Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Hotties of the 2014 World Cup

Here they are ladies (and gentlemen), the players to watch in the 2014 World Cup (sorry I'm a bit late). Though some of the perennial powers are out (Italy, Spain, England), there is still a lot of soccer/football to watch, and the men of this list make it worth your while.

Robin van Persie, The Netherlands 
The Dutch captain and Manchester United striker is one of the best in the world. In the first three games of the tournament, van Persie scored twice (playing just two games – he was out of the third with two yellow cards) including what will undoubtedly be on the list of best goals of the tournament.

Relationship status: Married with two children. Since he was 20—yes, 20.

Gerard  Piqué, Spain

It was difficult to pick the best photo of the Spain and Barcelona defender. He is a World Cup champion (2010), a UEFA Euro champion (2012), and a three-time UEFA Champions League champion (2007-2008 with Manchester United; 2008-2009 and 2010-2011 with Barca). Individually, he has been named La Liga Breakthrough Player of the Year (2009), La Liga Best Defender (2010), FIFA/FIFPro World XI (2010, 2011, 2012), UEFA Team of the Year (2010, 2011, 2012), ESM Team of the Year (2011), and UEFA Euro Team of the Tournament (2012). He may be the single reason I'm sad Spain is out of the World Cup.

Relationship Status: You may have heard of his girlfriend, Shakira (who is ten years his senior). They met when Piqué was featured in the music video for Shakira's song "Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)", the official song of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. They have a son.

Glen Johnson, England
I mean... really. There aren't many men in England who look like this. The Liverpool defender has 54 caps for England and one goal since 2003. He is one of three children of a single mother, who at times was homeless. But he credits his mother's strength and resolve for helping him develop a football career. 

Relationship status: Married with two children.

Graham Zusi, USA

This handsome devil plays midfield for the good-ol' US-of-A and is a two-time Sporting Kansas City MVP. He played college soccer at the University of Maryland, where he won the National Championship in 2005 and 2008, scoring the game-winning goal in the 2008 National Semi-Final and Championship Games. This was to be Zusi's breakout year... thus far the World Cup hasn't gone, for him, as he would have liked. Let's hope he can turn things around.

Relationship status: Appears to be single. Goooooooooooooooooooooooool!

Andrea Barzagli, Italy

The Italian and Juventus midfielderis known for his powerful physical build, and for being "strong in terms of anticipation, concentration and positional sense."* His calm composure, pace, consistency and ball playing ability have recently enabled him to be regarded as one of the best and most complete defenders in the world.
* Horncastle, James. "Serie A Team of the Year". Retrieved 23 May 2013.

Relationship status: Married with two children

Granit Xhaka, Switzerland

The 21-year-old Swiss midfielder plays professionally in Germany for Borussia Mönchengladbach. His family is Albanian, but moved to Basel from Kosovo shortly before he was born. His older Taulant, is also a professional soccer player who plays professionally for Basel and internationally for Albania. Granit scored in Switzerland's 5-2 loss to France, but the team advanced to the Round of 16 with a 2-1 record.
Bonus: his teammates call him "young Einstein" because of his intelligence and love of science. He is of Albanian decent. 

Relationship status: Single. He is 21, after all. 

Olivier Giroud, France 

Ummm... yeah. The France and Arsenal striker and is known for his size, physical style of play, heading ability, shot power, strength and link-up play. He has 32 caps and 9 goals for France since 2011.

Relationship status: Married since 2011 with a child. But admitted in early 2014 to cheating with model Celia Kay. He previously denied to transgression, but the "model" then posted photos of Giroud in his hotel room. After the incident, his wife went back to France. Since then, no news of a divorce has been reported.

Joe Hart, England
The 27-year-old English goalkeeper has won two Premier League titles with Manchester City (2011-12, 2013-14). Individually he's been named the Premier League's top goalie three times and to the Premier League Team of the Year twice.

Relationship status: Engaged with a baby on the way.

Nacer Chadli, Belgium
The 24-year-old Belgian winger plays professionally for the team with the best name in sports, Tottenham Hotspur(no s). Chandli holds duel citizenship in Belgium and Morocco, and made his debut for Morocco Nov. 17, 2010, in a friendly against Northern Ireland where he was named man of the match. On January 28, 2011, he announced his intention to represent Belgium at international level, which was permitted as he had not played in a competitive match for Morocco, and made his debut for the national squad for a 9 February friendly match against Finland. A good decision, since I don't see Morocco in the World Cup. In his professional and international career, Chandli has 74 goals in 250 games - not too shabby.

Relationship status: Single!

Aleksandr Kerzhakov, Russia

Let's start with this: he is the most prolific scorer in the history of Russian soccer. In 2014, he scored his 26th international goal for Russia, breaking the previous record. Amid a messy divorce (and cheating allegations), Kerzhakov said of his daughter, "Thanks to her I learned about responsibility: that`s what happens when you understand that there is a person who is half created from you. She`s yours.” All together now: "Awwwwwww!"

Relationship status: Divorced with a daughter.

Sergio Ramos, Spain

The Spanish captain was a bright spot in an otherwise dismal World Cup for the defending champs. The 28-year old has competed for Spain in three World Cups, winning in 2010, and two European Championships, winning in 2008 and 2012. He made his first senior international appearance at the age of 18, and in 2013 became the youngest player to ever reach 100 caps. Professionally, he plays for Real Madrid, with whom he won this season's UEFA Champions League.

Relationship: In a long-term relationship with a Spanish reporter/tv presenter (I use the term "reporter" very liberally here - most reporters don't model in men's magazines). The couple have a son.

Diego “Ruso” Pérez, Uruguay

The 34-year-old defender is known as "The Russian" though he has no Russian lineage. Confusing. Anyway, He is part of the rough and tough Uruguayan midfield and after the 2010 World Cup where he made quite a name for himself, he began playing for Serie A Bologna. In 2014, Uruguay lost their first match to Croatia but went on to defeat England and Italy, leading to both team's exit and Uruguay's surprising advancement to the Round of 16. Unfortunately, Perez hasn't seen any action yet. Perhaps they'll use his maturity in the next round(s)

Relationship status: Married with two children.

Mitch Langerak, Australia

The Aussie goalkeeper plays for  the German Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund. Stats: 25 years old, 6'3", Australian accent, enjoys "hanging out."

Relationship status: Girlfriend. 

Ehsan Hajsafi, Iran

The 24-year-old Iranian midfielder as selected by as the most promising player in Asian football in 2009. Hajsafi has represented Iran at the 2011 AFC Asian Cup and the 2014 FIFA World Cup. IN his professional career, he has 33 goals in 215 games. 

Relationship status: ?????

Sorry Cristiano Ronaldo fans, while I can see that he is classically handsome... I just can’t put a man on this list who tweezes his eyebrows more often than me. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

'No Man Left Behind' isn’t up for interpretation

**Disclaimer: This post isn't about sports. But as a person who loves our military and has personal experience with our troops, I've been wanting to write about the Beau Bergdahl situation, and this is my avenue to do so.

One of the U.S. military’s mottos is “No Man Left Behind.” With the controversy surrounding the trade for Sgt. Beau Bergdahl recently, this motto has been uttered over and over. But here’s the thing: It’s not up for interpretation. The motto isn't “No Good Soldier Left Behind,” or even “No Good Man Left Behind.” It is “No MAN Left Behind.”

This matter shouldn't be about politics but, sadly, that is what it has become. Getting Sgt. Bergdahl back was, and is, the right thing to do. My politics don't generally align with the President’s, but I'm glad he got this Soldier. No matter why he left the base, it was America’s duty to bring Beau Bergdahl back to the U.S.  Leaving him in the hands of the enemy because we think he chose to walk off base isn't what Americans do—we are better than that. Bergdahl is innocent until proven guilty, and only a trial at which he is present, and where he has the opportunity to defend himself, can he be judged.

Most of our military are great men and women; but sometimes, a Soldier (or Marine or Airman) can make bad decisions, or even do bad things; but that doesn't mean we let someone else deal with them. It is our responsibility to take care of our Soldiers and it is our responsibility to discipline them when necessary. Now that Bergdahl is out of the enemy's hands, we can try to figure out what happened. Letting the Taliban deal with a U.S. Soldier is just something we don’t do. Those who say we shouldn't have traded for him are just plain wrong. We might not like the trade itself or how it was handled, but it was the responsibility of our Commander in Chief to get our Soldier back – and the only way he was able to do that was this specific trade. Congress wanted 30 days’ notice – I find it hard to believe the Taliban is reasonable enough to leave an offer on the table for that long. Obama acted as he saw fit, and that is what he was elected to do (even if you didn't vote for him).

The way the situation has "backfired" on Obama has been interesting; he thought there would be universal celebration and praise, and instead half are kind of pleased, half are up in arms. Perhaps it's just a sign of our times; perhaps it's Bergdahl's behavior prior to being captured; or perhaps it's that, no matter what, the side I tend to lean to could never praise anything this president does. In this case, I believe the action was just and necessary and that's where it ends. Why can't we put aside our feelings about Obama and be glad one of our own is home, no matter how he got captured?

Quite frankly, I'm SHOCKED at the ferocity in which other service members—past and present—are treating Bergdahl. Do we think this hasn't happened before? Disillusionment can lead us to do strange things. A man is a man and we brought this man home as we promise that we will always do; we lived up to our motto and I, for one, am proud of it ... No matter what I think of Obama (or Bergdahl, for that matter).

Now that Bergdahl is back on U.S. soil, I hope people who don’t wish him well leave him alone. No matter what you think of him, we all have to agree he’s been through a lot – things I wouldn't wish on my greatest enemy. People who have threatened his family are a disgrace to our country; we are better than that! A U.S. Soldier is home after five years captive in the Middle East. His family has been through hell and back during those five years, and instead of being able to celebrate that their son is alive, well and home, they are in hiding and fearful for their safety. I find that incredibly disheartening. We all have a piece of the story; only one man has the whole story. Let’s let him tell it before we condemn him. 

No matter our opinions of him, Beau Bergdahl is a U.S. Soldier and leaving him behind was never a possibility.