A Monument to Losing: The Importance of World Cup Heartbreak

By Zack Goldman

No feeling is more coveted in football than World Cup triumph.

But, is there any one more fascinating—or important—as World Cup heartbreak? 

In any tournament, it’s only natural that the language and tone that we use to discuss the event is elevated and inflated.  This is especially true during the World Cup.  No matter how banal any loss may appear—it’s not just a loss.  It’s billed as a death.

It’s that moment when hearts, full of hope, founder—going down with the wreckage of a cup dream sailing smoothly only breaths earlier.  The moment when thoughts of “oh?” turn to “oh no” and then, emptily, just to “oh.”

That’s not to say achievements in the World Cup are only measured by winning the whole thing—or even winning games at all—but it is to say that there is something deeply sonorous and bleak that comes with being knocked out.

Yet, if one of football—and, indeed, sport’s—truest beauties is that it provides a vehicle for sharing the power of an emotion with others, then the importance of losing is the essence of that virtue more than victory.

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Reimagining the World Cup, by James Taylor

The World Cup is quickly approaching, with kick-off in Rio de Janerio less than one hundred days away. That said, there’s still plenty of time to remember and admire the past. In a poster series commemorating previous World Cups, Manhattan-based graphic designer, James Taylor, reimagined posters for each tournament, using era-specific design principles to illustrate the unique style of each World Cup. You can find the whole collection on Pennarello Design[Posted by Maxi

"Following Die Löwen"

Travel with AFR and photographer Mixen as he follows his beloved TSV 1860 München around Germany

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This is 1.FC Union Berlin

If you want to see a club in its element, this is how it’s done. Taking an old fashioned European Football Weekend, brothers Jason and Kai took to Berlin to experience the supporter culture at FC Union Berlin.

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A stadium full of Christmas carols: An FC Union Berlin Tradition

Some go to church on Christmas Eve, but more than 20,000 FC Union Berlin fans pack their stadium, candles in hand, to sing “Oh Christmas Tree”. It was the 11th year in a row that supporters gathered for what has become a brilliantly unique Christmas tradition known as Weihnachtssingen, which is easy to celebrate given the club’s red and white colours.

It may be unconventional, but the city of Berlin celebrates an unconventional, hard-working group of athletes. FC Union Berlin was formed by iron workers more than a century ago, and during the Cold War it became a symbol of resistance against the East German government. Today, FC Union remain beloved by tens or thousands of Berliners.

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"The American Dream" by Dan Leydon
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The United States were handed a tough group during this month’s World Cup draw, but when you break it down, the US only has to overcome a historic rivalry with Ghana, Cristiano Ronaldo, a pack of hungry Germans, and well, a slew of the world’s best to reach the promised land. 
A gargantuan task? Sure. Impossible? Well, we’ll leave that for you to decide. [Find more of Dan’s work here and get it at Dan’s Etsy shop here, which coincidentally, is finalizing shipments for the holiday season. Get on it. Posted by Maxi.]

"The American Dream" by Dan Leydon

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Honest Reactions from the 2014 World Cup Draw

Putting managers and footballers near journalists is always done with the best of intentions, but in an era where news moves through the cosmos at an unbelievable pace, players and coaches stick to a fairly predictable script when responding to any type of question from the press.

Thankfully, neither group ever manages to hold their poker face; with a bit of research and plenty of imagination, those mundane quotes reveal a deeper meaning. Let’s take a look at what players and coaches said in the aftermath of Friday’s World Cup Draw, and what they actually meant to say.

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque

What he said: “We can’t say we were handed an easy draw. It’s a complicated group with tough sides. It’s going to be difficult.”

What he meant: “We were handed an easy draw. Every draw is easy when you’re Spain. I am happy we could avoid Switzerland this time around, but let’s talk again before the semifinals.”

Greece captain Giorgos Karagounis

What he said: “I don’t care how people describe our game or whether our style will be more defensive or offensive. We will play to make the last 16 and will fight for it as much as we can - you can be sure about that.”

What he meant: “Historically speaking, we’re much better at the Olympics than this, but we’re going to have fun fighting. I mean, playing football.”

United States defender DaMarcus Beasley

What he said: “I think [Portugal] have a lot of weapons. I don’t think they’re a one-man show.”

What he meant: “We’ll have to use all our weapons. If we want any sort of result against Portugal, we’re going to have to poison Cristiano Ronaldo. Even then, he might score 6. It’s a tough ask.”

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The Group of Opportunity

It could have been boring, mundane, even uneventful. It could have been straightforward, unexciting, deserving of a shrug of the shoulders and a “meh.” A second consecutive kind World Cup draw for the U.S. Men’s national team, this time perhaps in the “Group of Life” with Switzerland, Ecuador and France, may have provided more room for comfort and confidence for American fans ahead of June, but may as well have offered less to truly capture the imagination of the neutral.

What the United States - as well as Germany, Portugal, and Ghana - have gotten instead, if not the toughest group in Brazil 2014, is the most drama-filled pairing of them all. For a spectacle that comes just once every four years, Friday’s draw at the Costa do Sauípe Resort in Bahia provided three match-ups that are truly worth the wait.

As Jozy Altidore said after the draw, "this isn’t the Group of Death, but a Group of Opportunity."

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The 2014 World Cup’s First Threads

adidas was the first to release their home kits to be used next summer in Brazil. Your thoughts?

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