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Rivaldo Joins the Brazilian Retirement Community

25 Jan

The great Rivaldo, World Cup and Champions League winner, European and World Player of the Year, has just signed for Sao Paolo…and he’s 38!!

It brought to mind the two most prominent retirement communities in the world, both conveniently located in the Western Hemisphere. Both Major League Soccer and Brazil have become a haven for the aging talents of European football who wish to continue playing on some level – a level that caters more to their diminishing abilities. Enter America and Brazil, which can provide such an enclave for these players, although the latter has far more history and success than the 17-year-old MLS. So how do they compare?

Looking at Major League Soccer first, their “designated player” status limits the amount of superstars who can join the various clubs, although an increased quota has enabled many more to reach our shores. At the moment there are 14 such players, 9 of whom make an annual salary of over $1 million.  The league average was $138,169 in 2010, a drop of 6.6%. Of the 14, only 4 are under 30 and 3 are over 35. Average age = 31. For many, like Beckham, Henry, Marquez, Angel, Nkufo, and Mista, this is the end of the road.

Over in Brazil, a similar pattern has emerged in recent years as one generation nears its conclusion. The Brazilian Campeonato operates like every other league with no limits on wages or transfer fees. Nor on age, which makes the Brazilian retirement community far more dependent on social security than its counterpart up north. Fat Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Deco, and Belletti are but a few who have all moved home to finish their careers. They boast an average age of 34 years old, yet command average yearly salaries of $6.1 million. In fact, 2009 saw a return of 707 Brazilian players to their home soil, more than double the number in 2006.

The question is, which retirement community benefits its domestic league more? And which one is simply a place to rot? In Brazil, revenue of the 20 top-tier teams rose 12% to $1.13 billion in 2009 on more television rights income, a result of the clubs’ ability to sell their product with a big name player. MLS only began selling TV rights for profit in 2007, and will receive a much smaller sum than the above. However, total attendance in 2010 was the highest since 2007 and third highest in league history. 5 of the top 8 clubs in 2010 attendance contained a designated player. Clearly, the old farts have made a difference.

In terms of scale, it’s unfair to compare the two leagues. And while some complain that MLS is nothing more than a place for superstars to put their feet up and relax, you cannot ignore the significant impact it has made. Like it or not, these guys still fill the stadiums whether in Toronto or Sao Paolo or Salt Lake City or Rio. They just need walkers and wheelchairs to get there.

Thierry Henry is "The Starchild"

2 Sep

Thierry Henry is teaming up with….KISS?!

For only $40, fans can go watch FC Dallas host Henry and the Red Bulls, followed by the RockN The Park show two days later where none other than KISS will take the stage!! As a New York resident and casual supporter of the Red Bulls, something about this bothers me juust a bit… Maybe it’s the fact that ANOTHER TEAM is using OUR designated player to increase THEIR ticket sales and fill THEIR stadium to earn THEM more money. Sounds like some form of ambush marketing to me. Although on second thought, I guess it’s the MLS, where everyone helps everyone to promote the league’s image. In the case of the Red Bulls, this is the nicest thing anyone in New York City has ever done.

But let’s get to the real meat of this story. I sure as hell hope Henry is on that stage with Gene Simmons and the gang. Afterwards he can chill backstage, get drunk, and have sex with barely legal groupies. Or maybe they’ll let him play the match with the face paint on! I’m not aware of FIFA regulations against such a thing. Look at the shit-smirk on that face. He looks like he just finished a multiple homicide and is plotting his next scheme. If they let him play like that, defenders would run the opposite direction.

Manchester United Rolls Over MLS All-Stars

29 Jul

Last night’s 5-2 drubbing was comical at times. Mostly though, it was a highlight real of great goal after great goal for the English side. A clinic of how the game is played. MLS All-Stars? Not so much…

MLS’ All Star Crock

29 Jul

Events over the past 2 days have clearly illustrated why MLS will never be a significant entity until changes are made. The mentality in this country is skewed as it’s become more and more apparent how much football has been Americanized into soccer. On the one hand there’s no choice. Everyone agrees this isn’t our sport and without tweaking it a bit to cater to the American public, it would never survive. However, this country still has a duty to respect the game, and quite frankly, we don’t.

I’ll get to the All Star game in a bit, but let’s start with the Los Angeles Galaxy – this year’s premiere team in MLS. They have dominated all competition so far winning 12, losing 2, and drawing 4. They’ve scored the most goals in the league and given up the fewest. Topping the Western Conference, they are still 9 points clear of second place Real Salt Lake and 6 points ahead of the Eastern Conference leader. You get the point – they ain’t too shabby. The Galaxy took all this talent into Tuesday’s CONCACAF Champions League qualifying match against the Puerto Rico Islanders who play in the USL – America’s second tier league. Puerto Rico soundly thumped them 4-1 in Los Angeles. 4-1!! What a disgrace. LA is the face of Major League Soccer captained by arguably the most noticeable player on the planet right now in Landon Donovan. There shouldn’t be any club team on the continent who comes close. Yet, in our Champions League, what should be the most prestigious tournament for club teams playing in CONCACAF, the Galaxy simply couldn’t care less.

This is a problem. It slaps this very sport in the face. Nobody outside of America gives any credit to the champion of the world’s “retirement league.” You need legitimacy and respect, and the only way you’re going to get that is by achieving continental success. Take Celtic and Rangers from Scotland in a league that rivals MLS for mediocrity. However, both those clubs compete yearly in the UEFA Champions League or Europa League and at times have made a significant run. The only reason you know about them (aside from playing in the United Kingdom) is that they’ve had historical success in Europe. The point I’m trying to make is that the Galaxy are this year’s Celtic/Rangers. But dominating at home means nothing. And yes, CONCACAF doesn’t have the Barcelonas or the Inter Milans or the Liverpools. But this is our continent’s premiere club tournament and once again, America only cares about themselves. They don’t understand what it means to respect a major tournament of some of the very best football clubs on this side of the Atlantic.

Think I’m out of line? The United States sent a C team to the Copa America in 2009 while Brazil and Argentina and the likes sent their very best. We have since been uninvited to the tournament. Why would we do such a thing? Because we were more worried about winning the terribly difficult Gold Cup to book a trip to the Confederations Cup in South Africa. (Remember when we beat Spain?) We were more worried about beating Haiti, Grenada, and Panama with our very best than going toe to toe with some of the world’s best in South America. Let’s go one step further. Bruce Arena and Landon Donovan, after being crushed on Tuesday, jumped on a late-night plane to fly to Houston for the annual…

MLS ALL-STAR GAME!! America’s signature gift to the world. Where we parade the very best of our top league to play against one of Europe’s popular teams. A pathetic spectacle of epic proportions. I will admit that there are logical reasons for doing so, most notably the money. Nobody can argue with MLS packing over 70,000 people into a stadium to watch a football game, especially when Manchester United features. But I am thoroughly pleased that the “all-stars” got their asses kicked last night by a bunch of kids who in their late teens and early twenties are better than 95% of the players MLS can offer. Why is this even necessary? Why must MLS interrupt it’s season and distract club teams all for TV ratings and money? Why on Earth was Landon Donovan on that field if only for the last 15 minutes a day after he played a full 90?!

The whole thing stinks. You don’t think Donovan got a call from someone telling him he had to show his face on the field in Houston? I would have said, “F**k off. My club team has a Champions League match and we are the only chance you have of an MLS side achieving credibility on the continent. Who cares about a silly exhibition?” Unfortunately, Landon is a bigger man than that and he knows his importance to the sport here. But the very fact that he most likely received such a message is the heart of the issue.

I can’t think of anything more embarrassing and damaging to the sport in this country than what happened last night.
Major League Soccer took a big hit this week. It couldn’t be any clearer. People across Europe will read about how United’s bench players ripped to shreds the very best America’s domestic league has to offer. People across North and Central America will read about how a petty island team from Puerto Rico walked into the home of MLS’ most dominant team and beat em’ like a bunch a school girls.

Hang your heads because there is nothing to be proud of today for fans of the sport here.

Thierry Henry Has Arrived!

14 Jul

Jay Mariotti and the rest of his crew on ESPN’s Around the Horn are a bunch of morons. They just finished debating the impact of Thierry Henry in MLS and whether or not it would be bigger than Beckham. Not surprisingly, they brushed Henry aside like a bum on the side of the road. Claiming nobody here has any idea who he is.

Well I will not let that happen. Here’s a guy who still wants to play. Yes, his work ethic was an issue this past season at Barcelona and he is well beyond his peak years, but I will guarantee you that he is going to work his ass off when he gets here. Henry could care less about face time and being on the news – all he wants to do is play. Moreover, he’s coming to a country and a city that he loves. Not to mention the fact that two of his closest friends, Tony Parker and Steve Nash, are here as well. (Knicks fans – Henry is the key to Tony Parker coming here next season. I promise you.) His impact will be huge.

Beckham on the other hand is a joke. He sounds like a girl. He cares more about sticking his junk in our faces on the sides of buses and billboards. He cares more about his clothes and his cologne and being seen at every big event in Los Angeles. He is the embodiment of that city. Henry will do everything for Major League Soccer that Beckham has not. You will see him in commercials to get people to come watch the Red Bulls – promoting the sport and not himself. He’ll do interviews to talk about soccer and not his side projects and aspirations to play for a national team he has no business being on.

He’ll raise awareness for the sport at charity events like Steve Nash’s yearly showdown in Chinatown. On the field, he will run and give 110% each game (as opposed to Beckham), he will head the ball effectively (Beckham can’t do that), he will use his left foot to cross balls if need be (Beckham can’t do that), and he’ll probably score a couple goals (Beckham? not so much). Most importantly though, he has won everything there is to win in Europe and on the world stage. His mind will be focused here and not elsewhere. This is his new mountain to climb.

Phew. Now that we got that out there, let’s celebrate!!! 

Henry highlight compilations here, here, and here. Free kicks compilation here. His kinda cute ex-wife here. Sexy over the shoulder pose from Thierry here. Photo shoot with the Red Bulls here.

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