., of the globe, start immediately in round-robin or knockout play to winnow the field, while CONCACAF (the Confederation of North, Central American, and Caribbean Association Football) has often used different regional competitions to decide automatic placements in its later qualification rounds. This time, it added an extra round, meaning the teams who reached Germany had to play eighteen games—as many as the oft-criticized CONMEBOL.
 
           Each region is allocated a certain number of slots as well, adjusted after each World Cup depending on a region’s representatives’ performance in the tournament. CONCACAF sent four nations to the 2006 edition—Mexico, the USA, Costa Rica, and Trinidad and Tobago. Strong UEFA (Union of European Football Associations), on the other hand, sent fourteen teams.
 
           Because of the tournament’s size, the World Cup is broken into two stages. First is the group stage, where the thirty-two teams are placed into eight groups of four. Between the first and third weeks of June, these teams play each of their groupmates once. A team earns three points for a win, one for a draw, and nothing for a loss. Realistically, a country has to win at least one and draw one of the three first-round games (for four points) to have a shot at making the next round. A knockout round follows, winnowing the field to eight, and then it’s quarters, semis, and the final. This all takes course over a thirty-day span, making the Cup a test of a team’s endurance as well as its skill, to say nothing of the stamina of the reporters and the fans.
 
           Some groups are tougher than others, making the draw quite important. In 2006 the group the USA was seeded into was one of the toughest—a “grupo del morte” in soccer parlance—with the Yanks having to face Italy, Ghana, and the Czech Republic. Reigning champions Brazil got a comparatively soft draw against Croatia, Australia, and Japan.
 
          As only the two top teams in each group progress to the knockout stages, a “good” draw is considered a favorable omen. What constitutes a good draw is debatable, however. Japan, for example, probably wasn’t pleased that it had to play regional rival Australia, world champ Brazil, and a decent European side in Croatia. In fact, that draw pretty much spelled doom for Japan right from the get-go. On the other hand, the Aussies, who are gleefully crazy, cheered—loudly, heartily, drunkenly—at news of their selection in Brazil’s group, shocking the hell out of the draw’s presenter, the leggy German model Heidi Klum. With typical down-under panache, the Australians wanted to have a go at the world’s top side, Brazil, partly because the Aussies are fearless, and partly because their kit (outfit) is based on that of the golden boys.*
 
           During the group stage, when all the minnows are still in play, the twelve host cities are filled with each team’s eager, hopeful cheering sections; the draw thus lets those fans know where to book their rooms. This might seem a throwaway point, but not nearly enough rooms are ever available for rent and those rooms rise exponentially in price as the tournament grows nearer. (Germany had to crack down quite a bit on reported price gouging several months before the Cup started, but in the end, the market was said to be fair. Now, Japan for the 2002 World Cup—that was another story.) This alone makes the draw the unofficial financial beginning of the World Cup finals.
 
           And as the Germans were intent on making this Cup the biggest sales event the planet had ever seen, with Germany itself the biggest and most expensive item on display, the choice of Leipzig to stage their first major public event as the Cup’s hosts was hardly coincidental.
 
           For some seven hundred years this unassuming Saxon city, best known to the outside world as the home of both Bach and Wagner, has been a center of world commerce, holding a twice-yearly showcase for commercial goods. This fair has run uninterrupted by famine, flood, or war since the Middle Ages. It was the world’s biggest commercial sales event in the 1930s, and the city managed it with the help of what was, at that time, the planet’s largest railway station.*
 
           Arguably, without Leipzig, neither the World Cup nor the American companies that underwrite it would enjoy their present prominence, for American brands such as Gillette, Coca-Cola, and GM (all major soccer sponsors) honed their mass-marketing campaigns, and succeeded in cracking what had been a closed market, via the Leipzig fairs of the 1930s. With the money these American multinationals made in Leipzig, they built plants across the continent to serve a new group of consumers and lay the foundations of what would become a global marketing empire. Without Leipzig, which blossomed as a world-caliber market between the Weimar Republic and the Nazi regime, American companies would probably not have been secure enough in Europe to withstand the disruptions of World War II. For soccer, this American success proved to be fortuitous. Beginning in the postwar years, American companies, inspired by the phenomenal recovery the European economy experienced, embarked on an ambitious program to expand their market share across Europe and introduce American-style brand recognition. What better medium than the world’s most popular sport? Since the late 1970s, American companies have been the main underwriters of the global soccer game, with Budweiser, Coca-Cola, MasterCard (and even Marlboro cigarettes!) providing the dollars to stage increasingly lavish productions. Though it’s a safe bet that 99 percent of Bud drinkers in America wouldn’t miss the sport if it disappeared overnight, Budweiser wouldn’t be a global brand.

Copyright © 2007 by Jamie Trecker
 
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
 
Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at www.harcourt.com/contact or mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

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Table of Contents

CONTENTS
                Introduction: Love and Blood           1
1             Winter in Germany               21
2             Why Are We Here?             31
3             It’s All Going Off 67
4             Rooney Agonistes              95
5             The Big Money    116
                Interlude: When Soccer Was Important            145
6             Ill Health, Heroes, and Heartbreak    157 
7             Down and Dirty    179
8             The Short-Timers and the “Real” Cup              195
9             The City of Ghosts              216
10            The Aftermath      232 
                Acknowledgments    242
                selected bibliography             245
                Appendix           248
                Index   253

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 21, 2010

    You! Know!

    If there is one book that should be required reading for the new American fan to the world's game it's this one. Jamie Trecker gives us not only a view of the World Cup from a reporters perspective but a lesson in the tactics of the game.Several lessons are learned by the reader along the way, such as why the American fan can feel free to call the game soccer, why and how the WC to the surprise of many American's is The World Event, and what "Total Football" means and what is the "offside trap". It's a tall order to cover so much ground but he does it well and in a relatively short time.He uses his assignment to cover the World Cup as a reason to give the American fan, who he well knows is mostly a late comer to the world's game, an overview or an introduction of what is an obsession for most of the globe. Having been a fan of the English League and the USA team over the years, I will now appreciate greatly what countries like Mexico, Argentina, and Australia are doing with their national teams and leagues from Trecker's insights into those nations and their players. Once or twice, the breakaways from the main flow of the Cup coverage to cover a related topic were an annoyance, but this is a minor flaw.Trecker explains Wayne Rooney to the American audience in terms that most Americans can readily understand and makes his impact on the English game understandable to some Yanks (myself included) who just were not able to understand Rooney's impact.This work is a throwback to the days when America was not a major part of the world. In the soccer/football world the Americans are at a pre-WW2 stage. We are not a major player. The field is dominated by Europe and South America and the Yanks are still eager newcomers with a lot to learn to be on top. Trecker tries to explain to the average American what this all means in our own terms and accomplishes the goal when necessary.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2008

    A reviewer

    Loved this book and higly reccomend it with one reservation. Could have doen without the chapter on the NASL. If you're interested in the now defunct North Americal Soccer League I would reccomend 'Once In A Lifetime'. Other than that one hick-up I read this book in a day and a half and found myself laughing out loud at time.

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