Friday, February 15, 2008

Suck it, Jack! (You too, FIFA)

In keeping with today’s theme of globalism, I’m steering the ship back towards sports. Yesterday, it emerged that CONCACAF president Jack Warner, no stranger to scandals, said he will support England’s 2018 World Cup bid over the United States, simply because England will be traveling to his home country of Trinidad & Tobago in June to play a friendly. U.S. Soccer, knowing a cash-grab when they see one, will also have England swing through the States on its way through, but it would be nice if they’d think about canceling that date in light of Mr. Warner’s political back-slapping.

I immediately knew something was awry with CONCACAF when we met Warner at the seven-star Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai when touring the city with the World Youth Championships in 2003. With a nightly stay at the man-made island hotel starting at $1,000 a night, CONCACAF’s money surely could have been going to better places. As a minor confederation of the horrifically stuffy FIFA, it’s unsurprising that CONCACAF is run about as poorly as it’s function is difficult to describe.

Meanwhile, FIFA muppet Sepp Blatter blackmailed the Premier League’s idea to play a 39th league game in various cities across the globe by not-so-coyly threatening to undermine England’s 2018 World Cup chances. The idea of a 39th game has its detractors, none of whom are at least willing to hear about it, like Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. Wenger is “too innovative to shoot it down so quickly” and is a man who’s bread isn’t necessarily as buttered by global gains in the lucrative football marketplace as, say, the whores of Manchester United and Chelsea, so it’s unsurprising the Premier League’s (world’s?) best manager is open to the idea.

But no matter how certain clubs or managers may be against the idea, none of them has gone so far as the guy that’s in charge of world football. If FIFA’s job is to police the game and make sure it’s being regulated fairly - providing every confederation with an opportunity to host the World Cup on a rotating basis, cleaning out remiss agents and helping third-world players so they aren’t taken advantage of by them and setting the standard for referee and admin practices, to name a few - how is it okay for FIFA to publicly blackmail a country, simply because they do not agree? Hosting a World Cup is serious business, in more ways than one - something Mssr. Blatter hasn’t quite grapsed, considering his hard-on for giving 2010 to South Africa when it will, at best, stretch the country well past its resources. Furthermore, Blatter is widening the gap between club and country, which is the sporting equivalent to making both the church and state happy, by turning the English FA against the Premier League. No matter what threats are taken, having a gulf between these two parties will almost certainly trouble England’s bid throughout the entire ordeal.

Meanwhile, Warner continues to publicly embarrass CONCACAF to a world audience. Outside of UEFA boss Michel Platini, you shouldn’t know the name of a confederation president no matter who you are - Warner has repeatedly violated rules and been a general nuisance to the countries he’s supposed to represent. It’s no wonder why CONCACAF won’t ever be taken seriously with this edited for our younger audience in charge, especially if he publicly vows to turn on his own federation, all for the good of his own glorious ego.

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I was hoping to sum up my thoughts on this 'EPL Abroad' thing, but it's proving to be quite difficult. Basically, I think it's something England should do because it will only further the EPL's reputation as being the world's strongest league (esp from a marketing standpoint), since they will be the first and so far only ones to do it. As Diesel told me, it's fine to float an ejaculate balloon over Asia and America and see what sticks when it's popped, which would be at least a good chunk of new fans willing to throw their monies their way. However, there are many flaws in the idea, with #1 and #1A being what matchups each location will get - American fans are intelligent to know Wigan-Middlesboro isn't their idea of top-drawer soccer, and given Asia's hysterical responses to soccer, it will best be served over there. That means we'll be stuck with crap over here, most likely.


Big C said...

Question to you and the other soccer expoits out there: Is this sport as absolutely as rotten-to-the-core as it seems? It appears that the only time I ever hear of anything significant in the soccer world, it surrounds corruption, cheating or overt racism. Yet, soccer's popularity continues to grow. Unlike Formula 1, where the rampant bending of every imaginable rule (and subsequent draconian penalties) has seriously hurt the sport's rep, fanbase, and revenue, soccer seems to amble along without any friction whatsoever.

I'll get to the point: Can a country (the U.S.) so absolutely obsessed with something as back-page-news as 'Spygate' possibly welcome the world's game with open arms? For all of the negative things one can say about American sports/sports culture, one can be certain that a team like Juventus would not be given the opportunities that it has been afforded in Serie A. That kind of shit just doesn't fly here. Videotaping the defensive signals of a shit-heap team like the Jets gets you crucified; making too many phone calls to would-be recruits gets you (probably) fired. Match fixing? Something that is a million times worse than either of the above infractions? Forgetaboutit.

b said...

Actually that's a good point that, sadly, is true. The general problem with soccer is that there are a lot of levels of management when administrating the game, combined with a sheer number of corrupt and/or poor countries/people in charge. Soccer is to the entire world like basketball is to inner-city America, a chance to escape and, better, make money, so there's a lot of shady deals going on from the bottom all the way to the top. For instance, there are a lot of really, really good players in Africa, and they are cheaper than certain Brazilians or other Europeans. Agents have 'represented' these players and negotiated contracts for them at odd places (Russia, the Faroe Islands) with the promise of bigger things to come, and then forget about them. There are thousands of sad stories.

One of the beautiful things about soccer is its vast global appeal; it also happens to be its ugliest. Everything that is wrong about the world seems to be general practice when it comes to soccer, and the way many do business is a reflection of where they are from (see: Italy, corruption). The EPL dips into Asia because it sees fans who will buy a jersey, not because they could be lifelong fans. They seem to have taken a pass on the US for the time being because it's harder to club an American fan over the head in the same way. In my opinion, I enjoy that there's a relatively small hard-core fanbase that's into it, and I wish they'd leave it at that.

However, I disagree that Americans are less likely to embrace soccer because of all its problems - if there was more scoring, that would eliminate 99% of complaints. Spygate was a big deal, but not really. Outside of people (ie The Media) making it a huge deal, NFL fans like us probably weren't that outraged. I buy into the idea that they were just the first to be caught doing it, and being a fan of good defense, I think that's only fair since quarterbacks have radios in their ears while they're on the field.

Finally, everyone thought the gambling scandal was going to really hit the NBA hard. Has it? There's been little mention of it since, even though we live in a state where it was known to possibly have had the greatest effect at a key time (but that says more about lackadaisical PHX fans; I'm guessing Philly, NY and Detroit would still hold a grudge). The NBA and David Stern are masters at spinning things, but this time there wasn't much spinning done - people just forgot about it, and ESPN didn't have to act like they were outraged and we should be, too. We Americans have short-term memories, and things tend to blend together and we lose interest pretty fast. The rest of the world doesn't have all that much else to get their interest, so it helps that the sport is popular.

But yes, in certain segments, soccer is rotten-to-the-core. Brazil nearly bankrupted itself and its (federation) president was corrupt, but it was one hell of a story - Brazil ended up winning the 02 Cup a year later.

Pete said...

Are some of us supposed to care?

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