The Greenest Team in the World
Tom's Soccer Letter #13
Shirts made of waste coffee grounds and recycled plastic. Vegan food - only. “Corporate” sponsors whose goal is to save marine wildlife. Plenty of teams love their slogans and statements espousing their commitment to being part of a greater cause, but few take as much as action as one club:
For this is Forest Green Rovers, declared by Fifa the “greenest team in the world”, certified by the United Nations as the world’s first carbon-neutral football club, which in the decade since its acquisition by the green energy industrialist Dale Vince has become famous well beyond its size, for its sustainability and, especially, for the all-vegan menus offered to both players and fans. It’s not stopping there: apart from the coffee kits, there’s also a plan for a new all-timber stadium designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, which in February was approved by the English Football League, having won planning permission from Stroud District Council last December.
Rowan Moore dives into the full story of an eclectic club that is pushing at the boundary of sustainability in sport.
Data in soccer has long followed the ball, and only the ball. Finally, that’s changing, FiveThirtyEight explains:
Imagine you’re at a soccer game, and just as the opening whistle blows, the power cuts out. The stadium goes black. Eventually someone rigs up a single spotlight and the game goes on, but the light can only follow the ball. You can see who’s making a pass or a tackle, but as for what the other 21 players are up to, you’re in the dark.
That’s basically what most soccer data looks like: clear information about what’s happening on the ball and a total blank everywhere else. For such a big, messy sport, that can be a problem. No less an authority than Johan Cruyff once said the test of a good player is: “What do you do during those 87 minutes when you don’t have the ball?”
The good news is that new methods are starting to make it possible to see the rest of the pitch in a manageable way, without losing track of what’s happening on the ball. And better data is changing how soccer measures itself.
OK, I can get behind a good “wildest kits in football” post any day. Call me a biased Brighton and Hove Albion fan, though, and don’t tell me the pink and white swirls of our 1990s shirts weren’t actually wildly imaginative and ahead of their time, unlike some of the others on the list from Urban Pitch here . . .
An ongoing pandemic is a good time to announce anything open air - and in Glasgow, big plans are afoot.
Today, The Hampden Collection announces its plans to build the World’s Biggest ‘Open Air’ football museum in the South Side of Glasgow, Scotland.
Our museum will be Football’s Square Mile and become the World’s most important football heritage site. Our planned ‘Open Air’ Museum will stretch across Queens Park, Crosshill and Mount Florida. The Queens Park Recreation Ground and The Three Hampden Parks (soon to be four) are the ‘cradle’ of the modern passing and running game of Football. This brand of Football, developed by the Scots over centuries, is now enjoyed by over 3.5 billion people around the World.
The Hampden Collection takes some perhaps justified digs at English appropriation as sole originators of the beautiful game, but more importantly, it’ll be a free, open air experience for fans from the world over to learn more about one of the cradles of the game.
Your gratuitous aerial shot of a South American stadium for this edition:
Where has your club been, historically, compared to where it is now? The Athletic’s recent fan survey shows the answer to this drives fan satisfaction. Five of the top seven teams in the table - Liverpool and Manchester City being obvious exceptions - have been outside the Premier League in the past decade, giving fans of Leicester, Leeds, Brighton, Aston Villa and Wolves plenty of perspective and appreciation for where their clubs are now, on and off the field. The reverse, of course, is true for Manchester United and Arsenal.
Seven nation army
Football chants now spread worldwide - at least when crowds are at matches - in as much time as it takes for a YouTube upload. But how, when and where did chanting at football matches originate? What forms has it taken over the decades? The Outside Write podcast features a fascinating interview with Andrew Lawn, who has written a whole book on the subject. Listen in.
If you feel like modern football is missing something - well, perhaps what we really need is just a little more flair from referees when delivering dismissals?
Forewarning, this is a long but biting polemic on the recent election of Patrice Motsepe to president of Caf, governing body of soccer on the African continent:
Everything went as scripted at Caf’s general assembly in Rabat, Morocco on Friday 12 March. Fifa president Gianni Infantino witnessed his favourite, Patrice Motsepe, become the new Caf president by acclamation, while his closest supporters all obtained vital positions in the Caf Executive Committee and the Fifa council. And as Caf effectively became a sub-division of Fifa in the process after the announcement of Infantino’s close friend and enforcer Veron Mosengo-Omba as its new secretary general, no objections were dared uttered by the electorate.
Maradona’s life, as told by the ever incisive Guillem Balague? Yes, please.
Could never have imagined armbands could become art: fortunately, someone at Huesca had that vision.