[OLD ARTICLE] Don't get discouraged - Soccer may have problems, but... (1 Viewer)


New Member
Aug 29, 2002
...it's still a wonderful game

Last weekend, the following stories popped up on the newswires:

Witnesses at the trial of Leeds United stars Lee Bowyer and Jonathan Woodgate (accused of beating up a young man of Asian descent) testified that they saw Woodgate jumping on the man's head while he lay unconscious.

FIFA told the Kenyan Football Association that it would receive no further funds pending a full audit inquiry into financial mismanagement.

Thirty people were trampled at a Turkish league match between Bursaspor and Erzurumspor.

Ten Liverpool fans were stabbed in Rome before the Reds' UEFA Cup clash with Roma.

The Yugoslav F.A. once again postponed the derby game between Red Star and Partizan (originally scheduled for last year) after admitting it could not guarantee fans' safety.

All this in a space four days.

Throw in the fact that the Brazilian government is conducting a wide-ranging investigation into corruption and mismanagement in the domestic game, that formal investigations in Italy, Spain, Germany and England have turned up dozens of players with potentially forged passports and that far too many supporters believe (rightly or wrongly) that referees favor big clubs over smaller ones.

Then there's the transfer system which is about to be radically overhauled, TV companies who are threatening to tighten the purse strings (leaving free-spending clubs in a huge bind) and escalating costs which are spinning out of control (the world's highest paid player, Alvaro Recoba, makes around US$15 million a year, twice what the highest salary was just two years ago).

A bleak, doom-and-gloom scenario, eh?

Possibly, which is why it may not be a bad idea to celebrate, for once, what is good about the game.

And maybe appreciate that compared to other sports, soccer is still pretty darn wholesome and healthy.

You want to talk passport scandals and dubious birth certificates?

Try rugby, a sport which seems to have few rules and even fewer people enforcing them. Scotland and Wales were caught red-handed last year after fielding Australians and New Zealanders with no local ancestry whatsoever. To their credit, they did not have forged passports, but then that might have something to do with the fact that you don't need a passport in rugby (your word is sufficient, besides nobody checks).

New Zealand's All Blacks, that paragon of sporting excellence, are filled with players from Samoa, Tonga and Fiji who were brought over as teenagers and became New Zealanders simply by virtue of the fact that they are great athletes. None other than Jonah Lomu, the world's most famous rugby player, is one of them.

You want to talk corruption and match-fixing?

Try cricket, a sport where the world's best player (Australia's Shane Warne ) wants us to believe he accepted US$5000 from an Indian bookmaker not to fix a game but to "provide information on weather conditions". A very likely explanation which of course also explains why Australian cricket authorities covered it up for four years.

Oh, and before you start thinking that it's just an isolated incident consider the fact that in the past twelve months the captains of Pakistan ( Salim Malik ), South Africa ( Hansie Cronje ) and India ( Mohamed Azheruddine ) have all been banned for life for taking money from various people in suspicious circumstances.

And I'm not even going to get into horse racing, snooker or boxing, all of whom have been tainted with suspicion for a long, long time.

You want to talk performance-enhancing drugs?

Let's see: from Chinese swimmers to Bulgarian weightlifters to just about anyone who has ridden a bicycle for money, it's hard to find a sport which hasn't had its own little drug scandal.

And these are supposed to be the holier-than-thou sports, the ones who look down on the vast amounts of money in soccer.

If anything, some kind of cheating is more prevalent outside a big sport like soccer because there is less scrutiny.

How about star athletes who bring shame to their sports through their thuggish behavior and greedy attitudes?

Soccer has a few cases, but how can it possibly hold a candle to the NFL or the NBA? How can Lee Bowyer compete with Rae Carruth, who was convicted of conspiracy in the shooting of his pregnant girlfriend?

When those who know nothing about the game hear about footballers being bought and sold they raise their hands in horror and compare it to the slave trade. Yes, it's exactly the same except for the fact that, unlike most players in most American sports, footballers are actually free to turn down transfers, whereas their U.S. counterparts rarely have that option. They are the ultimate commodities: as long as they are under contract, they go where their masters order to go.

I apologize.

We shouldn't celebrate soccer simply be denigrating other sports, though it is good to remember that, compared to most, the game is relatively squeaky clean.

The magic of the game lies in the fact that, in any given game, eleven men can triumph against eleven stronger opponents.

It rests in the fact that it is one of the simplest, cheapest sports. No bats, no baskets, no Formula One cars, no cup protectors, anyone with a ball and a few friends can play.

It's in the fact that few sports can unite complete strangers behind a common cause, if only for ninety minutes.

Nine years ago an Italian oil engineer was based in Iraq when the Gulf War began. His passport was stolen, there was no way to fly out of the country, so he drove to the border with Jordan, praying he would somehow make it across. This was not his war, he had nothing to do with anything, he just had to get out.

He was stopped by Iraqi troops a few hours' drive from safety. They accused him of being an American spy and said he was going to be tortured. He told them he was Italian, that he was an engineer, that he just wanted to go home, but, not having any papers on him, they did not believe him.

He sank to his knees and began crying. How could he prove he was not a spy?

"Italia! Spaghetti! Armani! Baggio! Schillaci! " he sobbed, thinking of anything which would get his point across.

The Iraqis stopped dead in their tracks when they heard the words Baggio and Schillaci. They had watched the 1990 World Cup and they understood that there was no way this guy was an American, let alone a spy.

They grew excited, a soccer ball was produced and, with the help of the startled (but incredibly relieved) engineer they set about re-creating Roberto Baggio's goal against the Czech Republic, Roger Milla's goal against Colombia and Claudio Caniggia's goal against Italy.

Right there, in the desert, the 1990 World Cup lived again.

They laughed and cried, hugged and shared whatever food they had. Later, they escorted him to the Jordanian border and allowed him to leave the country.

Soccer had wiped out the barrier between soldiers facing a war and a man facing execution.

You can add that to the list of reasons to celebrate the game: it saves lives.

Based in London, Gabriele Marcotti writes a weekly column on international soccer for CNNSI.com.

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Senior Member
Dec 31, 2000
++ [ originally posted by TiNiB ] ++
Yes, it's exactly the same except for the fact that, unlike most players in most American sports, footballers are actually free to turn down transfers, whereas their U.S. counterparts rarely have that option. They are the ultimate commodities: as long as they are under contract, they go where their masters order to go.
I didn't know that...

Layce Erayce

Senior Member
Aug 11, 2002
Great article, and to add to that point, I read about a footy match that delayed WW1 for a week, if I'm not mistaken. England vs. Germany [the soldiers, not the NTs, idiot! :D] The score was 3:2, and the only player that didnt fraternize with the enemy: Adolf Hitler.

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