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Hello :)

I'm back in Sydney ready to see England DO IT properly (seriously 🤬) against Denmark on Friday night. Who knows, maybe we'll see the performance of a lifetime, but if it leaves you as stony-faced as I was walking away from the Suncorp Stadium after the Haiti victory (victory?? it was a victory. why am I such a spoiled brat), then I'm here for you babes. And your friends too, they'll need a laugh. Please pass me on to your pals so we can make the healing circle bigger and cosier.

Anyway we don't need to worry about that for now. Right now, we're worrying about:
  • Aussies hamming it up for the cameras
  • A well-intentioned man making a Horlick's of journalisming
  • The world's most famous Linda
As well as a bunch of other stuff.


Corrections and clarifications

1. Never judge a footballer by her mean, cat-like eyes.

Only yesterday, I was preparing to ask you to vote on which of these savage animals I met in the State of Queensland museum more closely resembled Alexandra Popp. My mission to belittle the impressive, arrogant, scary Germany striker was intensified by her rapid brace of goals in die Nationalelf's first game.
And then I read that she dedicated said goals to her dad, who passed away in December and I felt a bit bad about that.

Then I saw this picture of her cuddling a toy koala in her sleep and my heart grew three sizes.
Pope cuddles koala
I think I was wrong about Alex Popp. Who knew the monster attacker had a sensitive side to her?

If she stops thriving in a way that seriously threatens England's tournament success for just ONE MINUTE, I might even start to like her.

People are dubbing this tournament Popp’s ‘revenge’, after she pulled out of last summer’s Euro 2022 final at the last minute, suffering an injury in the warm-up, and had to watch from the sidelines as Germany lost to England (RIP motherfuckers).

Someone call Sarina. If all it takes is a cuddly koala to pacify the frightening frayed, that's England's quarter-final game plan sorted.
2. Forgive me, stans

In my last newsletter, I made light of the ludicrous way that Lioness stans were losing their minds over Georgia Stanway, who apparently 'dedicated' England’s first goal of the tournament to captain and good pal Leah Williamson, missing with an ACL injury.

I’d like to hold my hands up and say I was wrong to ridicule - as it turns out, making emotional gestures in tribute to teammates who are not in fact dead is a totally normal thing to do.
Mackenzie Arnold is a loser
Here’s Australia goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold using a sharpie and a piece of tape to pay tribute to HER skipper Sam Kerr, who was tragically ruled out of the Matildas’ opener against Ireland with a devastating calf injury.
Emily van Egmond running into the arms of Sam Kerr, with a caption on the screen reading 'This is all for her'
And I'd already written this newsletter (timezones, work with me) before the Aussies started played against Nigeria and Emily van Egmond forced me to edit this moment in after she scored the opening goal.

Is this a competition? Who misses their captain the most? Which team has suffered the greatest misfortune?

FIFA have come under criticism for the emptiness of the eight armband ‘options’ captains are getting during this tournament. You can select to support only ONE of these causes each time you lead your team out onto the pitch:

On Tuesday, when Bruce Mwape faced the press ahead of Zambia’s match against Spain, questions put to him regarding allegations of sexual misconduct were hushed up by the FIFA media rep babysitting him.

On Wednesday, Indigenous Football Australia published an open letter to FIFA sharing their concern that First Nations communities were being ignored - that the circus of the World Cup would come and go, and there would be no lasting effect on their access to soccer.

No one is uniting for anything. FIFA are shouting about change but doing nothing to effect it.

Now players are at it too. Don’t flaunt your support for SK20 on your wrist if you’re not willing to at least have a go at the rehabilitative massage required to get her back onto the pitch!

I can’t help thinking that they’re playing directly into the media’s hands with these statements. Journalists are obsessed with a narrative and players are all too ready to feed them one - though, frankly, tabloids don’t need encouraging. How many times have you seen the headline ‘Player x makes pays moving tribute to former club’ and it’s literally a blue heart tagged onto the end of an Instagram post?

The mixed zone after Australia’s 1-0 opening victory over Ireland felt like a wake, with players shuffling along the line of journalists to each be asked some variation of ‘what did Sam say before the game started?’ or ‘what was her advice at half time?’ with all the sympathy of a close relative desperate to know what words preceded her final breath.

I would’ve loved one of them to have given a truthful response, “Well, she just said ‘Crikey girls, here we are, get stuck into ‘em and welly it at the goal as hard as you can’.”
Steph Catley grinning
Instead, we had Steph Catley. Not long after she scored the goal that got her country off the mark at a home tournament in front of a record-breaking crowd, Catley had stepped off cloud nine and was virtually virtually quivering as she told a huddle of journos that losing the team’s “spiritual leader” to injury the day before the game was “one of the most heartbreaking moments of my career”.

Get a room.

Are you a criminal, ma'am?

Elsewhere in sick-making journalism... any imposter syndrome I might feel at this World Cup are being soothed by the witch hunt currently underway to reveal the identity of a journalist who asked Ghizlane Chebbak a stupid question.

‘In Morocco, it’s illegal to have a gay relationship. Do you have any gay players in your squad, and what’s life like for them?’ he asked.

A FIFA media representative intervened, asking that the room stick to questions related to football. Chebbak looked incredulous.
Ghizlane Chebbak is unimpressed
“It’s not political,” the journo countered, “it’s about people, it’s got nothing to do with politics. Please let her answer.”

The conference moved on. Footage has since been widely circulated and condemned, though a select few have praised the beleaguered journalist, an anonymous BBC World Service employee, for his interest in raising the issue of homophobia.

I used to work in a primary school where there was a lot of untangling kids’ dumb arguments. He said this, she said that, we didn't mean it, they said it first blah blah blah, which would often result in both children crying because they never intended to make each other cross and look how one silly little comment snowballed into this great big upset.

Sometimes the things that we say have an effect we don’t anticipate.

When evaluating whether making a particular comment was a good idea, we used to ask kids three questions. If they can’t answer yes to all three, they are invited to reflect on whether they should have said it in the first place.

Right then, is the disgraced journalist’s question true?
Yes. Homosexuality is illegal in Morocco. And it’s punishable by up to five years imprisonment.

Is it kind?
Uh, see above, homosexuality is illegal in Morocco. Asking someone to ‘out’ their teammates in the UK would be unfair, but in this case it could result in jail for the teammates in question. So no, his question was not kind, whether he realised it or not.

Is it necessary?
Less clear cut.

I would like some insight into what it is like to live in a country where your very existence is illegal - and Qatar 2022 showed that football can be used as a starting point for important discussions of social issues.

With the men’s world cup, though, human rights were intimately wrapped up in the tournament’s location and delivery. The only thing that makes this question relevant is that a higher proportion of women’s footballers are gay and out than in the men’s game. But by no means is every single ball-kicking female queer and if they were, it doesn’t have anything to do with the reason the press conference was called - to preview Morocco’s game against Germany.

If Chebbak wanted to - or, indeed, it were safe to - use the World Cup to make a political statement about gay rights in her home country, then she would have done so herself.

‘Gee, well I never thought about that mister, now that you mention it, I do feel like becoming a social justice warrior, throwing friends and colleagues under the bus as I go!’

Go on now go

Norway striker and Ballon D’Or winner Ada Hegerberg dramatically left the pitch just moments before her team were about to kick off their second World Cup game against Switzerland on Tuesday. It was vital that Norway did well after they suffered a surprise defeat to low-ranked New Zealand on the opening day of the tournament. So why did one of their most important players suddenly jump ship?

If there’s one thing a gossip loves, it’s an ‘unconfirmed report’ - some journalists said she had suddenly taken ill, others claimed she had picked up a late injury. The stories did not add up and the internet began to fizz with speculation over the ‘real’ reason for Hegerberg’s exit.
Ada Hegerberg cba playing Switzerland
One of the narratives offered was that Hegerberg had ‘had enough’, was 'in a strop', that she wasn’t unable to play but simply did not want to. Exercising your right to down tools is kinda trendy these days, eh?

I wouldn’t blame her. The working conditions are not ideal. Losing to New Zealand was a bit embarrassing and, if they wanted to give qualifying from the group their best shot, leaving one of their most valuable players, Caroline Graham Hansen, on the bench was not manager Hege Riise’s most rational decision.

Smoking crack, or simply a terrible football manager? You decide!

Two plus two began to equal an even more convincing four when the world saw a video of Norway’s pre-match team talk. When Hegerberg quits mid-way through, the eyebrows of teammate Guro Reiten looked not only raised but truly shaken. This was indeed, in the words of WoSo Twitter, ‘a bit sus 🤔🤔’.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before Hegerberg spoiled our fun, telling us in no uncertain terms to get over it and move on.
Oh well. At least now, Twitter sleuths can get back to the real work - figuring out which member of the England squad shouted ‘ye bastard’ at the Arnold Clark Cup.

Linda who?

A word on 18-year-old Colombia ‘prodigy’ Linda Caicedo.

Caicedo came to the World Cup as a big story — so young! so talented! and after overcoming ovarian cancer aged just fifteen, what can stop her conquering the world now?

Hype, for one thing, as so much attention on one teenager can set that player up for disappointment as well as success.

On Tuesday, she was named in the starting line-up as the so-called Coffee Growers faced South Korea. Thirty-nine minutes into the game, she scored on her World Cup debut. Eighteen. Real swag.
That the weak wrists of South Korea ‘keeper Yoon Young-geul gave a significant helping hand didn’t matter to the young player. She’d scored the first goal fired from outside of the box of the tournament and celebrated in style, DJing with her teammates. That wasn’t all she had to say for herself, either - in the course of the 2-0 win, Caicedo had the Brisbane fan festival on the edge of their deckchairs and beanbags, pulling off some remarkable touches and exciting dribbles.

It got me thinking about Lindas and whether there’s anyone in the world called Linda who is more famous than Colombia’s bright young thing.

Here was Google’s answer:

Well, it’s still early days for Caicedo. If the young attacker carries on as she is, it won’t be long before her cultural relevance succeeds 11 Grammy awards and veggie sausages.

Women's World Cup badges RANKED

I spotted the South Korea flag on the sleeve of the players' shirts during their 2-0 defeat to Colombia and thought 'what's it doing there?' before remembering that each team has ITS OWN FUN BADGE, of varying degrees of coolness and national identity. So since literally no one asked for it - in no particular order, here are the first eight badges I found, rated and slated.
Philippines women's badge
I couldn't understand how I felt I'd seen this one before, given that it's the Philippines' first World Cup. Then I realised this fella's on backpacks all over my hometown, Cambridge, where thousands of language school students descend over the summer to practice their English.

This is the badge of Nowhere FC, it’s telling me nothing about the Philippines and I don’t know why we have the acronym and the full wording round the edge. Pick one!
Absolutely nothing sophisticated about this but I kind of love it.

We have a football, the word ‘Canada’, and a maple leaf, the internationally recognised emblem of Canada… get it? It’s the Canadian football team!

Cute. I can almost smell the relief at the idea generating session, when this was the first thought some guy had which was good enough for them to justify going ‘sod it, pub time'.
Canda women's badge
Japan women's badge
I don’t know guys, I’m kind of scared. I would say that the colours chosen, along with the angularness of the design is a bit… unfortunate.

I see what they’re doing with the dot of the flag being the ball, but that would be more effective if they removed the red stripe, which I think would also ease the slightly fascist feel.

Generally a fan of the crest shape, and we can’t argue with that glorious star. That bird is a Yatagarasu, a three-legged crow which symbolises the sun. Yay, meaning!
A beauty. Everything about it. Its roundness, its heritage, that font, the way they've made words look like a pattern. MMMM. Squint and it doesn’t matter if you don’t speak Danish.

It’s original and full of character.

I’ve never been to Scandinavia but I feel like I’m there.
Denmark women's badge
Portugal women's badge
Not gonna lie, this strikes fear in my heart. I'm immediately right back behind the sofa again trying not to watch England lose on penalties in 2006.

But it's class. Looks important and great for fans of dominoes.

Those little blue things have been there since the 1100s and are in fact bezants, symbolising coins and the right of the sovereign to issue currency. FIFA loves it.

Let’s go imperialists!
This belongs on the breast of a school blazer, doesn't it?

All it needs is a little latin motto and BAM you're getting bullied on the train into town.

South Africa have a really cool flag and they're not making the most of it here, or in their kit.

The flower is nice, though, it's a Giant Protea - South Africa's national flower.
South Africa women badge
Jamaica women's badge
No frills job. I could have whipped this up on Paint in approx. 20 minutes.

Eyecatching enough to stand on its own, the cool colours of the flag are doing a lot of the work here. The addition of the circle looks skew-wiff and random. A rare assymetrical design and I don’t know that I like it.

I can’t lie, it’s cool. Rawr. Look at those fangs.

I’m troubled by how slim this badge is, though, and I can’t quite make up my mind about whether its mouth is supposed to be open or closed. Are you eating me or not?

They've kept faithful to their colour scheme but, as with South Africa, South Korea have one of the world's coolest flags and it's not coming through in their badge.
South Korea women badge
Do you agree? Disagree? Couldn't care less about designs, just here for the footie?
So many ways to enjoy this World Cup - let me know what's keeping you interested by hitting reply or sending an email to [email protected]. Thanks for reading xx
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