KEEPING IT RAHEEL

Raheel Ramzanali: Help me find a country to root for in the World Cup

Raheel Ramzanali: Help me find a country to root for in the World Cup
Leo Messi will lead Argentina in the World Cup. Is he Raheel worthy? Dennis Doyle/Getty Images

Usually, these posts are reserved for the writer showing off or writing about something they have answers to and want you to know, but I am not that kind of writer. I know when to admit weakness and right now I’m weak. Ever since the USA failed to qualify for the World Cup I’ve been searching for a team to root for so I can enjoy the tournament even more. 

I’ve taken the online quizzes, spoke to soccer officials I respect, and taken requests on Twitter, but I still can’t find the perfect team to root for starting this week. 

This is why I need YOUR help. I’ll layout a few things that are important to me as a sports fan and you can make a case for a country I should root for in the World Cup. Send me your submissions on Twitter

  1. No Bandwagons - I appreciate greatness, but there is something more fun in rooting for a team that is close, but not the best in the world already. Now, I’m not saying I want to root for a team that is more than likely going to be knocked out in the group stage, but I also don’t want to root for one of the top favorites. I know wild things will happen and even favorites might have a tough road to win it all, but there is something exciting about rooting for a team that could get knocked out in the first round OR win it all. I just don’t want a team that will be filled with a bunch of bandwagon fans. 
  2. A Good Backstory - I know this will be a one time deal rooting for this country, but I’d like one of their best players to have a really good backstory. I’m talking about E:60 caliber drama. I want this player to be driven by hurt AND the desire to be great. I want to be all in on this ride and nothing connects me more to a team than a good backstory. 
  3. Style - Naturally, all soccer players are stylish and have unique fashion forward looks, but I need my team to be about that life. From a stylish haircut to maybe even wearing a male romper to the match, my team has to be in top 5 most stylish team rankings. 
  4. Food - After sports, food is one of my favorite things to enjoy so it would only be right that I enjoy my new rooting country’s food. Look, I’m sure Germany is really damn good at soccer, but I can’t even name you one German staple dish so I can’t root for them. 
  5. Sellout Factor - I’m a Pakistani born American and there are certain factors that go into rooting for another country where I don’t want to be labeled a sellout. This country should be relatively cool with both Pakistan and ‘Merica! 
  6. Not Mexico - No, I’m not rooting for Mexico. Never. 

All right, so there you go. Let me know what you come up with and recommend! 

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Cristian Javier is in better shape this season. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

As the Astros prepare to play their first game of spring training against the Nationals this Saturday, we're starting to see reports about how the players approached the offseason, and what tweaks they made to improve in the 2024 season.

Cristian Javier is a player Astros fans are hoping bounces back this year, as his ERA jumped from 2.54 in 2022 to 4.56 in 2023. Workload was thought to be one of the main factors causing his regression, he dealt with a dead arm last season and threw more innings than ever before (162).

Another explanation could be the pitch clock. This was another new element all pitchers had to deal with last year, and that also likely played a role in his struggles.

But according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome, Javier believes he was carrying some extra weight last season. Add that to some mechanical issues he was experiencing, and his struggles in 2023 make a lot more sense. And to be fair, he wouldn't be the first person to get a little fat and happy after winning a World Series.

In an effort to get back on track in 2024, Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. With the pitch clock not going anywhere, pitchers need to be in better cardiac shape than ever before.

Hopefully this modification helps Javier return to form and put up jaw-dropping numbers like he did in 2022. This rotation needs Javier to be the dominate pitcher we all know he's capable of being. With Justin Verlander behind schedule and Framber Valdez trying to bounce back from his own down year, Houston will depend on Javier like never before.

The Astros are certainly counting on it after giving him a 5-year, $64 million contract last season. Javier will definitely be a player to watch this spring.

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