Five To Love - January 13, 2011: Gabriele Marcotti Investigates Xavi And Xabi Alonso As We Check In With Argentina, Brazil, Haiti And Ghana

Today's Five To Love takes a more serious turn, though there's nothing wrong with loving serious things. At least, I hope there's not. Else I'll find myself very alone very soon, something I'm apt to take very seriously.

Something to take seriously is the difference between the letters 'b' and 'v'. In English, the difference is as large as their distance in the alphabet. In Spanish, the difference can be quite trivial. Depending on your region or dialect, the distinction could be so insignificant that the names "Xavi" and "Xabi" will sound identical.

And so we start Thursday's Five to Love, with an American-educated Italian living in England using his Twitter to highlight the troubles the Spanish language and Xabi Alonso may have caused Xavi Hernández:

To be clear: Messi's victory margin is big, Xavi/Xabi Alonso confusion wd not make diff. But poss Xavi finished 2nd instead of Iniesta.less than a minute ago via web

One of Thursday's Five to Love - confusion and the Ballon d'Or. Also in focus: visits to Argentina and Brazil, checking in with soccer in Haiti, and how nationalism and Ghanaian football need not go hand-in-hand. And if you're before the jump, a poll, the context for which we'll get to.

1. Was Xavi closer to the Ballon d'Or than FIFA thought?

That's what was on Gabriele Marcotti's mind on Thursday, taking to Twitter to talk through the problem. At roughly 6 p.m. EST, the Times of London, Wall Street Journal and Sports Illustrated writer noted some Ballon d'Or voters had their Xavi votes counted as Xabis:

2 more guys tell Catalan radio ONA they voted 4 Xavi, but FIFA counted vote for Xabi Alonso: Katongo (ZAM cpt) + De La Torre (Mex coach)less than a minute ago via web

So after Yepes, Katongo, De La Torre + Cabrera, I make that another 14 pts for Xavi. At some point, FIFA have to double-check, don't they?less than a minute ago via web

To be clear: Messi's victory margin is big, Xavi/Xabi Alonso confusion wd not make diff. But poss Xavi finished 2nd instead of Iniesta.less than a minute ago via web

There's also the mystery of how nearly a third of coaches and captains failed to send in their ballots on time. But that's unrelatedless than a minute ago via web

BTW, I don't think can blame Blatter. Makes no difference to him what order Xavi/Iniesta finish.less than a minute ago via web

It's funny that Marcotti feels the need to clarify his inquiries for those want to dwell on FIFA corruption (and Sepp Blatter's ambivalence to it). Also funny: Xabi Alonso getting votes for World Player of the Year.

2. A Paulista, Carioca and Mineiro all walk into a bar

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via pitacodogringo.files.wordpress.com

You may know Jon Cotterill as one of the more prominent English voices of Brazilian football, his TV Globo broadcasts coming to us in the States via GolTV. In addition to being close to seeing his English club (Nottingham Forest) back in the Premier League and being very generous with his time, Jon also keeps a very good blog: Pitaco do gingo's Brazilian football site.

With the state leagues about to start, Jon gives us a preview of this weekend's action in the Paulista, where Santos, São Paulo, Corinthians and Palmeiras will battle for the title. Highlighting the Verdão, Jon notes Palmeiras' disappointment in the Brasileirao combined with a missing Sudamericana's avenue to Libertadores could see Luiz Felipe Scolari on an early hot seat.

3. Argentines go abroad, too

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via hastalogolsiempre.files.wordpress.com

Here in the States, we're used to seeing a number of outlets produce quality Americans Abroad pieces. While the pride of seeing an increase in influence gives those surveys a distinct context, even countries more ensconced in the soccer world can provide fodder for great Abroad pieces.

For example, Argentina. It's the second biggest talent factory in the world, but that does not necessarily mean Argentina takes a back seat in terms of significance. After reading Sam Kelly, Ben Shave and David Cartlidge combine for Hasta el Gol Siempe's look at Argentines in Europe, I wonder if even the Spaniards are having as dramatic an influence on the world's game.

Hmmm ... sounds like a good poll question. We'll ask it below (if you haven't answered already), but before we do: Hasta el Gol Siempre. Get to know it before the Clausura starts.

4. One year after the quake, Haitian football

Yesterday, Howard Hamilton at HexagonalBlog took some time to reflect on the one year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, focusing on the state of football in a still devastated country. Amongst the notes, Howard points us to a Wall Street Journal video of Haiti at the Amputee World Cup.

As Howard notes on his blog, a large number of amputees (and a country's inability to provide support for them) is one of the disaster's legacies. The football team and World Cup provided "an outlet for the amputees and (demonstrated) their usefulness in society."

5. Does Ghana's coach need to be Ghanaian?

Six months after reaching its apex, Ghanaian football is in relative chaos. The minutes spent on the edge of the World Cup semifinals are now overshadowed by government interference threatening to push needed sponsorship away from the Ghanaian game, a problem that has prompted FIFA's concern.

Amidst this confusion Ghana has changed coaches, bringing in Serbian Goran Stevanovic to take over for countryman Milovan Rajevac, continuing a pattern of hiring foreign coaches that dates back to 2002. That practice is not without critics. Still, the Ghanaian Chronicle notes, the Black Stars have reached their greatest heights under foreign guidance, and Ghanaian football may not be the only "sphere" where the country is still in need of help:

For Prof. Agyemang Badu Akosa, a person seeking to lead this nation from the front, to predict that the Black Stars would never do well in the hands of foreign coaches, is unfortunate. But to emphatically state that the Black Stars stand no chance of reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup of, if the team continues to be handled by a foreign coach, is to exhibit one’s limitations in the international game.

It is unfortunate that nearly 54 years after independence, we still have to rely on foreign coaches to lead the technical build-up of football. But it is not only football that is suffering from the lack of effective local technical build-up. It is a fact universally acknowledged that we are not ready yet to stand on our own in many spheres of national endeavour.

While the last sentiment rings pessimistic, the underlying point rings true. Premises based on the presence of foreign coaches are likely fallacies. It's just a coach. It's just a soccer team. In the big picture, it's unlikely to mean much.

Are there stories from the soccer world that are captivating you? Share, laugh, rant, vent. If you're the 140 character sort, Tweet. Even email, but what's recommended: flood the comments and give us a reason to put your contribution in the next Five to Love.
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