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The New Yorker's Sean Williams reports about the potentially existential problems facing Dynamo Moscow, problems possibly part of Russian soccer generally. The teams' economic bases are too narrow, it seems.

The Russian soccer team Dynamo Moscow has its roots in a factory club that was founded in 1887, at the Morozov mill, on the city’s outskirts. In the spring of 1923, the club was co-opted by Vladimir Lenin’s feared secret police, the Cheka, and given its current name. (The playwright Maxim Gorky is credited with coining the club motto, “Sila v Dvizhenii,” or “Strength in Motion.”)* By the mid-thirties, Moscow was home to five major teams, four of which represented different arms of the Soviet state: CDKA, now CSKA, was the team of the Red Army; Dynamo, the secret police; Lokomotiv, the state railways; and Torpedo was the club of the city’s sprawling Torpedo-ZiL automobile factory. The exception was Spartak Moscow, founded by the Young Communist League and the local soccer hero Nikolai Starostin, who named his club after the gladiator who revolted against Roman rule. Spartak forged an identity as “the people’s club,” which is why, even today, it has more fans at its games than any of its rivals can boast.

Dynamo, led by Lavrenti Beria, a vicious sexual predator and head of the N.K.V.D.—the police force that succeeded the Cheka, and was succeeded in turn by the K.G.B.—won the first Soviet championship, in 1936. A bitter rivalry between Beria’s Dynamo and Spartak—support for whom represented a small act of everyday protest against the politburo—ensued. The enmity reached its peak in 1939, when Beria ordered a cup semifinal that Spartak had won to be replayed, one month later. Spartak won the replay, 1–0, and went on to win that year’s trophy. In 1942, Beria wreaked his revenge, sending Starostin to the gulag for ten years for “praising bourgeois sports.” (Upon Stalin’s death, Beria was arrested by Nikita Khrushchev, and, in 1953, at the age of fifty-four, he was executed.) Dynamo dominated in the nineteen-forties, but it has not won the domestic league since 1976.

In October, I visited Khimki, a suburb of Moscow, to watch the latest installment of Dynamo versus Spartak, known as Russia’s oldest derby. The prestige of the contest has dimmed as Dynamo has been eclipsed by crosstown rivals CSKA and by Zenit St. Petersburg, a team founded in 1925 and bought, in 2005, by the state-owned gas company, Gazprom. Zenit is now littered with stars and competing well at Europe’s top table, the Champions League. Meanwhile, both Dynamo and CSKA are playing their matches at Arena Khimki, an eighteen-thousand-six-hundred-and-thirty-six-seat stadium built to house a club from the surrounding suburb, and awaiting new arenas of their own. As I watched Spartak come back from a 2–1 deficit to win, 3–2, on what was practically the final kick of the match, a local writer turned to me. “It’s the curse,” he said, referencing Beria, for whose sins Dynamo, many say, has yet to atone. But the club’s predicament owes more to the topsy-turviness of Russian soccer than to some historic hoodoo.

Russian soccer has rarely been run in parallel with its European neighbors. The Russian Premier League took shape during the Soviet era, and it is studded with clubs run not as businesses but as the playthings of oligarchs, despots, and, chiefly, the Russian state. However, a landmark ruling last year by the sport’s European governing body, UEFA, may, eventually, change that. Under the organization’s Financial Fair Play (F.F.P.) rules, Dynamo, which is funded by a state bank and by Boris Rotenberg, Russia’s hundredth-wealthiest person and Vladimir Putin’s former judo partner, was found to have grossly manipulated its finances and, consequently, was expelled from European competition.

Now its biggest international stars have left for teams in other countries, and the once-powerful side is languishing at the bottom end of the Premier League table. What’s more, people have begun to speculate that the fall of Dynamo could precipitate trouble for the country’s other major teams. For Russia, the timing of the case could hardly be more awkward: in just a few years, it will host the World Cup, and the Kremlin is keen to project global power and prestige. With Dynamo shamed, and more teams potentially to follow, the standing of Russian soccer could be in tatters before a single ball of the tournament is kicked.
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Jack Kerr of Vice reports on something that actually does look quite sketchy.

FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation may be turning a blind eye to the illegal movement of players into Asia.

Timor-Leste, also known as East Timor has been improving steadily in recent years, and just recently moved ahead of Indonesia, the country it broke away from at the turn of the century, in the FIFA rankings.

[. . .]

A large part of Timor's improvement has been done through the recruitment of Brazilians with no discernable links to this poorest nation in Asia. And neither FIFA, the AFC or the local FA will say how they qualify.

According to FIFA regulations, a player born in one country can play for another country if they have lived there for five years as an adult, and get citizenship. But none of Timor's Brazilian contingent appear not to have lived or played in the half-island nation as adults—if at all.

[. . .]

They would also qualify to play for the Asian side if they had parents or grandparents from there. However, despite a Portuguese colonial legacy in Timor-Leste, there is no strong history of immigration between the two countries.

"Until 2000, I would say there was no migration, and since then it has been limited, mostly via marriage," says Damien Kingsbury, a Melbourne professor who specialises in politics and security in Southeast Asia, particularly Timor-Leste.
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The New York Times' Jonathan Gilbert wrote an interesting article describing how institutional problems with Argentine soccer have driven a diaspora of Argentine players worldwide.

[Eduardo Sacheri, 46, a prominent author of soccer fiction and an Independiente fan] pines for the era when a player like midfielder Ricardo Bochini could play his entire career at Independiente, which he led to a host of domestic and regional titles in the 1970s and 1980s. When Argentina won the World Cup at home in 1978, only one of the players on its roster plied his trade outside the country. When it added a second crown in 1986, in Mexico, more than half the team — including Bochini — still played domestically, though by then stars like Osvaldo Ardiles and Diego Maradona had begun to open the path to Europe ever wider.

The trickle soon became a flood. A surge in television revenue gave European clubs millions to spend on scouting networks and player acquisitions, and the proliferation of agents eager to facilitate deals only fed the market.

By last summer, when Argentina reached the World Cup final in Brazil, its roster included only three domestically based players. Two had spent most of their careers in Europe before returning home.

Now, European clubs scour the Primera División for talent. One representative of a Russian agency called Argentine players the “raw material” of world soccer. “That’s why we have to be here,” she said, adding that European teams are often viewed as finishing schools.
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  • blogTO recommends things to do on the Danforth.

  • Centauri Dreams notes the importance of the discovery of water in the atmosphere of exoplanet HAT-P-11b.

  • Crooked Timber goes on at length about Kevin Williamson's statement as noted by Joe. My. God. that women who have abortions should be executed.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes plans for futuristic architecture in Shenzhen.

  • Eastern Approaches observes the travails of a Roma soccer team in the Czech Republic.

  • Far Outliers notes two different movements of Romanian intellectuals responding to relative backwardness, pasoptism referring to the post-1848 effort at modernization and protocronism referring to efforts to claim all was invented first in Romania.

  • Marginal Revolution notes that in France, added years of education associated with avoiding conscription don't produce different job results.

  • Spacing Toronto notes the failed visit of Upper Canadian reformer William Lyon Mackenzie to London in 1832.

  • Torontoist notes building regulations prevent Toronto from making use of green roofs.

  • Towleroad links to a study discussing the economic impact of anti-LGBT laws on Americans.

  • Why I Love Toronto talks about the importance of having a local barber.

  • Window on Eurasia notes that Russians will begin to draft first Chechens then Crimeans, notes increased state spending on Russia Today, observes the belief among some Russians that Ukraine is somehow not really a nation, and suggests that Belarus is cracking down on pro-Russians.

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Writing for Torontoist's Historicist feature, David Wencer traces the history of World Cup and soccer fandom in Toronto. Not surprisingly, it took off only in the 1970s, largely among populations of immigrant origin. (The English seem singled out for less hostile attention than the Italians.)

Every four years, Torontonians congregate around bars and cafés, glued to live broadcasts of World Cup games. Flags fly from cars and shop windows, and every so often a street fills with fans celebrating their home country’s victory. In the 1960s, such celebrations were still unheard of in Toronto. While the World Cup did warrant some coverage in the local newspapers, it scarcely dominated the local sports sections as it does today.

In 1962, the CBC broadcasted Brazil’s victory in the final over Czechoslovakia—a full two weeks after the game had taken place. CBC aired the 1966 World Cup final between England and West Germany live on the radio at 10:00 a.m. EST, and aired it on television two hours later. Although local newspapers reported the tournament results with some interest, none of the Toronto papers took a special interest in England’s victory, nor reported on any reactions from English expatriates living in the city.

Things started changing in 1970, as the advent of mass communication enabled Torontonians to watch live broadcasts of the matches from Mexico. These live broadcasts were not available on regular television, however; the Toronto City Soccer Club acquired the rights to show games on closed-circuit television, and charged admission for those willing to pay.

On June 7, 1970, a capacity crowd of 5,300 watched a group stage match between England and Brazil at Varsity Arena, while a further 3,000 fans were turned away at the door. According to the Globe and Mail, the decidedly pro-England crowd at the arena “applauded and yelled through most of the contest. Loudest cheers were reserved for the outstanding play of the two goalkeepers, and Bobby Charlton of England and Pele of Brazil.” The same article notes that the game would have been shown at Maple Leaf Gardens—where, indeed, the later matches were shown live in 1970—but the venue was unavailable due to a Red Army Chorus concert.

Tickets at these live, closed-circuit broadcasts sold for between five and seven dollars. One Globe and Mail article predicted a sellout at Maple Leaf Gardens for the Italy-Mexico match. A few days later, the Globe ran a picture of an Italian crowd celebrating in the Toronto streets following their semifinal victory over West Germany, setting the stage for the final against Brazil. A mostly pro-Italy, sellout crowd watched Brazil cruise to a 4-1 victory at the Gardens.
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  • blogTO comes up with a shortlist of some of the most noteworthy Giorgio Mammoliti controversies.

  • Centauri Dreams has a couple of posts (1, 2) talking about how nice it would be to have space probes orbiting the ice giants of Uranus and Neptune.

  • The Dragon's Tales links to an analysis suggesting that Russia is going to annex Abkhazia and South Ossetia to punish Georgia.

  • Language Log tackles a myth that vocal fry is caused by stress.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the superexploitation associated with prison labour.

  • Steve Munro notes the latest delays with reopening Queens Quay to streetcars.

  • The Search has a fascinating interview regarding what it takes to archive electronic art, including video and programs.

  • Torontoist shares photos of the Monday night storm.

  • Towleroad notes the story of two Texas gay fathers who not only weren't allowed to cross-adopt the other's biological son (each father having one child, both children product of the same egg donor), but who weren't registered as the fathers of their own biological child.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes that up to a quarter-million people were displaced in Brazil to make way for the World Cup.

  • Window on Eurasia notes the weakness of Russian liberalism.

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  • Antipope Charlie Stross announces his support of Scottish independence on political grounds. Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen takes issue with him.

  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly writes movingly about self-critical voices.

  • The Cranky Sociologists' SocProf shares sociology-related World Cup infographics.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper examining the effects of tides on worlds with multiple layers.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes that Homo erectus picked up the herpes virus from chimps.

  • The Financial Times' The World blog notes that German attitudes towards the United States and the United Kingdom have cooled in recent years.

  • Joe. My. God. notes the election of out lesbian Kathleen Wynne as premier of Ontario.

  • Language Hat notes the increasing prominence of languages other than English in India, particularly in mass media.

  • Marginal Revolution suggests that the economic effects of recessions make people in recessionary economies more inclined towards racism.

  • Torontoist notes that many employees of the provincially-owned Beer Store chain have been active on social media in arguing against allowing convenience stores to sell beer.

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  • The Dragon's Gaze examines the very complicated history of the formation of the trinary system of Fomalhaut.

  • The Dragon's Tales links to a report on the study claiming to find chemical evidence of the impact that created the Moon out of moon rocks.

  • Robert Farley at Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that no plausible American intervention could have prevented the fall of Mosul to ISIS.

  • Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen notes the predictions of economists that Brazil will win the World Cup.

  • Out of Ambit's Diane Duane shares a photo of people scavenging from a hundred thousand books dumped out of a bankrupt bookstore in Ireland.

  • Livejournaler pollotenchegg maps fertility rates in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

  • The Transit Toronto blog notes the arrest of a half-dozen TTC workers on charges of embezzling from their organization.

  • Towleroad notes opposite-sex married but bisexual Anna Paquin's Twitter posting for pride.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy's David Bernstein takes issue with the idea that Jewish Republicans are rare. (Representation is, as a consequence of their distribution.)

  • Window on Eurasia links to an analyst's concern that the Donbas area of eastern Ukraine, currently seeing fighting, might end up becoming alienated from the rest of Ukraine on the model of Northern Ireland.

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Le monde diplomatique's Africa blogger Jean-Christophe Servant has written about how, even as South Africa is planning to welcome huge numbers of tourists to the 2010 World Cup in soccer, it's reinforcing--and not necessarily succeeding--in keeping out the very large numbers of sub-Saharan African migrants who are very determined to make it to the region's richest country.

L’Afrique subsaharienne risque ainsi de se retrouver minoritaire dans les travées, qui seront largement occupées par des supporters britanniques et américains. Elle sera en revanche majoritaire aux alentours des stades. Alors qu’entre 3 et 5 millions de continentaux se seraient déjà installés illégalement sur le territoire sud-africain, certains redoutent en effet que l’approche de 2010 n’intensifie encore ces flux migratoires. Le gouvernement de M. Jacob Zuma prévoit de dépenser 102 millions d’euros pour prévenir un afflux de clandestins venus tenter leur chance à l’ombre du Mondial.

Pour autant, Darshan Vigneswaran, spécialiste des questions liées aux migrations à l’université de Witwatersrand, estime que le renforcement des contrôles aux frontières n’ empêchera pas hommes et femmes descendus du Nord de rallier les neuf métropoles où seront organisés les matchs de qualification en vue de la finale (« World cup could lead to migrant influx », Agence Sapa, 23 juillet 2009). Le chercheur note qu’il est en effet facile pour les migrants, à l’instar des nombreux Zimbabwéens qui versent déjà des pots-de-vin en traversant pourtant « officiellement » le fleuve frontalier du Limpopo à Beitbridge, de « payer » leur passage vers l’Afrique du Sud. Un récent voyage le long des frontières sud-africaines, dans le cadre d’un reportage à paraître pour le magazine Géo, permet de constater que la corruption est en effet courante parmi les fonctionnaires d’Etat en poste sur les principales portes d’accès à la nation arc-en-ciel. La porosité des 3 500 km de limes séparant le pays le plus riche du continent de ses voisins d’Afrique australe, l’ancienne ligne de front, contribue tout autant à faciliter cette migration.

Sub-Saharan Africans may thus find themselves a minority in the aisles, which will be largely occupied by British and American fans. It will be, however, a majority around the stadium. While between 3 and 5 million sub-Saharan African already live illegally in South Africa, some fear that the approach of 2010 will intensify this migration. The government of Jacob Zuma plans to spend 102 million euros to prevent an influx of illegal immigrants trying to sneak through under the shadow of the World.

However, Darshan Vigneswaran, a specialist in migration issues at the University of Witwatersrand, said that the strengthening of border controls does not prevent men and women descended from the North to reach the nine cities which will be held qualifying matches in for the final ("World Cup could lead to migrant influx," Sapa Agency Sapa, July 23, 2009). The researcher notes that it is indeed easy for migrants, like many Zimbabweans who are already paying bribes to "officially" the Limpopo river border at Beitbridge and pay their way into South Africa. A recent trip along the borders of South Africa, as part of a forthcoming report for the magazine
Geo, shows that corruption is indeed common among the government officials stationed on the main access routes to the Rainbow Nation. The porosity of the 3500 kilometre-long border separating the richest country in the continent from its southern African neighbours, also helps facilitate this migration.
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Wikipedia's quite correct in concluding in its detailed assessment of Turkish-Armenian relations that they're quite tense, notwithstanding the actual lack of direct relations, with issues like the Armenian genocide and the conflicts around Nagorno Karabakh. But now, it seems that the two countries are quite close to opening up official bilateral ties.

Hours after Turkey and Armenia announced a tentative, Swiss-mediated peace deal, opposition politicians in Turkey were blasting the proposal.

The plan would normalize relations and open the common border between the two neighbors.

Political analysts warn that there are still immense hurdles left, before Armenians and Turks can overcome nearly a century of bad blood and re-open a border that has been sealed shut for more then fifteen years.

In a joint press statement released late Monday night, Switzerland, Armenia and Turkey announced they had agreed to start six weeks of "internal political consultations" on two protocols, aimed at establishing diplomatic and bilateral relations.

"The protocol can be signed in six weeks, ratified by the parliament completing the process there and come into force," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said, in an interview to Turkey's NTV news station. "However it is not known how long the approval process would be."


Doug Merrill at A Fistful of Euros notes that all this was made possible by the soccer diplomacy of 2008, when FIFA set up a game between the Turkish and Armenian teams in Yerevan and the Armenian president invited his Turkish counterpart to come watch the spectacle. This deal may yet be torpedoes by opposition in both parliaments, but here's to hoping.
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Now that Ronaldo is here in Toronto and making the city that hosts Toronto FC feel like a real soccer city, people wonder how far the team would go. Wouldn't you know, this Simon Kuper essay in the Financial Times makes some interesting suggestions about the past, at least.

Let’s take the archetypal provincial city with giant club, Manchester, because what happened there prefigured later events in towns such as Barcelona and Milan. In 1878 a football club for workers of a railway company started up in Manchester. Newton Heath played in work clogs against other works teams. Newton Heath, of course, became Manchester United. What matters here are its origins. The workers were “sucked in from all over the country to service the growing need for locomotives and carriages,” writes Jim White in Manchester United: The Biography.

Almost all of Europe’s best football cities were once new industrial centres. Clubs grew bigger here than in capitals or towns with entrenched hierarchies. That’s why no team from Paris, London or Berlin has won the Champions League.

In most leading European football cities, the industrial migrants arrived in a whoosh in the late nineteenth century. Munich had 100,000 inhabitants in 1852, and five times as many in 1901. Barcelona’s population trebled in the same period to 533,000.

[. . .]

In all these cities the industrial revolution ended, often painfully. But besides the empty docks and factory buildings, the other legacy of the era was beloved football clubs.

These were the cities with the fewest long-standing hierarchies, the weakest ties between people and place. Here, there were emotional gaps to fill. Contrast these cities with traditionally upper-class towns. In England, Oxford, Cambridge, Cheltenham, Canterbury and York have more than 100,000 inhabitants each. Yet between them they have just one team in the Football League. In places with settled hierarchies, people did not need football to root themselves.


It may be possible to draw some useful analogies. Toronto is a very quickly growing, increasingly post-industrial city with weak hierarchies. And, despite double-digit unemployment and relative decline, it's still a wealthy city. Torontonians may have good reason to hope for a flourishing team in the near future.
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The World Cup finished today, with an Italian victory over France. I knew that there was an Italian victory, owing in large part to the processions of honking cars with passengers (even dirvers) who waved Italian flags out of windows. I can only imagine what things were like in Little Italy; frankly, I'm thankful that I didn't have to pass through there this afternoon. I have to admit, too, to a certain mild pleasure at the fact that the final wasn't an Italy-Portugal game, especially since the growing Portuguese neighbourhood downtown borders upon Little Italy. The potential for riots is obvious ("Hold the Lusitanians at Christie!").

There isn't a French neighbourhood, though. As Wayne Scanlan recently observed in the Ottawa Citizen (Wanted: Some French expats to share in the fun"), there tend not to be ethnically French neighbourhoods in any Canadian cities.

As one Toronto reporter put it, this was the "safer" World Cup final.

The one with France involved.

Italy vs. Portugal?

"It would have been a war zone," one fan said.

Chaos on the streets.

Little Italy vs. Little Portugal.

Adding up to big tension in the Big Smoke.

Italy vs. France?

Not so much.

In fact, where are the French?

In France, mostly.

Here in Ottawa, there is no Preston Street equivalent for expatriates, fervent followers of Les Bleus. Just pockets of activity to hint at the fire and passion back home on the streets of Paris.

The simple truth is that there aren't enough French expats in Ottawa to create much of a stir (that's not meant as a challenge, mes amis).

[. . .]

[French embassy staff member Olivier] Roy estimates there are at least 1,000 expats in this region. Nation-wide, about 100,000 former French nationals live in Canada, half of them in Montreal.

"Unlike other countries in Europe, France has been a place of immigration, not emigration," Roy said.

"There have been no diseases, no dictatorships," Roy said. "During World War II, France was invaded by the Germans. Otherwise, it has not been hard to live there."

Or to visit.

Vineyards, cheese, two mountain ranges and a place on the Riviera. What's not to like, except the occasional abrupt waiter?

In an essay distributed by the French embassy in 2005, sociologist Emmanuel Peignard wrote that France has had a tradition of immigration dating back 150 years, as a means of combatting declining birth rates and an aging population.


As the intelligently revised but once controversial Wikipedia article on the French people should make reasonably clear, the Québécois and other Canadian Francophones do not identify themselves as French. The last time that Canada was a French territory, after all, an uninterrupted line of Bourbon kings ruled France and its dominions. The immigrant communities that they founded in New England in the late 19th centuries were called little Canadas for a reason.
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I knew that Italy had defeated Germany at the World Cup as soon as I'd climbed up the steps of the Dufferin TTC station: The flags, waves from cars, were everywhere. Crossing Bloor to walk south along Dufferin in the absence of the bus, I noticed a teenage boy wearing kaffiyeh in the colours of the Italian tricolour even as I admired the ingenuity of the drivers who managed to wedge a flagstaff through their passenger door's window. The size and number of the flags, and the frequency of honking car horns, increased proportionally as I approached College Street and Little Italy.

I wonder what Cafe Diplomatico (594 College Street) would be like now.
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I would have written last night about how Portugal's World Cup victory was evident to me even before I checked the news because of all of all of the cars roaring up and down Dufferin Street, screaming passengers waving oversized Portuguese flags. I was too tired, though. At least they didn't keep me from sleep.
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Walking about Toronto today, you could easily tell that Toronto's a soccer city, at least for now. There are the bars with the widesreen televisions tuned to the games, there are the England shirts, there are the ubiquitous flags that you can buy from convenience stores for $C9.99 or thereabouts, and there are the honking cars which cruise slowly down the streets as the passengers cheer after a win. It's only when you look closely that you notice that it isn't Canadian struggles being celebrated, but instead that of other countries: Ukraine, South Korea, Croatia, Brazil, Portugal, Germany. This isn't because Canada has failed at its own version of Tebbit's infamous cricket test, but rather because, alas, Canadian soccer is not quite up to world minimum standards. Surely though, with so many fans, the sport will gel in Canada sooner rather than later?

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