ten words or less #112

Suffice to say, it’s been a crazy week here in Cincinnati. The launch of a new USL franchise — which we helped to break — and the arrival of an American soccer legend — also something we told you about first — has made for a very interesting week here on the banks of the Ohio River. I’ve whisked around town for press conferences (seen above… Hi, Mom!) events and to speak on a few different media outlets, not to mention written a few articles on it all, too.

But even though I’ve been a tad busy, still wanted to share some of my favorite points of interest from around the soccer interwebz that I’ve managed to stumble across over the last two weeks. For those of you who are new to these parts — greetings! Hopefully we won’t scare you off.

Major League Soccer’s first years were… weird. – si.com

Jersey porn, graphic design porn and soccer porn in one. – espnfc.com

This is hilariously/embarrassingly bad work from the BBC. – bbc.com

Bayern are your prototypical well-engineered German machine. – sbnation.comz

Double exposure sexiness.obbie – behance.com

I feel bad for judging Jake Livermore, now. – mirror.co.uk

Adidas’ big rethink is edgy. – youtbue.com

A unique animated telling of soccer’s turbulent history. – off-foot.com

Nashville FC: a small club doing big things. – vice.com

Doctorgate at Chelsea is Mourinho’s most audacious attention diversion ever.
– telegraph.co.uk

ten words of less #108

A weekend of outrageous goals on both sides of the pond has me feeling a little like I have a football hangover. While there’s no doubt that I enjoyed myself and all of the breathtaking strikes, I definitely over indulged this weekend, too. Attempting to sit down and write last night, my mind felt like it was stuffed so full that I couldn’t even crank out coherent sentences. I’m not even sure that what I’m writing right now is readable — it seems like it is, right now anyway. So while I’m waiting for my brain to gain back some of its halfway decent writing ability, I present to you a sampling of other people’s works that I found enjoyable over the last week or so.

And stay tuned later today, as we’ll have the latest Pondcast up for your listening enjoyment, too.

The enigma that was Guti. Fantastic read. – thesefootballtimes.net

Who leaves first their club first: Sterling or Kane? – telegraph.co.uk

Cardiff City get another makeover their fans will gladly take. – designfootball.com

Time lapse video of San Jose’s Avaya Stadium being built. – theoriginalwinger.com

Box prices at Old Trafford are actually pretty reasonable. – reddit.com/r/soccer
Courtesy of user ‘Requiem01’

A unique perspective on Klinsmann’s approach. –  fusion.net

From no starts until November, to captain by April. – nbcsports.com

Photographic evidence of football’s awkward past. – guardian.com
Props to my cousin, Hunter, for sharing.

Digging the design of this new site. – whereisfootball.com

All in on FC Instagram in the Social Network League. – juanfootball.com

ten words or less #98

bayern are good… like “scary good”. if you don’t believe me, just ask roma.

The waiting game when publishing articles for other sites can be excruciating. I’ve got an article that I finished for one a few days ago, and I don’t know when it will go up. It might be tempting to reach out to the editor of that site and ask when it might go up. But as most writers will attest, you never want to get on the bad side of an editor — at least if you ever want to write for him again. So I wait. “Patiently”.

Luckily, I’ve got this nice links round up for you to keep you patiently waiting for new original content, too.

Del Bosque finally stepping down from Spain post in 2016. – nbcsports.com

How was this NOT a penalty? – youtube.com

I now want Bolton to be promoted so bad. – theoriginalwinger.com

One of the best of the flood of #ThanksLD videos. – mlssoccer.com

Sunderland doing right by their incredibly embarrassed traveling supporters. – bbc.com

The boy who might have jump started American soccer earlier. – wsj.com

Shakhtar’s stadium damaged by a bomb blast in Donetsk. – donbass-arena.com

I wish more MLS teams would do collabos like this. – amongmen.com

Michel Platini wants “white cards” for dirty mouths. – theguardian.com

If I could find a wife, you’d think DaMarcus Beasley could. – soccergods.com

ten words or less #86

toronto fc have officially won the MLS offseason.

Even though we’ve exited the hectic Christmas/New Year’s schedule that normally bombards us with more soccer than we can stomach, the last few days have been ridiculously busy in the world of the beautiful game.

Of course we still had a normal round of weekend fixtures around Europe to deal with. The opening of the January transfer window has also brought a cavalcade of news, ranging from complete fodder to legit breaking news. And of course today we were treated to not only the naming of FIFA’s 2013 Ballon d’Or winner — a very deserved win for Cristiano Ronaldo — but also the unveiling of two massive signings by MLS side Toronto FC in Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley.

None the less, I’ve still managed to survive all of that and pump out a new TWOL for you. So enjoy it, minions.

The top transfers from each country in Europe… and elsewhere. – reddit.com/r/soccer

I could live with these purported USMNT World Cup shirts. – todosobrecamisetas.com

Ten theories for why AVB was sitting Adebayor at Spurs. – dearmrlevy.com

MLSsoccer.com get’s called out on taking the easy route. – hottimeinoldtown.com

Not renewing this guy’s contract seems suicidal. – theoriginalwinger.com

Bob Bradley’s first interview as manager of Stebæk. – youtube.com

Comparing preparations for Qatar as a road to hell? Accurate. – 8by8mag.com

Um… what? – leedsunited.com

US Soccer seems to have forgotten its history pre-1994. – beinsport.tv

Rumor is the next Mercurials will be quite revolutionary. – soccerbible.com

ten words or less #78

i feel pretty safe saying i’m even more excited about the premier league getting ready to start than the now famous ted lasso.

I don’t know about you, but I am super freaking excited about the upcoming kickoff to the Premier League season. You might have been able to tell that even if you skipped reading all of this at the top too, seeing as how three of the links in this latest edition of Tens Words or Less are Tottenham related. Yeah, Gareth Bale might be leaving. But even if he does, I’m still really excited for the increased coverage the English top flight will receive Stateside this term.

But before you go assuming that I’ll just forget about the domestic game now that European soccer is about to kick back into full swing, let me remind you just how dedicated I am…. BY GIVING AWAY FREE USA-MEXICO WORLD CUP QUALIFIER TICKETS, POSSIBLY EVEN TO YOU. Just in case you hadn’t heard about it. So don’t doubt me.

Anyway, enjoy the links below as you day-dream about the upcoming Premier League season OR attending the biggest US Men’s National Team game of the year. Whatever suits you best.

Spurs bring in new manager Ted Lasso… from ‘MERICA. – youtube.com

You hear that… soccer players are stylish. – mensjournal.com

Seven excellent suggestions for new Crew owner Anthony Precourt. – massivereport.com

Pessimism is ingrained in American soccer; that needs to change. – espnfc.com

Another effort to launch a possibly interesting World Cup documentary. – kickstarter.

If NYCFC pulls off this Manhattan stadium, I’ll be flabbergasted. – 101greatgoals.com

Gareth Bale to leave Spurs to become… a male model? – esquire.co.uk

Brilliant trolling. – twitter.com/JimmyConrad

The dread felt when your club tries to sign Suárez. – arseblog.com

Some excellent shots of White Hart Lane’s illustrious history. – whoateallthepies.tv

ten words or less #77

i’m sure you’re about as interested in hearing my excuses as wayne rooney is in staying at manchester united.

It’s Friday and nearly four days since my last post on the site, so I’m feeling a little panicked. I have four pieces in the works, but all aren’t quite ready for the big time for one reason or another: one needs more research, another needs editing, the next one is still a rough draft and the last one can’t be announced yet. And yes, that last one was hinting at something big to come — so definitely be sure to keep your eyes on this space.

In my defense, I have been really busy with things for the blog. I had to travel up to see Wigan take on the Dayton Dutch Lions, which will result in an article. I also had to conduct a phone interview one night this week, necessary to produce yet another piece in progress. And I also had to play soccer last night… but that’s just so I don’t become fat and die. Nobody would be writing the blog articles here if that hadn’t happened, so technically, it’s still for the blog.

So to buy myself some more time to complete at least one of the articles I’ve got in the pipeline, I present a smattering of my favorite links from the last week.

Wonder what the agent’s cut was for this unorthodox transfer. – goal.com

Sadly, Adidas would never make this cool concept ball. – behance.com

This is clever: a Super Mario ode to Sir Alex. – theoffside.com

This is how you properly breed a supporter. – dirtytackle.net

The new Sacramento USLPRO side branding is sexy as hell. – sacrepublicfc.com

Reddit user digs out a referees rule book from 1919. – reddit.com/u/MashedHair

Office work with Suarez? As bad as you might expect. – youtube.com

Apparently, some pro players are given access to tanks. – espnfc.com

More clubs should go this route with their kits. – footballshirtculture.com

Team Beckham in Miami? Only one way it will work. – miamiherald.com

ten words or less #75

brazil finally get a stern test ahead of the big dance in 2014. and so far, they’ve risen to the occasion.

Feeling deprived of football during the summer months? You shouldn’t be. I’ve been drowning in it lately.

If the regular European summer transfer speculation, coaching moves and kit releases aren’t enough to keep you entertained, there’s been plenty of actual soccer being played to watch. Drama has been in ample supply in World Cup qualifying. MLS has been entertaining as hell, as has the US Open Cup. And now that FIFA’s redheaded stepchild of a tournament, the Confederations Cup in Brazil, has kicked off, there’s even more footy to feast upon.

Not sure where to start? Below are some of the best links I’ve unearthed over the last week.

America’s oldest capped international seems like a dude. – espnfc.com

Yet another excellent NYCFC branding proposal. – hyperakt.com

Live Breath Footballs latest “Rebels” line is pretty sick. – livebreathfootball.com

Spooky explains why this summer is going to suck. – dearmrlevy.co.uk

Oh, and the Parisians are after AVB. Greeaaaaaaat. – guardian.co.uk

This is freaking awesome. –  google.com/culturalinstitute

Don’t sign if you want Liverpool to look like clowns. – change.org

Shame they don’t have the World Cup after next year. – kckrs.com

‘What part of Jamaica?’ ‘Right near da beach. Boy-eeee!’ – football-shirts.co.uk

True supporters let passion flow even in times of sorrow. – dirtytackle.net

ten words or less #69

Tottenham's Gareth Bale celebrates scoring against Arsenal

look at the joy and elation on every single face in this photograph. including the face of one gareth frank bale.

While I don’t want to gloat over Tottenham’s North London Derby victory on Sunday, I am going to bask in the glory of that victory for just a moment. I want to marvel at Gareth Bale — while we still have him, at least. Can I also shine a spotlight on André Villas-Boas, who so many had doubted, decried and dismissed for a recall of his predecessor before he had even had a chance to prove himself? And too, maybe I should take a second to apologize to Daniel Levy, the man I often attacked during Spurs inactivity during transfer windows. Because right now, sitting in third after a 12 game run that’s gone WTWWWTTTWWWW, I’m feeling pretty good about Spurs.

Though with a tricky trip to Anfield to face a surging Liverpoolside at the weekend — not to mention a Europa League match against our old friends Inter in the midweek — things could go off track quickly if Spurs get too far ahead of themselves. So if for no other reason than to get my mind out of the clouds, here are some of other links to keep me from daydreaming of greatness quite yet.

One reason why Bale is taking the world by storm. – guardian.co.uk

Soccer once had the mighty MLB shaking in it’s boots. – twitter.com/pothunting

This USMNT 2002 photo shoot will haunt your dreams. – nytimes.com

Stylish playmaker prints to hang on your wall. – behance.net

Commitment to a soccer publication can change your life. – inbedwithmaradona.com

Brian Phillips’ intriguing take on El Diego’s past and present. – grantland.com

Alexi discusses football corruption, simulation on the Colbert Report. – colbertnation.com

Berba’s talents are literally endless. – dirtytackle.net

Can’t complain about not being able to watch games anymore. – giltedgesoccer.com

Alright… who wants to get me this? – whoareyadesigns.com

ten words or less #62

With tomorrow being Thanksgiving here in the States, it’s the time of year when many reflect upon all of the things in their lives for which they should be thankful. Things are no different here at WSOTP. And while I’m especially thankful for a wonderfully patient wife, a loving family, and that Spurs’ UnderArmour kits aren’t as hideous as I had anticipated — among other blessings — amongst other things too, of course — I do have one gripe I want to air about the holiday.

Thanksgiving Turkey Soccer

The dearth of usable Thanksgiving-themed soccer images on the internet is roughly equivalent to the amount of soccer normally on TV on Turkey Day.

Between the NFL and NCAA, the American-flavored version of football seems to go hand in hand with Thanksgiving. Games will be on all day tomorrow, and many families across the country will gather around their TV’s to watch as a part of their annual holiday tradition. But as my fellow soccer fans will attest, we’re normally left in the dark on Turkey Day by the major networks. This year, we’re lucky enough to have Europa League matches to occupy us, but they’re typically not high-profile matches. And while that’s enough for me, that doesn’t mean everyone else in my family will prefer round football to egg football this year. But since the festivities are being held at my house this year, the rules will be different… a new dawn for Thanksgiving traditions is in the cards.

But if your family won’t budge from their normal traditions, here are some links to help keep you from feeling neglected. Happy holidays everyone!

This article convinced me to subscribe to Howler quarterly. – whatahowler.tumblr.com

I want prints of these for my [imaginary] office. – 8bitfootball.wordpress.com

Or “Why fading European stars like to play in MLS.” – metro.co.uk

Old Italian men are weird. – dirtytackle.net

Little cheer at Wolves this season, except this brand refresh. – weareraw.co.uk

More Howler: maybe the USSF wants to forget its past? – theoriginalwinger.com

Next, bring this to the States. – fantasista.co.uk

Foolish man records tornado hitting soccer ground… for our enjoyment? – youtube.com

This defense of American soccer culture hit close to home. – sbnation.com

the nazis and their football

Professional football in the modern world is omnipresent. No matter what obstacle it faces, the game has a way of overcoming the impediment to continue steamrolling along.

nazi germany and football

the nazi's knew the power of the beautiful game.

A tsunami strikes your country? Don’t sweat it, you’ll just go ahead and win a World Cup. Your homeland has been at war for the better part of two decades? We’ll just go ahead and call you the “Asian Cinderellas.” Your nation has been embroiled in a five-year civil war? Wow, it pretty much ended because of your famous player.

Whether saddled with despair, destruction or disaster, soccer just seems incapable of being stopped. The sport is so culturally ingrained into the fabric of (most) modern societies, pulling the plug on the game during dire circumstances could have monumentally negative effects. Much like the Romans using gladiatorial games to distract the masses from plague and famine, today’s world leaders know the importance of the game’s ability to sooth the populace during times of trauma.

But when Europe was in the depths of the second Great War, this rule didn’t always hold true.

All across the continent, just as was the case during the first World War, league football finally found reason to grind to a halt. England suspended their first division from 1939 to 1946, Italy during the 1944/1945 season, and France from 1939 through 1945. Between bombed club grounds, the imprisonment of players in concentration camps, and the popular idea of general survival, the professional game didn’t really have the resources necessary to carry on throughout the war.

Curiously though, soccer didn’t take a break everywhere during World War II.

Nazi Germany, the primary antagonist of the era, was one of the few nations that attempted to keep their football leagues running during the war. Already well-known for their reliance on propaganda to influence public opinion, it’s not surprising that the methods of the ancient Roman’s did not go unnoticed by Hitler’s Nazi Party.

So just as was the case with every other aspect of German society at the time, the Nazis went about changing football to suit their interests. No portion of soccer — the club game, the international game, tactics or players– was left untouched.

The Club Game
Upon the Nazi takeover, clubs –along with numerous unions and other organizations– with left-leaning memberships were either dissolved or forced to merge with those that supported the Third Reich ideology. A wave of new Nazi-supporting and military clubs also flooded the regional competitions, often drawing away memberships from clubs that were around prior to the regime.

The club game also saw a drastic reorganization on a national scale, as the regional leagues which predated the interwar years were scrapped in favor of new, Third-Reich-approved regional leagues called Gauliga in 1933. While that development in itself isn’t all that interesting, it does become interesting when you consider that Germany was continuously expanding its borders during this time. This necessitated the expansion of the Gauligen system to provide distraction to accommodate new territories and peoples. Without this, we would have never seen an Austrian side crowned the “champion of Germany,” such was the case in 1941 when Rapid Wein won the national Gauligen Tournament.

While one of the staples of the Hitler regime’s ideology was racial purity, the expansion of their regional league system along with their expanding empire meant that inferior races could end up being drafted into the competition. Considering the importance of physical superiority to their Aryan racist agenda, how could the Germans allow non-German’s to participate in their displays of athletic dominance?However, I find this direction that club football took under the Nazis to be one of the most fascinating aspects of the Nazi influence on the sport.

Well, they didn’t. Predictably, the Nazis could best be described as “selective” when they considered their Gauligen expansions. While Western European conquests (Austria, Alsace, Lorraine, and Luxembourg) were given their own or incorporated into existing regional leagues, clubs from Eastern countries (Poland and Czechoslovakia) were barred from joining Gauligen and had to play in their own competitions, unless the club was of the German ethnic population in the area.

The other interesting side of the Nazi Gauligen system was their choice to continue on with regional competitions in the first place. While Germany stayed with the traditional system, the rest of Western Europe blazed into today’s 21st century-style national leagues: England’s First Division, Spain’s La Liga, Italy’s Serie A, Holland’s Erediverse, etc. Germany, in a time when consolidating resources to help the greater cause was popular, missed the boat on truly being able to capitalize off of the domestic popularity of football. Additionally, it would have allowed the regime to handpick individual clubs for inclusion instead of having to incorporate entire groups of leagues.

But as we all know, the Nazi’s didn’t always make the smartest of decisions.

The International Game
Just as mentioned above, a big tenet of the Third Reich government’s propaganda was the physical superiority of the German people. After all, you can’t possibly go around claiming that your country’s people are the “master race” if those same people aren’t the biggest bad-asses in all athletic pursuits.

the nazis always made sure that anyone attending the matches (including the players) knew who was running the show.

the nazis always made sure that anyone attending the matches (including the players) knew who was running the show.

Hitler’s first opportunity to flaunt the extraordinary talents of his athletes was the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The chancellor was, of course, delighted with the medal haul Germany posted during the Eleventh Olympiad, tallying an impressive Games’ high of 89. But the Olympics were too big of a spotlight on the Hitler’s ideology for the party to leave the outcomes to pure chance alone. And the football tournament, recently demoted to the red-headed step-child of international football after two successful World Cups, seemed the perfect place to use the invisible hand of influence.

When the pre-tournament favorite home side crashed out at the quarter-final stage, German allies were the next to receive the benefit of the Führer’s favor. Fascist Italy, who had just hosted and won the 1934 World Cup went on to win the tournament… how much benefit they received from the Nazi’s influence remains debatable. However, the Silver-medalist Austrians certainly couldn’t say the same.

Peru faced off against the soon-to-be-annexed Nazi-neighbors in the semifinal, and went on to win 4-2 after extra time. However, a quick appeal was lodged by Austria over a multiple dubious points: 1) a phantom pitch invasion by Peruvian fans, 2) the pitch wasn’t suitable for football, and 3) that the referee gave favor to the Peruvian players’ who were generally big bullies to the Austrian players during the match. FIFA and the Olympic committee agreed, declaring the match null and calling for a replay in an empty stadium.

Peru, keenly aware they were being bent over, told everyone to shove it and forfeited the match and brought the rest of their Olympic delegation home. After all, the outlandish decision made by the organizers seemed impossible given these following facts:

  1. Peru had a negligible following at the tournament, given the difficulty of Peruvian citizens to afford the long trip to Germany. So who would have stormed the field for them? Not that it mattered how big their following was: it would have been the responsibility of the Nazi soldiers at the stadium to keep them back, and they weren’t exactly a group known for their leniency.
  2. Wouldn’t both the Olympic organizing committee and FIFA be the ones responsible for approving the use of the pitch before the game? Additionally, why was the visiting team punished for a pitch invasion? After all, it’s FIFA tradition to punish the hosting side.
  3. Claiming a referee bias for Peru during the match is ludicrous: they had three freaking goals called back in the nullified 4-2 win. I don’t care how biased you think a referee is against your team, if he cancels out three of the opposing team’s seven goals, he can’t be that biased.

Both FIFA and IOC have since pointed fingers at each other regarding who made the decision to force a replay, proving that both organizations have been corrupt since the dawn of time. Either way, it’s generally accepted that Nazi and Italian Fascist influence played a major role in the decision to make sure that their Germanic/ideological brothers from Austria moved on.

Everyone knows about the militaristic culture that was pervasive in Nazi Germany. Though every Third Reich organization served different purposes — from the Hitler Youth, to the paramilitary Schutzstaffel (or SS), the Gestapo secret police, all the way up to the full-blown Wehrmacht army — they all had one common characteristic: offense is the best form of defense.

Assuming you received your schooling anywhere in the Western hemisphere, you learned all about this Nazi tactic, most commonly called blitzkrieg. If you would rather not try to recall the nightmarish memories of your high school history class, I’ll let Wikipedia provide you a quick lesson:

Concentrating overwhelming force at high speed to break through enemy lines, and, once the latter is broken, proceeding without regard to its flank. Through constant motion, the blitzkrieg attempts to keep its enemy off-balance, making it difficult to respond effectively at any given point before the front has already moved on.

During the early parts of the war, the blitzkrieg strategy so highly effective that the Nazi’s practically waltzed their way through Belgium, Luxembourg, Poland and France. This success quickly inspired the application of blitzkrieg to other, non-military portions of German life.

Being a game of opposing teams doing battle with one another, football made for the natural candidate for the application of blitzkrieg theory. The football application of “lightning war” was championed by Karl Oberhuber, the head of the Bavarian Gauliga at the time of the fall of Western Europe.

Sure, there is some truth in the phrase “a good offense is the best form of defense.” Just look at team’s like Barcelona, who’s offense is so good that the other team rarely sees any possession of the ball. But Oberhuber’s ideas of shifting the formation to a threadbare defensive line in order to provide more attackers up front (utilizing zany formations like a 2-3-5 or 1-3-2-4) took that idea to the extreme. He was so overtly opposed to defensive tactics, especially those of legendary Arsenal manager Herbert Chapmann and German national team coach Sepp Herberger (whose managerial style, to Karl at least, was “too Jewish” or “too English”… one and the same I guess?), that he feared that the country’s footballing standing would suffer.

After threatening journalists and clubs who dared to criticize his footballing blitzkrieg ideas, Oberhuber was able to convince top clubs such as Bayern Munich and FC Nuremberg to adopt the system. And just as you would probably predict, both clubs did horribly with so much space in the defensive third for the opposing team to waltz through. All the opposition would need to do is kick a long ball over the wall of offensive players and then use their numerical advantage at the other end of the pitch.

Needless to say, Blitzkrieg football — and Oberhuber’s sporting future for that matter — didn’t last very long.

The Players
While clubs, journalists and supporters were obviously hard hit by the Nazi crackdown in the game, the individual players probably took the biggest beating of them all. Much easier to target and eliminate than larger organizations, players, despite their social standings, were often subjected to the same harsh treatments suffered by the rest of the general populace.

First and foremost, and as to be expected, was the exclusion and elimination of Jewish players from the game. One prime example of this was the murder of Julius Hirsch at Auschwitz in 1945. Hirsch, the first of only two Jews to have ever played for the German national team, was even a decorated German soldier during World War I. A number of other Jewish players lost their lives during the Holocaust, including Henrik Nadler, a Hungarian international.

FC Start in 1942

the players of f.c. start felt the heavy hand of hitler's nazi agenda.

The Jewish players, however, weren’t the only players to face persecution at the hands of the Nazis. The most famous of example of this is the so-called “Death Match” in Nazi-occupied Ukraine in August of 1942.

A conglomerate of surviving former players from Kiev’s two most successful clubs, Dynamo and Lokomotiv, banded together to form FC Start as a means to play the sport they loved — and indirectly challenge Nazi sovereignty. The side became wildly popular after bashing a series of local and regiment teams in the area, thus becoming a symbol of defiance that didn’t stand well with their German occupiers. Hoping to quickly dispel the folklore gathering around the team’s undefeated record, the Third Reich sent in the heavy hitting Flakelf team. The official German Luftwaffe side was known for dominating within their gauliga, and were fully expected to stifle Start’s potent attack. Instead, they lost 1-5 to the Ukrainians.

Obviously, the defeat of pure Aryan Airforce pilots by a bunch of dirty Russki’s didn’t sit well with the Nazis. A rematch was requested by Flakelf, and three days later, the teams faced off again. Rumor has it that the men of FC Start were visited by German SS officers both prior to the match and at the half to remind them of the outcome that should happen and the possible consequences of their victory. Though descendants of the participants dispute that fact, what isn’t disputed is that Start emerged victorious again, with the score of 5-3. Within the next ten days, a majority of the players were rounded up and dispatched to work camps, where only a few escaped execution or death.

Although the players living in the battlegrounds on the continent were engulfed in Second Great War, they weren’t the only players who’s playing lives were greatly affected by it either. Hundreds, if not thousands, of players from around Europe freely (or not so-freely) gave up their playing careers as they were drafted into their countries’ war efforts. England, unsurprisingly, had an entire battalion composed of footballers. Some footballers served in the army prior to their playing careers, including Russian legend Lev Yashin, Considered to be the finest goalkeeper of all time, a 12-year-old Yashin worked in constructing wartime goods including weapons and tanks parts.


Needless to say, World War II was a dark time in human history. The importance of soccer during that time could easily be considered trivial by many, especially when compared to the atrocities and horrible events that regularly occurred under the reign of terror brought on by Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

we've been here before, but have we learned from our past?

But what I found amazing as I was caught up in all of the research needed to write this article, was the power of the sport to help raise the spirits of the oppressed peoples during this dark time. Football was a means of escape from the horrors that were every day life, as well as an avenue for the oppressed to stand up against the might of an impossibly huge enemy. Even when the war claimed a region’s footballing scene as a victim, in almost every case, the game was one of the first things to return to help aid the recovery efforts.

Yet, the lessons of old are just as important now as they were then. Today, we are again seeing a rise in Nazi influence in supporters groups around Europe. While we aren’t at war in the way we were during the 1930’s and 40’s, racist chants and fascist overtones are again echoing through our stadiums. It’s troubling because the clubs it seems to be affecting the most aren’t being near as proactive at stamping it out as we would like.

But I take hope from these lessons from World War II: we know that football can still persevere and conquer its evils. After all, it’s conquered this foe before.