Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 2014 World Cup, Chad Johnson, Chad Ochocinco, Cincinnati Bengals, Deion Sanders, Jan Koller, Kerry Zavagnin, Maradona, Messi, Pele, Sporting Kansas City, Terrell Owens, Xavi, Zoran Savic
Controversial NFL star Chad Ochocinco began a four-day trial with Sporting Kansas City. The Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver, who hadn’t played competitive soccer since his days as a high school sophomore, was understandably tentative and, at the end, a bit spent. Much of his session was under the tutelage of Sporting assistant coach Zoran Savic.
“Exactly what I expected,” said the player once known as Chad Johnson. “I would be a little winded being that I haven’t run at this pace or this level since the end of our season of football. It was fun. I didn’t expect to come here and be Superman.”
The supposed reason for Ochocinco’s stunt was the looming NFL lockout and court battle, which could idle the six-time Pro Bowler and the rest of the league’s players indefinitely. Nevertheless, under cold and blustery conditions, Day 1 drew 40 media members, about four times the usual turnout for a Sporting workout. [March 23]
Comment: It was at the 2006 World Cup, when the U.S. gave up a headed goal to 6-foot, 8-inch striker Jan Koller early in a 3-0 loss to the Czech Republic in its opener, that many sports columnists and commentators across America came up with this clueless conclusion: We don’t win at this sport because our best athletes don’t play it. That refrain was heard and read four years later after the USA’s elimination by Ghana at South Africa ’10, and we can expect more when, not if, the Americans’ are knocked out of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
What they meant by “best athletes,” of course, is “biggest, strongest, fastest athletes,” not necessarily the quickest of thought, the most inventive, the most creative, the most tactically aware, and, above all, the most skillful. (Not to mention that all-important low center of gravity.)
Even Savic’s colleague, Sporting assistant Kerry Zavagnin, seems to buy into the notion: “We’ve made great strides in our nation in closing the gap and becoming more competitive in soccer around the world. But we have to remember that most of these other nations, these power nations, are playing with all their premier athletes. There is an intriguing aspect to thinking and dreaming about having Deion Sanders, Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson as wingers running down the flanks on a soccer field. The athleticism of some of these guys is certainly superior to any of the competitors they’d be facing around the world, and that’s not taking anything away from the athleticism the game of soccer demands.”
Sure it is.
As long as soccer is not a sport in which a 4.2 40-yard dash is a litmus test and players are not allowed to lower a helmeted head into an opponent’s chest, the game will be ruled by giants like a 5-7 Pele, a 5-6 Maradona, a 5-7 Xavi, a 5-7 Messi. And that’s what continues to make it the people’s game.