Futbol: No country for old men? Don’t tell that to Drogba

Team USA midfielder Julian Green is 19 years old. Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is 20. Raphaël Varane, a French defender, is also 19. Portugal’s William Carvalho is a wee 22.

It’s often said the football, particularly at the World Cup level, is increasingly a young man’s game.

Didier Drogba hasn’t gotten the memo.

The Cote d’Ivoirian international, who is appearing in his third World Cup, turned 36 in March and is still going strong. Now playing for Galatarasary after a notable career with Chelsea, Drogba is expected bring poise and experience to the Elephants’ bid to make it beyond the group stage to the tournament’s knockout round (which the team has never done).

Mind you, Drogba isn’t the oldest player in the World Cup by a long stretch (that honor belongs to Cameroon’s Roger Milla).

Here’s one example of the African’s exuberance at recent pre-tournament exhibition match against El Salvador:

Drogba(h/t Sonny Side of Sports)

A Hex on Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo,  Miranda

With one week to go before the World Cup kicks off in Brazil, the football world (which includes much of humanity) has been buzzing in recent days about the fate of one of its best and most visible players.

Portugal’s Christian Ronaldo is nursing a knee ailment described in press reports as “tendinosis” in his left knee cap. The Portuguese Football Federation said Wednesday that Ronaldo underwent “specially adapted, individual” training on Monday. The ailment apparently kept him out of a pre-tournament match-up last week that saw Portugal play to a scoreless draw with Greece.

The health of the 29-year-old forward is of great interest not only to Portugal as a whole but the other teams Portugal has been paired up with in Group G: Germany, the United States and Ghana.

While the other sides have no doubt been painstakingly reviewing video of Ronaldo’s exploits, the Ghanaian Black Stars, meanwhile, have taken a more unusual approach to preparations. To be precise, a Ghanaian witchdoctor has joined the preparations with his own contribution, as VOA’s Portuguese Service Joao Jose Santarita reports:

Ghanaian witchdoctor Nana Kwaku Bonsam claims he has put a spiritual spell — Kahwiri Kapam — on Cristiano Ronaldo that is responsible for the Portuguese star’s knee and thigh injuries that have raised doubts about his ability to be at 100 percent for the World Cup.

“I know what Cristiano Ronaldo’s injury is about,” he told Kumasi radio station Angel FM. “I’m working on him. I am very serious about it. Last week I went around looking for four dogs and I got them to be used in manufacturing a special spirit called ‘Kahwiri Kapam.’”

Bonsam said his goal was to rule Ronaldo out of the World Cup or at least prevent him from playing against Ghana.

“This injury can never be cured by any medic,” he said. “They can never see what is causing the injury because it is spiritual. Today it is his knee, tomorrow it is his thigh, next day it is something else.”

Ghanaian teams have been accused of using witchcraft in the past. Two years ago, Black Stars coach Goran Stevanovic blamed players using witchcraft against their own teammates were responsible for their loss to Zambia in the semifinals of the African Cup of Nations.

On Wednesday, Ronaldo was seen training with the ball for the first time as at the start of a training session open to the media at the New York Jets training facility in Florham Park, New Jersey.

No word on whether Team USA plan on enlisting the help of a witchdoctor in its preparations for what many consider to be “The Group of Death” (on account of the quality and caliber of the teams).

And if there’s any question in your mind as to Ronaldo’s flair, skill and artistry on the field, check out this snazzy little video posted by Ronaldo’s home club, Real Madrid, on its Web site.

Happy Gol

Not surprisingly, where the world’s largest sporting event is concerned, you’ve got major corporate sponsors looking to cash in on the hundreds of millions (billions?) of eyeballs and ears who will be tuning in, online or on the air, to some or all of the month-long tournament.

So creative advertising minds have been hard at work for months, coming up with the campaigns that will seek to embed their customers’ brands into the consciousness of consumers from Algeria to Zimbabwe, and all points in between.

In fact, there’s already plenty of pretty entertaining material circulating on the ‘Net.

Fox News Australia (go figure) has put together a good compilation of what’s out there.

Here’s one that’s pretty fascinating, regardless of how you feel about soccer (or a certain fast food chain…)

Group stage

Team USA and the Group of Death

Of the eight groupings in the World Cup finals in Brazil, one is considered to be the “Group of Death” given the caliber of the teams lumped together. By all accounts, this would be Group G. And by all accounts, the team that is considered least likely to make it out of the group stage of competition (a round-robin competition where each team plays every other team in the group and the team with most points advances) is  the United States. Other Group G group mates are Germany, Ghana and Portugal, all of whom have serious talent, speed and experience.

U.S. Men

This will be Team USA’s first World Cup under the leadership of German coach Jurgen Klinsmann, and hopes are high (even if expectations are low). After being signed as national coach in 2011, Klinsmann garnered criticism for an inauspicious start that included losing four of his first six games. Since then, though, he’s netted some impressive victories over Italy and archrival Mexico and its fifth CONCACAF Gold Cup last year over Panama.

Klinsmann, who signed a contract with US Soccer last year that will keep him at the helm through the 2018 tournament in Russia, made waves recently when he left the Americans’ top all-time goal scorer, veteran midfielder Landon Donovan, off his 23-man roster heading to Brazil. Meantime, however, Klinsmann will be leaning on other veterans to fight the good fight in Brazil.

That would include goalkeeper Tim Howard, who has played for Premier League club Everton since 2007, and has been on the national roster since 2002 and has made two previous World Cups appearances.

In this clip here, Howard is talking about the USA’s 2-1 victory over Turkey in a recent warm-up match.

(photo courtesy U.S. Soccer Federation)

World Cup Bugs

Heading to Brazil later this month for the world’s largest (arguably) sporting event?

Got sunscreen?
Got facepaint?
Got national team kit?
Got vuvuzela?
Got vaccines?Brazil WCup Daily Life

The main US public health agency is warning travelers heading to the World Cup, which kicks off on June 12, to make sure to consult a doctor beforehand. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in an advisory published Monday that “travelers to Brazil for mass gathering events face unique health risks associated with their travel.” Among the preventable diseases travelers may encounter are hepatitis A and B, typhoid, yellow fever, meningococcal, rabies, malaria, dengue fever and other nasty bugs (not all of which do require vaccines, mind you).

In its announcement, the agency cited several other past outbreaks of mass illness at international events: an influenza outbreak at 2008 World  Youth Day in Sydney, and meningococcal outbreaks at the 2000 hajj in Saudi Arabia and a Belgian soccer tournament in 1997. It also noted that more than 1,000 people sought health care for heat-related illness at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics.

Brazil-bound fans should make sure to talk to a doctor to talk about precautions at least four to six weeks ahead of time, the agency said.  (Which means that if you’re just becoming aware of this issue now, it may be too late to do anything about it).

Something else to consider, Joanna Gaines, in the CDC’s Geographic Medicine branch, tells VOA, is driving.

“Most of the roads in Brazil are actually not paved, and we do recommend that travelers be particularly vigilant, so really being careful when they are driving,” Gaines says. “Making sure that you’re trying to find a vehicle that does have the safety features that you want – I mean, at a minimum seat belts for sure.”

No word on recommendations for other common World Cup related  maladies such as laryngitis, heartbreak or hangovers…