ten words or less #97

Landon Donovan's Final USMNT Match

With tomorrow being the final chapter in Landon Donovan’s US national team book — at least from a playing perspective — many in the sphere of American soccer are busy peddling homages to the man’s career. I’m certainly guilty of it too, though I wrote mine back in August. I had contemplated making this latest edition of TWOL my ten favorite odes to LD, but honestly it just felt like people making the same points over and over. So I scrapped that concept, however I did still manage to include my favorite of the bunch in link #1 below. Nestled below that? A smattering of some of the other excellent reads I’ve come across in the last week and a half.

Enjoy the links, enjoy Landycake’s last ever match in national team colors, and prepare yourself for a full run down on the #NewCrew event in Columbus last night in the next day or so.

Landon Donovan’s biggest obstacle to greatness? His brain. – soccergods.com

These guys built a Pool-Ball table, and I’m super jealous. – facebook.com

Why the USL PRO-MLS partnership is already producing dividends. – mlssoccer.com

Well that’s going to be awkward for United. – telegraph.co.uk

Four MASL clubs decided they’ll play by their own rules. – syracuse.com

The big chance for Indian football. – inbedwithmaradona.com

A cool visualization of the most recent MLS Salary release. – stathunter.com

Hurdles/politics have forced Sacramento to rethink their MLS approach. – empireofsoccer.net

The FA’s poorly thought out revisions for foreign work permits. – weaintgotnohistory.com

Reason #479 why Real Salt Lake are good. – sltrib.com

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pic of the week 3/10-3/16

Image

Japan's official 2014 World Cup Mascot... Pikachu

With World Cup 2014 fast approaching, participating teams around the world are making their final preparations for the big dance in Brazil. Finalizing travel plans, plotting training sessions, and most imporatntly figuring out their final roster spots. And national associations forging last-minute marketing partnerships — a.k.a. raking in investment funds — aren’t to be forgotten either. And this week’s “Pic of the Week” is a perfect example of that… albeit a strange one.

Japan’s national association, the JFA, struck a deal last week to have the world-famous video game/cartoon character Pikachu be the official mascot of their national sides. Yes, Japan’s official mascot comes to us from a Japanamation cartoon provider in the Pokémon Company. I’m sure the deal will prove invaluable for the JFA and their players, not to mention to Pokémon… even if it does reinforce an already prevalent ethnic stereotype.

a case FOR qatar

Whether you want to believe me or not, I’ve really made an effort to avoid beating a dead horse when it comes to World Cup 2022 in Qatar. Finding opponents of the decision to award the small Arab emirate with the world’s most popular sporting event has never been difficult, and miles of column space has already been devoted to denouncing it. Calls for the Qataris to be stripped of the tournament have been circulating pretty much since the day they were awarded it. So really, it just would have been overkill for me to allocate even more space to either subject.

Qatar Slave Labor Conditions

the slave like labor conditions in qatari construction project should be something that FIFA requires host countries to abolish.

And though it seemed for a moment that Qatar could lose the 2022 World Cup as pressure has mounted on FIFA, yesterday’s announcement that UEFA’s 54 member countries have backed a winter World Cup in Qatar seems to have stopped that momentum dead in its tracks. (A quick aside: the headline that “UEFA Support a Winter Qatar World Cup” was extremely misleading. UEFA’s members aren’t exactly endorsing that solution, but rather are uniting against a summer World Cup in Qatar. Very different)

But outside of the Qatari FA and the usual statements of support from Blatter and FIFA, finding supporters of a Qatar 2022 has been about as easy as finding Republican supporters of Obamacare.

That said, the overwhelming opposition to hosting the World Cup in the Qatar’s oppressive summer heat does seem a little statistically skewed. There has to be more supporters out there than we’re hearing from, and I’d wager that many of them have excellent arguments.

But believe it or not, there are actually a number of reasons why hosting the World Cup in Qatar is a good idea. And ironically, many of those reasons are the same ones that people are using to object to hosting it there.

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wake up call

Much in the world of football is cyclical. Each leagues’ yearly seasons are the easiest examples of this. But larger scale tournaments happen over longer, repeating periods: World Cups, European Championships and Asian Cups all take place in four-year cycles, while the rest of the world’s confederations operate on two-year ones — well, most of the time anyway. Many leagues have eras of supremacy within them, with one club hoisting themselves to the fore for a few years, succeed that dominance to another club for a period, and then regain it again down the road.

Doha Qatar Stadium Complex

will club football’s greatest event soon find a home in the middle east?

Even rumors within the sport are full of repetitive eras. Transfer rumors seem to rise exponentially in the months leading up to a transfer window, then quickly die off after, only to arise again a few months later. We accept these as normal aspects of the game, the ebb and flow nature giving us a yearly rhythm to follow and look forward to.

But there are some recurring, cyclical aspects of soccer that pop up from time to time that actually disrupt that rhythm. This despite the fact that we’ve seen it pop up time and time again.

One example of these recurring disruptions is the long-mooted “super league”. A specter that’s long haunted the UEFA and FIFA, each variation of the rumor has its own unique twist. This time it’s going to replace the Champions League, or this incarnation will include teams from all over the world. Regardless of its shape or form, it’s nothing that the suits in Nyon or Zürich have any interest in seeing come to fruition… and thus we see this cyclical rumor’s disruptive nature. But each time the idea gains some steam, it’s ultimately brushed off.

However, when Oliver Kay of the Times — one of the most respected writers in the English media — devoted an entire piece to the latest incarnation the rumor last week, everyone curiously sat up and took notice. That likely had something to do with the supposed backers being from the same group that’s already shaking things up in Europe: the Qataris. You know them. They’re the same ones that are funding the extravagant, bank-busting project at Paris Saint-Germain. And they’re also the same guys throwing so much money at Barcelona that the Catalunyans finally caved in to pasting a for-profit company’s name on the front of their shirts. And with all signs pointing to the tiny Persian Gulf nation having actually bribed their way to landing the World Cup 2022, their pedigree for being able to buy change in the sport is both well documented and proven.

So it’s really little wonder that when Kay dared to publish the words “Qatar” and “Dream Football League” in one headline, the rumor we’ve heard a thousand times before suddenly became a little more credulous.

Qatar's Dream Football League

though the DFL rumors might not be true this time around, that doesn’t mean that they never will be.

As the article outlined, sixteen permanent clubs would be lured to compete every other summer in Qatar’s searing heat by a $270 million bounty, with eight additional invitees each tournament.  Chelsea received $60 million for winning the Champions League last season, so a guarantee of over three times that amount just for participating would be something that Europe and South America’s elite would have a hard time saying no to.

Now if you’ve followed the story at all, you’re likely aware that a satirical French football site quickly debunked the rumor, claiming Kay had based his piece on a hoax they had run earlier in the week. And though Kay initially refuted the Cashiers du Football rebuttal on Twitter, by Monday he and the Times had fully retracted the piece saying they had been well and fully duped.

So even though the rumors proved untrue once again — at least for the time being — just as they had every time before, that doesn’t mean that FIFA and UEFA should remain idle on the threat of a Dream League. Let’s imagine for a second the proposition was true. The effects on world football would be both numerous and far-reaching: 

  • Top clubs these days subject their players to upwards of 60-70 matches a season. And with most of those players also being drafted in for national team matches, that number could soar to 80-90. Asking players to spend a month of their summers, the time normally used for recuperation to play additional games in the conditions in Qatar seems borderline suicidal. 
  • Fixture congestion is already an issue between the club and international calendars, but adding this tournament into the mix would certainly make the task significantly harder.
  • With the money being offered at clubs’ disposal, the already gargantuan gap between the haves and the have-nots would be certain to grow even larger. Right now, there are only a handful of clubs in the world that can offer $300k/week wages. But all of the teams taking part in the dream team could offer that up. This would likely result in most of the top talent around the world being siphoned off to a limited set of clubs.
  • Considering one summer’s participation would see most clubs pull in revenues that it would normally take several years to produce, you could easily see a number of the top clubs mailing it in their domestic leagues/competitions. Equally so, the Champions and Europa Leagues would surely suffer as teams no longer find their “paltry” prize money worth the efforts.
  • And if this Dream Football League does ever see the light of day, I’m pretty sure it will also lead to us seeing “human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!”

So while the problems outlined above are all very serious, the one I didn’t name is likely the most concerning of them all: me and you.

Yes, it’s our never-satisfied thirst for more top-level football that makes this threat something the powers that be should be paying attention to. The demand from fans to take in this type of event would likely be staggering. Nearly everyone I’ve talked to about the potential league was excited by it. The TV rights alone would surely fetch ridiculous sums, not to mention ticket prices. And with the potential revenues like that dangling out there, the incentive to actually turn this from a cyclical rumor in to a cyclical reality becomes that much harder to ignore.

just because the qataris have said they’re not planning the DFL now, doesn’t mean that they won’t be buying their way to another tournament in the future.

And for the first time, the money to back such an endeavor could be there too. Coupled with the demand from the fans, that might be enough to actually pull things together, whether the Qataris are ready to admit it or not. If there’s money there to be made, someone will eventually attempt to capitalize on it.

So what should FIFA and UEFA do to respond to this threat? For organizations prone to sitting on their laurels, the bigger issue might be getting them to act in the first place. But a rethinking and retooling of both organizations’ marquee club events seems the easiest place to start. The Champions League has become a bloated affair that could see some of its fat trimmed, while the FIFA Club World Cup could sorely used a complete overhaul (see: more teams). Including the clubs in the revamping processes seems a no brainer, but of course, we’re talking about organizations that are known for their incompetence. After all, keeping the clubs appeased is the most simple way to ward off the threat of a breakaway league.

Look, Kay and the Times got it wrong this time. But it won’t be long until this rumor has cycled its way back around to us again, and next time, there may be more truth in it. And whether Platini, Sepp and company are willing to proactively prepare for that inevitable reality, well that may make all the difference. Otherwise, brace yourselves… we’re in for a turbulent ride.

awakening of the sleeping giants

Between them, India and China house a staggering 36% of the world’s population. They’re the only two countries in the world with over a billion people living within their borders, with the next closest country boasting only a “paltry” 312 million (Hooray, 3rd place U.S.A.).

there has to be a world class chinese footballer somewhere in that crowd.

The general consensus amongst the “experts” is that the two Asian countries are both budding superpowers on the world stage, and will play major roles in global politics and business alike in the coming decades. Considering the might in manpower and brainpower that their massive populations provide, I’m frankly a little amazed they haven’t taken over the world yet… though if you visit any American outlet mall, you could be forgiven if you think they already have.

Anyway, one would expect that this same power in numbers would also be of huge benefit for them when it comes to footballing dominance too. If nothing else, India and China would have significantly larger pools of players from which to choose. With governments that have been supportive of athletic excellence in other sports, one would also expect them to have vast resources being poured into a game that is so important globally.

Fortunately for the rest of the world, none of that’s been the case.

As is well known, both the Chinese and Indians are minnows when it comes to the beautiful game. India’s current FIFA World Ranking of 138 is the more horrific of the two, while China languish in a slightly less anemic 74th.

But to truly appreciate just how bad India and China’s ranking plight is, it’s best to compare their populations and rankings with those of other countries around the world.

Country FIFA Ranking Points Population Pop. Rank Points per Capita Rankings Ratio
Spain 1 1564 46,196,278 28 0.00003386 0.036
Netherlands 2 1365 16,727,255 61 0.00008160 0.033
Germany 3 1345 81,768,000 15 0.00001645 0.200
Uruguay 4 1309 3,203,792 135 0.00040858 0.030
England 5 1173 51,446,000 23 0.00002280 0.217
Brazil 6 1143 192,376,496 5 0.00000594 1.200
Portugal 7 1100 10,561,614 80 0.00010415 0.088
Croatia 8 1091 4,290,612 124 0.00025428 0.065
Italy 9 1082 60,757,278 22 0.00001781 0.409
Argentina 10 1067 40,117,096 31 0.00002660 0.323
China PR 74 455 1,339,724,852 1 0.00000034 74.000
India 158 138 1,210,193,422 2 0.00000011 79.000

Take a closer look at those last two columns, Points per Capita (PPC) and Rankings Ratio (RR). Re-ranking each of FIFA’s 208 member associations on RR — a comparison of football and population rankings — they finish 207 and 208 respectively, also known as dead last. The only reason they’re spared the embarrassment of finishing on the bottom of the PPC rankings too — which compares the average number of points earned for each person in the country — is because none of Montserrat, San Marino nor Andorra have been able to earn any points yet.

India's Baichung Bhutia

unless you're a fan of bury, i doubt you've ever heard of india's most famous footballing son: baichung bhutia.

Suffice to say, the two Asian superpowers are punching well below their weight class.

Both countries have demonstrated an insatiable appetite for top class football, as is evident by their growing demand for European leagues on their televisions and pirated streams originating from their internets. So you know that their poor international showings aren’t to be blamed on a lack of interest in the sport. Unsurprisingly, at the heart of their troubles are the horrible domestic set-ups within each country.

The Chinese Super League has only been around since 2004, and in its short lifespan it has earned a worldwide reputation for corruption and violence. India’s poor footballing output is the result of it being looked over by investors and the public due to the popularity of cricket in the country. Both countries lack proper infrastructure when it comes to developing players. There’s also a severe shortage of proper pitches in both China and India: hardly surprising when space is at such a premium due to population constraints

However, recent news has suggested that football may finally be on the up and up in both China and India.

The Chinese Super League, fresh off a lengthy “clean-up” process to rid the game of match-fixing, recently announced its most prominent signing ever. Intended to be the CSL’s “Beckham signing”, capital club Shanghai Shenhua were able to lasso in former Chelsea, Bolton, Liverpool, PSG, Real Madrid, Fenerbahçe and Arsenal striker Nicolas Anelka. Though probably past his peak, the Frenchman would still be a valuable commodity for a number of high profile team’s around the world. Word is, former Blues teammate Didier Drogba could also be following him to China in the summer.

India, meanwhile, have announced the formation of a new professional league that will feature at least seven formerly high-profile players from around the world’s game. Robert Pirès, Fabio Cannavaro, Fernando Morientes, Robbie Fowler, Hernán Crespo, Maniche and Jay-Jay Okocha have all been recruited with a pile of cash at least $600,000 tall to play in a seven week long season. The model for the new league looks to build on the success of the MLS and cricket’s Indian Premier League models to kick start Indian football’s progress.

Yet despite these massive signs of progress, I can’t help but shake the feeling that both of countries’ moves to advance their footballing statures are deeply flawed… but for very different reasons.

shanghai shenhua's nicolas anelka

i'm skeptical that anelka will stick around chinese football long enough to make an impact.

While signing a player of Anelka’s quality definitely shows ambition, the CSL and Shenhua sure picked an odd basket to throw the all of their eggs into. For the low cost of just £175,000 a week, Shenhua have bought themselves a player whose personality is so warm and marketable that he’s earned the nickname Le Sulk.

Remember though that the Chinese Super League isn’t like MLS, where the gulf in quality between that and the Premier League isn’t too massive. The Chinese league’s talent level is an order of magnitude lower. And due to Anelka’s moody disposition and tendency to look disenchanted on the pitch, I worry that he’ll either implode the squad or simply quit when he inevitably becomes frustrated with the lack of quality in his teammates.

More concerning though — regardless of whether or not Anelka’s stay is long/short/successful/unsuccessful — is the lack of public announcement about equal investment in the league’s young domestic Chinese players. If that’s not happening, no matter how much attention the Frenchman draws to the league, it will all be a waste.

India’s new league announcement, however, did contain some hope for youth development. When announced by the Indian FA, the new league was identified as a sort joint-venture between them and Celebrity Management Group (CMG). The partnership promised to not only bring in famous “world class” players to help fill seats, but also brought a requirement of each team containing at least six under-21 Indian players in each squad. So if nothing else, you at least know that this league is planning beyond the 30-something “stars” that have agreed to buoy the league in its infancy.
But a few potential problems immediately spring to mind with the Indian model.
howrah's robert pires

here's hoping that an aging pires doesn't have any problems with his old man legs in india... too much is riding on them.

First, with a fourth of each team’s $2.5 million salary cap likely going to be eaten up one of their “marquee” players, what happens if that star player picks up an injury that keeps them out for a while? That seems highly likely when the average age of these players is 36. Will they be able to fill the stands — something the current league struggles with outside of Bengal — without a big name in the starting XI? 
Secondly, how will the creation of these brand new franchises affect the current I-League clubs? One would imagine that all of the u21 Indian players required of each new team are currently playing in that league. Do the new clubs have to pay the existing ones for those players? And will the I-League continue to run during the new league’s off season, providing the players with the amount of training needed to develop outside of a paltry 7-week season for the new set up? And what of the rivalries and history between the existing clubs… is that all just being trashed to push the new league to the forefront? If so, it would be a blow to big matches, such as the Kolkata derby between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, which drew 90,000+ last season.
And lastly, I’m highly skeptical of the entire set up being a joint venture with a celebrity booking agency. Not only does that stink of exploitation, but the partnership is also a thirty year deal. Think about that for a second: thirty years ago there wasn’t an English Premier League, there were only 24 teams in the World Cup, and goalkeepers could pick up back passes. A lot can happen in 30 years, and I’m hoping that the Indian FA had enough foresight to not give away the farm without extra precautions.

Unfortunately for all of my skepticism, nobody really knows how these India and China’s latest moves in the world of football will work out. It could all come crashing down, or it could all work out and we’ll be talking in 20 years about how we wish these moves hadn’t happened… we’ll look back and classify these events as the “awakenings of the sleeping dragons” or some other overused Asian idioms.

But if that time comes and neither China nor India’s massive populations have produced one world class player, we can use this posting as a massive “I told you so.”

ten words or less #45

tim lieweke, david beckham and bruce arena

you have to wonder if beckham knew about the galaxy's new kits before he agreed to come back to MLS.

I don’t know about any other bloggers, but sometimes I go through spells where I feel like I have absolutely nothing to write about, which are then followed by very brief periods where I feel like I have a million things I need to share. Right now, I’m in the middle of one of the busy bits. I’ve got at least four separate pieces I’m working on at the moment, so if nothing else, you’ve got some original content coming shortly…. Hooray, right?!

Additionally, I feel like I’m going to wet myself in anticipation of Tottenham’s clash with Manchester City this Sunday. The thrashing the Citizens gave Spurs back in August seems like eons ago. And even though the city-loaned Adebayor won’t be allowed to play, the Citizens are lacking key players (thanks to the Africa Cup of Nations) and aren’t in the best form. If Spurs win, they cement themselves as title contenders. If they lose, well, they’re just being Tottenham. Lot’s riding on this game, hence my bladder-exploding excitement.

In the meantime, enjoy these recent works by other people:

Maybe Spurs shouldn’t be buying a new centerback this window. – eplindex.com

I need a game like this to come to Android. – kckrs.com

No matter what your team nickname is, these aren’t acceptable. – football-shirts.co.uk

Appreciating the defensive midfielder. Best article of this young year. – inbedwithmaradona.com

Finally: the Open Cup will be a proper cup competition. – theoriginalwinger.com

Wherever Tévez goes, drama is sure to follow. – thespoiler.co.uk

The quaint nature of Non-League football is sometimes overwhelming. – pitchinvasion

If Adidas make these in white, I might ditch Nike. – soccerbible.com

A “How to look like Leon Best” instructional video… sorta. – youtube.com

You’ve never heard of the world’s most prolific, active goalscorer. – thescore.com

isolated occurrences of football

Sometimes working on new posts can be a difficult process. Selecting a subject to post about is difficult enough, but a million other thoughts run through my mind too. Do I need to be writing about what everyone else is writing about? I really should quit only writing about Tottenham. Will anyone actually care about this subject? So keeping on topic is often an infinitely harder task than one might assume. Soccer is splintered into so many different subcategories (clubs, countries, leagues, tactics, gear, etc.) that I often find myself starting a posting on a particular topic, and then finishing on another related topic. The Wikipedia-effect, if you will.

lonely soccer player

while this little guy seems lonely, the players on the following pitches might be a bit worse off.

For example, I’ve been working on a piece entitled just around the corner (which you can now find here) for about three weeks now. The post was born out of a thread I saw on r/soccer, discussing the close proximity of some rival grounds around the world. It seemed like an interesting topic that would make for a readable post. However, I didn’t want to be a complete mooch and hijack the thread content, so I thought it better to unearth some examples of my own. But in that research, I started stumbling across stadiums that weren’t just several meters apart, but instead were several thousands of kilometers away from their nearest neighboring pitch.

(Oddly enough, this research also spawned a post that made an earlier appearance on the blog this summer, the sort-of internationals. I wasn’t lying when I said it’s tough for me to keep on task.)

And since I got steered off course and find this more interesting now, you get to hear about the lonely football stadiums first. Don’t worry: you’ll get those “too close for comfort” pitches in a future post. I’m sure you’re giddy with excitement.

To start this off, let me be clear in saying this is not a definitive list. I’m sure there will be some forlorn field somewhere in the middle of nowhere that my simple internet searching couldn’t unearth. While a majority of the pitches on this list will predictably come from island nations, there are a few mainland gems to consider too… and as difficult as it is to find island stadiums, there’s absolutely no way I could find all of the isolated continental ones too. So forgive me if I left off your favorite marooned ground off the list.

ummm, where are those 2000 seats? no wonder nobody wants to come to play saint helena.

Francis Plain, Saint Helena Island
Found on the most isolated inhabited island in the world, the school-side 2,000 seat stadium is also the solitary pitch on the island. Trust me, I scoured the entire landmass on Google Maps looking for others. Located in the middle of the Southern Atlantic Ocean and currenlty lacking an airport, Saint Helena’s closest neighboring island is 810 miles away. While this helps to explain why the island was chosen to detain the exiled Napoleon Bonaparte, it also explains why it’s the only British Dependency to have never played an “international” match. That said, with the imminent development of an airport by the Crown, a movement has begun to establish a national team. I’m no betting man, but I’d put my money on this field becoming the home of that team — should it ever actually be formed.

a molini… moments away from being swept way by the sea?

Á Mølini, Faroe Islands
Though the Faroe Islands just won their first ever European tournament match a few weeks ago at the somewhat remote Svangaskarð Stadium — the home of B68 Toftir in a village of just 800 —  there was another Faeroe Island stadium that caught my eye for being much, much more isolated. Á Mølini, the home of EB/Streymur, is a 1000 seat stadium on the extreme Northern edge of the main island near the tiny village, Eiði. The first time I saw a picture of this pitch, I actually thought it might be floating on the ocean water. In fact it’s so remote, Google couldn’t even compute directions from the capital city. That’s probably why when EB/Streymur drew Manchester City in the Europa League a few years ago, the game had to be played away from Á Mølini… presumably because nobody knew how to get there.

mount sajama football match

this game was actually played during the summer in a tropical climate.

Nevado Sajama, Bolivia
Okay, so maybe this isn’t exactly a pitch. But the top of South America’s second tallest mountain did serve as the sight of the highest altitude football match in history. And considering that two of the planned players for the match couldn’t even make it to the 21,463 foot summit due to altitude sickness, I’d say that this is easily one of the most isolated “fields” on the planet. It’s not known who won the game, nor do I think anyone really cares. All were just glad that nobody invited the Bolivian president to this match, as he probably would have given one of the scientists/players a kick in the frozen junk.

lawson tama stadium

probably one of the most attended stadiums on the list, it

Lawson Tama Stadium, Solomon Islands
It was about time that we included a pitch from one of the far-flung island nations of the Oceania region. There are literally dozens of pitches that I could have included in this list, all of which are perfect examples of extremely remote fields. But I picked the home of the Solomon Islands National Team because of their fan’s propensity to pack the ground. Despite the fact that the “stadium” has no official capacity, quintuple-digit crowds are not unusual when either Los Bonitos or OFC Champions League matches are being hosted.

the football pitch in gspon, switzerland

though located in central europe, the stadium in gspon, switzerland is is in — or above — the boonies.

Ottmar Hitzfeld Gspon Arena, Switzerland
Though nowhere near the height of the pitch in Bolivia, the mini-pitch located in the Swiss Alps does hold the distinction as the highest elevated pitch in Europe at 6,587 feet. The town of Gspon, though only a (comparatively) short distance away from many of Switzerland’s major cities, is isolated in the fact that there aren’t any roads that leads to the village: you either have to hike up the side of the mountain, take a ski lift, or be flown in by helicopter. The stadium itself serves as the home of FC Gspon, and has also hosted the European Mountain Village championships. As recently as 2009, it wasn’t any more than a gravel pitch until it was renamed for Ottmar Hitzfeld. However, the German footballing legend had never even visited the hamlet before being flown in by helicopter for the dedication ceremony. (Want to see some more? Here are some shots from “around town”, as well as some more shots from a few matches in the “arena”.)

galolhu rasmee dhandu national stadium in the maldives

the stadium in the capital of malé can hold 10% of the national population.

Galolhu Rasmee Dhandu, Maldives
Located in the middle of the Indian Ocean — about 250 miles from the mainland — the Maldives National Team makes its home in the capital city of Malé. Considering it’s one of only two kept, grass pitches in the island chain (though there are many others spread throughout the 26 atols that comprise the nation) every single match in the island’s top Dhivehi League is played in the Rasmee Dhandu stadium. Seating just over 10 thousand spectators, it’s one of the largest buildings in a country considered the smallest in Asia.

stade d'arlit, arlit, niger

the groundsmen in arlit are clearly top notch. well, there is grass in the middle of the desert. maybe they are top notch.

Stade d’Arlit, Niger
Niger is the 22nd largest country in the world and 6th largest in Africa, yet there are only five football stadiums in the entire country. Since a majority of the land-locked country is covered in desert, most of the country’s population and stadia can be found near its (relatively) lush Southwestern borders. However, there is a small uranium mining town in North-central Niger by the name of Arlit. A large French expatriate population works at the mines, and predictably, they’re going to need their football. Therefore the town’s 7000 “seat” Stade d’Arlit is the only footballing temple within a 900-mile radius. Home of the Niger Premier League side Akonkana FC, it’s so remote that I can’t even find a picture of the damn thing, and the only picture I could find that showed any football in Arlit is this.