Tag Archives: soccer

Is Saskatoon making a dangerous mistake relying on Field Turf?

When I criticized Field Turf going into SMF Field, I was ridiculed when I pointed to research that showed that the heat and things like ACL and MCLs would be on the rise.  The argument was that it was better then the old Gordie Howe field was often mentioned.  It never occured to anyone that we could put down good turf like the Hilltops play on each and every day at Ron Atchison Field.  It also never occurred to people that maybe high schools don’t need to bus down to Howe Bowl all of the time and instead they could play on their home field like other cities do. 

Now there is this.  Field Turf is made from tires which are hazardous waste when they are tires but for some reason we have decided to let our children play on them in pellet form.

These are the days when the Women’s World Cup becomes truly grueling. Fewer days off, better opponents, more pressure. And a persistent obstacle the men never have to face – the artificial turf.

"I have plenty of blisters on my toes," United States forward Alex Morgan said with a resigned smile on Thursday.

That’s not a good thing for any player, let alone a star on the mend from knee and ankle ailments. "Turf achiness takes a little longer to recover from," Morgan said.

Michelle Heyman of Australia was even more blunt: "You wouldn’t want to see the bottom of our feet after a game," she told one Australian newspaper. "They just turn white. The skin is all ripped off; it’s pretty disgusting. It’s like walking on hot coals with your skin ripping and slowly cracking, constantly."

Well that isn’t the worst part.

Field temperatures in Edmonton for an earlier match soared as high as 120 degrees, even though the air temperature was in the low 70s. This weekend’s forecast for the Australians’ match with Japan is calling for a high around 90. One UNLV study found synthetic turf can heat up to 170 degrees in summer months. That poses risks ranging from dehydration to heat illness.

Then there is the possibility of faster collisions with other players, and with the ground. Jeffrey Kutcher, one of the world’s leading sports neurologists, told Yahoo Sports that studies of turf vs. grass haven’t been conclusive in his field, but "I would still stand behind the concept that grass is likely safer from a concussion standpoint."

No wait, that isn’t even the worst part.  This is the worst part.

Artificial turf is used for playgrounds all over the continent, and battles are taking place over whether children are safe being exposed to the crushed tire rubber that makes up the turf. A Stockholm University study from 2012 found "automobile tires may be a potential source of highly carcinogenic dibenzopyrenes to the environment."

"It’s a serious, serious problem," says Nancy Alderman, president of the Environment and Human Health, Inc. (EHHI), an organization of physicians and public health professionals. "We are concerned about the health of a whole generation now who are playing on these fields."

Research on the topic is not advanced enough to conclusively determine safety hazards, but anecdotal evidence has hit close to home for the U.S. team. Amy Griffin, assistant coach at the University of Washington and former mentor to Hope Solo, has compiled a list of 153 student-athletes, the majority of them soccer goalkeepers, who have been diagnosed with cancer over the last several years. She has sent her research to the Washington State Department of Health.

"I never said this is giving people cancer," Griffin said by phone. "But if you were me, and you saw the number of goalkeepers [with cancer] was so high, you’d be alarmed.

"The more I know about tires, the more I think, ‘What the heck? What are we doing?’ " Griffin said. "In large form it’s hazardous waste, and in crumb form it’s OK for kids?"

The EHHI has been studying this issue at Yale University, and it released a statement earlier this month revealing it has found 96 chemicals in the materials used for synthetic turf.

"Of the 96 chemicals detected," the statement read, "a little under a half have had no toxicity assessments done on them for their health effects. … Of the half that have had toxicity assessments, 20 percent are probable carcinogens."

The lead investigator on the study, Yale University professor Gabdoury Benoit, called the rubber infill "a witch’s brew of toxic substances. It seems irresponsible to market a hazardous waste as a consumer product."

FieldTurf, the company that provided the playing surface for three of the World Cup stadiums in Canada, wrote in an email to Yahoo Sports stating that "Scientific research from academic, federal and state government organizations has unequivocally failed to find any link between synthetic turf and cancer. We are committed as a company and as an industry to the safety of our fields and the athletes that compete on them – which is why we have encouraged the rigorous work from third-parties that has taken place over decades to confirm there are no negative health effects connected to synthetic turf." The company also forwarded an array of documents supporting its case.

The lack of proof of causality is not soothing to some experts, however. "Cancer is a 30- or 40-year process," Yale oncologist Barry Boyd said. "So long-term exposure may not show up until years later."

Part of the uncertainty is the extent of a player’s exposure to the crumb rubber. The preponderance of goalies in Griffin’s research is troubling, as those players are interacting more with the turf by repeatedly diving onto the ground. But American players here have said they have found the pellets all over their body even after post-match showers. "Anywhere and everywhere," defender Lori Chalupny said. If the pellets do have toxic characteristics – especially under extreme heat – the proximity of athletes to those characteristics is there after games.

So kids start playing Kinsmen Football on turf.  They play three years on it at the SaskTel Soccer Centre and SMF Field.  Then they play parts of four years of high school football.  The best play four years of Hilltops and then Huskies on artificial turf.

Of course the reason we use turf is that it is cheap.  No other reason.  The NFL has known for years that it shortens careers, particularly of running backs whose knees pay the cost.  Countless NCAA universities who have had artificial or field turf are going back to grass because of the injuries.  Even the Arizona Cardinals who play in a dome stadium move the entire field outside during the week so they can have natural grass.

Good grief, the Blue Jays are paying $600,000 a year to Guelph University for them to develop a grass that will grow inside. Why? It is so hard on athletes, even baseball players to play on turf.  Now it appears that the turf that Saskatoon just fundraised to install has a major health risk to the kids who are going to play on it.  Nice job Saskatoon.

Why did the US lose at the World Cup?

Not enough good players according to Dan Wetzel.

Klinsmann spoke to finding not just a great American player but also one that will stand across from the world’s best and believe he is better. One that doesn’t go into these games thinking about just surviving or rising to the challenge, but instead that he’ll impose himself on the other side.

The U.S. needs its alpha dog – a few of them, actually.

“It’s not only physically and technically but also mentally,” Klinsmann said. “It’s a completely different ball game [at this level] … we still give it a little bit too much respect in our end when it comes to the big stage. This is something they have to go through; no matter how many years it takes.”

Perhaps the most promising sign of this tournament came in the furious final 15 minutes here Tuesday. Trailing 2-0, Klinsmann inserted 19-year-old Julian Green for his World Cup debut. Rather than be intimidated by the moment, the German-American scored almost immediately, on a beautiful finish, to keep the outcome in doubt.

“Nice first touch for a World Cup,” said Bradley, whose chip set up Green.

That’s the level of skill that has to be the future for the U.S. to finally break through. That’s the presence. That’s the seizing of opportunity. Only they need a bunch of those guys.

It is Klinsmann’s chief task as he continues to oversee all of America’s soccer development.

Soccer has arrived in the United States. It’s here for good. Kids playing. Fans watching. The national team is an engaging and enjoyable group. There is no questioning the commitment of everyone involved.

Yet once again, the Americans trudged out of a World Cup bitterly disappointed, stuck on the Round of 16, with no viable answers.

They gave everything they had. It’s just once again they didn’t have enough players capable of playing with anyone on the planet.

Klinsmann has talked about this a lot.  Too many top players spend four years in the NCAA rather than being sent to the elite clubs around the world.  He also doesn’t have any control over the style of play that the top U.S. clubs or NCAA plays which means that he has to continually be teaching his style of play to new players.  There is also the problem that MLS plays during the summer and not during the winter which means that the national team schedule interferes with club schedules.

I like Klinsmann a lot but he has a lot to overcome to make the USA into World Cup contenders that other national teams do not.

Any growing interest in soccer a sign of nation’s moral decay

This crosses the line in so many ways

If more “Americans” are watching soccer today, it’s only because of the demographic switch effected by Teddy Kennedy’s 1965 immigration law. I promise you: No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer. One can only hope that, in addition to learning English, these new Americans will drop their soccer fetish with time.

This is so offensive.  The fact that “Americans” is in quotation marks is offensive as if immigrants from around he world are citizens.  Plus, my grandfathers were born in Canada (I know, not “America”) and if alive, they’d be watching England stink up the joint like the rest of the nation.  They’d also be making Suarez puns like the rest of the world.

So again, Ann Coulter is being offensive while talking about something she knows nothing about.

167 people cashed in on bet that Luis Suarez would bite someone at World Cup

175-to-1 odds that Luis Suarez would bite someone during the tournament.

Andreas Bardun, sportsbook manager for gambling site Betsson, where Syverson placed his bet, said 167 gamblers placed bets on the prop.
The biggest winner was a Norwegian who won $3,300, he said, but he cited company policy not to disclose any of the names of its bettors.

Also journalists are heading to Brazil to find out why Suarez bites people which you have to admit, is an interesting question.

Contextless Links

Some interesting soccer related geo-politics today

Some big news out of UEFA today with Gibraltar being accepted as a member.  Deadspin has it’s take.

Soccer under the shadow of the Rock goes back a long way—the Gibraltar Football Association was established in 1895, with a national team forming in 1901 and league play beginning in 1907. This photo shows hundreds of British sailors attending a match in April 1934.

But, still bitter about that whole War of the Spanish Succession thing, Spain has always claimed sovereignty over Gibraltar, and in recent years has stepped up its push for the return of the territory. As part of the politicking, one of the most powerful soccer nations has threatened to boycott international tournaments if little Gibraltar were recognized. The last time UEFA voted on this, in 2007, Spain threatened to pull out of the European Championships, and bar its clubs from the Champions League. Only England, Wales, and Scotland voted for Gibraltar that election.

Who knows what backstage bargaining was done to ensure Gibraltar’s approval this time around, but a 2011 ruling in the Court of Arbitration for Sport had a lot to do with it. UEFA head Michel Platini announced that future Euro draws will be set up so Spain and Gibraltar are placed in opposite brackets. This will only be a problem if both make the finals. This will not be a problem.

Michael Chandler has his take on the political risk to Spain from this move.

With an area of only 2.6 square miles and a population of 30,000, Gibraltar will hardly be a threat to continental powers like Germany and Spain, though the latter’s objections to the move are not so much in fear of Gibraltar, but of other parts of Spain fighting for their own sovereignty. The Spanish FA has publicly shown dissent towards this decision, worrying that this opens the door for Basque and Catalan regions to claim their own independence in footballing terms, something they have both made efforts to do on a political level.

FC Barcelona, who in recent years has cemented their place as a perennial footballing power, is located in the heart of Catalonia, a region where many claim their right to independence from Spain. If Catalonia were to one day be granted the same rights as Gibraltar, players the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Xavi Hernandez and Jordi Alba, mainstays of the European and World Cup champion side, would be eligible to play for a Catalan National side. What’s more, they already have a Catalan National Football team that have played in exhibitions à la Washington Generals. They even once had Dutch legend Johan Cruyff as their skipper. It’s easy to claim that players of this stature would never play for a weakened side such as Catalonia, but to understand their beliefs in the rights of an independent state, would be to understand generations of families and their desire to have their own country. The same could occur with players from a Basque autonomous side, despite the fact that the Basque people are spread out over various regions and without the same concentration as the Catalan in Catalonia.

UEFA boss Michel Platini has claimed that Gibraltar and Spain will not be pooled into the same qualifying groups for future tournaments, as with Armenia and Azerbaijan in the past. Surely, this gesture does little to quell the fears of the Spanish FA.

While the dozens of football supporters in Gibraltar should be pleased with UEFA’s decision, there’s reason to side with Spain and understand their position on the matter. Unlike the former Yugoslavia, civil wars have not forced the division of the country, fracturing a footballing power into smaller, still competitive nations the likes of Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Despite being merely a drop in the ocean that is European football, UEFA’s move today could signal a change big enough to inspire other communities to seek the same rights.

Greatest stadium design ever?

If Saskatoon ever gets a CFL team (and sells our financial future in the process), I hope it looks like this (with grass instead of sand).  You would have cattle grazing on the roof which would work well until they got spooked and came down over the roof during the middle of a key third down conversion.  Then again, it could liven things up a bit.

Stadium in UAE

Is this Dr. Evil’s newest secret lair? Actually, the “Rock Stadium” is a real concept for a sporting venue at Jebel Hafeet, a prominent crag located about 14 miles south of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi city of Al Ain. It’s not as ridiculous an idea as it initially may seem. Jebel Hafeet is not a barren, menacing peak like K2, but a popular tourist spot with a luxury hotel and pools fed by a natural hot spring. A stadium might fit right in geographically and socially: After all, the Emirati people love soccer (fine, football) just as much as anyone, welcoming the FIFA Club World Cup in 2009 and 2010 and the organization’s under-17 players this fall.

The stadium was designed by MZ Architects, a Middle Eastern firm with offices in Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Lebanon and elsewhere. The architects started out wanting to build a stadium in the Al Ain desert, but once they visited the area they were struck by the imposing and regal form of the mountain, which reminded them of a Greek amphitheatre. So they decided the best plan would be to hollow out the stone, using natural hills for seating and a grand entrance that sinks into the ground like one of the mountain’s many caves.

Relegation

Chris Ryan at Grantland has a fun column on the ups and downs of relegation to and from the English Premier League.

For football clubs, whether you’re talking about the bog-end of League Two or upper echelons of the game, there is always the taunting vision on the horizon — something better, something brighter — that fuels their desire to move on up. To get promoted you need luck, endurance (the Championship campaign is 46 games long), and more luck. Money usually helps, but teams have to make sure they actually have that money and can find more of it if they don’t get promoted.

Here’s where the trouble comes in: Spending money you don’t have to try and correct a free-fall through the leagues is called "doing a Leeds." You don’t want to do that.

The Pittsburgh Pirates/Kansas City Royals model of sitting back, losing a lot, telling your fan base you’re rebuilding and cashing checks from the league does not exist. You do that and the next thing you know you’re playing on a community park pitch in the Ryman Isthmian Football League against a bunch of guys who are supplementing their careers in debt collection with a weekend kick-about. The Pirates have been a losing team for most of my adult lifetime, but they still get to play the Phillies, Cardinals, Cubs, and Mets. Imagine if they were buried somewhere, playing the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.

I am not a big fan of ESPN this week but I have been really impressed with the quality of writing and writers over at Grantland.  Bill Simmons has done a great job with it, even if the name wasn’t his idea.

The best soccer player in the world?

Lionel Messi is only 23 and about to explode on to the world stage as one of the best soccer players ever to play the game.  Here is how the New York Times sees it.

He is 23, with a grown-up’s income reported to exceed $43 million this year. Yet Messi still has a boy’s floppy bangs, a boy’s slight build and a boy’s nickname, the Flea. Even the ball stays on his feet like a shy child clinging to his father’s legs.

It is a boy’s fearlessness, enthusiasm, calm and humility, too, that help explain why Messi is already considered one of the greatest ever to play the world’s game. In the space of 18 tense days from April to early May, Barcelona played four Clásicos against its archrival, Real Madrid. The Madrid strategy was to strangle beauty out of the matches, to use nasty muscle against Messi, to shoulder him down or shiver him with a forearm or take his legs in scything tackles. Once, he was sent rolling as if he had caught fire.

Messi made small appeals for fairness with his eyes and hands, but he remained unflappable and without complaint. He did not yell at the referee or clamp a threatening hand around an opponent’s neck or fake a foul and dive to the ground. He remained apart from ugly words and scuffles and expulsions that marred the matches. Instead, he trumped cynicism with genius.

The description of his play reminds me a lot of how Wayne Gretzky was described early in his career.  Too small for the rough stuff but impossible to contain and yes he brought genius to the ice.

Who Won the World Cup? Nike or Adidas

Harvard Business School analyses the impact of both Nike and Adidas’ marketing approaches.

With approximately 2.6 billion people worldwide following the 2010 World Cup, the spectacle has been a field day for marketers, each trying to connect their brand with the strong emotions fans have for their favorite teams. But the stakes are particularly high for those brands that actually sell football gear. Two contenders, Adidas and Nike, each have a shot at becoming undisputed market leader when the whistle blows on July 11 and the final game concludes. Coming into 2010, their records show them evenly matched: each is estimated to have earned $1.5-1.7 billion in football merchandise sales in 2008 and 2009, and each controls about a third of the total market.

Adidas is playing its tried and tested strategy of being the official FIFA sponsor of the World Cup games. This means the referees wear Adidas uniforms, the footballs are Adidas-branded and televised ads for football apparel and equipment during matches can only be, you guessed it, for Adidas. Moreover, Adidas is the official sponsor for 12 of the 32 teams playing in the World Cup — so the uniforms of teams such as Germany, Argentina, and Spain (all of which advanced to the quarter finals) were emblazoned with the Adidas logo.

Nike meanwhile had to come up with a different approach…

Can LeBron James Save the Soccer in the United States?

An interesting article from ESPN on how it isn’t a lack of athletic ability that holds America back at the World Cup

To believe the best-athlete myth is to fundamentally misunderstand American soccer’s plight. Athletic ability is not the problem. In fact, it’s generally considered a Team USA strength, along with competitive spirit. We can run and jump with the world’s best. Compared to their superstar Argentine and Spanish peers, however, our best players lack vision, creativity and technical skill. On-ball magic. Soccer-specific attributes that don’t transfer from one sport to the next, that can’t be measured with the stopwatches and shuttle cones of a scouting combine. Does being able to hit a major league curveball automatically make you a PGA Tour prospect? The things American soccer needs to improve on come from immersion and exposure, from how you grow up in the sport.

And in that regard, our best isn’t good enough. Not even close.

Messi As a teenager, Messi attended the training academy of top professional club Barcelona, living and breathing the game’s highest level; by age 19, he was playing in his first World Cup. In the world of international soccer, his story is the norm. It’s also the norm in the United States — provided you play football, basketball or baseball, where the minors and/or de facto minor league college sports prepare you to be a pro in sink-or-swim, survival-of-the-fittest fashion.

Play soccer, by contrast, and you’ll likely spend your formative years in college — well below MLS, a Marianas Trench removed from the big-money, high-pressure hothouse of European club competition. By the time America’s top talents reach the international level, they’re stuck playing catch-up. Though a shift to continental-style player development is taking place — witness U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley, who trained at the IMG soccer academy in Florida, went to MLS at age 17 and is now playing in Germany — overnight dividends aren’t a sure thing. How else to explain Freddy Adu?