A Mental Escape

Soccer behind bars provides relief from despair

Article 24 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes that every person has the right to leisure. For many people, leisure consists of playing soccer, especially with goals, referees, out-of-bounds lines and other standard conditions — including opponents. These things are not so easy to get at the Oregon State Penitentiary (OSP), I discovered when I came to play there as an outsider in a prison soccer match. Continue reading 

A Cup Full of Surprises

A street painting of Brazil’s flag with the word ‘Hexa’ (‘Sixth’) representing Brazilian aspirations to win its sixth World Cup title in 2014. Such aspirations disappeared much faster than will the paint. Photo: Killian Doherty

A Copa das surpresas (“the [World] Cup of surprises”) was a phrase I remember hearing several times during the first weeks of the 2014 World Cup. Holland had crushed the 2010 World Cup champion, Spain, 5-1. Germany beat Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, 4-0. Costa Rica went undefeated in its first three games to become the leader of one of the most difficult groups of the cup. Top-ranked teams like Spain, Italy, Portugal and England didn’t even make it to the round of 16. Continue reading 

A Dirty Soccer Secret

Argentine friends wear their national team jerseys on game day in Brazil. doherty (right) wears his training jersey of an Argentine club, Estudiantes de la Plata.

I consider myself a fairly transparent person, but there’s something I’ve been reluctant to share: I would not be upset or disappointed if the albiceleste (the Argentine team — nicknamed after the white and sky-blue stripes of their flag and jerseys) wins the World Cup. I was passionately supporting other teams but they’ve all been eliminated.  Continue reading 

U.S. Catches World Cup Fever

Doherty with new Brazilian friends after the exciting match between U.S.A. and Portugal

While soccer has been exploited by some with malicious intentions (recently evidenced by the horrific suicide bombing that took 14 lives of World Cup-viewers in Nigeria), soccer has tremendous potential for promoting and facilitating peaceful intercultural exchanges and fraternal international relations.  Continue reading 

Neighborhoods Go Wild

My travel experience has convinced me that the best plan is to make no plans — or at least to keep plans as flexible as possible — and my experience of watching Brazil’s first match in this hubristically hopeful host nation has confirmed my conclusion that spontaneity and flexibility bear the sweetest of fruits.  Continue reading 

The Beautiful Game

After Charles Miller brought two soccer balls with him from Scotland to Brazil in 1894, the game caught on like wildfire. Soccer has become a defining characteristic of this young, diverse nation, which often identifies itself as o país do futebol (“the country of soccer”). Alex Bellos, former South America correspondent for The Guardian, concluded that “football gives Brazilians a feeling of national identity — citizenship, even — much more than anything else.”  Continue reading 

Whutsup Worldcup

Killian Doherty juggles a soccer ball

From June 12 to July 13, billions of people will watch the world’s most popular sports event: the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup. The 2014 FIFA World Cup will be the 20th such tournament — and the second to be held in Brazil. Of the 203 national teams that competed in regional tournaments in order to qualify, only 31 teams will travel to Brazil to join the host nation for the 2014 cup. Continue reading