victorscamorza

Football from the heart

Playing hard to want

…..not hard to get…..

That’s what it feels like being a Chelsea fan these days. What with Diego Costa being the biggest “wind up merchant” as they say across the pond, in the Premier League.  With Jose Mourinho coming up with a new excuse for crap play, except for saying “Chelsea played like crap”.  This seems to be the season where the wheels start falling off a bit, not even the PFA player of the year Eden Hazard seems himself.  What is going on at Stamford Bridge?

There is no question in my mind that Diego Costa plays in the gray area of the game, it’s part of what makes him a great center forward, but when he crosses that line into being a bully and a dangerous cheat, I have to call it like I see it.  It is time for him to reel it in.  His elbow to the head in the Everton match, which went unpunished, and his tussle with Koscielny in the Arsenal match, which did garner a yellow card, but probably should have seen him sent off, is not doing the team any good. Chelsea are weak at center forward with Costa on the bench.  He should be playing to keep himself on the pitch, not to get others sent off.

I realize a manager should stand up for his players, and Jose is a very loyal manager, many players who have played for Jose say that he is very loyal to them.  But to say in answer to a question about Costa after the Arsenal match that “he was man of the match” is ludicrous.  Costa actually did very little to advance the offense of Chelsea in the match, it was Eden Hazard and Oscar who were making the offense click, if you call what occurred clicking.  Its difficult to win when you go first 1 man down, then 2.

The Santi Cazorla sending off was marginal, I believe that could have gone either way and Cazorla probably should not have been playing as aggressively on a yellow.  The Gabriel sending off had to happen, he was going to either get injured or injure someone, he was out of control and dangerous.   I understand his emotion, I get that he was upset at Costa, but when he reacted to Costa, he fell into the spiders web, he did exactly what Costa wanted him to do.  I am certain that Gabriel learned a tough lesson in this match.  Let’s hope he keeps his emotions in check in the future, but I really don’t blame him for being that upset.

i realize Chelsea were desperate for a win, I realize Costa will do just about anything on the pitch.  He is such a talented player when he plays on the edge, aggressive and hungry, just on the edge of control, but when he crosses that line, that is where I cannot support his actions.  His mugging and attempts to get a call in the box are pathetic.  Just stop it Diego, you are too good of a player for that BS.

And Jose, stop making excuses, I am not saying you have to throw your own guys under the bus, but c’mon, there is a middle road here.  Man of the match?  No.  Asshoie of the match?  Indeed.

Be the change you want to see in the world

Vic……. still a Chelsea man and celery lover.

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Copa ‘Murica

In the latest twist of the saga regarding the Copa America Centenario, or as I like to call it “Copa ‘Murica”, it seems that the US delegates have decided not to attend the latest round of meetings to try and put this shit-show back on the rails.  The NY Times reported today that the US has put off meeting with members of CONMEBOL, the football region that represents the South American nations who normally organize this tournament.

In the comments section of the NY Times article several people showed vehement xenophobia and threw accusations about corrupt officials from nations outside our own, claiming moral high ground that clearly does not exist.  Let us not forget that a certain Chuck Blazer, former CONCACAF and US Soccer big wig, is a US citizen and has been banned for life from any football related activities for racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering and income tax evasion.  These charges go all the way back to the 1998 World Cup.

There is so much disinformation being generated in regards to Copa ‘Murica, everything from CONMEBOL officials being frightened of going to prison, to MLS bots being afraid it will overshadow their precious season.  Which it  certainly would.  Lets not forget that this is one of the most distinguished and celebrated football tournaments held, next to the world cup itself.  Many of the top teams in the world will participate, Brazil, Argentina. Chile, and a few who hope to rise to that level, including the US.

It has long been a debate in US Soccer to seek invitation to the Copa America, or to stay with the regional CONCACAF Gold Cup.  As this year points out the difference between Mexico and the US vs. the rest of CONCACAF is not as great as it once was.  Costa Rica was the side that performed the best in the 2014 World Cup from CONCACAF.  The US was humiliated with a 4th place finish in the 2015 Gold Cup, and now we have this one match playoff to see who goes to the Confederations Cup.

This topic is a whole new vector in itself, but I have a hard time justifying the attendance by the US in an 8 team pre-World Cup tournament, where the US is likely to be thoroughly trounced by the European champion, and the Copa America champion, and quite probably the AFCON champion.  Perhaps only the Oceana champion will prove a realistic opponent for the US in its present form.  All of this in Russia, where travel will be tough, players will be missing their club duties for several weeks, and there is little prestige to be gained from attendance.  Lets not forget that Brazil won the last Confeds Cup, or that Fernando Torres was the Golden Boot.  Neither were indicators of what would happen just one year later.

The fact that there is still no home for the Copa ‘Murica that supposedly kicks off next June is troubling.  We were treated to a fantastic Copa America this summer in Chile, the matches were fantastic, the stars were in attendance, Neymar didn’t exactly show his best in terms of sportsmanship, but the tournament itself was a joyous event.  Trying to recreate that server just one year later seems a lot to ask, especially since UEFA will behaving its big event next summer as well.

I realize that football is now nearly a year round event for the players of todays game.  But these players need time off when they can get it.  I believe if Copa ‘Murica were to go ahead in the US, we would not see the stars of the big teams, players like Messi and Neymar.  I think we might see more of a warm up team for the Olympic games, lots of U-23 players and a few older players sprinkled in for mentorship.

I simply don’t see a case for this tournament to move forward.  As much as I would like to see these teams play in the US and compete in a tournament here on our shores, this is not the right time and not the right situation for this to occur.  The US should seek out invitation to Copa America in its next formation.  The US must play better competition on a regular basis to improve its play and to build those bridges in the Americas.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Vic….

Football Speculation Market

I have been rereading John Kenneth Galbraith’s classic tome on the great crash of 1929 and it has sparked some interesting thoughts that relate to the football transfer market.  Especially as it relates to teams like Manchester United.  No longer are teams buying based on past performance, but are entering into a speculative position when it comes to player procurement.  No other case is as risky as the purchase of Anthony Martial for a minimum of 36 Million £ with a fully loaded value, with add ons and performance bonuses, of 58 Million  £.

Anthony Martial is an unproven 19 year old player from France who has a single season in first team football at Monaco.  If there ever was a more speculative buy in football I would love to hear it.  I realize that the TV money and the fact that Manchester United has a gigantic endorsement deal for kit and sponsorship make it so that they can spend whatever they want, but does that make it the proper thing to do?

Just as in 1929 the markets looked endlessly prosperous, the companies that made a lot of money on paper with promises of future income were out spending money they had yet to earn.  The popularity of English football has never been higher around the world, but that could all change with the absence of enough quality on the pitch to meet the needs of the audience.  Teams like Manchester City are gobbling up quality by the fistful, not to mention the other major leagues who are competing for those same players, most notably La Liga and Seie A.

Now enter the sleeping Dragon, China.  The fledgling Chinese League is not a clone of other startup leagues like MLS, the Chinese are going after players in their prime and paying big money for them.  Attendance in the Chinese league is outstripping MLS as well, with an average attendance of 23,000 per match.  MLS says their numbers are 19,000, but that includes giveaways and counts every season ticket holder as if they attended.  Also compare the fact that MLS rarely gets a major named player in their prime, save for Gio Dos Santos and Giovinco.  Those players are by far the exception to the rule most star players in MLS are past their peak and looking to cash in on their name in one last run.

All of this speculation is starting to look very familiar to those of us who study historical cycles.  This inflationary period is unsustainable.  Only a very few clubs will be able to keep pace with the hyperinflation of transfer activity.  Even a club such as Chelsea has been rendered impotent in the latest transfer cycle, not able to close on several key figures needed to shore up their squad in shaky areas.  Only the likes of Manchester City, with the backing of the Abu Dhabi group. PSG with the backing of Qatari oil funds, Manchester United with its world wide cash cow of name recognition, Barcelona, Real Madrid and one or two instances here and there are able to compete.

The truly unsettling part of this story is that the fundamentals of the football economy are being ignored, Manchester United used to be hailed as a football factory, its youth were the pride of England, the class of 92 alone fills up the trophy case of many clubs in comparison.  Chelsea has 35 players on loan, with an academy that boasts championships and cups that are the envy of England, La Mesia has been nearly shut by all of the controversy surrounding the signing of illegal players.  The corruption of the youth system at the biggest clubs is the tragedy that falls out from this story.

Chelsea should have 4-5 of its youth players on its squad, instead they look to the speculative market.  Barca should have more youth, but they sign players like Arda Turan who will sit for 6 months instead of playing.  It seems only teams like Southampton are willing to take the traditional path and develop players to bring them into the first squad.  All of this makes one wonder why a manager trusts another teams academy more than they  trust their own.   It is gold fever, its the fever of the big payoff, the roll of the dice, the chance that the next player is “the one”.

There is no patience left in the game, nobody allows the player time to settle and learn to play with the team.  Its perform or die.  When in reality the best teams are often the teams that hold their squads together and keep their squads in relative stasis for a extended periods.  Those are the sides that win.  We saw it last year with Chelsea, the y didn’t rotate much, yes it was tough on the players, but in the end it was they who held the trophy, that consistency paid off.  Much the same as in 1929, in the style of Galbraith, “buy and hold, trading is for suckers”.

Vic

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Netherlands 0 Iceland 1

With that scoreline the Blue minnows from the north have about 25 ways in which to make it into the Euro 2016 finals now.  The percentage chance for them qualifying is officially at 99.9%.  A loss by any of the teams chasing them, a min or draw by them against Kazakstan, basically a miracle would have to occur to keep them out at this point.  But this is the team of miracles, not the team that will succumb.

When Martins Indi was red carded and the enigmatic Arjen Robben was injured and taken off the field, it seemed as if coach Danny Blind was going to play this one for a 0:0 draw.  But a PK by Gylfi ended that dream and brought home the rare double defeat of the Netherlands by Iceland in qualifying.  Uncork the Brennavin, bring out the fermented shark, what, what?  They did what?  Those crazy Icelanders.   They celebrated their victory over the Mighty Dutch with a food fight.  Grapes no less.   These guys are serious.

Top of group A and all but guaranteed a spot in France and they throw a food fight in the dressing room.  I like these guys more and more every day.  The Prima Donna meter is pretty low for this bunch.  They seem to be focused on what counts, and that is playing like a well oiled machine, getting back on defense, and protecting a lead more fiercely than any Jose Mourinho side could wish for.  Once the PK was successful, these great men of the North Atlantic took wave after wave from the Netherlands and swatted them away like they were mere wind chop.

And now its on to Reykjavik for a match to seal the deal.  One match to make it all worthwhile.  The biggest match in Icelandic footballing history.  But these guys will not see it that way. They will take it in stride, and prepare for the next match with the same intensity, pride and footballing excellence that brought them this far.

Now we wait for 2 more matches, then the draw.  That is when the excitement and prognostication will truly begin.  No playoff round for them this time, so they can sit out a couple of matches.  But the draw is critical.  This will be their first major tournament.  A good draw and they can advance, a bad draw, and who knows?  I love this side, but I know better than to think they will match up well in the group stage against Spain or Germany.

This tournament is bringing the minnows out to the forefront, for the first time Wales is ranked higher than England in the FIFA rankings, and Wales can qualify with a win against Israel on Sunday.  Northern Ireland is doing well, just what is in the water in the North Sea these days?  Clearly something is working in that area of the world when it comes to football.

For now, I celebrate Iceland, I wallow in their success and see it as a win for a system that concentrates on developing football players the right way.  A model that others will probably begin to scrutinize more and more.  As winter begins in the North, the people of Iceland can be warmed by the thought that when the snow melts, their warriors will be in France, and hopefully marauding the pitches and sacking their shores.

Vic

Be the change you want to see in the world.

From Julien Bond to Ta-Nehisi Coates, an education.

I am white.  When I was a young man I was introduced to the idea that we today would call #BlackLivesMatter by a vibrant and brilliant man, soft spoken yet filled with fire by the name of Julien Bond.  Mr. Bond passed away today and for the nation who reveres men like Martin Luther King jr and other greats of the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s, it was Julien Bond who carried that torch as a teacher, a lecturer, the head of the NAACP.  Mr Bond was the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is one of the most important institutions in the US advocating for the poor, the disenfranchised, making it easier for blacks to vote in notoriously racist parts of this country.  In short, this man of letters was a giant.  He made this white boy look at the world differently through his words and actions.

Mr. Bond was not the kind of person who you would expect to see on cable TV these days as a foil for the likes of a Bill O’reilly or Sean Hannity, his was too dignified for the 3 minute attention span of cable TV watchers.  Mr. Bond was someone you needed to dig in and read the full text to understand.  He often took stands that were important to him and consistent with his principles.  He refused to go to the funeral of Correta Scott King due to the selection of the church, it was a mega-church that had strict ant-LGBT stances.  His constant message was that all people are created equal, no matter the circumstance of their color, sexuality, religion, all people.  It is a rare person in public life that can remain that consistent.

When Mr. Bond ran for the US House 5th district in Georgia he was accused of man things, Mr. Bond chose to take the high ground and even though he had more money than his competition he was defeated simply because he refused to play dirty politics.  I realize i may be portraying Mr. Bond as a saint, and that certainly isn’t true, all men have failures and make mistakes in life.  It is up to us as individuals to choose ion those failures outweigh the good that a person has done.  I choose to believe that Mr. Bond stacked up a mountain of good karma in his life, and he lived his principles.  I choose to see that as a man to be emulated, and to be praised today on the day of his death.

From the time of Mr. Bond’s college organizing, he was a student at Morehouse, he was the co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.  Essentially they worked to help bring the message of civill rights to communities in the south, and later providing opposition to the war in Vietnam. It was the war in Vietnam that brought Mr. Bond to the forefront of political organizing, even to the point where he was the fist African-American to be placed into nomination for the Vice Presidency of the US at the 68 convention in Chicago, where he declined the nomination due to his age, he was 28 at the time and constitutionally ineligible for the position.

When I read the words of Mr. Bond today, I am reminded of the struggle I recall mostly watching on TV when IWas a small child, it was the 60s and everything was black and white on TV and the images of protesters in the South and on college campuses around the country made me aware of something bigger, something unknown in a small Colorado mountain town, something much bigger than me.  When I got to the age of political interest, around the 1980 Presidential election, which was my first opportunity to vote, I felt that power.  I began to understand just a little bit of what it means to feel the hand of power against you.  Certainly nothing compared to the horrors that the civil rights organizers in the South experienced.  But it sparked something in me that remains to this day.

The idea that all men are truly created equal is not just a statement.  It is something that each of us has to work on every day to look at our own prejudices and preferences.  We all carry some kind of fear of the changing world around us, some of us want to go back to the day where blacks were second class citizens, or not even citizens. The very idea of the United States is based on the fact that all men are created equal.

The writer I read the most these days and someone I have watched grow up before my very eyes is Ta-Nehisi Coates.  Mr. Coates carries that same quality of substance I always admired in Mr. Bond.  The idea that we live in an imperfect world, but a world we can change.   Mr. Coates writes eloquently about the nature of what it means to be black in America in 2015. Just as Mr. Bond wrote in his time.  Seeing Mr. Coates talk about his home town of Baltimore, and the way the black men and women of Baltimore are treated by the state and its power is very uncomfortable.  IT is not easy to face up to the realities of the life of people in OUR country being treated in a structurally racist fashion.  But is is absolutely necessary.

As I reflect on the death of a man I admired greatly, I am comforted knowing there is another man out there who is carrying the message forward in a scholarly and sober manner.  God rest your soul Mr. Bond, I will miss your presence in the world.  I admired you and looked up to you and even at times tried in some small way to emulate you.  I have clearly failed on that part.  For I, like most men, am weak and flawed.  But I struggle to improve every day.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Vic.

Money, unease, and finding my way.

I was very excited for the start of major European football activity to start, my favorite teams preparing to do battle on the pitch,  the transfer window nearing its  end with all the excitement that brings, and every team starting with a clean slate.  Some more clean than others, and that is what has me a bit down for the start of this season, among other things.  Although the move of Bundesliga coverage to a channel I receive is a big plus, being a fan of the German style in general, and feeling that top to bottom the Bundesliga is the most pleasing football to watch on a regular basis.

It is the saga of the transfer market that has me questioning my dedication to some of the business of the leagues in Europe, and elsewhere, that has me feeling this way.  The worst in humanity seems to come out during this process, and all the dirty laundry is aired.  The fans of the clubs make exclamations, as if it is their money that is being spent. Frankly it is the revenue of the massive TV deals that is driving player compensation and transfer fees more than any other single factor.  How else could you explain how teams who play in small, ancient, stadia recoup the cash laid out on new players, the ticket prices have not gone up with the inflation in player salaries.  They certainly have gone up in the Premier League the most, but not in Serie A and especially not in Bundesliga.

It is the behavior of teams like Manchester United, who seem to throw endless cash, on the order of 350 million  dollars in the last 2 years in transfer fees, with little regard to whether the player fits the system or not. Louis van Gaal seems to be spending money on names only, and when those names don’t work out, see Angel DiMaria, they sell them off to another super-club, Paris Saint-Germain in this case, at a 30% discount with no apparent regard for the consequences.  Where is the development that used to define Man U?  Where are the vaunted Chelsea academy players in the Premier League lineups?  The Manchester City development players?  What has happened to building a team, at least in part, from your home grown prospects?  Even the astonishing record of La Mesia of Barcelona appears to be slowing in terms of presenting first team players to the club.

These players are now at clubs in Holland and Belgium and the lower half of Italian and Spanish leagues.   Getting experience at lower levels it seems,  at the cost of roster spots for players who have already proven some ability in a league somewhere. Willian at Chelsea is a perfect example, I am not convinced that a home grown player would be a lesser candidate for playing a mostly defensive role on the right for Chelsea.   It makes no sense.  Managers like Jose Mourinho have no trust in players from his own academy system.  Is familiarity a negative?  Does he feel like the players are better developed in Brazil, Holland, Croatia? It is a sign that the English top division is no longer very English, at least among the top teams.

The Bundesliga works closely with the FA in Germany on development, many German players are stockpiled on German teams.  Even the mighty Bavarians from Munich are primarily a German team at their core.  Philip Lahm has been the captain for years, and is probably one of the most versatile players in Bundesliga, if not International, history.  He can play the Pivote, he can play fullback, he can attack, he can defend, he makes football look like a childs game.  Not to mention the man who will certainly break the all time World Cup scoring record, Tomas Muller, who is not even the number 1 striker on Bayern Munich.  That honor is reserved for the Polish superstar  Robert Lewandoski.

Speaking on the Sirius XMFC show “Beyond the Pitch” on August 14th, the Irish football writer and critic Mr Eamon Duffy declared that there will never be a generation of players to match the players we have seen up to this point in history.  He seems to place the blame in several areas, distraction of young players who no longer play footy in the streets and in the parks around the globe as much as they used to, and in the case of places like England it is a change in culture, much like what we see in America, a shift to the “pay to play” system.  Very few clubs are developing young players as much as they used to.  Scotland, Ireland, Italy, Spain, many countries, even Brazil isn’t exempt from criticism in this area.  We see it on the national side of Brazil where only Neymar jr. could be seen as an international superstar, where just ten years ago there was fierce competition for offensive roles on the national team.  Now we have Jo’ and Fred…… need I elaborate?

The point is that certain leagues work with their academies, other leagues rely on foreign academies and systems.  There are some academies in England that have been producing good English players for English sides, Southampton is probably the best example.  Everyone loves Steven Gerrard and his loyalty to one club, from the time he was a small child he wore the red of Liverpool, he lived and died the red of Liverpool.  Why has the dynamic in England changed so much?  Speaking with English coaches and fans, in a paraphrase, its the same issue that America faces: pay to play.

Long gone are the days when kids played pick up games of footy on their own, with their mates, unsupervised and improvisational.  England has adopted the American system of having the parents pick up the tab for their kids to play footy. This phenomenon is killing the game.  This is NOT the case in Germany, or Holland, or Brazil, or China, or other country’s where the Worlds best players are coming from.  Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly structure to the development in those countries, and the competition to get on a good team is fierce, but it doesn’t depend on the parents salary.  That is the American way to build soccer.   Pay to Play.

The enemy of creativity in footy is over-coaching and not allowing “free play”.  Take those conditions and apply a financial barrier to entry and you have a caste system of players, many of whom are only playing because they can afford to play.  Perhaps their parents are putting pressure on them to stick with it, even when the passion for the game has left the child.  They may reach a point and realize that they are not for the game, but parents don’t like to invest so much time, money and effort into a losing battle, so they pressure the kids into sticking it out.  This builds animosity towards the game, which is exactly the opposite of what we want our next generation to experience.

I recently attended a coaching class, and one of the instructors was commenting on how important it is for coaches to understand that “parents want those little plastic trophies” and how that was his goal for his U9 team.  This is in direct opposition not only to the directive of USSF coaching instruction, but common sense for developing young players.  It is the skills training and awareness at U9 that is the most important qualities to be reenforced.  Not the trophies.  This is a direct result of Pay to Play.

I may sound like a socialist here, but the money of the game is ruining it at the grassroots level, at the youth level, at the professional level.  Where is the joy for the game?  Where is the loyalty to a club? Where is the line between football being a business and being a sport?  The lines are blurring more and more every year.  The fact that Manchester United looks at players as disposable form year to year certainly carries a message down the branches of the football world.  I have seen great and wonderful sites and had great experiences through football, none of them were based on anything but the sport and the sporting nature of the players and coaches involved.  I feel as if the corrupting nature of money is strangling the sporting element out of the game at times.

I find myself cheering on the Eibar’s of the world.  The improbable runs of unexpected passion fueled runs, like the Costa Rican team in the 2014 World Cup.  I refuse to be a simple consumer of the product of football.  I choose to make a difference in any small way I can.  I refuse to let the hack journalists that try to run me and my cohorts and our efforts down, simply because they have no accomplishments of their own.

I am feeling down and need to get out and see some footy that is played for the pure joy of the game.  My intern at work has a roommate that plays for the local college, I am excited to see them play, its a small school and none of the players are there on Soccer scholarships.  The academics come first.  They play for the love of the game.  That excites me in a certain way.  As much as I love watching the great players of the PL and Bundesliga, my perspective is changing, and the integrity of the game itself is becoming more important to me than seeing it played by perfect players.  Even though I finish this article watching the Bundesliga opening match, it isn’t quite as fulfilling as it has been in years past.

Be the change you want to see in the world, support local football.  And happy birthday to one of my favorite people in the world Mr Jon Townsend.  Send him birthday wishes at @jon_townsend3 on Twitter, and follow his blog at farpostfooty.com . Also my best wishes go to a proud Marine name Matt.  I am reminded of the Honor of the USMC and their dedication to this country when I read about the Embassy Marines who went to Cuba to raise the flag at the embassy, it was the very same Marines who took the flag down in 1961.  A reminder that Honor is something to be respected.  The men and women of the USMC are some of the finest people i have ever met in my life.  The best footy players remind me of Marines, creative, thinking on their feet, loyal, tough, definitely not robots, real people.

Cheers, Vic

André Villas-Boas and the long con

This is some very fine writing by my friend Omar Saleem. Brilliant analysis of AVB. I love every word of it…

Dre Cordero, space exploration, and the transfer market

No, I am not just making up random topics, I was recently on low limit futbol podcast, and the guest who came on after me was Andres “Dre” Cordero from Bein Sports. Dre has been a guest on my own podcast and I find him to be one of the most knowledgable and intelligent football broadcasters in the business.  IF you want pure emotional magic and verbal gymnastics, I go for Ray Hudson, but if you are a student of the game and want to really understand the play, the players, their history, the real deep stuff of the game, Dre is your man.  What I didn’t know about him is that he is a space geek, like me.  I love that.

When I was in college I couldn’t wait to take astronomy and was curious why it had so much higher math as a prerequisite.  Boy did I find out in a hurry why.  College level astronomy is not for the weak of heart.  The math is big and hard and never lets up.  It kind of took some of the joy of staring at the stars and wondering what is out there away from the experience, I have since gained it back, I did not become an astronomer, I instead became a computer scientist, which was probably a good move financially but my heart still wanders poetically to the stars form time to time.

Dre made a comment that stuck with me, he said, and I quote loosely form memory  ” The Raheem Sterling transfer costs as much as the Indian Space program spent on the Mangalyaan probe”  For those who don’t know, the Mangalyaan mission is part of the “MOM” program, or Mars Orbiter Mission, which is an effort to understand Mars in a much better fashion.  Mangalyaan means “Mars-Vehicle” in Sanskrit and was accomplished with a mere 73 Million dollars.  Think about that for a moment.  The Indian government placed a probe on the surface of another planet for 46.7 Million £, Mr Sterling was transferred for 49 Million £.  I read in the news this morning a quote from Jose Mourinho saying he expects there will be a transfer of an English player next season for 60 Million £.

I am not going to postulate on whether a player is “worth” a particular value, I understand the market and how it works.  A players value iOS whatever a team will pay for his/her services.  Period.  I am simply writing about Mr. Cordero’s comments and how I love his perspective.  When it comes to the real world of spending money and where we place our priorities, this is an easy one to pick out and call an outrage.  Especially since interplanetary exploration is becoming such a low priority.  Many people in the US feel that NASA is a waste of money, and there is no better way of expressing that feeling than putting Ted Cruz Republican Senator of Texas in charge of the committee that oversees the budget of NASA.  Mr. Cruz is possibly the most overtly hostile person in the Senate towards science, and especially the science of climate change, which is where the scientists who work on climate change are employed.  Mr. Cruz is more than happy to cut the budget of NASA if he sees it politically advantageous to his Presidential aspirations.

Where do our priorities lie?  Football is very important to me.  Would I choose to fund NASA and climate science over funding the US National football teams?  Yes I would.  It is easy to get corporate funding for big time sports.  Its very difficult to get corporate funding for a mission to Mars to discover the  nature and origination of the Universe.  Pure science has taken a lot of hits in the public forum in the years since Ronald Reagan became president.  Once we were a great explorer of the worlds that are outside of our atmosphere, now we look inward and argue over who Donald Trump offended today.

The one good thing that comes form this Raheem Sterling mess is that QPR gets 20% of the transfer money. As is should be.  QPR is the team that took young Raheem under its wing and molded him in  his youth.  If Raheem had been brought up in the US and transferred to Manchester City today, all of that transfer money would have been given to MLS.  Not a penny to the club that spent years training him.  I will save that for another day.  For today, I think about Mars, and wonder what Mangalyaan is up to, what discoveries will it make that will last for generations?

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Vic

IS US Soccer broken?

I say yes it is, and I hope not to be just a critic, but to offer some solutions and ideas to fix what I see as the primary cause of concern for football in this country.  The first step to fixing a problem i admitting you have one.  This means you  MLS.  You need to stop playing hardball with the youth clubs on transfer fees.  You do not have the lock on the market for players in this country, even though you want to control every outcome of every player, that won’t work.  In order for the US and its players to get better you have to open the system and let in some light, and by light I mean money.

Recently the Crossfire club in Seattle petitioned FIFA to garner the typical 5% of a players transfer fee, when they get their first big contract while they are still under 24, as is the norm all across the whole wide world.  This is how it works.  Not in MLS land it doesn’t.  In the land of Don Garber its all MLS money.  They claim that the Frazier v MLS decision gives them carte blanche when it comes to transfer fees.  I sure would like to see the supporting documents and a legal opinion that backs that case up.  I hope that Crossfire and other clubs continue to push this issue, because it is the most important issue in US Soccer that can be argued.   IT is the single most significant change for the better that could possibly be made to youth soccer, allowing those fees to come to the youth academies that develop the talent.

Allow me to give my opinions here.  The current pay to play system is a slave to the parents who pay the bills. They are also a slave to having a winning formula.  These are two gigantic reasons why they will not focus on player development and will continue to focus on winning at all cost.  This creates a set of players wholly unfit for the worlds stage of professional football.  If the focus is on using athletic and “bigger stronger faster” players to get wins and trophies, the sacrifice i on true development of the complete player.  The complete player must be fit yes, but they must be conditioned to be creative, build a high soccer IQ, read a game, make perfect passes at critical points in games.  All items that can be masked to a certain extent by chucking it long ball to a fast striker.   Win the trophy.  Get more customers.  Loosing formula long term.

If these academies could instead make their money by selling players to professional teams and taking a cut of the transfer fee, that changes the dynamic of youth football overnight.  Real coaches with development in their heart will become the ones who are sought out for their expertise in the finer arts and points of the game.  You want the US to create good Euro players?  Good US team players?  Advance beyond the group stage at the World Cup?  Get the youth coaches to build better players.  Once the player is 17 and starts college, its too late.  Their peers in the world have moved to the professional ranks, and ours have gone to college.  Big difference in style and level of play between the two.

Secondly, break the US Soccer/SUM/MLS cartel.  ITs painfully obvious who US Soccer wants to win in this story, its also not fair or equitable.  The fact that there is no real pyramid in this country hurts the open access to the  game.  We should look for a more Bundesliga type model, with more fan ownership, more fan investment, more fan involvement at every level of football.  We keep hearing the excuse that MLS is “only 20 year old”. That excuse doesnt hold with me anymore.  IF the owners can afford to bring stars in at 8 Million $ a year, they are mature enough to have proper development by now.  They simply haven’t prioritized it enough.

Create a national movement to encourage the sport.  As we are seeing, at least in the programs I am directly involved with, soccer cages are popular.  Make it an effort to move unused tennis courts in public spaces to soccer cages that can be used by more people.  These training facilities are ideal for skills training and can be used by boys, girls, men, women, no issue about age groups or sex.  We recently saw Chris Kessell in Charleston WV work with the local authorities to do just that to great success: Chris Kessell in action

What Chris and others are accomplishing is a change in culture, young people today are far more interested in playing soccer than tennis by a fair margin.  Anecdotal evidence in Colorado tells me that soccer fields all over my neighborhood are used at least 40 times more than tennis courts, I do not recall the last time I saw someone playing tennis at the courts near my home.  The cost of the changeover is minuscule compared to the training and exercise and enjoyment that will come from having a soccer cage in your neighborhood.

Parents too must be educated, and I applaud the efforts of US Soccer, the organization, in their efforts at this through the newly formed “F” license.  I took the online F license recently and was pleasantly surprised to find that the concepts of development were heavily emphasized over athleticism and winning at all costs.  The course is something that parents of young soccer players should take and something I learned a few things by taking.  I applaud US Soccer for making this training available, I would like to see this type effort to continue and be emphasized.

What needs to be addressed is the fact that at 17 a player should know whether he/she has a professional track and the qualities to go for that track, or should look for another track, such as a college scholarship or whatever other interest they wish to pursue.  We as Americans need to stop the illusion that 22-24 is young.  It simply isn’t true in the worlds game.  At 22-23 a player should be established at their professional team, and quite possibly have been moved from a development league, such as the Eredivisie to a highly competitive league, such as La Liga or Serie A.  This is how the rest of the world looks at its players, and how our players will be assessed.

A player such as Deandre Yedlin is borderline in age to be in his position.  HE is far behind in term os development, but his physical attributes are making him a potential for Tottenham, although its looking like a loan is set for this season.  This is all just a scratch at the surface of some ideas on how to fix issues in US Soccer, but we need to start making some changes for the players sake.  We are robbing them of their opportunity.  Children don’t have the ability to force themselves into positions, the need guidance and a path to that success.  US Soccer should not be throwing hurdles at them out of the gate.

As always, be the change you want to see in the world.

Victor

To add fuel to the fire, a perfect example of this principle was broadcast the day after I initially posted this piece. The club that developed Raheem Sterling, Queens park Rangers, is set to make at least 8.5 million pound Sterling off the deal for him to go to Manchester City:

Raheem to City

 

On Football/Football

I deleted three blog posts before I started this one.  Maybe I won’t print this one either.  Out of disgust with MLS and US soccer in general I wrote scathing indictments of the use of the DP rule to create super clubs in the major markets, just like all the MLS apologists have said would never happen.  Because you know, we are different than Euro-snob soccer.  Yeah, right.   Its called market based economics and it drives all sports.  Except the NFL, because the NFL is built for TV. It is not built for the crowd that actually goes to the game.  Have you ever been to an NFL game?  It is the most boring thing imaginable.  Studies show a total of 7 minutes of actual action, and most people sit in wonder at what actually happened.  Without experts to tell them what play was run, and why, and rerun the play form 17 different angles, and all that takes place before the next few seconds of action.

What you see taking place on an NFL field is a few seconds of violence, then gigantic men picking each other up, medical people running back and forth, if you are behind the sidelines you see the machinations of the staff showing picture after picture of formations and the icing of joints and the result of violent collision.  Its horrifying.  And completely scripted.

We mourned the death this week of a true original, a maverick, an actual creative thinker and player in the old NFL and AFL, Kenny “the Snake” Stabler.  IF there ever was a soccer player mind in a football player, it was The Snake.  He was a seriously creative player.  He made it up as e went along.  Fumbling forward in order to score a touchdown, which actually made its way into the rulebook as something to be changed.  A rare and wonderful talent.  Creativity.

There is so little creativity in gridiron football that the players actually have radios built into their helmets so that the coach can call the play in from the sideline.  Why is this the most popular sport in this country?  Is it the violence?  The freakish size and speed of the payers?  The gladiatorial aspect of the coverage?  Is it the way its been marketed?  Baseball used to be number 1, what happened to that?  Is it the attention span issue?

I tend to think it has something to do with attention span.  Sports like Soccer, Cricket, Baseball, and other sports that rely on some creativity, sports that don’t rely on a set play concept tend to do worse with todays audience because of attention span.  A recent study has shown that attention span has been cut in half in the last 20 years.  From 20 to 10 seconds.  That is a shocking discovery.  How many times do I hear, “Soccer is boring, nobody scores” and think to myself, wow, the best games are some that end in PKs. Often 0:0…

I realize I am tilting windmills here, NFL will remain on top.  But there is some hope.  Many parents are starting to look at the violence of NFL and what happens to the players when they stop playing, brain injuries, physical issues, many early deaths related to their playing injuries.  The case of Junior Seau is a cautionary tale.  Then think of all those players who took a beating in high school, then in the SEC or Pac-10/12 and went on to NOT play in the NFL.  What about all those injuries?  Many of them will never receive the type of care they deserve for brain trauma simply because they never made it into the NFL.

It is for this and many other reasons that I believe we will see a surge in soccer as a safer alternative for athletes in America.  Soccer is not a safe sport, and its not a sport for the weak of heart.  Its a highly competitive and sometimes the same type of injuries, brain trauma and other serious injuries, occur.  The amount of collision in the sport is significantly less in proportion to gridiron football, that is simply fact.  Soccer also has the advantage of being a much more cerebral sport than football.  A players cognitive skills play a much bigger part of their overall value to the team. It is not simply about how big and fast a player can become.  The player must be creative to succeed.

Its also about jobs.  Yes jobs.  There are 32 professional football teams in the world.  Not counting semi-pro teams that pay little and offer even less in value.  The number of professional soccer opportunities in the world is massive.  Every major country in the world has a league that is professional.  There are hundreds of thousands of opportunities for the right players in soccer.  With a country of 320 Million citizens to have produced a handful of professional soccer players that have played outside the US is a stain on our development system.

This is where our change must begin.  This is where we the leaders in this country need to create the opportunities for the next generation of players, coaches, executives, these opportunities must be earned and we must open the doors.  It is time for my generation to work hard to get the next generation into the world of soccer.  Forget the NFL, its a closed and tiny world.  Soccer is an open and gigantic world.  Lets open the door.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Vic

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