Sunday, March 23, 2014

International football is broken

In the 15 years or so during which I have been more than just theoretically aware of the existence of the Canadian national soccer team, this country has lost out on a number of talented players to other countries, mostly due to FIFA's rather arbitrary and far too generous rules determining national eligibility. Asmir Begovic and Jonathan de Guzman featured in a 5 year old post with the title "The Treason Scale". Lesser talents like Daniel Fernandes, Steven Vitoria, heck, even Jacob Lensky traded in the Maple Leaf for some more convenient option. Even the women have got in on the act, with Sydney Leroux now starring for the USA, though the inclusion of Lauren Sesselmann on Canada's women's team largely cancels that out. Only a recent software upgrade on the Voyageur's forums has allowed users to write the name of Owen Hargreaves without incurring the wrath of a censorship script.

It was once de rigueur to reference the too-quick naturalization of Brazilians by Arab petro-states as a sign of the growing pointlessness of national team football. But is there any bigger offender nowadays than Jurgen Klinsmann's USA?

These were my thoughts in tweet form before deciding to elaborate:

American fans like to cite Giuseppe Rossi as their man who got away. He's a decent player and would probably be a starter in the USA's current set-up, but they've more than made up for that with Klinsmann's German shopping spree. The six guys referenced in the series of tweets above are:

  1. John Brooks. Born and raised in Berlin
  2. Alfredo Morales. Born and raised in Berlin
  3. Jermaine Jones. Born and raised in Frankfurt
  4. Daniel Williams. Born and raised in Karlsruhe
  5. Fabian Johnson. Born and raised in Munich
  6. Terrence Boyd. Born in Germany to an American serviceman and German mother. Lived briefly in New York before returning to Germany with his mother.
Now, before I get too critical, let me remind Canadian fans that squads over the last decade have included Marc Bircham (his grandfather spend a few years in Winnipeg, or something), Will Johnson (born in Toronto but moved shortly thereafter to England and then USA), Marcel de Jong (born in Toronto, then moved as a youngster to Holland), Pedro Pacheco (who cares), and Sesselmann and Rachel Quon on the women's side.

But never have we fielded a squad like Klinsmann's team against Ukraine where 40% of the team has spent less time in the USA than Justin Bieber has.

I've said before that international football is largely pointless when one can trade nationalities so easily. In the case of many of these "American" players, their passports are legit, being born to USA servicemen, but it certainly puts to rest any notion of a connection between the health of the game in a country, and the strength of its national team. When one is a darkhorse World Cup threat largely on the strength of a 70-year military occupation of a European ally, isn't there something wrong?


Anonymous said...

However, jono, one of the problems that developed with Klinny's use of GERMAN-americans was a team chemistry issue, with dissent arising from the NA based (and, most notably, American raised) players in the early stages of the Hex. During the rest of the Hex qualification run, many of the starters were "domestics" Guys like Tim Chandler, Fabian Johnson, and Danny ("Book him, Danno") Williams were fringe guys, though Jermaine Jones has been a Klinny favourite and regular alongside Bradley.

The renewed introduction of such players may once again affect the team chemistry. Or, on the other hand, it may simply create the competition for places necessary to get the best out of the players; that's totally unlike our current NT situation, where we feature as starters too many guys who haven't done anything at club level to earn a call up, except for the having the "potential" tag. There's a reason why we're in the 100 teens world ranking wise: we've earned it!


jonathan said...

If anything, the introduction of these dubiously American Germans as fringe players is an even greater indictment of the current international game than if they were being brought in to be stars.