June 2, 2010

"How a Soccer Star Is Made"

Here's a good article in the NYT Magazine by Bruce Sokolove about an Amsterdam soccer club that makes huge money selecting and training local little boys to be professional soccer players.

Sokolove reflects on not only why America hasn't won the World Cup but why there are no really top tier world class American soccer players:
There are two ways to become a world-class soccer player. One is to spend hours and hours in pickup games — in parks, streets, alleyways — on imperfect surfaces that, if mastered, can give a competitor an advantage when he finally graduates to groomed fields. This is the Brazilian way and also the model in much of the rest of South America, Central America and the soccer hotbeds of Africa. It is like baseball in the Dominican Republic. Children play all the time and on their own. 

It helps to grow up dribbling a soccer ball at all times -- in other words, it helps if you don't really go to school too much.
The other way is the Ajax method. Scientific training. Attention to detail. Time spent touching the ball rather than playing a mindless number of organized games. 

In the Dutch system, you go to school, but definitely not to college. The Europeans think it's unhelpful that American kids with soccer potential spend from age 7 to 17 playing a lot of games instead of learning their trade in practice.

A high school friend of mine whose younger brother went on to win the Cy Young Award said something similar about minor league baseball. He thought his brother's minor league baseball career was pretty useless, with enormous amounts of time spent on buses and playing 100+ games per year and very little time getting coached by anybody who knew anything more than his brother did about pitching, and with little access during the season to competent sports doctors out in the sticks. During one minor league season when he was chronically injured, his manager kept telling him to tough it out and pitch through the pain. Finally, he walked off the team, flew back to LA, had himself operated on by Sandy Koufax's old surgeon, and sat out the rest of the season recuperating.

And they think it's nuts that American 18-22 year olds are sitting in the classrooms on college soccer scholarships when they should be training full time.
The more thoughtful people involved in developing U.S. soccer talent know that we conform to neither model. We are a much larger nation, obviously, than the Netherlands. Our youth sports leagues, for the most part, are community-based and run by volunteers rather than professionals. They have grown organically, sending out tendrils that run deep and are difficult to uproot. Change at the elite levels is more possible than at the stubborn grass roots. 

But, is it all that important that the U.S. compete for the World Cup or nurture a Wayne Rooney? This Dutch system doesn't seem all that much fun for all but the handful of superstars.

The current American system largely reflects the values of white, middle class American parents. It's not designed to win World Cups, it's designed to get their kids some exercise and let them experience some level of success in a game that African-Americans aren't interested in.

63 comments:

Truth said...

"It's designed to get their kids some exercise and let them experience some level of success in a game that African-Americans aren't interested in."

Steve-O, Jody just ripped your poster off his bedroom wall. Justin Timberlake and the Jonas Brothers are going to get very lonely up there.

Anonymous said...

Referring to Ajax as "an Amsterdam soccer club" is just too precious, Steve. A bit like referring to the Yankees as "a New York rounders club".

Those poor kids in third world countries playing on the streets are now being scouted earlier and earlier by European clubs, who set up local academies and make sure the kids get proper food and training. MLB does something similar in the Dominican Republic. Very few of these kids learn exclusively on the street any more.

Similarly the "highly regulated" Dutch system still relies on spotting young talent that got its start playing street ball. It's easier to spot young talent that is actually playing in an unstructured environment first.

It's not an either-or thing anymore. Everyone started adopting the Dutch system over thirty years ago. No one stopped playing streetball who really loves the game.

As to why develop soccer talent, well, why not? Why do parents spend so much money training their kids to play golf, tennis, etc?

In point of fact, the facts on the ground are already rapidly changing for US soccer. MLS clubs have been running youth academies for a few years now, with an eye towards developing their own talent (which the NCAA is really not very good at - NCAA rules actively hobble soccer development) which they can sign to professional contracts in MLS and later make money on transfer fees to European clubs.

In fact some of these academy players have already been signed by MLS clubs and scored their first goals in MLS this past week; see article below; note that Najar got his first goal in MLS this past Saturday, making him the first Academy product to do so (he beat Tristan Bowan by an hour or so):

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/world-cup/story/_/id/5219888/ce/us/future-us-soccer?cc=5901&ver=us

***"A lot of research showed that a lot of the best young soccer players in America were playing way too many games -- in many instances over 100 a year -- and way too many of those games were not of very high quality," he says. "We had our ratio of training time to games inverted to the rest of the world. Countries that are really great at developing players routinely try to establish an average of four- or five-to-one ratio of training time to game time. And we were the opposite. We had to turn that on its head."***

***In 2007, MLS made it mandatory for its franchises to establish a youth development program with at least two teams and a full-time coaching staff. Youth players could come from anywhere within a 75-mile radius of the senior team's stadium, and each youth team could carry two additional players from outside of that zone, so long as he didn't live in another team's market. As an added incentive, MLS offered clubs the option to sign its "homegrown" products without going through the SuperDraft.***

***Another chief pitfall of elite American youth club soccer is its prohibitive cost. Known as "pay-to-play," some programs can cost five figures per child per year. Many prospects from disadvantaged backgrounds are thought to be scared off by the towering fees, which can cause some talent to slip through the cracks. That's why MLS endeavors to keep academy costs to parents at a minimum.***

adfadfasdf said...

Soccer hooligans suck but I'd rather watch them than soccer. Boring!!!

Hey, how about making the game more fun by putting out two balls on the field at the same time? More action, more goals.

Anonymous said...

MLS is finally adopting the Academy system for the following reasons:

1) American high schools, colleges and universities just aren't very good at developing soccer talent, and won't spend the time and resources needed.

2) Youth soccer in the US is simply for "participation" and isn't good for developing talent either; moreover kids drop out of it by high school, anyway, when high school sports institutionalized peer pressure "encourages" most to drop soccer altogether.

3) Club soccer can develop talent, but costs money many parents cannot afford. Clint Dempsey, who grew up in a trailer park in Texas and now plays for Fulham FC in the Premier League (and is on the US National Team squad at the World Cup now in South Africa), only made it because his parents sacrificed time and money driving him to practice and getting him on prestigious club teams. Most parents won't, or can't, do that, especially for soccer.

The academy system answers all of these problems: free training for anyone who has talent; clubs are motivated to find and develop that talent, both to win championships and to sell on the contracts of talented players to bigger clubs for much needed cash. Parents, for free, give their kids a chance to make a lot of money as a professional footballer. And yes, Steve, they still go to school.

They may not go to university (though many still do - especially in the USA) but we all know perfectly well that university is wasted on a lot of American students who would be better off with vocational training anyway. Not everyone needs a BA or BS at the end of their name, in order to have a successful career. We'd be a lot better off if more people realized that.

And you are creating a false dichotomy between the "Dutch" and the "Brazilian" way. The fact is everyone has been using some variation of the "Dutch" system for over thirty years - actually, for closer to 130 years. The Dutch simply perfected the academy system, they did not invent it.

Even Pele, after he was spotted playing street ball, was signed by a local club who put him into their academy system for training. No one ever goes straight from street ball into a professional starting position. There's always been years spent in training/apprenticeship first.

The reason the Europeans think the American NCAA system is crazy is because if you haven't made it as a professional in soccer by age 21 or 22, you are never going to make it. If you're serious, you are trying to establish a pro career at ages 16-20 or so.

Lots of Americans care about soccer and want to see us do better, Steve. We've already got scores of Americans playing overseas; it is a viable career option and a lucrative one. That's going to grow in the coming years and will fuel more people taking up the game not simply to get a college scholarship but as a career in its own right.

Anonymous said...

It's not designed to win World Cups, it's designed to get their kids some exercise and let them experience some level of success in a game that African-Americans aren't interested in.

Can't somebody cook up a sport where whites are naturally better than blacks? Like a sport that involves the same set of skills as quarterbacking in football, but for all positions.

Anonymous said...

"Soccer is boring" how very original.

"I don't like it/I don't understand it = ergo boring". Wow. That took lot of deep thought.

Baseball is boring. Three hours of grown men in tight pants spitting tobacco and scratching their crotches. Performing the same stereotyped motions over and over while a bunch of nerds obsess over statistics. Boring.

American gridiron football is boring. Three hours to play a game in which the ball is only in motion for 11 minutes. Watching grown men in tight pants and plastic armor assume various homoerotic poses, and pat each other on the butt. Watching pseudo-robots who do nothing for two and a half hours but stand (or sit) around waiting for orders. Boring.

Basketball: so much scoring that each score is meaningless. Might as well tune in for the last ten minutes, when the action actually matters. Boring.

Ice hockey. Can't see the puck. A sport so boring they had to turn it into an extended series of contrived fist-fights in order to keep the fans interested and entertained. Boring.

NASCAR. Rednecks driving endlessly in a circle. The only thing to look forward to: the occasional crash. Boring.

Anything is boring to someone. Who cares about your subjective opinion about what is and is not "boring"? It's entirely a matter of taste, not fact, and all sports are acquired tastes. Try making some original comments for a change.

Tom Regan said...

I'll give you the benefit of the doubt on this Steve, but this smacks of the classic American refrain of 'the only reason we don't win at soccer is that we don't care about it'.
According to this specious argument, Americans COULD be as good as the Brazilian slum kids, or COULD be as good as the obsessively drilled Dutch, but sport is really about having fun, so we aren't. Riiiight. Okay, so how exactly does this explain America's massive amount of spending and organisation in other sports?
As for the other hackneyed American refrain about soccer - 'it's boring' - that is only spouted by those who just don't get it. Soccer is not about entertainemnt, its about group identity. If you want entertainment, go to the circus. Soccer is about going to the game to abuse, and possibly assault, opposition supporters and players, viscerally hate the people who come from the town next door and in the process feel good about your belonging to the group. It is not a nice, cosy middle class sport in other parts of the world. Its a gritty, mostly working class sport in which the English get to hate the Germans, who hate the French, who hate the Italians, who hate the Brazilians, who hate the Argentinians etc.

Anonymous said...

"Can't somebody cook up a sport where whites are naturally better than blacks? Like a sport that involves the same set of skills as quarterbacking in football, but for all positions."

Like Ice Hockey or Lacrosse, perhaps?

Anonymous said...

"Can't somebody cook up a sport where whites are naturally better than blacks? Like a sport that involves the same set of skills as quarterbacking in football, but for all positions."

It's called Real Life.

Ross said...

"This Dutch system doesn't seem all that much fun for all but the handful of superstars."

Maybe not but isn't it better for the ones who don't make it than the system for selecting NFL & NBA players?

They go to colleges they aren't academically qualified for, spend several years taking considerable physical punishment and most of them end up with neither an athletic career nor an academic qualification.

Anonymous said...

Can't somebody cook up a sport where whites are naturally better than blacks? Like a sport that involves the same set of skills as quarterbacking in football, but for all positions.


Nobody would watch.

dearieme said...

Soccer skills are so difficult that you do need enormous amounts of practice when young, or substantial amounts of expert coaching. Handling skills are much easier to learn, so get your boys to take up rugby. Leave soccer for the girlies.

Anonymous said...

Steve, with this piece, you're wading off into awfully squishy territory.

Does Mrs iSteve not allow the boys to play real football?

Grrr...

Anonymous said...

Under either the thousand pickup game system or the elite training school system, the cost to children in time is enormous, leaving those who spend their childhood on sport but don't make it with few other options in life.

In a developed country, risking your entire education on a very small chance of making it into the pro leagues is only worth it to families with limited options, a poor understanding of the risks involved, and/or children whose behavioural and intellectual problems are unlikely to get them far in any other career.

This is why only one English-born Premiership footballer has admitted to reading a daily newspaper, but former rugby players (still a semi pro game) regularly pop up in the professions and go on to have successful careers when their playing days are over.

Amateur sport is a great way to instill values, get some exercise and participate in society. Professionalising children's sports excludes the middle classes who are unwilling to risk it all.

josh said...

Sports are for playing, not just for watching at the elite level. I wish we still had communities in this country so we could have semi-serious adult sports, not just beer-league softball.

That's one of the cool things about the European (or at least British) club model. Adults amateurs and kids as well as professionals are all part of the same club.

Wido Incognitus said...

Steve,
A lot of your commenters seem to be going after you for simplifying the situation in your post.

It is, however, true that some countries rely more on playing and practicing soccer a lot of the time (in many of the poorer countries with less time spent at school as you suggest) while in the United States there is the strange role played by college sports, regardless of whatever direction American soccer is moving in terms of establishing soccer academies, distracting sports people from sports. But out system is also good, especially for a big country, because it means somebody who would not have been good enough to be part of a soccer academy or pro team can improve his skills and demonstrate them playing for a college team in order to attract the attention of pro teams or even the national team.

I would also like to say that soccer is a very cool sport. It mixes different athletic skills very well and the game itself unfolds in time without innings or downs (but I also like baseball and football.)

bjdouble said...

Poor kids in poor countries don't play soccer with soccer balls, not that I've seen. They play with old water bottles and the like.

Tom Piatak said...

Soccer is still the metric system in short pants.

ATBOTL said...

Lot's of blacks play soccer. Lacrosse is the sport where rich whites who don't want to compete against people who are different from them go.

Anonymous said...

Anon,

it's called Real Life.

Well put, my American Friend.

Blacks are over-represented in football but they do not dominate the game. When Cameroon made the World Cup quarter-final in 1990 many Lefties predicted that Africans would win the World Cup, soon. They are nowhere near it either and the World Cup should not be being held in crime-ridden South Africa anyway.

Fans are staying away in droves.

Richard...London

Anonymous said...

"Ice hockey. Can't see the puck. A sport so boring they had to turn it into an extended series of contrived fist-fights in order to keep the fans interested and entertained. Boring."

Thank God for high definition TV :) ... I can watch hockey now!

Anonymous said...

"Can't somebody cook up a sport where whites are naturally better than blacks? Like a sport that involves the same set of skills as quarterbacking in football, but for all positions."

Odd that, with all there natural superiority, not one african country has come close to winning anything.

Anonymous said...

Soccer sucks. The day it becomes truly popular in America is the day our country dies.

http://www.americanthinker.com/2006/06/why_americans_dont_like_soccer.html

Cam said...

Love the journos name Bruce Soccerlove.
'I had lunch one day with Auke Kok, a historian and Dutch soccer journalist, who offered up his own hypothesis. He talked of the “brute force” of American football as opposed to the elegance and flair of great international soccer. “I’ve always wondered if our football is too stylish, too feminine,” he said. “Am I right that it’s too girlish for Americans?”

I told him that I was pretty sure that that is not the case.'

Actually the dutch guy hit the nail on the head.

Kylie said...

Anonymous said..."Can't somebody cook up a sport where whites are naturally better than blacks?"

Too bad standardized testing doesn't count as a sporting event.

Anonymous said...

>>The current American system largely reflects the values of white, middle class American parents. It's not designed to win World Cups, it's designed to get their kids some exercise and let them experience some level of success in a game that African-Americans aren't interested in. <<

That's the point we should take to heart. We don't need to be "champions" at everything (or anything, for that matter). We should be content with doing American things our American way. Sure, we could be champs at everything, just give every budding superstar a green card. And what good would that accomplish?

To soccer's credit, I do notice that soccer players have the best physiques. No lard asses in soccer. 60 minutes of sporadic running and near sprinting combined with strenuous leg exertion produces an enviable physique. The other sport that seems to produce a similar result is lacrosse. So, forget the gym, join a soccer club and play several times a week, if you won't be bored to death.

keypusher said...

As to why develop soccer talent, well, why not? Why do parents spend so much money training their kids to play golf, tennis, etc?

Because they think it will help their kids socially, professionally and physically their whole lives. Not many parents immerse their kids in tennis or golf, either.

stari_momak said...

Can't somebody cook up a sport where whites are naturally better than blacks?

Waterpolo, which is a fairly popular spectator sport in Mitteleuropa and the Balkans.

Rugby seems to be an even playing field, there are a lot of black British soccer players, but much fewer in rugby. The sport seems to demand a bunch of tight end type physiques and abilities (there are variations of course).

It should also be kept in mind that rules even within a sport can affect the racial balance. Duke's significantly, even majority, white teams can compete because the zone defense, for example, is allowed in the NCAA. And frankly, I don't see how anyone can say that college hoops is less exciting than the pros (though I really don't watch much of either).

Anonymous said...

Well, preening kids from a young age to be prodigies has to do with the emphasis of a society. Soccer is a B sport in America. We take basketball, football more seriously. One sees a similar phenom in chess, as reported brilliantly in Searching for Bobby Fischer(book, not movie). The younger a person starts training intensively, the better he will become. No world chess champion after 1920 learned the game after 4 years of age! This is why the Soviet Union dominated chess--they started training kids still in dipers. The question is, should we pressuring kids to become sports and chess automatons before they even have the capacity of free will? Are these endeavors, strictly the toy department by all measures, worth devoting one's life to ?

The great German composers, a frequent topic for discussion by Steve, were trained intensively in music from a very young age, because there was such an emphasis on music in Viennese society. Virtuosity was a sure ticket to wealth and fame. Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven were all intensively trained from an early age to be musical prodigies. However, at least their work, of a permanent nature, are gems of incomparable value to humanity, feathers in the hat of Western civilization.

Similarly with science and mathematics: Richard Feynman was groomed to be a physicist from the age of 4, according to his autobiography. His father would show him sequences of different colored tiles to teach him pattern recognition. There is actually a restructuring of the brain before 10 years of age, when neurons are pruned away. I believe that children taught to focus on a subject intensely actually salvage neuronal networks of value in their activities, making the activities literally hard-wired into their brains.

I think this would be a great topic for a longer article. We need prodigies, but we need to choose the field of endeavor with care.

adsfadfasdf said...

Baseball is boring. Three hours of grown men in tight pants spitting tobacco and scratching their crotches. Performing the same stereotyped motions over and over while a bunch of nerds obsess over statistics. Boring.

American gridiron football is boring. Three hours to play a game in which the ball is only in motion for 11 minutes. Watching grown men in tight pants and plastic armor assume various homoerotic poses, and pat each other on the butt. Watching pseudo-robots who do nothing for two and a half hours but stand (or sit) around waiting for orders. Boring.


The problem with soccer is that the amount of action doesn't jibe well with the result--very low scoring.

Basketball is lots of action and lots of scoring. Cool.
Baseball is far less action and low scoring. Cool. Much of it's the mental game between pitcher and batter anyway.
Football is game of strategy and power where the action comes in short bursts between game plans. The number of touchdowns seems just about right. Cool.

Soccer, on the other hand, is one of the most action-filled games yet there's almost NO scoring. That's what makes it so frstrating. Make the goal bigger and it'll be more popular. But, far fewer teams around the world will be competitive since difficulty of scoring is the great equalizer.

Anonymous said...

Or you can leave your home at the age of 12 and play for the club teams of the national powerhouse, like Christiano Ronaldo.

In other words, sacrifice a normal life.

Anonymous said...

Playing too many games has also become a problem in American basketball. It used to be said that teams were made during the season and players were made during the off-season. Now the off-season is less about development and more about "showcasing" players who travel across the country to play in AAU tournaments where the level of athlete is high and the level of play is laughably low.


College coaches have started to notice that European players have more highly develop skills...because they develop their skills 10 hours a day starting at age 12. Our system is definitely quaint and inefficient by comparison. College is essentially the minor leagues for football and basketball, but right now basketball coaches aren't allowed to have practices. When they are allowed to have practices, weekly hours are severely restricted. You know, because high school basketball stars need to be protected from bad influences like Coach K. And they need all that free time to work on linear algebra.

Anonymous said...

Ultimate Frisbee:


"Even whiter than lacrosse!"




And yes, kids do play this competitively.

Bill said...

I'll tell you what the real problem is:

American kids are over-refereed.

In the US, soccer is treated like a no-contact sport, i.e. a girls' sport. Merely touching another player results in a foul call.

If American kids weren't babied out on the field throughout grade school they'd be a lot more effective in international competition.

BamaGirl said...

"Can't somebody cook up a sport where whites are naturally better than blacks? Like a sport that involves the same set of skills as quarterbacking in football, but for all positions."

Whites are better at swimming for various reasons. And whites are better than American blacks (mostly descended from West Africans) at cross-country/distance running. However East African blacks still mostly beat the whites. Whites and Asians are also probably better at triathlons (I've never seen more than two or three blacks in a race), which require a great deal of patience and training.

Matra said...

It helps to grow up dribbling a soccer ball at all times -- in other words, it helps if you don't really go to school too much.

The majority of great players still come from places where they do attend school such as Argentina and Europe. But if you're playing during your morning break, lunch, after school on the street and mostly in confined spaces where you don't have much room to maneuver you will develop the necessary skills long before you become a teenager. Playing only organised matches with a full squad on a large pitch where you have lots of space when you're only 7 or 8 isn't going to do you much good.

With white Americans insisting on very structured and permanently supervised game playing for their kids (why is that?) maybe USA Soccer (or whatever it is called) should encourage American kids to take up Futsal like the Brazilians, Spaniards and Portuguese do (including the middle class).

I'll give you the benefit of the doubt on this Steve, but this smacks of the classic American refrain of 'the only reason we don't win at soccer is that we don't care about it'.

I'd like to know how such Americans explain why the US isn't very good even at baseball? Based on the Americans I've discussed sports with I suspect they'd say "because there aren't enough blacks playing baseball".

Paul Mendez said...

Can't somebody cook up a sport where whites are naturally better than blacks?

It's called auto racing.

Anonymous said...

That last comment appears to be off base. There is no evidence that blacks are better at a kicking game than whites, in fact, lots of evidence points the other direction.

Now, if you mean that white parents simply want to keep their children away from blacks, well, yes, that is obviously true.

DCThrowback said...

Bill Simmons recently discussed on his podcast what the US Soccer Team would look like with Dwight Howard playing forward, Kobe Bryant at Striker and other numerous NBAers scattered about the pitch. His favorite example to use with soccer was about Allen Iverson - who would've dominated whatever sport he would've played and whom I think would have been an excellent soccer player.

Hard not to agree with your assessment of white kids and soccer.

Stuff Black People Don't Like said...

Steve,

The USA Today ran an article about Black people being excited about the World Cup being in Africa.

Have you read it?

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/soccer/worldcup/2010-05-31-us-team-african-americans_N.htm

Also, you haven't written about the World Cup in South Africa yet. Really interested in what you expect to happen.

Anonymous said...

Americans say all the time "we would dominate soccer if we really cared about it" which is laughable. NBA players are tall, but they don't have the skills the it takes to play soccer, just like they wouldn't have the ability to play baseball. Being able to use your feet to put a ball where you want it is a unique skill, more so than practically anything in American sports (somewhat comparable to hitting in baseball) and if you don't have it you can't play. If you do have that ability even if your short and asthmatic like Paul Scholes you can be a great player.

Americans play a lot of soccer (there is a reason the term is soccer moms) but have never produced any players (outside of some decent goalkeepers). I would say American kids play soccer less than basketball or baseball but more than any other sport including football or hockey. And considering America's population of 300 million, you'd think they'd produce some good players. But America has never produced a player at the level of Hugo Almedia let alone Christiano Ronaldo. And Portugal has less than 10 million people. At any given point I guarantee you there are more boys playing soccer in America than Portugal.

Anonymous said...

Tom Regan--"Soccer is not about entertainemnt, its about group identity. ... Its a gritty, mostly working class sport in which the English get to hate the Germans, who hate the French, who hate the Italians, who hate the Brazilians, who hate the Argentinians etc."

Americans have war for that.

691 said...

Steve, I think a lot of your analysis about soccer player development in the US falls apart when you consider the sport of tennis.

Tennis players must train from a very young age at professional academies in order to have a chance at playing professionally. They can break into the pros at a similar age to soccer players (16) and their careers die around the same time (late 20s). There is in fact a greater risk to playing tennis, of completely failing despite spending your whole life on this, since in order to make money you need to be top 50-100 in the world. There aren't several leagues of several dozen teams in each country to find a job with.

Why will lots of parents pay through the nose to send their sons and daughters to tennis academies and not do something similar for soccer?

Anonymous said...

The top soccer players are white. Black players don't have the touch and subtlety to play soccer well.There are exceptions. Many of the top black players are Mulatto.

Messi,Ronaldo,Rooney,Kaka,Torres,Xavi,Gerrard,Del Piero,Ibrahimovich,Fabregas are all white. Ribery is of Alegerian descent. Also David Villa, Lampard.

In the past you had Maradona. Zidane was Algerian. Bergkamp,Platini, Keegan, Best,Cruyff are greats of the past.

Drogba is the best African now.Essien is also a top player.
But black African teams don't do well in the WC even though their players play in Europe.

Egypt has won the African Nations Cup the last 3 times, 4 of the last 7. Throw in Tunisia for another win in the last 7.

Black players do not dominate soccer.

Just because you are good at BB, doesn't mean you will be good a soccer.Soccer takes skill, not just speed.

Did the people talking about bb players playing soccer mention Nash?

Anonymous said...

"Can't somebody cook up a sport where whites are naturally better than blacks? "

Soccer. Read above. Also, most sports you can think of.Tennis, golf, middle distance running, swimming,baseball,volleyball to name a few.Oh weightlifting,wrestling,most winter sports. Hockey.Rugby.

Football and basketball are not the only sports.

Anonymous said...

Soccer is not boring,especially in cup competitions when each game is a knock out game. Baseball is a total bore.

Euros make fun of our football because they say there is no skill involved. Soccer takes a great deal more skill than football.

Anonymous said...

"Those poor kids in third world countries playing on the streets are now being scouted earlier and earlier by European clubs, who set up local academies and make sure the kids get proper food and training. MLB does something similar in the Dominican Republic. Very few of these kids learn exclusively on the street any more"

All of this nonsense should stop. MLB should be for Americans and European soccer should be for Europeans. What is happeing with all the foreign players is a disgrace.

Starker said...

"Can't somebody cook up a sport where whites are naturally better than blacks?"

I can't believe this conversation is happening at this site. You folks really need to get out more. Every year soccer's governing body, FIFA, votes (national team coaches and captains) for the player of the year (male and female). A little more authoritive than ESPN's white jocksniffers, no?

For 2009, the top five male players were Lionel Messi, Argentina: Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal; Xavi, Spain; Kaka, white Brazilian, and Andres Iniesta, Spain. Eight of the top 10 were white. Check out Wiki's entry "2009 FIFA World Player of the Year." You can click on the names and get pictures of them if you don't believe me.

Small point I know, but ladies and gents, it's the world's most popular sport. There are no size barriers to entry and the fastest, most agile and most coordinated guys in Germany, Brazil, Nigeria and the rest of the world give it a try. I bet you can laid, too, if you're real good at it. See, these countries are forced to live without baseball, basketball and football.

Kobe and LeBron would make short work of these white boys, according to ESPN. Messi is 5-7 and super quick; he is regularly compared to Maradona (ask somebody.) Kobe couldn't stay within 15 yards of him. Cristiano Ronaldo is blazing, despite low arm carry. At top speed he changes direction, steps over the ball (fake change of direction) and delivers the soccer equivalent of behind the back passes. I'd guess the 255-lb. LeBron would be faked off his feet the first time Ronaldo ran at him, and would watch the rest of the play flat on his back.

Anonymous said...

There aren't many blacks on this list. 7 out of 50 look 100% black with a couple more mulattos.

Messi is the best player in the world at about 5'6". Rooney can't be more than 5'8". Ronaldo is tall for a soccer player at about 6'2" I think.
Good luck on the NBA players.

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/world-cup/story/_/page/worldcup101-03012010/ce/us/best-players-2010-world-cup?cc=5901&ver=us

Anonymous said...

This is skill.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYd2ftQLaZI&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrOyedpeZnk&feature=fvw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8iQcbCvq_Q

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzFLYED55BM&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSwilt4kfFM

Anonymous said...

Subtlety,not power

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EE4C_7lHIw

Truth said...

"Messi is 5-7 and super quick; he is regularly compared to Maradona (ask somebody.) Kobe couldn't stay within 15 yards of him"

I've read that Kobe, who loves soccer, routinely scrimmages with pro teams in Italy (where he owns a basketball team) and doesn't embarrass himself. Here's the kicker; Kobe has never played ONE SINGLE ORGANIZED SOCCER GAME IN HIS LIFE.

Also I've read that Steve Nash does not play basketball in the offseason, he instead plays soccer in New York and he routinely destroys MISL soccer players.

Oh and Mesi, good luck with him stopping LeBron's header.

jody said...

it's simply a matter of participation rate. in the US, soccer is the number 5 sport for participation rate. it's behind american football, track & field, baseball, and basketball, while ahead of wrestling, tennis, swimming & diving, and golf. so right in the middle.

i do not think there is anything wrong with the way soccer is organized in the US. there is high school soccer and NCAA soccer, which is the same as every other sport and every other sport produces world class athletes and teams for the US. there is also club soccer, which is well run, and operates simultaneously alongside high school soccer and NCAA soccer. this system works well for all other sports.

there would be more good black american soccer players if they started leaving other sports for soccer. but it's not true that black americans don't play soccer and are not interested in soccer. they do play soccer and they are somewhat interested in soccer.

white americans are definitely not avoiding black americans by playing soccer. they participate at a high rate in every high school sport which black americans like. more white americans play football and basketball than soccer. white americans do not have to "avoid blacks" by playing soccer instead of football and basketball. they leave the city to avoid blacks in the first place. white americans prefer football and basketball and play more football and basketball than soccer on their suburban and rural high school teams. the description of american soccer as "suburban non-athletes" is just standard american bias against white athletes. if white athletes sucked so much, why don't all the other groups just easily blow them away? why don't mexicans and arabs and asians and indians just easily take over american soccer?

white americans play every sport. they aren't "avoiding blacks" by playing lots of different sports. they're just playing lots of different sports. they definitely are not "avoiding blacks" by inventing new sports. whites invent sports. it's something they do. blacks don't invent sports. how were whites "avoiding blacks" by inventing new sports 200 years ago? the english weren't "avoiding blacks" by developing boxing. they weren't "avoiding blacks" when they came up with tennis. scots weren't "avoiding blacks" by developing golf and australians weren't "avoiding blacks" by developing australian rules football. white americans were not "avoiding blacks" by developing baseball nor were they "avoiding blacks" by developing american football. canadians were not "avoiding blacks" when they developed ice hockey. the canadian inventor of basketball was not "avoiding blacks" when he came up with hoops. i'm not clear on how greeks were "avoiding blacks" by developing track & field.

whites develop new sports today for the same exact reasons they did 200 years ago. to continue to invent new and interesting stuff. rugby, wrestling, cricket, cycling, volleyball, weightlifting, skiing, i'm not clear on how these were all developed so whites could "avoid blacks". whites may as well be "avoiding blacks" by developing new fields of mathematics. if all the africans in the world disappeared tomorrow, europeans around the globe would still be developing new sports.

jody said...

"Bill Simmons recently discussed on his podcast what the US Soccer Team would look like with"

right on queue. white non-athlete "analysts" and their fantasy about black american basketball players. sometimes i wonder if these guys are literally homosexual for black hoopsters. i know for certain they are gay for black american football players. just listening to them describe NFL prospects is like reading one of those women's romance novels.

clearly, black american basketball players would dominate any sport they wanted. how can anybody not see this? after michael jordan led major league baseball in batting average and home runs, and won the national league MVP, was there any more doubt that black american basketball players would make a mockery of any sport they wanted?

send the US basketball team to the world cup instead of the US soccer team. every other team that wins the world cup also uses 11 africans who average 6-7 in height, so why shouldn't the americans?

not enough blacks!
not enough blacks!
not enough blacks!

the new american battle cry.

and i like the new one, about how all the great black boxers play basketball now instead. LOL.

reality is that 40 million black americans can't dominate every sport in the world all at the same time. there are 7 billion other people who are hungry to win at various sports and they'll overwhelm the black americans. black americans can't even dominate every sport played in the US at the same time. baseball pays MUCH more than american football and is MUCH less dangerous than american football, but black americans are leaving baseball. the tried and true "Blacks go where the money is" does not work here. why play a sport for MUCH less money and take on MUCH higher risk of injury if you want to go where the money is? they clearly are not going where the money is. indeed, in track & field, black americans can cover 100 meters in 9 seconds while being paid nothing, but in baseball, when offered 10 MILLION dollars PER YEAR, they still cannot throw ONE perfect game. and what is this, YET ANOTHER perfect game was thrown this week, and the player was not african.

sometimes it's simple. black americans are much better on average than any other group at some sports. at other sports, they might still be better on average but less better, and the difference in ability between them and the other groups is not as big, so group numbers make up the difference or even overwhelm the difference. if africans were THAT much better at soccer, and "africans play soccer not baseball" as i was told in a recent thread, then why does an african team not win the world cup every time? there are 1 BILLION africans in africa. that's a lot more than 40 million. maybe, just maybe, africans aren't SO much better at soccer than every other group. when the 2010 world cup ends, and an african team does not win, do we yet again trot out the old "They just aren't interested" despite being told 3 weeks earlier that "They are definitely interested in this."

in america today it seems to always be a case of "Blacks aren't interested in sport X." well, there's a finite supply of black americans. if they start "getting interested" in sport X, some will have to leave sport Y. because they picked sport X over sport Y, just like any athlete of any race. there is no bottomless well of untapped black american sports talent. they can't "get interested" in sport A, B, C, and D, and dominate all of those too while also dominating sport E, F, and G. black americans are totally maxed out. in fact, they're overdrawn. the NFL employs probably 250 scrub black american athletes every season, guys would would be outplayed by white americans if the NFL did not enjoy international isolation and was not allowed to fall into the "blacks only" rules which it operates under today. if the US soccer team went "blacks only" it would just get clobbered.

jody said...

"I can't believe this conversation is happening at this site."

why? this site is an american blog written by an american writer, and all day every day, americans are fed pure grade A bullshit by ESPN that black american basketball players would dominate any sport they wanted.

i predicted this not 10 threads ago, except i thought it would take until the elimination of the US soccer team and ESPN's now standard "black basketball players would have won!" reaction before people would start up with this bullshit again.

you seriously underestimate the relentless brainwashing americans receive on this subject. these fucking morons at ESPN will not let this stuff go no matter how much evidence there is to the contrary. they hammer away on this issue like the US news media hammers away on maintaining open borders.

they actually think all the black american boxers are playing basketball instead. basketball! of course, it has to be basketball, because in the US, all roads lead to hoops, and anybody only plays any other sport if they can't play basketball.

in reality there is not much overlap between basketball and boxing and there are definitely NOT many good boxers in the NBA. not in 2010, not in 1985, not ever. ESPN does not actually want to think this stuff through, and just goes with the standard, totally wrong "Blacks go where the money is."

in 1985, mike tyson was making 40 million dollars a year for 30 minutes of work, while michael jordan settled for 700 grand and a grueling 100 basketball game season. what a load of fucking bullshit that "Blacks go where the money is."

why didn't magic or kareem or jordan knock out tyson and get 15 million dollars instead of busting their asses for 7 months a year for a pathetic 700 grand? using the ESPN explanation, michael jordan and magic johnson and all the other "super" blacks from the 80s were actually the inferior athletes playing the VASTLY lower paying sport, and the 6-2 220 pound boxers making literally 20 times as much money for 20 times less work were the true superior athletes.

what actually happened was the 1987 NFL strike. in 1987, the highest paid football player was making less than 1 million dollars a year. after 1987, salaries started to rise. that's where some potential boxers went. to football. NOT to basketball. 6-2, 220 pound guys who can hit and can take a hit. lots of overlap with boxing in physiology and psychology. most basketball players can't throw a punch to save their lives. they show this every time they "fight". not natural fighters, at all.

ESPN would have us believe lebron james could easily, EASILY knockout vitali klitschko. can't you just see this by looking at him? who cares if he can throw a punch or take a punch, JUST LOOK AT HIM! magnificent specimen! CLEARLY would dominate boxing. the history of boxing is filled with 6 foot 8 africans, equally at home on the court or in the ring. LOL.

Silver said...

Blacks are over-represented in football but they do not dominate the game. When Cameroon made the World Cup quarter-final in 1990 many Lefties predicted that Africans would win the World Cup, soon.

They had England on the ropes in that game, too. (Up 2-0, only to lose 3-2.)

You get these freak runs every now and then. N. Korea in '66 was another example, up 3-0 in the quarters against Portugal, only to lose 5-3.

Cameroon in 90, Bulgaria in 94, Croatia in 98, S. Korea and Turkey in 02. It's highly unlikely you'll ever see repeat performances from any of them again. The World Cup is dominated by the Big Three, Brazil, Germany and Italy. If you're on a run you might get past one but good luck getting past two of them. And there's the ever-hopeful perennial also-rans you have to contend with (Spain, England, Argentina, France). For example, Bulgaria defeated Germany in the 94 quarters but went down to Italy (unlucky not to pull even when the ref missed a hand-ball in the penalty area); Croatia defeated Germany in the 98 quarters but were done by France in the semis. It's just extraordinarily hard for the small countries to get past the big teams.

Silver said...


To soccer's credit, I do notice that soccer players have the best physiques. No lard asses in soccer.


I think professional Australian Rules footballers have the best game-sport physiques. (100m sprinters have the best, but sprinting isn't a game.)

Aussie rules is pure exhilaration. Aussies consider it the best sport in the world and it's not hard to see why. Players run an average of 10km per game, and while a lot of it is simply light running towards where the ball is, a lot of the game consists of bursts of raw speed. The game is also very physical, thus requiring strength and muscle mass. Players do not wear protective gear yet tackle by 'hip and shouldering' the player with the ball (similar to an ice hockey "check") and also grabbing him and bringing him to the ground or even flinging him around their center of gravity. Players can catch the ball in mid-flight by leaping up and propping the knees on the shoulders of the player in front and hoisting themselves up (a spectacular feat called a "screamer" in local parlance). The ferocious, combative spirit of the game was captured a popular (and inspirational, worth listening to) 80s song dedicated to the sport called "Up There Cazaly" contained the lyrics, "Up there Cazaly, in there and fight, out there and at 'em, show 'em your might. Up there Cazaley, don't let 'em in, fight like the devil, you're out there to win." (Again, watch the clip.)

Anonymous said...

Has anyone looked at why African countries almost never put a decent team together? Or am I missing something? I can't think of any african country dominating european countries in any of the international competitions. I am refering to non-track team sporting events.

Anonymous said...

"Oh and Mesi, good luck with him stopping LeBron's header.


Messi is not a defender.

How many very tall players are there is soccer? Not many. It's a disadvantge to be tall in soccer.6"4 is very tall for a soccer player.I'll bet the average height of the top players in the last 20 years is about 5"10,especially if you disregard defenders who are a little taller.

Starker said...

Jody,
"I can't believe this conversation is happening at this site."

I'm well aware of ESPN's obsession with black athletes, which is probably more fruitfully discussed as a psychiatric phenomenon than as part of a sports discussion. I had the misfortune of receiving their egregious magazine briefly. I was perhaps, in my innocence, assuming that Steve's readers weren't mainlining the shit.

I think you overestimate their influence, but we can agree to disagree about that. I gotta run, the Diamond League rebroadcast is set for 11 p.m. EDT. Speaking of which, you implied in passing that there are black sprinters that make next to nothing. I know you're a track fan, and, whereas it ain't the NBA, the top dogs male and female do pretty well. According to Ato Bolden, Usain pulled $300k just for showing up as well as promoting the meet in Shanghai. The Russian pole vault diva makes $1 million/year from a Chinese clothing company. Not bad. Later, bro. Peace.

Anonymous said...

"How many very tall players are there is soccer? Not many. It's a disadvantge to be tall in soccer.6"4 is very tall for a soccer player."

It's also tall full stop. It's a decent height for a heavyweight boxer or rower. For the most part it's not a disadvantage to be tall, but it's not that much of an advantage unless your a goalie or you play with your head a lot.

The idea that Lebron James would just head the ball over everyone's head is ridiculous. If that were the case then all the rangy specimens who are second rows in the Guiness Premiership (rugby union) would be strikers in the Barclays Premiership (association football or soccer) for a lot more money.

FYI second rows or locks are the tallest players on a rugby team, at the top level they tend to range between 6'6'' and 7' and most of them probably couldn't play soccer to save their lives.

Truth said...

"FYI second rows or locks are the tallest players on a rugby team, at the top level they tend to range between 6'6'' and 7' and most of them probably couldn't play soccer to save their lives."

Yes, they're tall guys, so is Michael Crichton, but this belies a very simple point; they're not LeBron Effin' James!

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see the U.S. move toward licensing coaches the way the Dutch apparently do. There are far too many coaches out there -- in all American youth sports -- who have absolutely no idea what they're doing. Not only does their incompetence put their athletes at a disadvantage moving forward (because they're either learning nothing or, worse, learning incorrect things) it also puts kids at far greater risk of injury. The major sporting leagues need to make a push to systematically understand the skills their sports require and to create systems that teach coaches how to teach those skills. This would greatly improve the quality of our athletics. More importantly, it would also teach kids (and adults) an enormous amount about what it takes to get really good at anything (or at least get as good as you can get, if you don't have the natural talent to be really good. I could have spent my entire youth at that soccer school and I'd still be worse than that five year old at the end of the story.)