Friday, May 25, 2018


There are 20 days until the World Cup, and we’re getting thirsty. Help us decide what to drink.

  • First Englishman to lift the World Cup
  • Soccer's greatest neck tattoo not going to Russia
  • Rafa Marquez's 5th World Cup sponsored by sponsors
  • World Cup heroes preview in Kiev on Saturday

The World Cup is not a cup? Help us fix that.

The original World Cup trophy was an actual cup. A French-designed beauty, it featured a figure reminiscent of the Nike of Samothrace, but with arms, holding aloft a gold decagonal chalice.

The lovely 14-inch gold-plated figurine, later named the Jules Rimet Trophy, had a raucous existence. During World War II, it was stashed in an ordinary shoebox and chucked under an Italian soccer official’s bed. It disappeared in England before the 1966 World Cup, missing until a heroic little dog named Pickles unearthed it while digging under a tree.

Brazil got to keep the trophy for good in 1970, after the team won its third championship, and a new prize was commissioned. The original trophy’s reign officially ended in flames after it was stolen yet again in Rio de Janeiro in 1983. It was believed to have been melted down by heartless thieves, who obviously didn’t understand, in the words of the Brazilian soccer federation president at the time, “the spiritual value of the cup is far greater than its material worth.”

The current FIFA World Cup trophy stands almost 15 inches tall and weighs a meltdown-worthy 13.5 pounds. The Italian-designed marvel of 18-karat gold depicts two humans holding up the earth. Beautiful. Inspiring. Heavy. And completely nonfunctional.

It’s not even a cup! How do we drink out of it? We joined The Banter with the understanding that there would be drinks. And so we are here to inaugurate The Banter’s first quadrennial celebration of “The World CupS,” to toast the sights and sounds from Russia with tastes from all over.

It’s a competition within the competition, with each national team represented by an iconic beverage from that country. Think France and a glass of Bordeaux. Or is it France and a flute of Champagne? Or a reservoir of absinthe? Help us decide.

We need 32 drinks for 32 countries. Is England a pint of bitters or a cup of tea? Is Croatia’s drink Slivovitz or Zinfandel, in honor of the grape’s roots there? When Brazil and Serbia meet on June 27, will you be drinking cachaça or rakija? What about Iran and Saudi Arabia, where booze is verboten?

Think this through. Vote with your taste buds. Lots of work ahead, folks.

Tweet @jeffdmarcus and us — @ChipSellarole and @TammyKennon — with the hashtag #WorldCupS, or email The Banter.

We’ll take your nominations and create The World CupS drink bracket to be unveiled before the opening match. Each game, a new drink-to-drink matchup. Then, eventually, on a sweltering day in July, we will raise our CupS filled with the winning country’s drink of choice.

Jeffrey asked us to do this because he enjoys drinking with us. He was there when we started Chip’s Wine & Beer Market in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, still thriving under new owners.

Chip has been in the wine/beer/spirits biz since Argentina last won the World Cup. He is passionate, inspiring, a veritable encyclopedia of hooch knowledge — and radically snob-free.

Tammy is a career journalist with serious street cred, covering hurricanes and freediving and Parisian street art. More importantly, she once brewed a beer that made GQ’s list of 50 beers to drink before you die (Compass Rose).

Salud! Fee Sahitkum! Mma manu! Geonbae! Prost!

— Chip and Tammy


RUN OF PLAY | Great Reads and More


1. The first Englishman to lift the Jules Rimet Trophy

It wasn’t Bobby Moore, the 1966 World Cup-winning team captain. It was a 40-year-old career criminal named Sidney Cugullere. The Daily Mirror reported this week that it was Cugullere, with the help of his brother Reg, who stole the trophy a few weeks before the tournament in England. “Sidney just nicked it for the thrill – not for financial gain, but just because it was so easy,” Cugullere’s nephew Gary told the Mirror. Cugullere died of cancer in 2005, aged 79.

Read more from the Mirror about the life and crimes of Sidney Cugullere.

2. Best XI not going to the World Cup

Coaches of teams bound for Russia announced their preliminary rosters.There are more surprises among the players omitted than the players chosen.

Forward Alvaro Morata and defender Marcos Alonso of Spain were among the best looking players excluded. Radja Nainggolan, the indefatigable Belgian box-to-box midfielder and owner of international soccer’s greatest neck tattoo, was excluded for “tactical” reasons. The 2014 hero, Mario Götze, was left off Joachim Löwe’s Germany list.

France, blessed with talent, will leave behind nearly a full team worth of players that could make a run at the World Cup. Didier Deschamps omitted Anthony Martial, Kingsley Coman, Alexandre Lacazette and like a quarter of the Paris Saint-Germain team.

Read Bleacher Report and Express’ squad lists of World Cup rejects.

3. No sponsor logos for Rafael Marquez

Mexico’s 39-year-old defender could be going to his fifth World Cup. Coach Juan Carlos Osorio included him on Mexico’s preliminary roster even though the player was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department last year for alleged ties to drug trafficking organizations.  Marquez denies it, but he still faces legal trouble that may jeopardize his chances of going to Russia.

Because of his alleged connections to the accused trafficker Raul Flores Hernandez, Marquez is persona non grata in the United States, and American companies can’t do business with him.  

That’s why Marquez practiced last week without any sponsors’ logos visible on his uniform, because some of those companies are based in the U.S.

The Mexican federation released a statement saying it was a way to keep Marquez out of legal trouble and focused on getting ready for another World Cup.  He’d become only the fourth player to make it to five World Cups.

Read about the allegations against Marquez, and his bid for a fifth World Cup.

4. Champions League final to feature likely World Cup heroes

Nearly all of the players who will be on the field Saturday in Kiev for Real Madrid and Liverpool will feature for their national teams at the World Cup this summer.

Mohamed Salah (Egypt), Sadio Mané (Senegal) and Roberto Firmino (Brazil) will certainly lead Liverpool’s attack. Midfielder Jordan Henderson and defender Trent Alexander-Arnold will bother feature for England. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) will be there, but he’s more likely to be the goat than the hero.

Real Madrid is stacked from back to front with World Cup stars: Keylor Navas of Costa Rica will be in goal. Six Real Madrid players will also play for Spain this summer: Defenders Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos and Nacho, and midfielders Isco, Marco Asensio and Lucas Vázquez. Raphael Varane, another Real Madrid defender, will play for France in the World Cup, and Marcelo for Brazil. Luka Modric (Croatia), Casemiro (Brazil) and Toni Kroos (Germany) will likely start in the midfield for club and country. Cristiano Ronaldo will be equally humorless and moody for Real Madrid and Portugal.

There’s been plenty to banter about, and more to come.

Read previous emails in which we banter about the absurdity of soccer fandom, sticker collecting and the pitfalls and promise of video review, among other things. And remember to share The Banter with a friend.

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The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. It's nothing of the kind. The game is about glory. It's about doing things in style, with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom.

— Danny Blanchflower
Tottenham captain and Northern Ireland international turned journalist

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