✅ 2022 Year In Review & Free Holiday Gifts!
Thank you for supporting Soccer Sheet in our first year.
It’s been quite the year for soccer in Charlotte and around the world.
But before we get to that, Soccer Sheet is giving away free copies of “Scheisse! We’re Going Up!” All you have to do is be a subscriber to this newsletter - that’s it! We’ll be giving away at least three copies at random in the new year, so please subscribe below!
Final Grades for Charlotte
Writing for Queen City Nerve, I released my final grades for Charlotte FC’s inaugural year. If you want more detail, you can read the article here; otherwise, here’s a quick summary:
Record: 42 points, 13 wins, 18 losses, 3 draws
Front Office: B
Supporters’ Groups: A-
Extra Credit: ✅
I’ve always thought soccer had the potential to be a big success in Charlotte, but this year exceeded my expectations. The fanbase stayed with the team through everything. The players never gave up, and there was an exciting finish to the season for a team that had been written off. In July, halfway through the season, I wrote “The club has shown that it can win at home and on the road. When the team is good, they’re really good — and fun to watch.”
They lived up to that midterm review through the end of the season.
Final Grade: A-
The Worst Path to the Greatest World Cup Final Ever
The World Cup final between France and eventual champion Argentina had everything: a Lionel Messi brace, with Man of the Match honors. A Kylian Mbappé hat trick, earning him Golden Boot honors for the tournament. A decisive penalty shootout, with Messi finally winning the trophy that eluded him in his final World Cup.
It was the greatest final ever, at the end of a trail of dead.
As I wrote for our sister publication Y’all Weekly last month,
One of the biggest reasons driving protests against Qatar is their treatment of the estimated 30,000 foreign workers brought in to build the stadiums, and the appalling death toll. The Guardian estimated 6,500 migrant worker deaths at the beginning of last year. The human cost of the 2022 Men’s World Cup is appalling, such that it necessitates inclusion in any soccer content over the next month.
Sport doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and as the biggest sport in the world, soccer is naturally the most political.
Last month, after years of watching Bundesliga games on TV, I attended my first-ever German soccer match in Freiburg im Breisgau.
The German Bundesliga experience is different from a Major League Soccer match in the United States. Large fences separate the away team’s supporters from the mass of home fans. Mass transit is abundant. A local beer costs only five euros; a pretzel two.
What stood out more than anything else, however, was the tifo - the fan-made banner displayed by SC Freiburg’s supporters groups prior to the match. Unlike the more elaborate tifos common in European soccer, this one had a simple message in black and white: Boycott Qatar.
Despite our collective love for soccer, despite the German national team’s historic success in the tournament, despite having two SC Freiburg players on Germany’s team in Qatar, most fans participated in the protest against the World Cup.
There were thousands of “Boycott Qatar” banners on home seats in the stadium, and most Freiburg fans raised the boycott banners when the tifo was revealed. Around the stadium bowl Freiburg supporters unleashed banners displaying disconcerting facts about the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, including the country’s record on women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, labor conditions, human trafficking, and the thousands of deaths attributed to the event.
Similar protests took place at stadiums across Germany.
It’s hard to imagine such a scene in the United States. Earlier that day, Allianz Arena in Munich was hosting the first-ever National Football League game in Germany, making the juxtaposition clearer. The carefully choreographed game didn’t feature any fans greeting Tom Brady with political messages.
Democracy and protest is part of German soccer’s DNA. Most soccer clubs are subject to the “50+1 Rule,” which means the club’s members - the fans - always have a majority stake in the club. In the stands or on the fences of German stadiums, anti-fascist, anti-racist, and other political statements are easy to find; when asked by the FIFA Museum to submit an object that explains Germany’s soccer culture, the German Football Association submitted a supporter’s denim vest covered with soccer and political patches, including one that says “stop the fascists.”
Now that the World Cup has ended, the protest spirit is even more important since the issues surrounding the World Cup in Qatar are still unresolved.
The tens of thousands of guest workers who built stadiums, infrastructure and even new cities for the World Cup have already endured the indignities of unsafe work conditions and unsanitary living conditions. Due to labor practices allowed in Qatar, many remain unpaid or underpaid for their labor.
The International Labour Organization reports in just one year “50 workers lost their lives in 2020 and just over 500 were severely injured, with 37,600 suffering mild to moderate injuries” due to the World Cup, while The Guardian reported almost two years ago that 6,500 migrant workers across all industries and products had died in Qatar since the World Cup was awarded in 2010.
In the face of these criticisms, FIFA pointed out the importance of pluralism and how that requires respecting different values, while demonstrating their hypocrisy and silencing dissent.
The week before the tournament started, World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman made homophobic remarks in an interview with a German broadcaster. Right before their first matches the football associations of England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, and even Germany announced their players would not wear an LGBTQ-inclusive armband because FIFA threatened them with penalties on the pitch. Germany, however, still intends to vote against the reelection of FIFA president Gianni Infantino based in large part on FIFA’s failures in Qatar.
If you’re reading this, you probably watched the World Cup - especially that amazing final. However, we can’t ignore the truth: homosexuality is still punishable by prison sentences in Qatar, women are still second-class citizens, this World Cup has a substantial body count, and we - the football supporters and media - can never let this happen again.
Looking Forward to 2023
Charlotte FC has made big moves since the end of their inaugural season. In no particular order:
In the least-surprising news of the off-season, Charlotte renewed the contract for head coach Christian Lattanzio. Soccer Sheet, along with numerous other outlets, reported that Lattanzio would stay.
Soon after the season ended, Charlotte declined the options for Harrison Afful and Christian Fuchs and announced Alan Franco would not return.
Charlotte sold Jordy Alcívar for an undisclosed sum. Alcívar scored once for Charlotte FC with an olimpico.
In the MLS expansion draft, Charlotte protected Brandt Bronico, Nathan Byrne, McKinze Gaines, Kamil Jóźwiak, Kristijan Kahlina, Adilson Malanda, Vinicius Mello, Daniel Ríos, Nuno Santos, Karol Świderski, Kerwin Vargas, and Anton Walkes from being drafted by expansion club St. Louis City SC. As we predicted earlier in the year, Andre Shinyashiki was not protected; St. Louis ended up not drafting any Charlotte FC players.
Charlotte sent general allocation money to expansion club St. Louis City SC to obtain the number one pick in the 2023 MLS SuperDraft. Charlotte used that pick to select Hamady Diop, who was on Clemson University’s 2021 championship team with goalkeeper George Marks and midfielder Quinn McNeill.
Speaking of McNeill, his option was declined along with that of Koa Santos. Both players had significant minutes for the Charlotte Independence in 2022.
On Christmas, the team announced the sale of Daniel Ríos to C.D. Guadalajara, who had seven goals for the team in 2022. Four of those goals came in Charlotte’s memorable win against Philadelphia, which kept their playoff hopes alive for the final time.
I hope you’ve enjoyed both Soccer Sheet and my Charlotte FC coverage for Queen City Nerve this year. We’re going to continue into 2023, so please subscribe to Soccer Sheet if you haven’t already.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in 2023!
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