TIME World Cup

The State of Cristiano Ronaldo

As he prepares for the World Cup, Portugal's star goal scorer is doing anything it takes to stay healthy.

Photo-illustration: Joe Giddens—AP

Cristiano Ronaldo was built to play soccer. Named the best player in the world this year, the 29-year-old Portuguese goal scorer boasts an unusually high proportion of what physiologists call fast-twitch muscle, which allows him to accelerate, leap beyond defenders and shoot powerfully from a distance with little setup. But not even Ronaldo’s body was built for the strain he has endured over what has been a particularly grueling season.

He is currently recovering from leg injuries that are a result of his playing an enormous number of games for his club team, Real Madrid, and for Portugal’s national team. His injury history, age (he has been playing for major teams since he was 17), physique and even his travel schedule are factors that increase his injury risk in the World Cup, which starts June 12.

His fitness level may affect whether Portugal is one of the two teams that advance from its first-round group, which includes Germany, Ghana and the U.S. Portugal is leaving as little to chance as possible and has hired a physical therapist from the Real Madrid sports-medicine staff to look after Ronaldo and two other teammates with physical vulnerabilities. The battle to keep this soccer phenomenon healthy is an around-the-clock task.

Sources: ProZone; FIFA; UEFA; AS; BBC; Guardian; Men’s Health; ESPN; Sky Sports; David Tenney, Seattle Sounders FC; Chris West, University of Connecticut; John Sullivan, Clinical & Sports Consulting Services

TIME nba finals

Don’t Blame LeBron’s Cramps, or San Antonio’s A/C Breakdown, For Heat’s Loss

LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat reacts after cramping up against the San Antonio Spurs during Game One of the 2014 NBA Finals at the AT&T Center on June 5, 2014 in San Antonio.
LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat reacts after cramping up against the San Antonio Spurs during Game One of the 2014 NBA Finals at the AT&T Center on June 5, 2014 in San Antonio. Andy Lyons—Getty Images

The oppressive Game 1 conditions were unfortunate. But they did not decide the game, or this series.

It’s tempting. Too tempting, really, especially if you’ve joined the LeBron vs. Jordan debate over the last few years. Remember Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, when Michael Jordan, nearly collapsing on the court because of the flu, still scored 38 points to lead Chicago to a crucial Game 5 victory in Utah (the Bulls would clinch the series at home in Game 6)? And Thursday night we had LeBron James, cramping in the San Antonio sweat after the arena’s air conditioning system malfunctioned, being carried off the court in the fourth quarter, before the Spurs closed the game with a 16-3 run to beat Miami 110-95.

MJ would not have done that. Man up, LeBron. It’s tempting.

But it’s ludicrous.

James, remember, played pretty great in the oppressive heat. He scored 25 points in 33 minutes on 9-17 shooting, while grabbing 6 rebounds and dishing out 3 assists. “Rather than seeing this as a sign of weakness, or that he’s fragile, I think it’s the opposite,” says Dr. James Gladstone, co-chief of sports medicine at the Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “He pushed his body as far as he could go.”

And while San Antonio’s A/C malfunction is embarrassing and a potential danger to fans and players, it should not have stopped the game, despite the protestations of the NBA Players Association. “The playing conditions for tonight’s game were completely unacceptable from the opening tip,” Ron Klempner, acting executive director of the union, wrote in a text to Bloomberg. “In a situation like this, there needs to be more open communication before a decision is made that could potentially place players at risk.”

But players weren’t slipping all over the place. If anything, the game was a throwback — to outdoor summer hoops in the park, to the 1980s, when the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers played in 100 degree swelter at the old Boston Garden. Everyone played under the same conditions. No team had an advantage. The better team won. If you like the Heat, harp on that. Not the heat.

TIME Horse Racing

A Dummy’s Guide to the Triple Crown

Learn about the Triple Crown in less time than it takes to run the Belmont Stakes

Before people paid money to watch cars drive in a circle, they paid to watch horses run in a circle.

Horse racing has been a popular pastime from Roman chariot races to thoroughbred racing in Elizabethan England.

The “Sport of Kings” has fallen out of fashion of late, but there are three races that still command America’s attention – the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. With the Derby and Preakness being claimed by California Chrome and the Belmont just around the corner, now’s the time to get back in the saddle and brush up on your Triple Crown knowledge.

TIME Football

Beats by Dre Just Totally Upstaged Nike With Its Pre-World Cup Ad

This is EPIC

Beats by Dre has one-upped Nike at its own game: amped-up football commercials.

In this cinematic World Cup spot, we get to live through the pre-game rituals of a host of star players donning Beats headphones, as well as catch a bunch of cool cameos (like Lil Wayne, Serena Williams and Nicki Minaj).

If you’re still waiting for the excitement to set in for the sports spectacle of the year, these are the best-spent five minutes out there.


Which World Cup Team Is the Most Valuable?

The Spanish team is worth more than $900 million—9.5% of the market value on all World Cup players

On Thursday, FIFA announced the 23 players for each of the 32 World Cup teams. All put together, these 786 players have a total market value of $9.69 billion, according to the trading site Transfermarkt. The priciest squad taking the field in Brazil this month? Spain. The scrappiest? Honduras. The Spanish squad’s players have a market value of $916 million, representing 9.5% of the total market. That’s nearly 34 times the Honduran team’s $31.1 million value, which accounts for 0.32% of the market.

Use the interactive below to compare values between teams and their players. Click on club teams to see which professional teams have sent players to the global tournament.

Player market value is determined by many factors like individual and club team performance, international experience, contract history and age, which in part explains why Lionel Messi (26) is worth $177 million while Cristiano Ronaldo (29) is worth $147 million.


Market values are from Transfermarkt and converted at $1.67 per pound. All flags: Getty Images.

TIME animals

This Elephant is Predicting World Cup Matches

If this pachyderm is correct, Team USA will deliver a stunning upset

Paul, the octopus who accurately predicted the winner of the 2010 World Cup, has some clairvoyant competition from another, much larger member of the animal kingdom.

A female elephant at a wildlife park in Germany is predicting the results for the 2014 World Cup. A video published by the Associated Press shows her kicking a soccer ball into one of two goals, each marked with the name of a competing country.

Her home country can’t be too pleased, though. According to the pachyderm, Germany’s national team will suffer defeat at the hands of Team USA, despite America’s 100-1 odds of winning it all.

Get your bets in now.

TIME World Cup

This Is How Much Every Country’s Fans Would Pay to Win the World Cup

The 2014 FIFA World Cup kicks off next week, but the battle for soccer fans’ spending dollars is already on. A new survey reveals how much money fans of each country’s team plan to spend on World Cup gear and how much cash they’d be willing to give up just to see their team win.

According to an ING survey of 8,000 people across 15 participating countries, Chileans would be willing to part with 526 euros ($714) of their own savings to see their team hoist the World Cup trophy, the largest sum of any country. Italians are the second-most passionate fanbase by this metric, willing to give up 464 euros ($630) to see their team win. U.S. respondents, well-known for their relative lack of interest in the world’s most popular sport, came in last place in the survey — Americans would only spend 37 euros ($50) to win the World Cup.

In terms of money people will actually spend on World Cup shirts, posters and hats, Argentinian and Russian fans lead the pack, saying they plan to spend 48 euros ($65) on soccer swag. Again, U.S. interest looks anemic, with Americans saying they’d spend just 12 euros ($16) on apparel. People in the Netherlands also don’t care about soccer swag apparently — the Dutch plan to spend 5 euros ($7) on soccer gear.

Fans were also asked whether they’d be willing to give up their phones for a month or one percent of their annual income to see their team win. Combining all the survey results, ING devised a superfan ranking to crown the most and least passionate fanbases. Argentina and Chile tied for first place, followed by Russia. Last place? The United States.


The Miami Heat Will Win It All (But Not for the Reasons You Think)

Ray Allen, C.J.Watson
Miami Heat guard Ray Allen, 34, drives to the basket as Indiana Pacers guard C.J. Watson, 32, defends, during the second half Game 6 in the NBA basketball playoffs Eastern Conference finals, May 30, 2014, in Miami. Lynne Sladky—AP

The city might be a bit shallow and narcissistic, but the team is the opposite. The defining quality of its amazing run has been sacrifice.

Ray Allen is probably the greatest shooter who ever tossed a ball into a hoop. He’s a ten-time NBA All-Star, the all-time league leader in three-pointers. His immaculate stroke was immortalized on screen when he played Jesus Shuttlesworth, the young phenom in the 1998 Spike Lee film He Got Game. But Allen isn’t a young phenom anymore. He’s a 38-year-old sub for the Miami Heat. He averaged nine points a game this season off the bench, seventeen below his career high.

Allen doesn’t complain about that. He came to Miami to win championships, and last year, thanks to his unforgettable back-up corner three in Game Six against the San Antonio Spurs, the Heat won the championship. It looked like a fluke, but Allen later explained that he had drained that very shot in practice hundreds of thousands of times. His obsessive and exhaustive daily shooting routine never changes, which is why he’s known as Every Day Ray. He has a job to do, and he does it. In Game 3 of this year’s conference finals against the Indiana Pacers, he hit four killer threes in the fourth quarter to lead the Heat to a come-from-behind victory.

“I don’t want to call him a role player, because he’s going to be in the Hall of Fame someday,” the announcer Mike Breen marveled that night. “But…”

It’s OK to admit it: Ray Allen is now a role player. In fact, on the Heat, the team America loves to hate, every player is a role player.

Shane Battier, recently named the league’s Teammate of the Year, draws offensive charges, dives for loose balls, and does the other little things that once inspired Moneyball writer Michael Lewis to profile him as the “No-Stats All-Star.” Udonis Haslem, who turned down offers twice as lucrative to stay with the Heat in 2010, is the team enforcer, responsible for informing opponents of the consequences of unsportsmanlike behavior. Chris “Birdman” Anderson, the sci-fi-looking dude with the psychedelic tattoos, is the energy guy who comes off the bench to crash the boards and block shots and get the crowd as crazy as he is.

Even the Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have roles to play. Granted, LeBron’s role involves being the best basketball player on the planet, but he has to do it within Coach Eric Spoelstra’s system, which means he has to set picks and rotate on defense and pass the ball to Every Day Ray whenever he’s open. LeBron embraces that system, as do all of his teammates, which is what makes the Heat so awesome.

OK, I’m biased. I’m an obnoxious Heat fan. I believe the greatness of LeBron, even after four MVP awards, is actually underappreciated, and I’ve speculated irresponsibly about the reasons. But the prevailing narrative about the Heat-Spurs Finals rematch that begins Thursday night—Miami’s freakishly athletic superstar against San Antonio’s admirably unselfish team, the Big Three against San Antonio’s depth and drive—is just wrong. Miami plays the right way, too. The city might be a bit shallow and narcissistic, but the team is the opposite. The defining quality of its amazing run—four straight Finals, hopefully three straight titles—has been sacrifice.

The chatter about the Big Three’s arrival in Miami in 2010 focused on LeBron’s cringe-inducing “take-my-talents-to-South-Beach” announcement and the over-the-top “not-one-not-two-not-three” celebration. But the Big Three began their era with sacrifice, leaving millions of dollars on the table to leave the team with a bit of salary cap space. They’ve also sacrificed on the floor. Wade, a superstar in his own right who had been a Finals MVP, had to defer to LeBron and learn to play without the ball in his hands. Bosh, a perennial All-Star who had always been an alpha dog, had to reinvent himself as a jump-shooting third option. Even LeBron had to tone down his ball-dominance, to get Wade and Bosh the touches they need—and then had to endure the sports yakkers who believed his unselfishness in crunch time reflected a fear of the big moment.

The Heat’s supporting cast is a collection of former stars and veteran specialists who could all make more and play more elsewhere. They don’t whine about minutes; Coach Spo’s mantra is “stay ready,” and they do. James Jones played in just 20 of the Heat’s 82 regular-season games, but his teammates say he could fall out of bed shooting; he was the hero of the Heat’s first playoff game with 12 points in 14 minutes. Rashard Lewis, a former All-Star who was once the second-highest-paid player in the league, sat out the first two games of the Indiana series; he started the next four. Michael Beasley, the second pick in the 2008 draft behind Derrick Rose, and Greg Oden, the first pick in the 2007 draft ahead of Kevin Durant, are now seldom-used Heat reserves. But they’ve accepted that, and they both know their moment could come, if Spoelstra decides he needs Beasley’s scoring or Oden’s size.

There’s a widespread perception that none of this matters, that the Heat’s destiny was obvious when the Big Three arrived. But the Los Angeles Lakers put together a Big Four of future Hall of Famers Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, and promptly got swept in the first round. This year the New Jersey Nets assembled a Big Five of perennial (though aging) All-Stars, and the Heat wiped them out in the second round. If those teams had gelled and dominated, everyone would have said they were so stacked it was inevitable, but obviously it wasn’t. Chemistry matters. Egos get in the way.

It’s been up to Spoelstra, who started with the Heat as a lowly video coordinator, to manage the egos. There’s been a lot of totally justified talk about the genius of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, but Coach Spo has worked magic as well. He speaks in corporate mumbo-jumbo about “respecting the process” and “understanding the journey,” and he’s almost comically even-keeled on the sidelines. But it works. He puts his players in positions where they can succeed; the Big Three were all the league’s most efficient players at their positions this season. You’ll rarely see the Heat taking bad shots. Everyone has a role, and no one—except brain-fart-prone point guard Mario Chalmers, whose role is apparently to give me heartburn—ventures outside the confines of the system.

It’s fun to watch. And it’s kind of inspiring. Not to get too philosophical about men in shorts playing games, but we’re all role players on this earth.

Which is a long-winded way of saying: Heat in six.


TIME World Cup

Qatar Bribery Allegations Loom Over the 2022 World Cup

FIFA President Sepp Blatter announces Qatar as the host nation for the FIFA World Cup 2022  in Zurich
FIFA President Sepp Blatter announces Qatar as the host nation for the FIFA World Cup 2022, in Zurich, Dec. 2, 2010. A bribery scandal may cost the Middle Eastern nation the tournament. Christian Hartmann—Reuters

A trove of emails allegedly implicating a former Qatari official in bribery has some critics questioning whether Qatar should host the 2022 tournament

Qatar, the tiny Gulf monarchy that has spent most of the last decade punching above its weight, is in danger of losing the 2022 World Cup – and with it a peerless showcase for its global aspirations.

An investigator for the international soccer association FIFA was in Doha on Wednesday questioning Qatari officials about allegations that bribery was involved in naming the dark horse as host of the month-long tournament, bringing what many consider the greatest spectacle in sports to the Middle East for the first time. The region was due a turn after the tournament was played in South Africa and divided between Japan and South Korea, but FIFA ethics investigator Michael Garcia was already probing corruption rumors when London’s Sunday Times over the weekend revealed documents apparently showing a former Qatari official paid $5 million in bribes to soccer officials to secure the selection. The report is due to be delivered to higher-ups June 9, three days before the 2014 tournament begins in Brazil.

“This is the one way a country can literally be the center of the world for a month,” says Laurent Dubois, a Duke University professor of Romance studies who has written a book on the politics of the World Cup. “And from the standpoint of political elites, that is a kind of catnip.”

So revoking the 2022 selection of Qatar – as at least one senior FIFA official has suggested could happen – and re-opening the competition for a host nation would strike a huge blow to the country’s prestige. And after raising its global profile by investing lavishly in museums, satellite news, and universities, Qatar lately has been already coping with a string of setbacks: the Muslim Brotherhood governments it supported in Egypt and the Gaza Strip are either removed or on their heels, while the rebels it arms in the Syrian civil war are losing to forces aligned with President Bashar Assad. Meanwhile correspondents for its satellite news channel Al Jazeera remain jailed in Cairo.

“The regional situation hasn’t gone very well for Qatar in the last year, so the World Cup becomes that much more important,” says Shadi Hamid, a fellow at the Brookings Institution Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington. “So much is tied to the success of the World Cup, whether it’s building new hotels, or building an entire metro system from scratch, all of that is to prepare for the World Cup in eight years. So without the World Cup, what is this all going towards?”

Qatari officials emphatically deny authorizing any bribery, insisting that Mohamed bin Hammam, the official at the heart of the Sunday Times’ devastating e-mail cache, was not involved in the official effort to land the tournament. Still, the Cup was already a source of controversy for Qatar. The new stadiums and infrastructure are being built by foreign workers who account for 1.4 million of the country’s 2.2 million people, and whom human rights groups say are so badly exploited that a number have lost their lives on the job – prompting a promise from FIFA to push for better conditions. The country’s climate is also a problem: temperatures in June and July, when the Cup is played, reach 120 degrees, raising the question of shifting the tournament to a cooler time of year. As former U.S. Treasury official Jonathan Schanzer tweeted about the Taliban prisoners released from Guantanamo into Qatari custody in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl: “To be fair, Qatar in late spring and summer is worse than prison.”

But the corruption allegations play to an image of a petroleum-drenched monarchy so wealthy it simply buys whatever it wants. And they come just as as FIFA is already reeling from a match-fixing scandal, and controversy over the $11 billion Brazil is spending, amid widespread poverty and social ills.

“It’s like the pigeons coming home to roost a little bit,” says Dubois, who teaches a course on the World Cup. “There’s no justification for FIFA having so little transparency, except corruption. Really, if you think about it. Their job is to organize soccer games. Why all the secrecy?” Yet the global body has answered only to itself for so long that it’s difficult to imagine it casting aside its choice of Qatar, even in the face of documents that the newspaper says number over a million. “On the one hand it seems to be inevitable that they’ll revisit the decision,” Dubois says. “And on the other hand, I can’t imagine them doing it.”

It’s just as hard for Hamid, who worked in Brookings’ Doha office for the last four years, to fathom the loss to the host country. “It would really be devastating, I think,” Hamid says. “I’m having difficulty imagining how Qatar would recover, in terms of perception.”

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