The stadiums might not be ready, the workers may be on strike, and Brazilians might not be all that excited about it, but Thursday marks the beginning of the World Cup. While sports usually fall outside the purview of our work here at FP, the World Cup isn’t just about the game of soccer. This year’s tournament will offer a wealth of subplots – from Brazil’s effort to brand the games as the country’s arrival on the world stage to the corruption and missteps that have made the run-up to the games a political nightmare for Dilma Rousseff.
And to cover it all, we are immensely excited to be launching a dedicated blog for our World Cup coverage, Midfield General. Helmed by our economics columnist Dan Altman — turns out he’s something of an ace soccer sabermetrician — the blog will be investigating the myriad political, economic, social, and cultural issues that swirl around the world’s biggest sporting event. The blog’s contributors include a poet, Musa Okwonga, an Emmy-winning television writer, Kevin Bleyer, and a motley crew of reporters and editors. FP’s executive editor, Ben Pauker, has pledged to make a cameo.
You can expect the blog to cover all the geopolitical angles of this year’s games — recall, perhaps, the 1974 showdown between East and West Germany — and also examine the less than obvious ways that the tournament reflects a continent on the move, but still beset by its own set of challenges and obstacles. This year’s Colombian side, for example, not only boasts a strong lineup but carries the hopes and dreams of a country that has recently emerged from decades of drug-fueled violence. This year’s tournament will mark 20 years since Andres Escobar scored an own goal against the United States and was gunned down in retaliation upon his return to Medellin.
The blog’s name, Midfield General, is not only a nod to FP’s long history of covering conflict but to the essential playmaker in modern soccer: someone who can foresee the passage of play and direct a team’s strategy. We hope to do something similar, taking you on an unexpected exploration of the beautiful game.