Soccer: linguistics, referees and the OlympicsFor the longest time, English soccer had the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th divisions. Then in the early 90s, the top flight was renamed the Premiership/Premier League, the second level became the 1st Division and so on down the line. Now, the lower divisions have been renamed yet again. The second level is now known as The Championship, even though 2004-05 winners Leicester City will be only the 21st best team in England. The third and fourth tiers become League One and League Two.
I've ranted before on how enamored English media outlets are with making snide remarks about how Americans call the sport 'soccer' ever time they write about the Beautiful Game in the United States (even though such jabs are never made about the half dozen other countries that use the word). And each jab is made to sound like the most creative insult imaginable.
It seems to me that any country that calls its THIRD best soccer division "League One" has no business sniveling about other country's linguistic choices.
Speaking of the obnoxious press, Swiss referee Urs Meier has hit back at English tabloids who vilified him following a controversial decision he made in the England-Portugal Euro 2004 quarterfinal. Meier disallowed a late English winner due to a foul committed on the Portugese goalkeeper. Meier's personal telephone number and e-mail address were published in the days following the match and the referee was branded a love rat for leaving his wife for a female referee.
"This kind of intimate hostility and aggression, reaching right into the private sphere, has only really happened to footballers and pop stars but never to a referee before," he told the website of FIFA, soccer's international governing body. He said his ex-wife "was quoted as saying I cheated on her the same way I cheated England. The English press were looking for a scapegoat after their team was knocked out," which is in stark contrast to their usual conduct.
Before American readers who may dislike soccer get too smug, they should remember the treatment* meted out to the Chicago Cubs' fan blamed for costing his team their first pennant in 58 years by trying to catch a foul ball.
(*-Media outlets, led by one of Chicago's main daily newspapers The Sun-Times, reported his name, place of employment and even his university alma mater. After the incident happened, The Chicago Tribune noted, As security guards struggled to impose order, the din around [the man] grew louder and meaner. Many in the stands shouted they wanted [the man] dead, and one later shouted "Lynch him!")
Iraq's Olympic soccer team continued its astonishing run by becoming the first team qualifying for the tournament's quarterfinals, when just making the Olympics was a major achievement. After stunning medal favorites Portugal 4-2 in their first game, the Iraqis beat Costa Rica 2-0 to advance to the last eight. Though if they lose their final group match against Morocco, they'll likely face gold medal favorites Argentina. Nevertheless, it's been a fantastic tournament so far by the minnows who are apparently playing far more compelling soccer than the most recent Cinderellas (Greece, Euro 2004 winners).