Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 2013 MLS opener, American Soccer League, FIFA, Great Depression, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, National Professional Soccer League, NBA, New York Cosmos, NFL, NHL, North American Soccer League, Pele, Phil Anschutz, Supporters Shield, United Soccer Association, USFA
Major League Soccer will kick off its 18th season Saturday, March 2, with 12 of its 19 clubs in action. Another six will play the following day.
Aside from the usual player moves and coaching changes, the league remains relatively unchanged from 2012, although the start date marks the earliest kickoff in MLS history. A record 87 matches will be televised nationally on seven different channels, and the league will be out to top last season’s attendance figures as it drew 6,074,729 fans and averaged a record-18,807–ahead of the NBA and NHL and behind only the NFL and Major League Baseball at the turnstiles. [February 28]
Comment: MLS, wisely, has never been a league to look back; given the alphabet soup of leagues that have crashed and burned over the past century, there never was a reason to remind anyone that it has been trying to be the very first one to fly.
But if it did publicly point to the past, it might … discreetly … modestly … pop a very quiet champagne cork and take a quick sip.
Season 18 makes MLS the oldest professional soccer league in American history. Eighteen is one year older than the North American Soccer League (1968-84), the league formed by the merger of a pair of one-year-old circuits, the long-forgotten United Soccer Association and National Professional Soccer League. The NASL was down to five clubs in 1969, then rode the Pele-led New York Cosmos gravy train to 24 teams and a national TV contract in the late ’70s, only to over-spend itself into oblivion a handful of years later. The only other notable pro league in the U.S. was the original American Soccer League, which was founded in 1921 and was out-drawing the NFL until battles with the USFA (forerunner to U.S. Soccer) and FIFA and the Great Depression killed it off in 1933, although it reorganized and limped along on a minor-league basis until 1983.
MLS, now just three years away from full adulthood, still faces many challenges, not the least of which are poor TV ratings in a sports landscape ruled by the tube, plus too many clubs operating in the red. And there would not have been an 18th birthday were it not for the likes of Phil Anschutz, who at one point propped up half the clubs in the league. But while the NASL in its 17th season was in its death throes, hemorrhaging money as its number of franchises had dropped to nine and average attendance to a tepid 10,759, MLS is not far from adding its 20th club (a reconstituted New York Cosmos? Orlando?), and the fan base in many of its cities is made up of young adults who are loyal, knowledgeable and loud. While NASL clubs shoehorned themselves into all manner of baseball stadiums and pro, college and even high school football stadiums, 14 MLS clubs play in new or relatively new soccer-specific stadiums. MLS has proven to be one of the most competitive soccer leagues in the world–nine different clubs have lifted the MLS Cup and eight have claimed the Supporters Shield–and the quality on the field continues to improve (though some critics would ask, how could it not?). And while the NASL tried to build itself on the backs of big-name, high-priced foreigners, the MLS this season loses the world’s most recognizable star in David Beckham but has attracted enough stars from abroad to make itself interesting.
With the MLS now old enough to vote, should it gloat? Nope. Would Major League Soccer’s cautious, spendthrift approach, without a legion of Internet-driven 20-something hipsters in the stands, without its soccer-specific stadiums, without the explosion of television-exposure options, have survived back in 1968-84? Of course not. In short, after ASL I, ASL II, the International League, USA, NPSL, NASL, MISL, AISL, USL, WSA/WSL, ASL III, APSL and A-League, Major League Soccer can thank the soccer gods that it has proven itself to be the right league at the right time.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 1994 World Cup, Al Jazeera, Argentina, baseball, basketball, Blatter criticizes MLS, Brazil, Commissioner Don Garber, English Premier League, FIFA, FIFA President Sepp Blatter, Genoa, German Bundesliga, gridiron football, Italian Serie A, Italy, Jamaica, Kingston, Major League Soccer, MLB, National Hockey League, NBA, New York Times, NFL, Spain, Spain's La Liga
Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber was struggling to remain diplomatic in the wake of recent comments by FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who criticized MLS for its lack of progress.
Blatter told Al Jazeera television, in an interview broadcast December 28, that “there is no very strong professional league” in the U.S. ”They just have the MLS. But they have no professional leagues which are recognized by the American society.”
He added that MLS was “still struggling” to lift soccer to the level of gridiron football, baseball and basketball in America. ”We had the World Cup in 1994,” Blatter said. ”But we are now in 2012–it’s been 18 years. It should’ve been done now.”
Countered Garber in an interview with the New York Times: ”We still have a lot of work to do–we understand and accept that. But arguably there’s probably not another sports league in the world that has achieved as much as we have in the last 20 years. [January 2]
Comment: Blatter’s latest blatherings triggered a firestorm of criticism among American fans of MLS and Americans who simply believe the man should have been unseated when his first term as FIFA chief ended in 2002. What was disappointing was how a man who, as FIFA general secretary, held America’s hand as it prepared for and pulled off World Cup USA ’94, could still have such a dismal understanding of this country.
Mainstream America really doesn’t know what to make of soccer. An estimated 18 million of their countrymen and countrywomen and countrykids play the sport. Its women’s national team is usually No. 1 in the world while its men’s national team, usually ranked around No. 30, is capable of beating Spain in the FIFA Confederations Cup and Italy in Genoa, then losing to Jamaica in Kingston. And its official national league, whose average attendance of 18,807 last season topped the NBA and NHL for the second year in a row, making it third behind the NFL and Major League Baseball in average gate, remains a television bust, stuck at 0.1 and 0.2 in the ratings.
What Blatter and mainstream America need to understand is that MLS is no measuring stick of soccer here. America loves the NFL, Major League Baseball and the NBA a whole lot more than MLS, not because they’ve had a 74-, 152- and 47-year head start, respectively, on MLS, but because the NFL, MLB and NBA are the best at their craft in the world. The NFL, MLB and the NBA play their game like they invented it because, well, they have. Even the National Hockey League can make the same claim, if, for the sake of this argument, we co-opt our Canadian friends. As for MLS, everyone in America knows that it’s not the best soccer league in the world, even those who know nothing about the English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, the Italian Serie A, Germany’s Bundesliga or the Brazilian and Argentine championships. And it’s hard to imagine a time when an MLS, which has gone from crawl to hobble to jog in those 18 years, will have the means and talent to challenge those leagues.
MLS will continue to be a symbol, a happy, regular rallying point, for soccer here, but it will never be the heart–or reliable barometer–of our sport. While the NFL can boast of astronomical television ratings and Major League Baseball can point to its tremendous total attendance figures, soccer in the U.S. quietly moves forward with a balance that should be the envy of the so-called “big four” pro team sports: a professional league that continues to grow and improve, a competitive men’s national team, a world-class women’s national team, and those millions and millions or participants of all ages and both genders. All underscored by a patience that Blatter doesn’t seem to possess.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 1980 Moscow Games, 1980 Winter Olympics, 2010 World Cup, 2014 World Cup, ABC, Aleksandr Kerzhakov, Argentina, Bear, Brent Goulet, Cold War, Commonwealth of Independent States, CONCACAF, Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, Detroit, Eagle, East Germany, Egypt, England, European Championship, European Group "F", Fabio Capello, FIFA, FIFA World Rankings, Frank Klopas, Huntington Sheraton Hotel, Iran, Italy, John Doyle, John Harkes, Joseph Blatter, Juergen Klinsmann, Kevin Crow, Krasnodar, Kuban Stadium, Lake Placid, Libya, Los Angeles Olympics, Miami, Miracle on Grass, Miracle on Ice, Moscow, North American Soccer League, Norway, Orlando, Palo Alto, Pasadena, Paul Caligiuri, Peter Vermes, Port of Spain, Rick Davis, Roman Shirokov, Rose Bowl, Russia, San Francisco, Seattle, Seoul Olympic Games, Stanford Stadium, Tab Ramos, Taegu, Trinidad & Tobago, U.S. National Team, USSR, Victor Faizulin, West Germany, Zenit Saint Petersburg
The U.S. National Team will close out 2012 with a Wednesday, November 14, friendly against Russia at Kuban Stadium in Krasnodar.
The Russians, No. 9 in the current FIFA World Rankings, are coming off a frustrating first-round exit at this year’s European Championship, while the Americans, ranked 27th, are 9-2-2 in 2012 and a tie away from posting their best single-year record in their history. [November 12]
Comment: This could be a useful exercise for both sides. Russia, led by the Zenit Saint Petersburg trio of Victor Faizulin, Roman Shirokov and Aleksandr Kerzhakov, leads European Group “F” in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup and has gone 4-0-0–all by shutout–under coach Fabio Capello, who last faced the U.S. at the 2010 World Cup as England boss. As for the U.S., coach Juergen Klinsmann will use the opportunity to tinker yet again before his side begins the final round of CONCACAF qualifiers for Brasil ’14 in February.
But this game will hardly go down as historic. The Cold War is a distant memory, and the two countries now keep one another at arm’s length, a frozen smile on their faces. There have been meetings, but nothing of consequence:
o February 3, 1979, U.S. 1, USSR 3, in Seattle
o February 11, 1979, U.S. 1, USSR 4, in San Francisco
o February 24, 1990, U.S. 1, USSR 3, in Palo Alto, CA
o November 21, 1990, U.S. 0, USSR 0, in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago
o January 25, 1992, U.S. 0, Commonwealth of Independent States 1, in Miami
o February 2, 1992, U.S. 2, Commonwealth of Independent States 1, in Detroit
o February 13, 1993, U.S. 0, Russia 1, in Orlando
o February 21, 1993, U.S. 0, Russia 0, in Palo Alto, CA
o January 29, 1994, U.S. 1, Russia 1, in Seattle
o April 26, 2000, Russia 2, U.S. 0, in Moscow
All friendlies, of course, with the Soviets/CIS’ers/Russians holding a solid 6-1-3 advantage. The only competitive match between the Eagle and Bear was played September 22, 1988, in Taegu during the Seoul Olympic Games. The U.S., featuring North American Soccer League old-timers Rick Davis and Kevin Crow and up-and-comers like Paul Caligiuri, Tab Ramos, John Harkes, Frank Klopas and Peter Vermes, had played Argentina and host South Korea to ties but needed at least a high-scoring draw against the Soviets to advance to the knockout round for the first time in its Olympic history. Despite goals by John Doyle and substitute Brent Goulet, the USA lost, 4-2.
There might have been a game of real significance, however–a real Cold War potboiler–had the stars not mis-aligned four years earlier.
In 1984, the U.S., as host, held an automatic berth in the Los Angeles Olympic soccer tournament. At the draw conducted that spring by FIFA at the plush Huntington Sheraton Hotel in Pasadena, CA–a stone’s throw from the Rose Bowl, site of the final–media members and guests gasped when it was revealed that the USA had been drawn into the same first-round group with the Soviet Union. Visions of a Miracle on Grass, a redux of the Americans’ titanic upset of the USSR in ice hockey at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY, immediately danced through many a head.
When the media questioned draw emcee Joseph Blatter, then general secretary of a FIFA even less transparent than the one he heads today as president, the shifty Swiss was characteristically oblique. The U.S. and USSR landing in the same group didn’t happen by sheer chance, he allowed. On occasion, said Blatter, FIFA will honor a host nation’s “request.”
In the end, the behind-the-scenes shenanigans that set up the American-Soviet clash were all for naught. On May 8, the Soviet Union, still smarting from the U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games, announced that it was boycotting the Los Angeles Games. Thirteen other communist bloc nations followed suit, plus Iran and Libya. As for the ’84 soccer tournament, it meant that all three medalists from Moscow ’80–Czechoslovakia (gold medal), East Germany (silver) and USSR (bronze)–would be no-shows. They were replaced by three nations that fell short in Europe’s Olympic qualifiers: Italy, West Germany and Norway.
That summer, the U.S. thumped Costa Rica, 3-0, in its opener at Stanford Stadium, then lost to Italy, 1-0, at the Rose Bowl and missed the quarterfinals with a 1-1 tie with Egypt back at Stanford. It appeared to be a golden chance lost, because for this tournament FIFA had changed the rules to allow players, regardless of amateur/professional status, to take part if they hadn’t played in a World Cup for a European or South American country. Thus, this American team was loaded with NASL players, not raw amateurs. And the absence of a marquee match like U.S.-USSR allowed ABC, the Olympic broadcaster, to choose to limit its coverage of the 16-nation, 32-game tournament to all of five minutes.
The ’84 Olympic soccer tournament drew a record 1.4 spectators to lead all sports–track and field included–and enable the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee to turn a $40 million surplus. And that turnout prompted FIFA, four years later, to award the 1994 World Cup to the United States.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Arlo White, Canada, Carli Lloyd, Christine Sinclair, Erin McLeod, FIFA, John Herdman, Manchester, Marie-Eve Nault, Melissa Tancredi, Old Trafford, Olympics, referee Christine Pedersen, United States, women's Olympic soccer
FIFA has announced that it will look into statements made by Canadian team members the previous day following their dramatic 4-3 overtime loss to the United States in the women’s Olympic semifinal at Manchester’s Old Trafford.
The U.S. scored the winner on a looping header by forward Alex Morgan three minutes into added on time, making the Americans a perfect five-for-five in women’s gold-medal game appearances. What raised the ire of the Canadians in particular was a sequence that began in the 79th minute with Canada clinging to a 3-2 lead. Norwegian referee Christine Pedersen whistled Canada goalkeeper Erin McLeod for holding the ball in her penalty area beyond the allowable six seconds. On the ensuing indirect free kick from inside the top of the Canadian penalty area, U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd sent a shot into the Canadian wall that was ruled to have been handled by defender Marie-Eve Nault. American striker Abby Wambach converted the resulting penalty kick to send the match to overtime.
Among the Canadian quotes:
From captain and forward Christine Sinclair, whose brilliant hat trick went for naught: ”We feel like it was taken from us. It’s a shame in a game like that, which is so important, that the ref decided the result before the game started.”
From coach John Herdman, who also took issue with a non-call on a possible U.S. handball in the box: ”The ref will have to sleep in bed tonight after watching the replays. She’s got to live with that. We’ll move on from this–I wonder if she’ll be able to.”
And from Sinclair’s strike mate, Melissa Tancredi: ”[Pedersen] could have done a better job–a way better job. This is the semifinals. We’re supposed to be professionals and they should act like one too. I feel robbed. That’s all I can say. I said to her, ‘I hope you can sleep tonight and put on your American jersey because that’s who you played for today.’” [August 7]
Comment: The six-second call on goalkeeper McLeod has been called everything from “unusual” to “bizarre.” But it was justified.
McLeod took her time in playing the ball after gaining possession several times during the game. It was so obvious that at the end of halftime a linesman told her to speed things up, but McLeod didn’t take it “like a real warning,” in her words, because it didn’t come from Pedersen.
Bad mistake. McLeod was at it again in the 58th and 61st minutes, prompting Wambach to start loudly counting out the seconds as soon as the Canada ‘keeper picked up a ball. By the 79th minute, with McLeod holding the ball for as long as 10 seconds, Wambach had cowed Pedersen into a decision.
“I got to 10 seconds right next to the referee,” said Wambach, “and at 10 seconds, she blew the whistle.”
It was indeed a rare call. So much so that after the whistle, NBC play-by-play man Arlo White mistakenly thought that McLeod had been caught taking more than four steps with the ball–the 1985 restriction on goalkeepers to prevent time-wasting that was replaced in 1998 by the six-second rule (he quickly corrected himself.) But there’s a reason why it’s rare at the highest levels of soccer.
The six-second rule is the only part of the Laws of the Game that doesn’t leave time-wasting–and the indirect free kick that goes with it–to the discretion of the referee. Six seconds is six seconds. It’s a rule that’s been fudged by ‘keepers for the past 14 years, along with the rule that’s supposed to keep ‘keepers glued to their goal line during a penalty kick. But any goalkeeper who repeatedly flirts with nine and 10 and 11 and 12 seconds in a first division or international match is asking for it. And any ‘keeper who calls attention to herself by doing it repeatedly while trying to protect a slim 1-0 first-half lead in an Olympic medal-qualification match is downright dumb.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 2012 European Championship, 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, 2014 World Cup, Brazil, English Premier League, FIFA, FIFA Club World Championship, Frank Lampard, Germany, GoalRef, Hawk-Eye, International Football Association Board, Japan, Pandora's Box, UEFA Champions League, Ukraine, Zurich
Soccer’s rule-making body, the International Football Association Board, has approved the use of technology to confirm whether a ball has crossed the goal line inside the goal.
The technology will be introduced at the FIFA Club World Championship in Japan in December and will be in place for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup and 2014 World Cup, both to be hosted by Brazil.
Also OK’d was the use of five-man officiating teams. That concept, which involves a goal-line judge on each end of the field, was tested during last season’s UEFA Champions League and the 2012 European Championship.
Two different technology systems–Hawk-Eye and GoalRef–were unanimously approved by the Board during its special meeting in Zurich.
According to FIFA, Hawk-Eye, a British system already in use in cricket and tennis, employs six to eight high-speed cameras set up at different angles at each end to calculate the exact position of the ball. The data is then transferred to video software. From this data, the system generates a 3D image of the ball’s trajectory. The officials are informed whether a goal has been scored within a second.
GoalRef, a Danish-German system, creates the radio equivalent of a light curtain. Low magnetic fields are produced around the goal, and as soon as the ball, fitted with a compact electronic device, fully crosses the line, a minor change in the magnetic field is detected, thus allowing the exact position of the ball to be established. If a goal has been scored, an alert is transmitted to the officials via a radio signal within a second, with a message displayed on their watches and by vibration.
The English Premier League, which is expected to employ one of the systems, estimates the cost at between $200,000 and $250,000 per stadium. [July 5]
Comment: There are two soccer worlds: one in which hidebound traditionalists live and one populated by progressives who welcome things like goal-line technology. The only common ground is that everyone wants the officials to get it right, especially because the final score is likely to be 2-1 rather than 115-98. No room for error.
It has been said that soccer already uses technology: the headphones that connect the referee, assistant referees and fourth official at major matches. But this latest move by the International Football Association Board doesn’t just crack open Pandora’s Box, it rips the lid off its hinges.
What the introduction of the Hawk-Eye and GoalRef systems does is give us hybrid officiating. In a sport played by humans and officiated by humans, one aspect has been turned over to machine–and why, in the pursuit of perfection, stop there?
The infamous not-allowed goal by Ukraine at Euro 2012 aside, the incident that created the biggest hue and cry for goal-line technology was the shot by England’s Frank Lampard in the 2010 World Cup round of 16 that was clearly in the goal to everyone looking on–except the referee and his linesman. Egregious and inexcusable and, for FIFA, embarrassing. It is highly questionable that the correct call–something Hawk-Eye and GoalRef would not have missed–would have changed what was ultimately a comfortable 4-1 victory for Germany over the English. But what of all the hundreds and thousands of calls and non-calls made during a 32-team, 64-game tournament that lasted more than 100 hours?
Get Lampard’s goal right, but what of the fouls that should have resulted in a yellow card, the yellow card that should have been a red, the red that shouldn’t have been anything at all, the dive in the box that went unpunished and, especially, all those offside calls. Why invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in an effort to get one kind of decision right when a game turns on so many other decisions that rest in the hands of the referee and his assistants?
So expand technology. It can be done. Go to Soccer Stories: Anecdotes, Oddities, Lore and Amazing Feats and read about some of the other gizmos at the ready, including the Belgian system that can detect offside through sensors embedded in the players’ shinguards. It’s all never-ending, and thanks to the International Football Association Board’s ruling in this case, it won’t be.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 1969 moon landing, 2006 World Cup, 2010 World Cup final, adidas, American Idol, Associated Press, Budweiser, Coca-Cola, Dallas, Disneyland, FIFA, France, Green Bay, Holland, Italy, Johannesburg, M*A*S*H, McDonald's, Milton Kent, MTN, Pittsburgh, Satyam, Spain, Steelers, Super Bowl XLV, Super Bowl XXX
“It’s official: Sunday night’s telecast of Super Bowl XLV is the most-watched program in television history, in terms of viewership,” reports Milton Kent, sports media writer for The Associated Press.
“Fox, which aired Green Bay’s 31-25 win over Pittsburgh, breathlessly reported Monday that 111 million viewers tuned in to watch. That tops the 106.5 million who tuned in to see the final episode of M*A*S*H in 1983.
“This marks the fourth straight year that a Super Bowl telecast has set a viewership record, marking the first time a major sporting event has hit record highs in four straight years. More impressively, Super Bowl viewership from 2005 to Sunday night has increased by 25 million viewers.
“In ratings terms, the Super Bowl posted a 46.0 rating and 69 share, meaning 46 percent of the nation’s households were tuned in to the game, while 69 percent of all television sets that were on at the time were watching the contest. That ties Sunday’s game for ninth on the list of highest-rated Super Bowls and 16th on the all-time list of most-watched shows, occupying those spaces with the same telecast, that of Super Bowl XXX aired by NBC in 1996 between the Steelers and Dallas.” [February 7]
Comment: “The most-watched program in television history . . . .”
We all know that the solar system revolves not around the sun nor the earth but the United States. Nevertheless, Kent becomes the latest in a miles-long line of American media members who can’t bring themselves to qualify their remarks when it comes to the domestic versus the Universe at large.
The most-watched program in television history is, of course, the 2010 World Cup final between Spain and Holland. The second most-watched program in television history was the 2006 World Cup final between Italy and France. And so on. Even the moon landing in 1969 (roughly 500 million) doesn’t come close.
The question is, how many people actually saw the Spaniards overcome the cynical antics of the Dutch to win a far-from-classic final in Johannesburg last summer? A common guesstimate is two billion; FIFA puts the number at 700 million.
FIFA has every reason to inflate the figures. After all, its sponsors–Budweiser, McDonald’s, MTN, Satyam–and marketing partners like adidas and Coca-Cola paid dearly for billions of eyeballs, not millions. But maybe FIFA is wrong.
It has often been said that soccer is big abroad because the yokels have no choice when it comes to sports. They have soccer and, um, track and field and, um, chess. We, on the other hand, have three big sports to choose from (none of them soccer), plus another dozen or so sports (one of them soccer), plus hamburgers, Disneyland and “American Idol.” However, if one-third of a distracted America can rally around one of its three favorite sports once a year, then the rest of the world, sorely lacking in pleasant distractions, can surely muster up a third of itself to watch its favorite sport. In a world of six billion-plus, that would be about two billion.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 2022 World Cup, AOL Fanhouse, Baltimore, Chicago Fire, Commissioner Don Garber, FIFA, FIFA Executive Committee, Major League Soccer, National Soccer Coaches Association of America, New England Revolution, Qatar, Toronto FC
Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber said his league will not shift to a late-summer-to-mid-spring schedule that predominates in the Northern Hemisphere.
Garber had offered to get MLS, which plays from March to November, in line with most major European leagues in an effort to sway FIFA prior to its vote last month on the host of the 2022 World Cup. The U.S. bid, however, finished second to Qatar, and Garber apparently has since pulled his offer off the table.
“We’ll revisit the whole decision on moving our schedule,” Garber told AOL Fanhouse at the National Soccer Coaches Association of America convention in Baltimore. “Right now I think I think the whole schedule thing is certainly up in the air. Right now FIFA is talking about a winter World Cup [in Qatar], so maybe the season we have is right. I think we’ll probably take a deep breath and put that concept on the back burner.” [January 13]
That’s the sound of that deep breath as Garber drops his ill-considered sop to a FIFA Executive Committee that was bound and determined to reject the USA’s bid in favor of Qatar’s.
Europe can play matches in snow, sleet, freezing rain, and slog through, but MLS isn’t that strong, yet.
Perhaps the hearty fans of the Chicago Fire or New England Revolution or Toronto FC would turn out, a few thousand strong, for a match in January, but give the league’s fair-weather clubs a cold drizzle and the attendance there would be in the hundreds. That’s not something the league–still trying to match the average attendance of 17,000 it pulled in during its inaugural season in 1996–needs.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 2022 World Cup, AFL, Australia, CFL, Congressional Soccer Caucus, FIFA, FIFA Executive Committee, GoUSABid, Japan, Millonarios, NFL, Qatar, Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Rep. Dave Reichert of Washington, Rep. George Miller of California, Rep. Jack Kemp (R-NY), Rep. Mary Bono Mack of California, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Soccer Stories, Sonny Bono, South Korea, Sunil Gulati, U.S. House of Representatives
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution in support of the efforts to bring the 2022 World Cup to America. Introduced in late September, the resolution was sponsored by the chairpersons of the bipartisan Congressional Soccer Caucus: Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Dave Reichert of Washington, and two House members from California, George Miller and Mary Bono Mack, the widow of Sonny Bono.
“We welcome today’s House resolution as another example of the overwhelming endorsement our bid effort has received from all levels of government throughout the process,” said Sunil Gulati, president of U.S. Soccer and chairman of the USA Bid Committee. “This resolution further reinforces our country’s commitment to FIFA that we will meet all requirements for a World Cup hosted in the United States.”
The USA’s presentation to the FIFA Executive Committee in Zurich is scheduled for the evening of December 1; the committee will vote the next day. Also contending are South Korea, Qatar, Australia and Japan. [November 17]
Comment: It’s been a long time since the USA’s first successful bid to host a World Cup, nearly a quarter-century ago. From “Soccer Stories”:
Soccer for years has been a favorite target of gridiron football types, from prep coaches lamenting the defection of their school’s best athletes for the soccer field to the likes of Rep. Jack Kemp (R-NY), a former NFL, CFL and AFL quarterback and vice presidential candidate.
In 1987, Kemp, prior to what should have been a routine House vote endorsing the USA’s bid to host the 1994 World Cup, told his fellow Congressmen, in part, ”I think it is important for all those youngsters out there, who someday hope to play real football, where you throw it and kick it and run with it and put it in your hands, a distinction should be made that football is democratic, capitalism, whereas soccer is . . . European socialist.”
Throw it, run with it, put it in your hands . . . yes, Kemp was referring to a game called “football.”
It should be noted that the late Kemp got it wrong on both counts. It’s pro football that has a player draft and salary restrictions, devices put in place to foster parity among its franchises. Meanwhile, it’s international soccer, where player drafts are unknown and the deepest pockets reign, that’s a model of dog-eat-dog capitalism. Kemp evidently never noticed that soccer is the sport with a club called Millonarios.
Update: The U.S. Senate passed a resolution in support of the U.S. bid, giving GoUSABid the full support of Congress. Even the most conservative member of the upper chamber, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), who represents a state where males have been known to be born wearing helmets and shoulder pads (ouch), did not run interference during the vote. [November 19]
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 2002 Winter Olympic Games, Amos Adamu, Argentina, Auckland, CONCACAF, Executive Committee, FIFA, GoUSABid, Jack Warner, Julio Grondona, Mohamed bin Hammam, Nigeria, Oceania Football Confederation, Qatar, Reynald Temarii, Salt Lake City, Tahiti, The Sunday Times of London, Trinidad & Tobago, World Cup
FIFA has provisionally suspended two Executive Committee members in the wake of an alleged World Cup vote-selling scam.
Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Reynald Temarii of Tahiti, along with four former Executive Committee members, have been barred from soccer-related activities until a probe by the FIFA ethics committee is completed.
Adamu and Temarii were caught in a videotaped sting staged by The Sunday Times of London. Posing as representatives of American corporate interests, the Times team offered to buy Adamu’s World Cup vote. Adamu requested $800,000 for four artificial-turf soccer fields to be built in Nigeria–paid not to his national soccer federation but directly to him. Temarii, president of the Oceania Football Confederation, had a slightly higher price tag: $2.3 million, ostensibly to fund a soccer academy in Auckland, New Zealand. [October 20]
Comment: So two more men wearing the FIFA blazer have been found to be, allegedly, corrupt. They join a long list that includes CONCACAF supremo Jack Warner of Trinidad & Tobago and Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar (World Cup ticket scalping) and FIFA Senior Vice President Julio Grondona of Argentina (TV rights scandals). Some of this new mud, however, may splatter and soil the U.S. bid for 2022.
It should be noted that the Times‘ sting was executed at a time when the U.S. and England were each bidding for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. If the Times was attempting to scuttle the American bid, it has since become moot with the recent announcements that the U.S. would shoot for 2022 only, the English, ’18.
Nevertheless, neither Adamu nor Temarii recoiled in shock when presented with the Times’ bribe offers. That speaks volumes of what the world thinks of what the U.S. is capable of in a high stakes game like the right to host a World Cup, an event in which billions of dollars change hands. Americans don’t win World Cups, but whenever they play anything, they play to win. And in the international sports community, the stench from Salt Lake City’s efforts to secure the 2002 Winter Olympic Games still lingers.
Aspersions have been cast. The efforts of GoUSAbid, based to this point on an overwhelming attack, may now be determined by its ability to hunker down and defend.