Friday, December 12, 2008

The soccer lover’s holiday gift guide

1. Retro fitted
The North American Soccer League was part sports league, part traveling circus. The ringmasters were the New York Cosmos, of course, laden with icons like Pele and Franz Beckenbauer. But there were other teams and other legends, such as the Washington Diplomats’ Johan Cruyff and the L.A. Aztecs’ George Best. Now that soccer jerseys are fashionable – even Snoop Dogg wears them – nothing is cooler than an NASL retro jersey. Available at
2. Bend it like Marta
Forget Beckhamania. Martamania, as in Marta the Brazilian midfielder who is set to play for the Los Angeles Sol when the new Women’s Professional Soccer league kicks off in April. The WPS also has teams in Boston, New York, D.C., Chicago, St. Louis and the Bay Area. And, unlike some other sports, a season ticket won’t require a new mortgage. A full-season ticket to the Boston Breakers, for example, starts at $130 to the Sol at $125. (Bonus: Most teams are offering holiday specials.) Available at
3. Video screening
Ask around and you’ll learn the difference between Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 and EA’s FIFA Soccer. In short, PES is cooler. Mind-blowingly realistic, with constantly updating tactics and the “Become a Legend” mode in which a gamer can control a chosen player throughout his career, PES is for the true soccer lover. Konami has recently signed a deal with the UEFA Champions League, so playing with Manchester United or Real Madrid is always possible. Available at
4. A Blanco slate
With his henchman looks and hunchback frame, Chicago Fire midfielder Cuauhtemoc Blanco doesn’t grace Armani billboards like David Beckham does. But a Fathead poster of the Mexican legend will look great on any bedroom wall, life-sized and caught on the verge of producing the kind of magic that only the Aztec god can produce. OK, yes, Beckham is available, too. Available at
5. The Ice Man Playeth
Back in the ’70s, Subbuteo was what passed for “gaming.” It might not be as realistic as, say, PES 2009, but flicking those little men provided hours of good times. Today, the cult of Subbuteo still thrives with tournaments worldwide. The Subutteo Flick and Kick Ice Tray molds fully functional playing figures that may not help aficionados keep their cool when the heat is on, but they will keep the Gatorade chilled. Available at
6. The envelope, please
Sure, most soccer fans have seen “Victory,” the 1981 film about a team of Nazi prisoners who play against the German national team. But true soccer lovers own it. Here are just a few reasons why: 1) It was directed by Oscar-winner John Huston, 2) Sylvester Stallone actually steals a scene from Michael Caine more than once and 3) the fictional prisoners’ team could’ve won the real World Cup – Pele, Bobby Moore and Ossie Ardiles, to name a few of the players. Available at
7. Blowing it
Painful as it is to admit for most soccer players, even referees deserve some holiday cheer. The Acme Model 58 “Fat Boy” is the bazooka of whistles. So even though it won’t stop that special referee in your life from making bad calls, it will let him or her make them with a little more authority. Available at
8. Add to the trophy case
The Jules Rimet trophy is the most coveted piece of hardware in team sports. Think about it: Every four years, a couple billion people watch the World Cup final to see who will lift it and give it a celebratory kiss. This three-inch World Cup replica trophy is perfect for any young player who wants to practice so he or she is ready for the real thing a few years from now. Available at
9. What a card!
You can’t wear a Manchester United jersey to a cousin’s wedding, unfair as that is, but getting gussied up doesn’t mean you have to check your passion at the door. These colorful Red and Yellow Card cufflinks always make the right call. And having a red card handy is good when your wacky aunt asks for a dance. Available at
10. Soccer rocker
Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo is a soccer freak (can’t say it ain’t so!), and prior to the 2006 World Cup, he composed a theme song for the U.S. national team titled “My Day Is Coming.” He name-checks most of the players, including Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, and rumor has it the federation declined to use the song. Now he’s released it on “Alone II,” a collection of previously unheard home recordings. Available on iTunes.
11. Buckle up
Belt buckles were once the province of cowboys, NASCAR fans and the Dukes of Hazard. But today, they express our passions more than just about any other clothing. These MLS belt buckles are the real deal, from D.C. United’s “Screaming Eagle” to the New England Revolution’s waving flag. Available at

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