Archive for August, 2012

The Beautiful Game: Fair Trade And Soccer

TSG’s Beautiful Game Series explores how soccer brings about social change around the globe.

Here is Senda Athletics founder Santiago Halty

“The Beautiful Game” would not exist without a soccer ball. Something so simple can bring so many people so much joy. Sometimes that same ball can create distress at the same time, when the people who make them are not treated fairly. My goal after graduating from college was to make anyone happy with soccer, and I found that my way to do so was with Fair Trade Soccer balls!

[You can support Senda Athletics goals right here]

Growing up in Argentina, soccer is a major part of daily life and so many people, including myself are passionate about it. When I decided to go to college in the United States, I realized that the world was a much bigger place. Although I enjoyed my time living in a different country, I found myself homesick many times. The main way that I stayed sane was playing soccer.  Soccer was something that connected all kinds of people, with completely different backgrounds, through passion, camaraderie and a love of the game.

Meeting factory workers…

During my studies at UC San Diego, I learned about sweatshops in the athletic equipment industry, as well as an alternative known as Fair Trade. At one point, I realized how some soccer balls were being made: in very poor working conditions. Unfair wages, long working hours, and child labor were problems prevalent within the soccer ball industry. I saw the soccer ball, something that could bring so much joy, could also bring so much injustice to the people who manufactured it. I decided to combine my passion for soccer and my interest in other people’s well-being into making a fair trade soccer company—and in 2011, Senda Athletics officially launched in the Bay Area, California.

Fair trade means providing reasonable wages and hours, clean and safe working conditions, no child labor, and the ability for people to uphold their dignity by providing themselves with an honest living. Fair Trade USA, a nonprofit, certified Senda’s factory in Sialkot, Pakistan, as a Fair Trade factory.

In May of 2012, I visited the factory where Senda’s soccer balls are made. I was very pleased that I got to meet the people behind the product. I lived in the factory for ten days, and with the help of my guide’s translations, I was able to communicate with the workers. I also had a chance to meet some of their families, and even play a game of soccer.

Pick-up in Pakistan…

In the worldwide context of soccer, the game is growing, both in popularity and skill, within the United States. It is important for this growing demographic of soccer lovers to realize that their balls can both come in quality and provide some good for people. Some skillful American players have already joined us on the path to making soccer a fair trade sport, such as Sam Cronin (San Jose Earthquakes) and Natalie Spilger (Chicago Red Stars).

(Sam Cronin (left) from the San Jose Earthquakes and Natalie Spilger from the Chicago Red Stars, support Senda’s Fair Trade Mission.) 

I hope you will join us and change the world through soccer as well. I want to share this story of empowerment through Fair Trade and soccer with others, and to do so I just launched an Indiegogo campaign to make a short documentary, “Senda: Soccer’s Path to Fair Trade” about this trip, how Senda came to be, and our non-profit soccer partners. Anyone can contribute, and we have some great soccer and Fair Trade perks for our supporters!

Live: Gold Medal Game: Japan vs. USA

The two veterans of last year’s World Cup final clash again today for the right to have the Olympic Gold medal bestowed up them. It’s about to go down.

Last year, Japan undercut the US’s hopeful bid to claim the World Cup’s top prize.

U.S. Women vs. Japan Women 2:45 p.m. ET Wembley Stadium
London, England
NBC Soccer Channel, NBC Live Extra (web)

Sporting KC Talks Organization First In Hoisting The US Open Cup Trophy

A sparkling celebration….

Jay Bell took in the game then ran around grabbing sound bytes like a squirrel stocking nuts for the winter.

The story off the field of last night’s dramatic US Open Cup final victory for Sporting Kansas City is easy to write. A multi-year process was undertaken by Robb Heineman and Sporting Club, formerly OnGoal, LLC, to re-brand the Kansas City Wizards as Sporting Kansas City and build a progressive Major League Soccer franchise. That process resulted in a first-class stadium in LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, a fervent fan base and now a US Open Cup championship.

The attitude isn’t just team-first at SKC, it’s organization-first and community-first.

“I feel extremely happy,” said goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen after the victory. “I think it is so well deserved for this whole organization and the whole city. There’s a lot of hard-working people in this organization doing a great job to promote the soccer team. This is not only Sporting Kansas City’s win tonight. It’s the whole area; whole Kansas City. I think it’s unbelievable how soccer has been growing here the last year and a half.”

Kamara: Badge First

“It’s a team,” said fan-favorite Kei Kamara, who collapsed on the field once the win was secured. “Owner Robb Heineman put the perfect letter on Twitter earlier, ‘Everybody is Sporting Kansas City.” The front office, fans, everybody, players — we’re all one.”

“I really mean this, it’s not really anything that I feel personally,” said SKC head coach Peter Vermes. “I really feel more for our ownership group because they’ve invested so much into this team to try to turn it around and turn into a real professional sport in this area. Obviously, you see the environment. It’s unreal. You can’t deny that. Our fans — it’s a reward to them. It’s a reward to our ownership group and our staff for the hard work that they do putting all this stuff together and putting it on. Finally, the players, they have stayed very committed and we’ve been building this over the last three years. We’re now here and it’s an exciting time.”

That excitement and reward was never certain for the home team in Wednesday night’s match. The Seattle Sounders traveled to KC as one of the hottest teams in MLS and as the three-time defending US Open Cup champions. The Sounders had never lost a US Open Cup match as an MLS club.

Threatening skies–and MLS’s hottest team–greeted the baby blues when they took the field.

Sporting was in the ascendancy in the early going. Osvaldo Alonso picked up a card for Seattle in the fifth minute and Paulo Nagamura was able to shake off a tough early challenge to the face that would be covered by a bandage for the rest of the game. Sporting was never able to find the key pass or shot. Teal Bunbury scuffed one early shot and later did not see an open Kamara waiting inside the penalty area. Graham Zusi was also left without service on the right despite drifting away from the defense.

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Did That Happen?!: Revisiting the USA vs. Canada Masterclassic

Ring-a-round the Mounties.

Maura Gladys finally composes herself to write on the US’s heart-stopping win.

Some games are won with heart and soul and will and belief and all of the other intangibles that pepper sports vernacular when a monumental moment unfolds. But the U.S. women’s national team epic victory over Canada in yesterday’s Olympic semifinal match wasn’t won with intangibles. It was won in the physical realm. With clocks and feet and arms and legs and heads. The game was more a grueling boxer’s bout than a magical fairytale, with the U.S. going punch for punch with Canada before landing the knockout blow with less than thirty seconds left in the second overtime. It was physical, grinding, utterly unexpected and profoundly moving. And now, the body (and other) parts that meant the most during those 123 minutes and 30 seconds.

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TSG’s Azteca Roster: Being Klinsmann

Few remember that three years ago, it was a trip to Azteca that was the coming out party for Stu Holden on the USMNT “A” team…

TSG usually goes the route of trying to predict what the head coach, manager, or front office of some club will do. We remove (attempt to remove) personal biases and frankly it’s more important in our minds to initiate conversation with our audience on the observations seen to date.

With that said, we’ll take a mini-hiatus from that typical disposition and give you a list of what squad the collective we would call in to face the El Tri at their lofty and notoriously treacherous home adobo.

Jurgen Klinsmann is supposed to wait all the way until this weekend to announce the roster. The game is August 15th.


» The Azteca is an extremely difficult place to play at get a rhythm for obvious reasons. Therefore, a disposition to first team players as much as possible.

» Much like the Italy win, a US win will grab headlines and vault the USMNT program forward, even as Mexico are (perhaps) missing players at the Olympics. The US program could really use an outright win against a program that has seemingly leap-frogged them in CONCACAF.

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Illuminations: Gold Cup 2011 vs. “The 5-Game Tournament”


2011 – ?

Darius Tahir bifurcates the past two USMNT seasonal campaigns using the Klinsmann hiring as the fulcrum point.

The US takes on Mexico precisely one month from today. The game is a ceremonious marker in time for the US Men’s National Team Program. It was one year ago as Bob Bradley was making phone calls to begin picking up the pieces of a Gold Cup Final gone horribly off the rails that Sunil Gulati swooped in and in a move that many had expected for some time, relieved the Princeton grad of his second term of service to the men’s program.

With Jurgen Klinsmann now having a full term in office, his recently concluded “5-Game Tournament” presents an interesting set of observations to match against Bob Bradley’s Confederation Cup-seeking Gold Cup campaign.

Now our cursory analysis by Darius Tahir

(All statistics shared in this spreadsheet)

Okay, Darius, what you got?

It’s awfully helpful when a comparison makes itself. In this case, with Klinsmann rapidly approaching his first-year anniversary of taking the head job with the USMNT, a natural comparison practically begs itself to be made: Bob Bradley’s Gold Cup run and Klinsmann’s “Five Game Tournament.” So let’s make it, then—what are the similarities, differences, and what might give you confidence (or lack of it) for the future)? And we’ll try to make these comparisons, as often as possible, through cold hard statistics—the OPTA statistics provided by MLS, in this case.

Headline Record

The US with a masterful performance against Jamaica at the Gold Cup…

Five games and six games, as the case may be, is hardly the biggest sample size to draw really firm conclusions from. But it’s probably big enough to make some preliminary ones. Some other caveats must be applied—all of Bradley’s games were competitive; only two of Klinsmann’s were. On the other hand, all of Bradley’s games were at home; two of Klinsmann’s were in the hostile environs of Guatemala City, and, ah, Toronto Canada.

On the other hand, Bradley’s team faced better opponents. Bradley’s team, at the time of playing them, had an Elo rating average of 50; Klinsmann’s, 65.

In terms of results—with no regard to those caveats—Bradley’s look better.

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