Tuesday, 20 May 2014

In the Name of the Father

First published on FourFourTwo

In February of 1974, Danny Coster gave birth to her son Jordi by Caesarean section. The operation was carefully timed to coincide with a short period of time off work that Danny’s husband Johan had been granted by his employers. It just so happened that Johan was one of the world’s greatest footballers, and his employers FC Barcelona one of the world’s greatest football clubs – and who, the weekend that Jordi Cruyff was born, had no fixtures scheduled to be played.

So it was that Jordi Cruyff was predestined to a life spent living not just with his famous surname, but also his symbolic given name. Sant Jordi – Saint George – is the patron saint of Barcelona and Catalonia, and Johan Cruyff had fought with the Francoist authorities of 1970s Spain in order to circumvent a ban on the use of Catalan names and register it to his son in that form (as opposed to the Spanish “Jorge”). It was a name that would forever bond Cruyff junior with Catalonia, and by extension the iconic status held by his father within the region.

Bosnia Divided in Brazil

First published on Sports Illustrated and Roads & Kingdoms

There is a natural desire, on the part of everyone from pundits to fans to football bureaucrats, to exult in the power of the World Cup to unify.

This is especially true in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is making its World Cup debut next month. Sports Illustrated's Jonathan Wilson noted that "tens of thousands of fans of all ethnicities took to the streets of Sarajevo to celebrate Bosnia's qualification for World Cup 2014. ... There, general delight suggested that something unexpected and beautiful had occurred, and it hinted at a possible future unity."

Inevitably, the focus of much of the attention will be on how this divided country's qualification for a World Cup has united the entire nation after nearly twenty years of post-civil war rehabilitation. "A few years ago you could not imagine Bosnians, Serbs and Croats supporting the team, but that could change now," Bosnia-Herzegovina coach Safet Sušić was recently quoted as saying in an article pointedly titled "Bosnia goes from the battlefield to the World Cup."

But on the ground in Bosnia-Herzogovina, it looks for all the world like Sušić is wrong.

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