Moving to Substack

Hello,

If you’re on this site, hopefully it’s because you’re interested in my work and/or portfolio. I encourage you to look through the portfolio page to explore both of those things. If you’re here to check out new stories, you will need to head over to my Substack newsletter, where I’ll be posting full length, quality work every week. There will be a free option and eventually a paid option for said newsletter.

I look forward to you joining me over at Kicking the Globe, a newsletter which aims to tell the stories that deserve the front page, but are being ignored.

Thank you,

Dominic José Bisogno

You Might Not Know – Football at the Island Games

IIGA logo, courtesy of the IIGA.

I’ve made an effort throughout the years to try and always leave room to learn about the lesser knowns in the world of football. I consider myself a fan of the underdogs, outcasts, and misunderstood. I’ve enjoyed keeping an eye on all sorts of tiers of football in all sorts of countries, whether that be amateur, low level professional, or even the likes of CONIFA, an organization which helps represent stateless and otherwise unrepresented communities on the pitch. That all being said, when I stumbled on to the Island Games, I was shocked at the utter lack of knowledge in my grasp.

The Island Games are a series of sporting events, first held in 1985, which feature a range of island nations competing in the sort of activities standard to multi-sport events like the Olympics. There’s swimming, gymnastics, archery, tennis, and even basketball on some occasions. The event which caught my eye, however, was the football. The Island Games, which are held every two years, have hosted football every iteration, except for 1987 and more recently in 2019. The latter was due to a lack of facilities in the host nation of Gilbralter.

What stood out to me the most about the football (both men’s and women’s) at the Island Games is that it sees FIFA and non-FIFA members ducking it out against one another. FIFA members like Bermuda and the Faroe Islands have managed success in the tournament, while Greenland, a CONIFA member, have reached the final twice (note: one final was reached prior to CONIFA membership was granted in 2016). Other teams, often independently operated or working within a local federation, have also found success. These include the Isle of Man, Ynys Môn, and the Isle of Wight. Other major European islands with FIFA recognition have either not taken part or left over time, including the likes of Iceland and Malta.

The 2006 FIFI Wild Cup Greenland squad. Photo courtesy of the XenonX3.

To have FIFA, CONIFA, and otherwise run football associations agreeing to consistently meet on the pitch in a competitive nature, in addition to giving otherwise poorly represented areas to host said events, is minor miracle. There is, it should be noted, a clear focus on a certain area of world. All current members have a direct connection to Europe, either by being in Europe or by being a territory of a European nation. The only example breaking this rule is Prince Edward Island, who took part in various activities from 1991 to 2007. Prince Edward Island is a province of Canada, which, while certainly still holding close ties to the UK, is obviously not in Europe.

Another issue in this otherwise surprisingly bright situation is that even more involved FIFA members have not always participated. The last to play were Gibraltar in 2015, with Bermuda not taking part since winning gold in 2013. There is a slight Asterix for that disengagement, however. Because football was not played at the 2019 Island Games (due to a lack of available pitches), a separate tournament was played in Wales, titled the 2019 Inter Games Football tournament. The tournament allowed teams to not go completely inactive and featured a development squad from Gilbraltar.

Along the way, the Island Games have seen a share of proper professionals, particularly via the presence of FIFA-recognized sides like Gibraltar and Bermuda. Rai Simons and Tyrell Burgess, who’ve played for the likes of Chesterfield and the Vancouver Whitecaps respectively, both showed for Bermuda. Liam Walker, who’s had stints at the likes of Portsmouth and Notts County, did his time for Gibraltar. Alexander Weckström, who’s played the for likes of prominent Finnish club IFK Mariehamn, represented the Åland Islands.

The Isle of Man senior squad line up during the 2019 Inter Games Football Tournament. Photo courtesy of Paul Hatton.

All of this to say, the Island Games are just one the many tournaments outside of the upper echelons of the game that football fans should be keeping on eye on. I was deeply unfamiliar with the tournament until recently, a situation I immediately felt the need to help prevent. The Island Games, along with similar tournaments in other portions of the world and other global tournaments, are yet another part of the puzzle. Support local, support the underdog, support the underrepresented. In the end, however fits you best, support the game.

A document explaining all by-laws for football at the Island Games can be found and explored here. The International Island Games Association (IIGA)’s contact information can be found here.

Retrospective64 – F-Zero-X

The Nintendo 64 was my first console. It’s many cartridges, trident-like controller, and countless classics were the foundation for my video game experience. As quarantines and isolations continue to keep many, including me, at home, I’ve decided to look through my catalogue of N64 games and explore how they’ve stood, or fallen to, the test of time.

If I had to explain F-Zero X in just a few words, it’d be that it’s the “this ain’t your dad’s ___” of racing games. While other N64 classics, like Mario Kart 64, provide a night of family fun on the race track, this 1998 entry in the F-Zero franchise is as close to edgy as you’ll get from an in-house Nintendo game.

The game has excellent world building and builds on everything teased by its SNES predecessor. Each pilot and vehicle is unique and the vast major have proven memorable even when I go a good while without playing the game. I can easily recall drivers like Pico, Octoman, Bio Rex off the top of my head and of course the game features Captain Falcon, who’s Smash Bros.’ fame is larger than that of this franchise. The vehicles stand out equally. Like its driver, the Wild Goose was always a favorite of mine, but the Blood Hawk, Fire Stingray, and Red Gazelle are equally iconic.

F-Zero X advertisement art. Photo courtesy of Nintendo.

Much like Star Fox 64, this is generally a game that clearly knew how it wanted to look. The tracks themselves mirror this as much as the characters, with the likes of Mute City and Big Blue providing unforgettable racing experiences. It goes beyond the literal track though, the pixelated world around the tracks provides a look into a dangerous, dystopian world that echoes the edgy appearances of the pilots, all of which look worthy of an appearance in a Star Wars cantina or Jabba’s Palace. Like many Nintendo games of the time, F-Zero X is as fun to explore and exist in as it is to race through.

The game’s soundtrack was composed by Taro Bando and Hajime Wakai, who both provide a gritty series of rock anthems for the dark and stormy franchise. The music is toned down during the actual races, a reasonable choice given the chaos that ensues in almost every play through, but it’s present enough to help you feel like your at the center of something great. It’s a soundtrack that distances itself from the usual fun tracks we associate with 90’s Nintendo but that’s another aspect of why the game is so memorable. Not to repeat myself, but, this ain’t your dad’s Nintendo game.

The game is quite straight forward. The A button manages your thrust, while the joystick steers your vehicle. After you complete the first lap of any race, you’ll receive a boost ability that drains your shields every time you use it. That can be triggered by pressing B. The right bumper and Z buttons trigger an attacking move to your right and left respectively. Pressing both together causes you to spin and deal more damage to nearby vehicles, though attacking in general can slow you down.

There are four main modes for the game. The first is the GP, which is one of five race sets. These sets are the Jack, Queen, King, Joker, and X GP’s, with the last two being unlocked after certain achievements. There are also three difficulties: Novice, Standard, Expert, and Master.

The other three modes are Time Attack, Death Race, and VS. Time Attack has you complete a three lap track by yourself (a ghost competitor is optional) in an attempt to finish as fast as possible. Death Race has you go on to a special track in which you and the other 29 vehicles race endlessly until only one remains. It’s more or less a death match mode and certainly matches the film franchise it takes its name from. VS is the multiplayer mode of the game and sees you face off against up to three other players. All in all, F-Zero X has all the modes you’d expect. The combination of the GP’s, Time Attack, and Death Race provide enough to keep the player entertained for quite awhile, even for those like myself that don’t love racing games by default.

There are few N64 games I remember as fondly as F-Zero X. It’s one of those games that makes you feel like you’re in an exciting, dangerous world and gives you endless reasons to come back. I’ve played through each cup with dozens of different pilots over the years, always finding new challenges along the way and always coming back to the game when I find myself plugging the N64 back in.

If you love some old school dystopian sci-fi, racing, or seeing the edgier side of Nintendo in the 90’s, this is really the perfect game to get you started. 8/10

Retrospective64 – World Cup 98

The Nintendo 64 was my first console. It’s many cartridges, trident-like controller, and countless classics were the foundation for my video game experience. As quarantines and isolations continue to keep many, including me, at home, I’ve decided to look through my catalogue of N64 games and explore how they’ve stood, or fallen to, the test of time.

Box cover for World Cup 98. Courtesy of EA Canada.

Note: To prepare for this, I played through the World Cup 98 campaign, which reconstructs the group stage and knockout stage of the tournament, with Romania. I chose Romania above all because they were a medium ranked team and provided a nice challenge. I’m happy to say that I took them all the way and won the final 1-0 over England.

World Cup 98 is, to put it simply, a wonderful slice of nostalgia. While modern FIFA players may find themselves horrified by its lacking mechanics and pixelated look, I can’t help but think of countless experiences playing the game with family, friends, and just myself over the years. The game was made by EA Canada and is one of the few games I’ll be discussing on here that isn’t made by Nintendo or a company closely affiliated with Nintendo.

Despite feeling quite different from EA’s more modern interpretations of the beautiful game, a lot of the basic controls are still there. The joystick of course directs motion. The A and B buttons give your basic passing, tackling, and shooting. The C buttons provide a range of tactics, including sliding tackles, through passes, and purposeful fouls. All in all, it’s a slightly more complicated and spread out version of the FIFA controls you use today.

Overall, it’s really the physics, not the mechanics, that differentiate the games. There’s a strange feeling to how the ball moves in this game and every time you took a shot on goal it seems like the game has decided every attempt has to look like a screamer, with even the most basic shot rocketing across the screen. The passes can be a bit frustrating to target and often a slight error in how your facing will result in a ball being cannoned across the pitch to a random opponent. This isn’t helped by the camera being quite close to the player with the ball, instead of a more zoomed out look as we often see now. I like the intimacy of the zoom in, but it does make it harder to navigate the pitch.

I, as much as I love this game, have to also mention that there’s a sort of delay in many of the commands that means you’ll often think you’ve planned out a great run and shot, only for the player to dribble it a few feet further because you pressed B too late and the keeper just comes and grabs it.

(music/sound) The sounds of this game aren’t all that different from most modern football games, in fact the crowd cheering sounds oddly similar. The menu has a nice tune but otherwise it’s pretty straight forward. The one bright light, albeit a strange one, is the inclusion of Chumbawamba’s hit(?) “Tubthumping” as the intro song. In comparison to the repetitive pop tracks that populate most games of the genre now, it’s a welcome risk, even if the song isn’t your (my) cup of tea.

If nothing else, World Cup 98 is a great bit of nostalgia. You can relive a great World Cup of the past on an already old school console and even get to play as some classic players. Playing it for this reminded me of the endless fun I had with it as a child, including goofing around with a friend to see how many players we could get red cards by slide tackling the head ref.

If you’re looking for a great football game, this probably isn’t it. It’s not especially realistic and frankly is probably more work than just picking up a modern alternative. That being said, if you have it or love yourself some nostalgia and have money on hand, I would highly encourage you to consider giving it a shot.

In a footballing world that’s more and more about clean new modern marketing, it’s nice to just enjoy a slap stick version of the game with some pixelated all-stars. It’s nice to remember when football was just a game played between some kids, that’s a memory football fans shouldn’t let themselves forget. 7/10

The View – East High School’s Ordean Field

With the beautiful game in a constant state of change, writing about football has been an interesting pass time over the course of 2020. While I usually aim for larger articles looking to investigate a story, I’ve also decided post the occasional blog post while I seek out other projects. The following is one of those blog posts.

Every now and then, you stumble upon a field or stadium that leaves a mark on you. Sometimes it’s because of what transpires there. Sometimes it’s because of a great design. Sometimes it’s a little bit of both. For me, Ordean Field, housed at Duluth East High School, is one of the those special fields.

A view of Ordean Field during an American Football game. Photo courtesy of Duluth East High School.

Ordean Field is technically made for American Football, but all my memories of it are as a home for the beautiful game. Duluth Football Club, an amateur club I volunteered with for two years, played its 2019 season at Ordean. That year was a tough one for the club in the NPSL, but every game at Ordean was a majestic experience. I saw Duluth FC win, draw, and lose at Ordean. I enjoyed tortas from Oasis del Norte and consisting stand pretzels alike in its stands and met up with good friends and colleagues at its parking lots. For a summer, it was a home.

All of this to say, however, that none of that was the cherry on top that made Ordean Field so special. What made Ordean the best spot in the city was its view. The field was positioned perfectly to give fans a view of the beautiful Lake Superior. For those unaware, Lake Superior is one of the five members of the Great Lakes. It has a surface area of 31,700 sq mi and touches the shores of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ontario. It is a truly huge body of water and the heart of this city.

Ordean’s view of the water, as shown at the top of the article, is an absolute gem in a city where most fight over the handful of areas where the lake isn’t blocked by trees or buildings. Seeing it coming into and out of games provided a crystal clear palate cleanser regardless of the result that day. Whatever may happen on the pitch, we knew we lived in and represented a beautiful city.

A view of Ordean Field from a nearby road, with Lake Superior visible behind the stands. Photo courtesy of Duluth East High School.

Ordean doesn’t have any of the shiny features of a good stadium. It is, after all, not a stadium. But I think there’s something to love about the more modest grounds you’ll find across the world, the sort of fields used by lower league clubs, or amateur clubs. I’ve been to Allianz Field, Minnesota United’s new stadium. It is a thing of absolute beauty and I feel lucky to have even stepped inside of it. That being said, there’s something different about the simple and straight forward fields of Duluth East High School and Denfeld High School, Duluth FC’s other home. A modest home is part of the character of a modest club.

Take a moment, amid the chaos of top tier football, to appreciate the amateur, non-league, and otherwise simple homes of the beautiful game. I don’t know what awaits me in the many coming decades of life, but I know a few things I’ll never forget. I’ll never forget Denfeld. I’ll never forget Allianz. I’ll never forget Ordean.

Fariñez to RC Lens – Why It’s Exciting

With the beautiful game in a constant state of change, writing about football has been an interesting pass time over the course of 2020. While I usually aim for larger articles looking to investigate a story, I’ve also decided post the occasional blog post while I seek out other projects. The following is one of those blog posts.

Recent news has revealed a very exciting move for la Vinotinto’s top goalkeeper, Wuilker Fariñez. The Caracas-born keeper joined Millonarios in 2018, following his heroics throughout the 2017 U20 World Cup and a series of senior team appearances, immediately announcing himself to the Colombian game. He made his debut in a pair of appearances against Atlético Nacional in the Superliga Colombiana, which he won. 

Since then, he’s been a constant face in the Millonarios lineup, in addition to Venezuela’s. The 22 year old’s roots in Caracas should not be forgotten. He played with Caracas FC at the youth and senior levels, making his name early in FutVe as a shot stopper. Further details on his skills can be seen in the Solovenex montage below.

Now, however, Fariñez is set to finally show his skills in Europe with the announcement of a move to RC Lens, who were promoted to Ligue 1 in the 2019-20 season. Lens were in second place with 53 points in Ligue 2 when French football chose to end their seasons early due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They return to the top tier of France after being relegated down to Ligue 2 in the 2014-15 season. The club had the least losses in Ligue 2 after 28 games with five, three less than first place Lorient.

Fariñez move marks yet another key figure from the 2017 U20 World Cup run being rewarded for their efforts, as he joins the likes of Yangel Herrera, Samuel Sosa, Sergio Córdova, and Adalberto Peñaranda in the ranks of Europe. Fariñez has been rumored for quite some time with connections to Europe, with many wondering why he was still in Colombia despite already being one of la Vinotinto’s most important players.

Lens supporters showing their passion. Photo courtesy of RC Lens.

All of this being said, I’d like to look through the potentials of this move and give my thoughts on what it could mean for Fariñez.

For better or for worse, there is a certain status given to playing in certain parts of the world. Colombia, and certainly Venezuela, do not fit into that view of the great leagues of the world. These days even Brazil and Argentina struggle to stay high on that list for some, especially those unfamiliar with South America.

Wuilker Fariñez is, and has been for some time, one of Venezuela’s biggest talents. We have good forwards. We have good midfielders. We have good defenders. We have a supernatural goalkeeper. You cannot train reflexes like those shown in Fariñez’ various famous triple saves, like the one against Atlético Nacional in the above highlight reel. There is rarely game where la Vinotinto are not saved and improved by his presence and it’s easy to understand how the 22 year old is an automatic addition to the starting eleven.

The stats are not unkind either. In his 22 appearances for la Vinotinto, he’s kept eleven clean sheets. His defensive record expands to the Copa Liberatdores and Copa Sudamericana, where he’s shined for both Millonarios and Caracas. All in all, Fariñez has almost 200 professional club appearances between his two homes, impressing at both.

Despite the obvious talent, Fariñez’ lack of European adventures has left his career seeming less eventful in comparison to his many compatriots. How do outfield players still finding their footing manage to find homes in Germany, Spain, and England while an obvious star waits in the wings?

Now he’s finally off to France, seemingly with first team Ligue 1 football in his grasp. It’s a major jump for the Venezuelan spider and likely to prove a challenge. He’ll have to contend with the top clubs of France for points, and likely survival. PSG, Lyon, and Marseille are, to be frank, an utterly different animal compared to most of what Fariñez has faced at the club level. As part of a newly promoted club, the Venezuelan keeper will be asked to take on a huge task. That said, I think there’s no better challenge for a player who has been underestimated and undervalued for so long.

Improved quality of opposition and a vast new world of coaches, teammates, and influences would have a major impact on any player. For someone like Fariñez, who is already a starlet at 22, they could be the key to greatness.

With the remainder of their offseason work still unclear, it’d be fair to say Lens shouldn’t be expected to finish especially high on the Ligue 1 table, though given their strong Ligue 2 season and their apparent intelligence in finding strong hidden gems in the offseason, I’m beginning to feel they’re set to avoid relegation back to Ligue 2. One decent season with Lens could do wonders for Fariñez’ stock in the transfer market. I believe that “decent” season is very much in the cards. I expect Fariñez to impress, especially in the context of a young keeper making his European debut, and I expect that Lens will manage to lock in Ligue 1 football for the 2021-22 season.

This move, one which almost happened a year ago, will prove a vital step in the career of one of the most important active Venezuelan footballers today. It will be the year that Wuilker Fariñez man stops existing only in the bubble of South American football writers and fans. It will be the year he joins the likes of Herrera, Rincón, Chancellor, Osorio, and Machís as ambassadors of Venezuelan quality in Europe. Folks, it’s going to be quite the year.

I might be wrong, but probably not.

My Kits – Venezuela (2015-2018)

With the beautiful game in a constant state of change, writing about football has been an interesting pass time over the course of 2020. While I usually aim for larger articles looking to investigate a story, I’ve also decided post the occasional blog post while I seek out other projects. The following is one of those blog posts.

My kit collection is small, at least compared to some you’ll find in the closets of other football writers, or even just other football fans. That being said, the small collection contains immense importance for me. Without a doubt, my Venezuela kit is the core of the collection. The top, featuring the wine-like color that gives the team its nickname of “la Vinotinto” and a neon yellow trim, is my only national team top of any sort. It was used, from what I can recall, from 2015 to 2018.

Salomón Rondón celebrates his goal against Uruguay in 2016. Photo courtesy of the Venezuelan National Team.

The top was my first football top ever, aside from a few I used playing as a kid. By the time I got it, I had seen it used to bring glory in the Copa América Centenario in 2016 and the 2017 U20 World Cup. I had seen Salomòn Rondón score off a crazy rebound to beat Uruguay, Sergio Córdova slide one past Mexico, and Samuel Sosa curl in a dream of a free kick in the U20 World Cup semi-finals. I began to wear it regularly on my college campus, taking good care of it and ensuring it avoided even the slightest stain.

In many ways, the top represents the birth of my love for la Vinotinto, which was utterly reforged from a slow burn into a raging fire over the course of 2016 and 2017. The shirt allowed me to wear my pride in a way I’d never really experienced, and while most people were unable to identify its origin upon meeting me, I enjoyed explaining the top and la Vinotinto to them every single time.

The top is unfortunately associated with Venezuela’s troubled campaign to qualify. for the 2018 World Cup, but I never let that stop me from loving it. I saw Venezuela make U20 history in this shirt. I saw my favorite players score in this shirt. I saw the top teams, both U20 and senior, fail to defeat this shirt.

The shirt is my only current Adidas top, though I’m sure that will eventually change. While the white stripes that came before this version of the kit were probably a better color combination, I found myself loving the silliness of the neon yellow (or perhaps neon green?) stripes and trim that adorn the top. There’s something utterly fun about, something senseless. It reminds me how senseless it is to support this national team that all too often is the underdog and all too often seems doomed to stay the underdog. I don’t mind the losses. I don’t mind the neon trim. It’s perfect. It’s my team.

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Me wearing the top, under several layers, at a very snowy Minnesota United match.

Perhaps the point of this entry, my brief love letter to this kit, is to embrace tops that mean something to you on a deep level. You can buy a dozen fun designs, but the kit that warms your heart is always going to be your favorite. Don’t be afraid of your kit being low on clout, or lacking the stars of a century of victories, just buy the shirt that matters to you.

If there’s anything I can ask of the reader, it’s to post your own kit stories, whether that be on a post relating to this article or just on your own.