The Football Crónicas, edited by Jethro Soutar and Tim Girven (Ragpicker Press, 2014)

If you’ve ever played football at any level then you’ll probably be aware of the importance of ‘banter’ with your teammates. It adds to the enjoyment. It’s part of the experience. Hammering each other about being shit at football, about misplaced passes and wild shots on goal that are more likely to see the ball flying into a tree than bursting the net. Whether it’s sat in a freezing changing room before a Sunday league game or waiting outside a five-a-side pitch on a Thursday evening it’s taking the piss out of each other that helps to build spirit amongst the players. One insult, whether in jest or not, that you’re generally unlikely to hear in a football changing room is that “you’re so gay…you even want to shag men in cartoon strips.”

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U.S. Football Tour: New York Cosmos

New York Cosmos, famous for fielding Pelé and Franz Beckenbauer in the 1970s under a previous incarnation, now ply their trade in the North American Soccer League (NASL), classed as the second tier of soccer in the United States. Cosmos beat Jacksonville Armada 3-0 in front of a crowd just under 4,000 to maintain their perfect start to the season. Mike O’Neill went along with his camera.

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The home fans look on from the stands

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A Wet and Stormy Night in Penang

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A view of Penang, including the stadium

On Saturday 23rd July, Penang played host to Selangor in a Malaysian Super League encounter, the top tier of Malaysian football. The setting was the 20,000 capacity Penang City stadium which is situated in Georgetown, Penang state. Georgetown is famed for the range of food they have to offer as well as the street art which brings the city to life. However, the art of football in Penang perhaps needs resurrecting.

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Copa América Centenario Preview

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Credit: Comnebol.com

Like the World Cup and the European Championships, the modern Copa América runs roughly on a four-year cycle. The current South American champions are Chile who won the last tournament on home soil just, er, last year. Yes, last year. The 2015 competition saw the home team beat Argentina 4-1 on penalties and it was a deserved, if somewhat unexpected victory. So why is there another Copa only a year later? Well, 2016 marks a century since the first Copa, or South American Championship of Nations as it was then known (hosted by Argentina, won by Uruguay). And it’s being held in the United States. In ten different cities. And the U.S. is participating in it, along with Mexico. And so are teams from Central America and the Caribbean. One big happy tournament of the Americas. Money is playing a part as well. Ticket prices have been criticised for their, well, cost. Many journalists and commentators (and even national federations) don’t necessarily see this Copa as a ‘genuine’ one. But enough with the negativity, it is going to be good, I promise…

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Isabelino Gradin and 100 Years of the Copa America

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Credit: pordeciralgo.co.uy

In June 2016 the USA will host the Copa Centenario, celebrating 100 years of the Copa America. Usually this tournament is contested by the ten footballing nations of South America. However, for this special anniversary edition, the teams from COMNEBOL will be joined by six teams from CONCACAF, the federation of North and Central America. This tournament has been mired in controversy and it wasn’t even guaranteed to go ahead until around a year ago. It has been seen as more of a marketing exercise than a sporting event, hence it taking place in the United States, a mere year after the last official Copa was held. Saying that, the strength of the squads named by the 16 managers would contradict this, and it is sure to be as keenly contested as any previous version of the competition. Brazil’s Neymar Jr., playing at the Rio Olympics instead, is the only major player to miss out.

Some of the most marketable players and national associations can now be found on the South American continent. Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and James Rodriguez need no introduction, and the Argentine and Brazilian national teams draw huge crowds at home and abroad, even for friendly matches. However, the beginnings were much more humble and owe a lot to the British. They also owe a lot to a particular Uruguayan: Isabelino Gradin.

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Worst in the World: International Football at the Bottom of the FIFA Rankings by Aidan Williams (Bennion Kearny, 2015)

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By Dan Williamson

Twitter: @winkveron

When we talk about international football, on the rare occasion when we’re not discussing Blattergate, it is usually eulogising the mega-nations and the world’s most high-profile players. Zlatan, Ronaldo, Bale, Messi; Germany, Spain and Brazil. However, there are 208 countries currently participating in FIFA-sanctioned football matches and tournaments. So what of the rest? Author Aidan Williams, with his first book, explores those nations at the other end of the rankings. The underdogs, the have-nots, the teams that celebrate if they manage to keep the scoreline in single figures or score a solitary goal.

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¡Golazo!: A History of Latin American Football by Andreas Campomar (Quercus, 2014)

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By Dan Williamson

Twitter: @winkveron

It is often said that football is “only a game”. However, if one region contradicts this, it has to be Latin America. ¡Golazo! attempts to cover the entire history of the region, from  Aztec ball-playing rituals of the Fifteenth Century to the modern-day. It charts the introduction of the beautiful game to Latin America by British immigrants in the Nineteeth Century and all of the key moments in between.

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