Sunday, December 3, 2017

World Cup Draw: Germany, Brazil the Favorites

So Iceland is in and the United States is not.  But then neither are the Netherlands, Chile or - to the greater shock of its citizens - Italy.  And now Iceland and the 31 other countries competing in the 2018 World Cup in Russia know who their opponents will be.

The New York Times provided live analysis of the draw from the Kremlin Friday and the day before a team-by-team analysis.

So with no U.S. in the Cup this year, my favorite is of course Germany, which is also the favorite of many bookies - along with Brazil.  Deutschland is in Group F with Mexico, Sweden and South Korea.

The first game is June 14, Russia vs. Saudi Arabia, 11 a.m. Eastern Time.  Germany begins June 17 at 11 a.m. against Mexico.  The final is Sunday, July 15 at 11 a.m.  I hope to be back at the German Society of Pennsylvania watching the finals as we did last World Cup.  Check out the schedule and other World Cup info at the FIFA World Cup site.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Coach P is Running Again (Not For Office)

Six and a half months after my pacemaker surgery it was good to go to the starting line of a race today at the 11th Annual Haddon Township Turkey Trot.  Debbie and I have been a proud sponsor of the race for at least six years after she ran into race director John Foley at a nail salon one stormy day back in 2011.

This year I planned to train more and build up to running the full 5K without walking, improving on my 2016 time of 37:28.  (Keep in mind that back in the day my PR was 21+ and I would warm up for a 5K by running 5K.)  I was building up on mileage on the treadmill, until one day my heart stopped for about 5 seconds and I was diagnosed with a bradycardia (slow heartbeat). 

Next thing I know I was flat on my back at Virtua Hospital feeling great but with a temporary pacemaker that prevented me from moving for two days until the surgeon was available to do the procedure.  The cardiologist recommended not running for six weeks, which I stretched to seven, but I kept walking during that time.  Very gradually I began running a bit with the walking.

I did not run a full mile until this past Wednesday.  At my age (71) six months without training requires about six years to get back to baseline.  So I wasn't sure what to expect when I went to the starting line today.  Fortunately the weather was ideal - low 40s, manageable humidity, no wind.

I hit the first mile in 11:07, walked/ran the rest of the way and finished in 40:17 - not great but I'll take it.  During my first New York Marathon in 1980 I remember crossing the 59th Street Bridge at 16 miles and hearing people say Al Salazar had won.  Today, sort of like that on a much smaller scale, I was thinking early in the second mile that the winner had most likely crossed the line (he had) and at 20 minutes - when I still had half the course to go, I expected my son Scott had finished.  He had - after being uncertain whether he could break 20 minutes, he came in at 19:33, good for first in his age group and 24th overall.

After the race we posed for our traditional picture in front of the Pour House sign.

Friday, November 24, 2017

The End Of a Soccer Mom's Career

Good story in today's Philadelphia Inquirer by Noel Dolan of suburban Philadelphia about the end of the line for a soccer mom.  Seems her son was a goalkeeper for a local high school whose season ended with a loss in post-season play last week.  No more sitting at games in all weather, washing uniforms, driving to practices, working the snack bar and all the other things soccer moms and dads do.

While being a soccer mom (or dad) for a high school team is different than for a club team with its travel and year-around play, the ideas about which Dolan writes are the same.  But the piece is about more than supporting your kids' activities be they soccer, ballet, ice hockey or whatever.  It's about kids growing up - her son is off to college next fall, she wrote - and parents aging.  She quotes from "Landslide" by Stevie Nicks: "even children get older, and I’m getting older too."  As one who has watched countless my kids in countless rec league, travel team and high school games and is now a soccer granddad, I can identify.  

As much as I enjoyed the story, I take issue with Dolan's statement, "I must confess, I was not a very good soccer mom, at least not in the stereotypical imagining" because she did not have a team decal on her car or wear a team shirt.  But she goes on to say, "I was there for my son, to support him in a sport that he enjoyed and in which he found meaning and friendship. That is what moms do, soccer moms, football moms, ballet moms, field hockey moms, the dads too, you name it. Show up and offer support, win or lose."

Sounds like she was the best soccer mom to me.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A "National Shame": Italy Fails to Qualify For World Cup

By virtue of a scoreless draw with Sweden Monday, Italy failed to qualify for the world Cup for the first time since the Eisenhower administration.  Jason Horowitz described it in a well-written piece in today's New York Times:

"ROME — Many tragedies have befallen Italy in the last 60 years. Dozens of governments have collapsed. Earthquakes and terrorism have shaken cities. The French started adding cream to carbonara.

But the failure of the national soccer team on Monday night to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958 seems to be taking a place in the pantheon of Italian disasters."

And speaking of soccer disasters, Iceland is in and we're not!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Progress: First Woman Referee In The Bundesliga

Saturday's New York Times carried the story of Bibiana Steinhaus, the first woman to referee in the German Bundesliga.   Good for her and good for the sport.  No reason a woman who is qualified cannot officiate in the Bundesliga or any other top league.  Are you listening MLS?

Steinhaus seems pretty cool - serious about the job, worked hard to get where she is but still a bit in awe.  “This is the freaking Bundesliga! This is cool!" she is quoted as saying.

Maybe in the not too distant future having a woman working top games in any sport will no longer be news.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Focus Football" last Chance For 11 year olds

Recent story in New York Times about the so-called "academy" youth programs of British Premier League clubs and Focus Football, founded to help those youngsters who were released from the academies.

Parents pay Focus $100  a month for two training sessions and one game a week in the hopes their son will get back to an EPL Academy.  But the odds are overwhelmingly against it.

The Times article quotes author Michael Calvin, who wrote a book about the academy economy as saying only 180 of the 1.5 million boys who play organized youth soccer in England at any one time will ever play in the Premier League.

“You are like a piece of meat really,” one Focus parent said of her son’s dismissal by a Premier League academy. “They need you until they don’t.”

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

SJ Coaches Cup: A Matter of Inches

HADDONFIELD, NJ --  If the goalposts were 24 feet6 inches wide instead of just 24, or if the crossbar was 8 feet three inches above the ground instead of just 8, the result of last Saturday's opening round game between Haddonfield and Moorestown  in the South Jersey Soccer Coaches Association girls tournament might have been different.

Whoever said football is a game of inches referred to the gridiron version popular in the United States.  Turns out it's true in the football more popular in the rest of the world.

Haddonfield was nursing a 1-0 lead in the 47th minute when Moorestown was awarded a penalty kick.  The Bulldogs dodged a bullet there when the shot hit the crossbar and was cleared.  Two minutes later Moorestown shot one off the crossbar, hit the rebound into the left post and then shot that rebound barely wide right.

"I can't buy a goal," wailed Moorestown coach Bill Mulvihill.  "If they were selling goals they wouldn't take my credit card.

His lament proved to be true again, after Haddonfield had gone up, 2-0, when a Moorestown shot hit under the crossbar, bounced down and out.

The game ended up 2-0 and Haddonfield went through to the quarterfinals where they downed Oakcrest, 4-1, three days later to advance to the semifinals Wednesday night against Washington Township.

The boys were equally as successful with a 1-0 golden goal victory over Williamstown to advance to the semis against Rancocas Valley.