Sorry America, but you had to go


We end our trio of Sunday morning reads on a controversial note. Jeremy Robson, writing from Ontario, risks the wrath of nearish neighbours to, whisper this, welcome the USA’s exit …

, thank goodness the USA have been eliminated from the World Cup.

Well done to the Black Stars of Ghana who will face Uruguay in the quarter finals. A wonderful game of football, and certainly the most gripping match of the tournament by far.

The thought of the USA becoming a genuine force in world football should make the average fan shudder at what that might mean. Regardless of the popularity of the sport amongst youngsters it has never reached mainstream popularity.

It seems to be viewed as an effective means by which children can get some exercise when they aren’t playing gridiron,.box lacrosse or ice hockey. The USA is a nation that doesn’t particularly excel at sports which they didn’t invent or redesign, or at least don’t have to wear a helmet.

“There aren’t enough goals!” …“How come a game can end as a tie?” are the sorts of comments that you will regularly hear from Americans when “soccer” rears its beautiful head.

There is simply no understanding of what the game means, or of the culture in which it resides. Leading up to the 1994 World Cup when it was held in the US, there were strong rumours that the powers that be, wanted to see more goals, so they suggested widening the goals. Forty five minutes is a long time to concentrate on an uninterrupted period of activity.

“Can’t we have the game in 22.5 minute quarters?” they asked. You can’t have some trivial sporting event interfering with TV commercials. Sporting events in the USA are nothing more than an opportunity to make money from endorsements and sponsorships.

The experience in Canada is not so very different to from what happens with our neighbours a couple of hours drive away. Kids football bears a passing resemblance to the game played across the rest of the world. They kick the ball in rather than throwing it.
Rolling substitutions where the complete set of outfield players switch at the coach’s instruction, and then back off again when there’s a free kick or a throw in. The notion of players being substituted and staying off for the remainder of the game is met with strange looks when the locals are informed that his is what the rest of the world do. This is what we do in “hockey” so it must be ok. They can’t help tinkering with something that works wonderfully the world over. Back in the 1970s during the first ill fated attempt to introduce “soccer” to the American public, there were some bizarre changes to the rules, so absurd that most of us have forgotten about.

One that does stick in the mind was those ridiculous shoot outs (to decided the outcome of a drawn game) where a player would run with the ball at goal from a predetermined distance. An “innovation” drawn from ice hockey.

The notion of exchanging the whole team reminds us of ice hockey where there are legitimate as well as practical reasons to do this.

Hockey is faster, played in a smaller playing area and is far more intense than football. Shorter bursts of explosive energy are required. Someone I know well, and is a coach of kids football told me that the rolling substitutions occur because of the hot weather.

Doesn’t it get hot in Africa, Asia and South America too? There is some reinvention going on with a game of “soccer” which everyone else knows as football. A Brazilian acquaintance of mine said to me recently: “They can play ‘soccer’ if they want. We’ll just play football.”

This is a man who grew up playing with a rag ball in his homeland in much the same way as the legendary Brazilians have done, and a long way from Jabulani balls, corporate sponsorship and greed.

The modern professional footballer is a highly paid individual, and whilst any concept of there being a remnant of the Corinthian spirit still residing in the World Cup, the reported bonuses that would have been paid to the USA players are really nothing short of obscene

The honour of representing your country and being paid a respectable sum for doing so is not enough it seems in the land where money is God. The equivalent of some £677,000 was what the US players were set to pocket had they won. This would have been the highest individual bonus ever paid to individual players in the history of the World Cup.

The Americanisation of the World Cup with the $300M sponsorship deal from Budweiser and similar contracts with McDonalds and Coca-Cola, are completely nauseating when you consider that no further than a Tim Howard goal kick away from the Mbombela Sradion in Nelspruit which seats 46,000, lies a township where the inhabitants live in grinding poverty with no electricity or running water.

If you’d never heard of Nelspruit prior to the World Cup then that’s hardly surprising as it has customarily been regarded as a refreshment stop off for visitors to the Krueger Game Reserve. Local traders who would regularly peddle their wares in the streets nearby have been cleared away in the lead up to and aftermath of games so that the sponsors can the monkey piss that passes for beer, sugary drinks and fast food.

The idea is even more repellent than its taste.

The township is home to around 50,000 people. Look on the bright side though, and there’s a seat for nearly everybody, but no school since construction workers raized it to the ground to clear the site for the World Cup venue. Unfortunately, the township lacks either a football or rugby team of merit.

There is now a huge white elephant in town to accompany the African grey variety which attracts wildlife tourists. So for the people of Nelspruit; “This dud’s for you!”

I couldn’t help how the Americans would settle the problem of teams finishing level on points, goal difference, and scores against each other.

The current system is to draw lots. Nothing can be “tied.” The Americans would probably prefer the teams that finished level to play each other seven times home and away on consecutive nights. Can you imagine how boring that would be if this happened in any standard of football. It’s like having fish ‘n chips for tea every night for a week. They love it in hockey!

Thank the heavens that they went out against Ghana. More success would have been more grist to the mill of those who seek further globalization of their own insularity as part of the showcase for the game they care and know so little about. The US corporations aided and abetted by FIFA have gone too far in this World Cup and the football team just far enough.

The tournament doesn’t need it and there are a lot of us who just don’t want it. “Thanks for coming boys, and have a safe trip home.”

8 thoughts on “Sorry America, but you had to go”

  1. He’ll be gone at some point some Bill. It’s all about terms. His position is untenable. If there’s the slightest chance that he doesn’t think so, wait and see what the papers are saying in the morning. The Evening Standard picked his squad for him and they’ll decide when it’s time to go. Today, and hopefully not tomorrow. One more day is a day too many.

  2. No Bill, I agree. The USA contributed hugely to this competition. It’s difficult for me to be enthusiastic about anything the US do in team sports because of the way as a nation they avoid those sports played by the rest of the world. I reckon we’d have a good night discussing basketball aswell Bill.

    They didn’t even get to take a dive for the free penalty in the second half either. Completely witless.

    Are England stuck with Capello after this?

  3. It’s a total stretch for me to be enthusiastic about anything American, Jeremy. But, fair play to them, I love the way they’ve worked and fought and never given up in this World Cup. As I’ve said, yesterday’s game was the best of the tournament so far and that wasn’t just because of Ghana.

  4. Forty four years after the event, karma catches up with Geoff Hurst.

    The referee will give England a penalty if the wind changes direction as he won’t want to be responsible for the legacy of this error. I wonder if the 44 year hex has finally been laid to rest?

    As Pete said after the Algeria game it’s only in England that John Terry would be considered a world class centre half. He’s looked like a pub player in this competition. England have two full backs with the positional sense of a rogue communications satellite.

  5. I haven’t suggested that the USA are banned from future competitions. It’s the World Cup and that leaves the door open for all nations to compete. However, I will never actively support them in any game. I have no axe to grind with the USA team or the players etc. What I object to, and have done for decades is the commercialization of the tournament. When you talk of globalization of merchanising etc, the capital which fuels this whilst not necessarily American, then the culture which underpins it, most certainly is. Budweiser, McDonalds, and Coca-Cola are American brands and an integral part of what the USA represents. Quite why football needs millions pouring into it is beyond me. World Cups have been competed since the players were earning twenty quid a week. What the beautiful game needs even less than millions pouring into it is to have even more dripping directly into the pockets of their so called “sponsors.” It’s even worse to see the money being squandered on stadia than have no purpose other than three or four games beyond the tournament built in the middle of nowhere with raw sewage running within sniffing distance of the turnstiles. The money for building these edifices to further greed and profit comes from the largely American corporations. The decision making to build wonderful stadia than become redundant in two weeks time is influenced by American owned corporations. It might end with sales of weak beer and burgers but it doesn’t begin there.

    The globalization of the World Cup may be a separate issue, but for me the two are inextricably intertwined. USA may win the World Cup eventually, but unless there is a serious change in perspective and attitude to football then I sincerely hope not. Their corporations have won the battle off the field already. There’s no doubt, the USA team will continue to improve, but I am really puzzled about your enthusiasm for them Bill. They are hard to see as an underdog, and they lack the obvious appeal of Ghana for example, or in fact just about any other nation in the mix. I have to say that if I wasn’t going to watch a World Cup game, then it would be the USA that I would elect not to watch.Despite the fact that they don’t have a decent league to play in they have come on leaps and bounds. Given the scale of the bonuses on offer, the relationship between the international side and multinational corporations is a lot closer than I’m comfortable with.

  6. So are you saying the U.S.A. should be banned from future tournaments? If not, then what’s your solution as they continue to grow in footballing stature? Some kind of handicapping? Limited them to 10 men or no goalie or something?
    I think you’re grossly overstating the situation. Even if the U.S. won the World Cup (which they surely will in the fullness of time), I can’t see their national influence ever being great enough to overcome a world-wide tradition. It wouldn’t be at all easy to tinker with. I was in the States in the ’70s and covered as a journalist the attempted introduction of the big-time game. I believe part of the reason it failed is because of those bizarre rule changes. For one thing, the players hated them.
    Mass substitutions during games and kicking in rather than throwing in aren’t universal. And, to my mind, those old shoot-outs were no more ridiculous than deciding a game on penalties. I’d much rather see sudden-death overtime.
    Even without the U.S., the global professional game is awash with money. Yes, much of it probably traces back to America but, by and large, it’s multinational money. Nothing the U.S. can throw into the pot would be enough to effect fundamental changes to the game.
    Yes, you do hear those ill-informed comments from some Americans. Canadians, too. But you should get me going on professional basketball (barely more credible than pro wrestling) or hockey or American/Canadian footall (I find either variation incomprehensible). Just as American accomplishment in the sport is growing, so are the number of genuine and well-informed soccer fans.
    As for the bonuses, the money paid to individual players has been obscene for a long time. Not only is it not confined to the U.S., it doesn’t seem to be confined at all. You play the game well, you name your price.
    The Americanization of the World Cup could, I think, more accurately be described as the globalization of the World Cup and is a separate and distinct issue. South Africa is going to have to deal with the social and political ramifications of its bloated and ill-conceived hosting long after the tournament is over.
    But that won’t change the fundamental nature of our beautiful game. Nor will successful American participation. Football is a lot stronger than that. And, for once, the presence in the upper echelon of the game of oceans of money is a good thing. It means no one is likely to be swayed by some rogue American showing up with a fistful of dollars in one hand and a clumsily amended rulebook in the other.
    As I’ve said already, the U.S.A. lost yesterday to a better team. But I loved them for what they did and I look forward to their participation in four years time. I think they’ll be even stronger, more accomplished and enjoy even greater success. And I don’t think we’ll find the Four Horsemen of the Footballing Apocalypse dogging their heels.

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