Thursday, August 9, 2007

What a difference can a few weeks make? Or better yet, should it?

A quick glance at the last 6-8 week’s calendar would indicate that the American soccer fan has had to spend a lot of hours watching games on T.V, going to the stadiums to see live games, or in some cases catch the game on a radio broadcast, and have had the opportunity to read the news to catch up with array of soccer news, not to mention trying to digest the “Hollywood” style sensationalism of Dave Beckham’s arrival in California along with his bride and sons. Basically, it turns out to be another busy summer for the true soccer fans enjoying the “beautiful” game.
What is the immediate game plan to keep the game on the for-front in case the Dave Beckham adventure does not go according to our highly risky plan?
Who can unveil this plan to cultivate a permanent “passion” in this country’s “futbol” fan?
I believe several groups are responsible in finding a safe haven for this game in America:
Players, referees, coaches, teams, general managers, spectators, T.V. game analysts and broadcasters, leagues, and the promoters should arrive at a common ground and agree on the principles of promoting the game in every household in America.
Allow me to address each piece of this puzzle separately so everyone out there can have their online opportunity to contribute to my thoughts. At the end, I hope, to bring together the thoughts and ideas from each group to arrive at a possible solution. Mind you, we are getting closer to the real “passion” as every minute passes by.

Players : Can we live under one roof?

Every player, regardless of the level, is obligated to play the game with integrity, respect to the Laws of The Game, and display of the true spirit of this game and take an exception to those who don’t. This means to play the game with a sense of “fairness” in mind and play the game for own enjoyment as well as the spectators’ joy. The recent triumph of Iraq’s soccer team in Asian cup clearly showed the world that our game is the only game on earth that stops wars, brings politicians to the table to negotiate, and creates joy and happiness in times when it does hardly exist.
Our division I league (MLS) has cleverly managed to put itself financially in the position to buy some high priced player from the European and South American markets. Unlike NASL most of the current players are young, productive on the field of play with a few thousand miles left in them before they can collect pension.
Juan Pablo Angel, Juan Carlos Toja, Carlos Pavon, Abel Xavier, Gullermo Schelotto, Ricardinho, Cuaulthemoc Blanco, Paulo Wonchope, Liciano Emilio, and many more soon to be on the team rosters are players with legitimate high level playing experience and are beginning to leave their footprints on the game in this country little by little. Other “foreign” products that are playing at the USL1, USL2 levels bring their own unique qualities to the fans from Canada to North-west across to Eastern shores of USA. The core of experienced player is complemented by our own homegrown products that are “almost” ready for their prime time performance mostly serving the US Soccer national teams.
The players must see themselves as role models, each in their own way. Landon Donavan, Coby Jones, Freddy Adu, Taylor Twelman, Eddie Pope, Clint Dempsey, and many more that are our homegrown players. These players have become the Icons in our soccer communities and will remain as Icons despite the “foreign” Invasion of talented players. Let’s not forget the fact that these “locals” have been here and are among the pillars that established the pro league, MLS, in this country over ten years ago.
Our “local” players have an increased responsibility to make certain that the “foreign” players fit into the game as well as the “team” and must take it upon themselves to educate their foreign teammates so that the spectators show up to the games willingly and become new fans and remain faithful to the “game.”
MLS will soon become an attractive playing ground for more foreign players and perhaps not to the very young who is in demand by the “big” clubs around the world but to the players who will extend invitations to more fans to stay and become a permanent “fan” of this game. MLS will be in competition for players with the smaller “playing” markets such as Asia and Oceania and maybe South America where their game and leagues are experiencing different phenomena and that is to entertain their large fan base with the “world” class players who are reaching the end of their limelight. The MLS teams are now becoming increasingly aware of the importance that foreign players bring to the team and the public will be witnessing more foreign signings in days to come by every team in MLS and eventually by the lower divisions of professional leagues in the U.S. Someday it will be a “must” to have a blend of foreign players added into the mix of American grown talent to compete in Superliga and many other games against the top foreign teams as we have seen already this past month.
The “new” players as well as the previous tenants have an interesting challenge ahead and that is to get accustomed to playing side by side, blending as a team, accepting their “supportive” role for now perhaps for smaller paychecks to assure that fans are attending the games, watching on the tube, reading in the news, and more importantly are talking about this “beautiful” game on the planes, buses, in the parks, and the trains on the way to work or home.
Next segment will address the role of the referees and how they can do their part to put our game in neon lights along side of the American Football and Baseball.
Stay tuned and in the meantime get in the game and post your opinion.