Adventure In the Algarve: An Introduction

A familiar name from the WoSo blogosphere is currently on the ground in Portugal. He has graciously offered to send us his impressions of the 2012 Algarve Cup. So who is he exactly, and what kind of cosmic forces converged enabling this marvelous adventure? We’ll let him do the explaining.


Dateline: Faro, Algarve, Portugal

Okay, I can’t quite write that legitimately yet, but just give me another few hours. Meanwhile, let me introduce myself.


Hi, my name is StarCityFan, and I watch women’s soccer

My real name is Kevin W. Parker, but my nom de Internet is “StarCityFan,” which you may have seen in the comments here and elsewhere, and especially over at BigSoccer. My interest in women’s soccer, like that of a lot of people’s, was sparked by the 1999 Women’s World Cup. I didn’t really get into it though until I received an offer for season tickets from the WUSA-era Washington Freedom. Figuring that this was the one time in my life I could buy top-level season tickets for a team without taking out a second mortgage, I sprung for the club-level tickets and found myself (and my wife) in the front row at RFK Stadium for the WUSA inaugural match. (You can actually see me on the WUSA’s official 2001 season video.) I enjoyed the first season, dismal as it was for the Freedom, and my interest increased as I found that Freedom defender Carrie Moore was from my hometown – and increased even more as she went from benchwarmer in 2001 to WUSA All-Star in 2002. Anyhow, to make a long story short, my enthusiasm has held up even through the lean years, when the Freedom were amateur at best and is still there even though they aren’t any more.

I’d always been intrigued by the Algarve Cup and thought, “Someday, I really have to get to one of those.” In case you don’t know, the Algarve Cup is considered the most prestigious women’s international soccer tournament after the World Cup and the Olympics. It was created in the early 1990’s by the Scandinavian women’s teams as a tournament to challenge them during the chillier months and is held every year around this time in southern Portugal’s Algarve region – hence the name. The US team has been a participant since the beginning and has won seven of the last nine.

Anyhow, I was recently offered a new job and decided I wanted to take a few weeks off between finishing my old job and starting that one in order to have a break and take some sort of vacation. Unfortunately, my wife’s circumstances weren’t going to allow her to do anything significant with me in that timeframe. So I needed to come up with something I wanted to do that she wouldn’t want to do as well, which took places like San Francisco and the Caribbean off the list. Then I realized that the timing of the Algarve Cup fit in perfectly with my little sabbatical. So last weekend I frantically made my flight arrangements, just barely getting my reservations in before I could no longer qualify for the cheapest fares. And if all goes well, I’ll be leaving for Lisbon Sunday evening and arriving in the Algarve Tuesday afternoon, well in time for the opening matches on Wednesday.


The Participants

Twelve teams are participating in this year’s Algarve Cup, divided into three groups. Group A consists of China, Germany, Iceland, and Sweden. Group B is Denmark, Japan Norway, and the US; and Group C is Hungary, Ireland, host Portugal, and Wales. There’s a bit of a catch, though: the teams in Group C are not eligible for the championship. In fact, the playoffs are highly simplified: the Group A winner plays the Group B winner for first place, while the runners-up play for third, and the third place teams play for fifth. The best the winner of Group C can do is place seventh, and they’ll play the better fourth place team from Group A or B for that slot. The second-place team from Group C plays the one remaining team from A or B for ninth, and the last two teams in C play for eleventh place.


The Schedule

(Times listed as local time, five hours ahead of EST and eight hours ahead of PST. For example, the first US match starts at noon EST or 9 am PST.)


February 29 (Wednesday):

Group A:

Germany-Iceland (2pm)

Sweden-China (3pm)

Group B:

Japan-Norway (12:40pm)

USA-Denmark (5pm)

Group C:

Hungary-Republic of Ireland (3pm)

Wales-Portugal (3:45pm)


March 2 (Friday):

Group A:

Iceland-Sweden (1:30pm)

Germany-China (3pm)

Group B:

Denmark-Japan (12:10pm)

Norway-USA (3pm)

Group C:

Portugal-Hungary (3:15pm)

Wales-Republic of Ireland (5pm)


March 5 (Monday):

Group A:

Germany-Sweden (3pm)

China-Iceland (3pm)

Group B:

Norway-Denmark (2:10pm)

USA-Japan (2:10pm)

Group C:

Hungary-Wales (5:15pm)

Republic of Ireland-Portugal (5:15pm)


March 7 (Wednesday):

Playoff matches, times and places to be determined

(Schedule courtesy of Women’s Soccer United)


My plans

I arrive in Lisbon Monday morning, plan to stay over a day to recover from jet lag, then will take a train down to southern Portugal Tuesday afternoon. I pick up a rental car the next morning and will be heading to Lagos, which is hosting the 2 pm Germany-Iceland match and the 5 pm US-Denmark match. If all goes well, and I survive my encounters with Portuguese drivers (who are supposedly the worst in Europe), I will have a report on those two matches ready for this space sometime that evening. Wish me luck!

9 thoughts on “Adventure In the Algarve: An Introduction

  1. Maureen

    Good luck!

    Any and all video you can send our way will be so appreciated. The fans will pay $$$!

    What do you think about the lack of TV / webstream coverage at the Algarve cup?

    Seems like USSF could have come up with $15000, when Japan did. (USMNT coach salary is 2.5 million. ) The overall lack of USWNT games on TV is depressing.

    1. goaleemama

      Thanks for posting the link to the petition. I was under the impression that was streaming the USA-Denmark game. I guess I’ll have to go back and make sure that I didn’t dream that one up.

  2. StarCityFan

    Unfortunately, the only video equipment I brought with me is my little Flipcam with one hour of recording time, and I was going to save that for any interviews I happen to get. But, yes, it would be nice if some of this rather significant tournament were televised.

  3. john c.

    You mean it wasn’t Brandy Chastain that got you interested in women’s soccer? I’m crushed. And have you seen Freddy o Porco yet?

  4. sec

    starcityfan – thank you for your interest in attending and writing (and special thanks to your wife, for not wanting to attend something she evidently couldn’t have attended if she’d wanted to)!

    Maureen – when was the last time US Soccer paid a television network to broadcast a USMNT match, or paid to live stream a USMNT match online, particularly a match overseas and for which the USSF needed to purchase broadcast rights? By comparison, US Soccer just live streamed two recent USWNT domestic friendlies to fans, free of charge, and then posted those matches online. And to be sure, $15K broadcast rights fee in the Algarve is the baseline expense, as it costs more money to produce it all.

    As for Japan, is their soccer federation paying to broadcasting the matches, or is television network based in Japan producing and bearing the costs? (And if the latter, is the network government-subsidized?) Further, it appears that governmental funds directly support Japan’s soccer federation, at least to some degree.. I don’t think that’s how US Soccer works (Congress does give money to US Soccer), and I don’t think ESPN/ABC or Fox or other American networks are publicly-financed companies.

    As for JK’s salary, yes, add “streaming of USWNT’s Algarve matches” to the long list of other potential USSF expenditures made less likely or affordable by his salary. But don’t knock the JK hiring decision quite yet — maybe it helps USSF financially in the long term (that’s the bet Gulati made).

  5. maureen

    All very interesting, sec, but if we the fans of USWNT could have been given the information that 15k was needed to fund game videos (videos would be fine, straming not needed), we would have raised the money.

    All the decisions about what games of USWNT are teleivised are not made by free market and the networks. After the second Canadian friendly, USSOCCER announced that there were only going to be 2 televised WWC cwelebration games. Not fox soccer or ESPN.

    USSOCCER is trying to push the popularity of USMNT & jk, and promotes showing their games on TV.

    USSOCCER takes the popularity of USWNT for granted, and promotes players appearances on Dancing with the Stars and those cute little promo videos they do twice a week with Pinoe. They are entertaining, but too bad the yokel of a PR guy couldn’t actually work on televising the SPORT instead of cutesy pie stuff.

  6. john

    The decisions on marketing are somewhat complex and indeed often puzzling. For instance, between the WNT game and the MNT game the website was all promo f/ the Italy game (and the new kit) w/ barely a mention that the WNT had just won much less even played. Wouldn’t it be more beneficial in the long run to spend time and money on showing “real” games in terms of building interest, fostering young players’ dreams and development, etc.? We all have to admit that televising 20,000 rabid USWNT fans from a Frisco friendly might be better theatre than what a “real” game from Algarve w/ minimal crowds might be. I guess part of the decision is pleaing “true” fans vs. increasing the fanbase/customers. Lastly, starcityfan I’m green w/ envy. You’re living my dream and I also mourn the loss of the Freedom club. I built vacations around watching the U20 and W League teams at nationals. Thanks f/ your efforts!!!

  7. Joshua

    Well, so much for Denmark. Mind you this is a team that has been steamrolling through its 2013 Euro qualifying group and very nearly (and probably should have) won the Sao Paulo Tournament.

    Video of USA vs Denmark from somebody would be nice. In this day and age, you could very nearly do a broadcast with a webcam and wireless internet connection. Some of the best video of the 2011 WWC was shot by fans up in the stands and posted on Youtube.


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