Friday, June 16, 2006

World Cup 2006: This is NOT just a game!

Moving into Day 8 of the FIFA World Cup 2006 the excitement surrounding this truly global sporting event continues to build. Wednesday night after the German team defeated Poland by the skin of their teeth (1-0 in overtime) the celebrations in the streets here were some of the biggest and happiest I have ever witnessed. My favorite team in this year’s competition is Ecuador who has delivered some of the best and most exciting play of the tournament so far. Ecuador is very likely to beat or tie Germany in the final Group A match on Tuesday June 20th. This would be equivalent to a national disaster for German sports writers, radio and TV sports commentators, and the fans. The German team has some great players and Germany coach Jürgen Klingsman is one of the best in the business, but the team has NOT been playing at a championship level in their first two matches. The Ecuador team on the other hand has proven to soccer fans from around the world that they have come to Germany to play some serious ball. Period. It doesn’t matter who wins next Tuesday’s match since both teams have qualified to go through to the next round to face either England or Sweden.

The embarrassing defeat handed to the U.S.A. squad by the top notch Czech Republic team last Monday was painful and I have had to take the obligatory America-bashing and (un)informed commentary about the lack of professional skills and interest in soccer in the United States all week from friends and colleagues and even strangers on the street. It’s gotten so bad that just the other day a stray (German) dog tried to pee on my leg just to show his disdain and disapproval for the U.S. team’s poor performance. He missed. Therefore I’ve added some additional links below to sites that focus on the U.S. sports news coverage of the World Cup 2006. This is for my readers who are interested in knowing the facts vs. the opinion of the average dumb—s expert on U.S. soccer I have to put up with here in Good Old Europe on a regular basis.

By the way, the American women soccer fans outnumbered the guys by at least 3-1 in the pub at the opener against the Czechs. Of course “the Boyz” put on a big comedy show to keep the girls laughing and upbeat at what would have otherwise been an evening of pure misery. The handful of Czech and German fans in attendance loved the show too, albeit they probably didn’t understand how we were losing the game and still having great fun. Crazy Americans.

There has been some outstanding coverage of the World Cup 2006 in the blogosphere and I am surprised how extensive media sites such as Sports Illustrated and ESPN have adopted blogs for their readers and soccer fans from around the globe. Speaking of globe,
Global Voices published a post just yesterday about the cool blend of Hip-Hop and World Cup Soccer over at the Soul on Ice blog. BBC News online today highlights African bloggers writing about the competition in the article “Blogging Africa’s World Cup”. Just in time for tonights hot matches between Holland vs. Ivory Coast and Mexico vs. Angola. It looks as if Argentina has sent Serbia-Montenegro packing at the time of this writing with a 6-0 shellacking. Wow! Gotta go. My beer is getting warm.

P.S. Regarding the title of this post, I stole it from an ESPN advertisement over at the Sports Illustrated website. I thought it was pretty cool so here is the text of that ad as best as I can remember:

This is NOT just a game.
This is about honor, glory, passion.
THIS is the World Cup!

One game changes everything.
It close the shops.
Closes the schools.
Closes a city.
Fuels a nation.
Breaks the borders.
Builds a hero.
Stops a war.
Crushes a dream.
Answers a prayer.

Amen, Brother. (I added this line)

Sports Illustrated FIFA World Cup 2006 special
SI World Cup official blog
SI Writers – Grant Wahl, Richard Deitsch,
SI Blog post:
Can the U.S. defeat Italy?

ESPN SoccerNet – FIFA World Cup 2006
ESPN Podcast Center – World Cup 2006 podcasts

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Friday, June 09, 2006

World Cup 2006: Die Welt zu Gast bei Freunden

It is less than 1 hour to the opening kickoff of the World Cup 2006 and after a long 4-year buildup it is finally Partytime in Deutschland. I have already reserved my favorite Stammtisch (VIP table at the local pub), work is finished for the day, and all I can think about is that first long pull from a cool and refreshing German pilsner at 1800 hours tonight. The opening game is between the host nation Germany and Costa Rica and being from the “Colonies” myself I am definitely rootin’ for the boys from the Americas. There could be trouble at the local pub tonight surrounded by all of those fanatic, nervous German fans, but I’m ready. Remember the Alamo, Mexico!

As you can imagine the Stimmung (mood) is one of very high excitement all over the country and it is great to see the German people castoff their typical terrible habit of complaining about every damn thing under the sun and give some real meaning to the phrase Willkommen in Deutschland (Welcome to Germany). I must say that the German people have outdone themselves in working so hard to make this World Cup event a success and enjoyable for everyone, so the world will be looking forward to the next four weeks of Football Fever with excellent and fair play on the field and off.

The hometown team (U.S.A. Men’s National Team) faces the formidable Czech Republic on Monday night (6/12/06) and then they play the Italian team (6/17/06) followed by a match with Ghana (6/22/06). It’s an uphill battle for my favorite team but I figure if Bruce Arena can lead the U.S. Boyz to victory in the very tough Group E then it will be a breeze all the way to the quarterfinals and perhaps on to the (God forbid) championship match. The U.S. Men’s National Team is often the butt of jokes and teasing over here in Europe (and amongst my African buddies) but I remain a diehard fan and will fight for them in the pub and on the streets (Bring 'em on!) while they take care of business on the football pitch. The U.S. Team by the way is rated Number 5 out of the 32 teams qualified for the World Cup this year. As the great Brazilian champion footballer Pelé was saying the other night, “Anything is possible at the World Cup!” More about this great sporting event later, I think that my lovely little Geman Pils may be getting a bit too warm down at the Kneipe (pub).

Good Luck at the World Cup 2006 to all of my readers who are avid football fans. May the best team win and hoping that you have a great time at the biggest party on the planet whether you are here in Germany or at home in the World with family and friends.

Der Spiegel World Cup 2006 Special (English)
Der Spiegel’s World Cup 2006 Germany Survival Bible (English)
German government official World Cup 2006 website (multilingual)

U.S. Soccer official website, blog, and daily podcasts (Americanisch)

BBC News World Cup 2006 Special (The Queen's English)

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Friday, June 02, 2006

CNN Exclusive: DR Congo President Joseph Kabila interviewed about mass rapes in the Kivus

CNNI Africa correspondent Jeff Koinange has scooped a rare interview with the Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila. The video footage is airing today in Europe as a follow-up to the riveting report by Koinange on May 26th about the mass rape victims of Bukavu and other eastern DRC cities, towns, and villages. Femi Oke of the CNN Inside Africa program will hopefully air this report again this weekend. As I am writing this post the CNN Website team has finally published the story with video file to the Web:

Congo president on military rapes: ‘Unforgivable’ – CNN May 31, 2006

During the interview Jeff (we’re on a first name basis) visits President Kabila at his compound in Lubumbasha and shows him the video footage from the May 26th CNN broadcast. Sitting at an outdoor garden table with Jeff’s Apple notebook computer in front of him President Kabila displays a look of shock and disgust as he views the testimony of a 15 year old boy who was gang-raped by soldiers that had first killed both of his parents, then raped his two young sisters to death, before starting in on him for hours or days. The boy says that he was sodomized by at least 20 uniformed soldiers who had told him when they seized him and tore off his clothing that his “sisters had not satisfied them”. This youngster was only 12 years old at the time of his rape. The surgery and medical care needed to restore the young man back to health took more than 6 months. He is presently living in the temporary custody of a local minister and the women of his community. This unfortunate young man is now psychologically scarred for life because of this senseless brutality.

Koinange asked the young president about how he feels after viewing this report and President Joseph Kabila replied after a long pause, “Shocked!” President Kabila was then asked what he would do if such acts were carried out against his own twin sister, mother, or six-year old daughter and he replied, “You already know the answer to that [question].” Kabila went on to say that over 300 soldiers of the Congolese Armed Forces and rebel militias had already been prosecuted for such crimes in the DRC, in stark contrast to various reports by human rights groups i.e. Amnesty International (Congo report 2005, AI DRC report library) and separate investigations by the United Nations and MONUC.

President Kabila, who served under his late father Laurent Désiré Kabila as a military commander in the two Congo Civil Wars and later went for advanced military studies to the People’s Republic of China’s National Defense University (there’s that China-Africa Win-Win policy again) also stated in the CNN interview:

"It's shameful that soldiers anywhere are allowed to do such things," he said. "That's why I want to be president. I want to change this. I want to make security one of my first priorities so that these and other acts come to an end once and for all."

I can only say, “So do we the people of the world, Mr. President. We demand that you do everything possible to bring an end to this indescribable violence against innocent women and children in your country. Just let us know how we can best help you. Keep on talking with us.”

Below are links to additional information about the crisis in the eastern DR Congo provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu. Pay particular attention to CNN correspondent Anderson Cooper’s blog report on the victims of mass rape being treated at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu and please note the special work being done by the Goma Film Project where our friend and fellow blogger Louis Ableman has devoted so much time and energy to help the victims of mass rape in Goma.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360° blog
Gang raped and mutilated but still praising God – May 25, 2006

CNN International
Rape, brutality ignored to aid Congo peace – CNN May 26, 2006
Congo president on military rapes: ‘Unforgivable’ – CNN May 31, 2006
CNN Inside Africa program with host Femi Oke

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Democratic Republic of Congo

Relief Web Maps of the DR Congo: (see maps)

Contact DR Congo President Joseph Kabila at his official website and let him know that you read this post and saw him on the web and on CNN and that we are all hopping mad about what’s going down in the eastern DR Congo. And while you’re at it, ask him to get some English language pages up on his website. After all, his English skills were very good today on CNN. Indeed.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Kinshasa, DRC: Women at marketplace in December

Women and children at a Kinshasa market
Democratic Republic of Congo - December 2005
Photo by M. Asmani -

TIME: Congo - The Hidden Toll of the World's Deadliest War

TIME Magazine Cover - June 05, 2006 issue
Photo copyright: TIME Inc.

See the related post On the Mississippi with Visitors from Kinshasa for more information.