Heaven is in the details: The 2015-16 Vancouver Whitecaps shirt

It was on sale.

I’d imagined I ordered a simple, white jersey. Another they all-look-the-same MLS shirt, brought to you by Adidas since 2004.

But a closer look revealed a delicate design, quiet even.

And unless you’re pulling the shirt over your head for Saturday morning pick-up, the small details are easily missed.

The shirt is both modern and retro. Harking back to the Whitecap’s NASL days, the tag below the collar reading: Since 1974.

“No that’s not the year I was born.” I explain to my teammates. It’s when the Vancouver Whitecaps were foun…oh never mind.

No. That’s not my birth year.

The club motto – Our all. Our honour. hides below the nape on the inside collar.

A perfect mental lift when playing indoor 5-aside, and all oxygen has escaped your lungs, but your team has no subs.

Our honOUR

The slogan reappears on the navy strip near the waist. Helpful again, when stricken with side stitch.

At the hip

Across the upper chest are the fade-to-blue-to-white jagged edges of the North Shore mountains. An homage to the local landscape. And yes, I googled “Mountains in Vancouver”.

The majestic North Shore peaks.

True kit aficionados know a classic shirt sponsor can unify the entire design.

See D.C. United’s all black VW shirts. Or Fiorentina’s Nintendo kit.

The Bell logo knits all the design elements together, and isn’t a too obnoxious plea for market share.

Kit diversity is missed when one brand sponsors a whole league. The styles become repetitive, homogeneous, dull.

Somehow the Vancouver Whitecaps 2015-2016 shirt escaped this fate.

Further reading: Graham Ruthven on kit designs and the MLS adidas partnership.


What’s your number Scott McTominay?

It won’t be 39 next year.  Not after that Parc des Princes performance.

His PSG assignment? Take care of the boring stuff. The coffee orders. The midfield dish washing.

Partner with Fred in the center of midfield. Be his right sided wingman.

Jog east. Jog west. No ball watching.

Close PSG passing lanes to Mpappe and De Maria. Track Kehrer on corners.

Be a dart to cork on Veratti. Help Ashley Young double him up if he dawdles.

In possession, check to the ball between Di María in Mbappé. Turn and deliver the simple pass. You’re not Pirlo and you don’t have to be.

In transition, first time passes to Young or Dalot are required. Preferably, played into space, for them to run on to.

That’s the assignment. Humble midfield apprentice work.

But humble tasks completed with enthusiasm and excellence lift a team, and, individual reputations.

So what will your squad number be next year McTominay? The Spanish #4? The Argentine #5?

Because 39 no longer befits your stature.

Young Man Tadić

With Ajax you assume the entire team is constructed with 18 to 20 somethings. Maybe a few aging swans tucked in there, but mainly a prospects squad.

I curled my eyebrows and stroked my beard when I read in Nick Ames’s Guardian piece that Ajax’s number 10, Tadić, was 30. Hmmmm. 30? Really?

Funny. I curled my eyebrows and stroked my peach fuzz when I learned World Cup hero Zidane was only 26 when he lifted the golden football idol.

“Dude must be in his mid 30s” my buddies and I agreed.

At 30 though, Tadić is the ideal age to have witnessed Zidane’s finest pirouettes.

30 is the perfect age to have memorized Zidane’s signature and forge it over and over in the kitchen, and through to the backyard.

It’s the perfect age to have mastered it in 5-aside football courts in his native Serbia.

And the perfect age to have rehearsed it even more in Southampton training sessions.

30 is also the perfect age to muster the composure to pirouette past Casmiero and into Ajax legendom.

Zidane’s shadow looms eternal over the Beranbue, but Tadić left Madrid last night casting his own.

Tadic did admit Zidane was his idol and he watches clips of him constantly.

Futsal – The Adaptation Game

I have futsal on the mind.

A few passages from Alex Bellos’ book – Futebol The Brazilian Way of Life reminded me how futsal is a game of adaptation.

It’s manner of play certainly – the constant dribbles with the sole. Toe pokes to shoot, all marks of players adapting to futsal’s confined space. But this thread of adaptation exists in futsal’s origins too.

Alex Bellos explains how the challenges of nature and infrastructure created “drawing room” football:

The difficulty of maintaining full-sized grass football pitches in a tropical, developing country – the cost, the climate and the lack of urban space – has led to the sport being adapted to whichever terrain is available. The incessant modification of football is also the result of a society which is not hung up about changing rules.

Futsal also went through some peculiar rule experiments:

In some games, futsal players were not allowed to speak. Any utterance would result in a foul. Fans too, for a short period, were not allowed to make any noise. But the silliest rule stipulated that players were not allowed to play the ball while a hand was touching the floor. This meant that if someone was knocked over, or tripped up, he would avoid using his hand for support – since this would rule him out of play.

Futsal of yesteryear resembles backyard games you’d make up with your boys on a boring summer afternoon. A football version of Calvinball.

Even the most successful futsal region can be seen as an adaptive response to its circumstances.

The northern Brazilian state Ceará, dominated the Brazilian futsal scene for years, based on a lack of top flight, 11-a-side football:

A peculiarity of Brazilian futsal is the dominance of Ceará, a state in the northeast better known for untouched beaches, cowboys, Catholic pilgrims and droughts. It’s capital, Fortaleza, is the only one of Brazil’s eight largest cities that does not have at least two football teams that regularly play in the top division. Perhaps because of this, Ceará has put its energies into Futsal. Ceará is the state with the largest number of victories in futsal’s Brazil Cup. ‘I think futsal fitted us like a glove. The Cearenese is irreverent, he’s not interested in tactical systems, he likes messing about,’ adds Vicente Figueiredo. ‘Here people are more interested in futsal than football. All the big futsal clubs in Brazil always have a Cearenese in the team.’

Reading these few passages, it almost feels like futsal, not football, is Brazil’s national sport. The root elite Brazilian footballers grow from.

Napoli’s Punk Rock Percussionist

He draws your attention, even at an inch tall on the TV screen.

His sky blue socks socks sag and rest at his shins, with a fat florescent yellow band sitting just below his kneecaps. Of course, the bands match his highlighter Nike Mercurial Superflys. The number 17 is stitched across his back. Tattoo sleeves wrap his forearms. A red Acqua Lete logo scrolls across his chest. Pirates goatee? Check.

Without the ball he and his mohawk (a mohawk that would strike fear in middle age 1980’s moms) take up positions a few feet in front of Napoli’s centerback pairing – Koulibaly and Albiol, forming a flexible, equilateral, defensive triangle.

In possession he stands between Mbappe and Neymar. He’ll turn with the ball when pressure evaporates, to play into Insigne checking in, to Callejon wide right, or to an overlapping Rui wide left.

To create attacking rhythm and draw out PSG a few more yards he’d again engage with his centerbacks, playing it back first time to Albiol or Koulibaly.

Hamšík trots, power-walks and gallops through the match. But never sprints. His knees stay bent. His feet stay light, ready to cushion incoming passes.

He turned down a Chinese ransom for nights like these. Napoli’s punk rock percussionist still has a role to play.

As observed from Napoli’s 2-2 draw with PSG on 10/24/2018