Surviving Democracy in Barcelona

They’ve been busy casting ballots in Barcelona. You know Barca, the Catalan capital where Ronaldinho and Messi play ball.

They’ve been busy casting ballots in Barcelona.

You know Barca, the Catalan capital where Ronaldinho and Messi play ball. It’s also the club which inspired Drew Carey to give fans a voice at Sounders FC like none other in American sports.

Well, as we all know, democracy is not always nice and tidy, and such is the case in Barcelona these days.

The recent revelry over Spain’s success in the Euro did not deter 40,000 Barcelona club members from calling for a vote of confidence in the club leadership last Sunday.

Sixty percent voted for the club president, Joan Laporta, to resign immediately, two years before his term ends.

Laporta survived the call for a new election; a two-thirds majority was required for his recall. But it serves as a reminder of the people’s power.

Their primary complaints are Laporta’s leadership style and the recent lack of trophies. Since winning the Champions League in 2006, Barca was overtaken by Real Madrid for the Spanish crown in 2007 and finished a distant third this past La Liga season.

This isn’t Laporta’s first brush with possible ouster. Back in 2005, five board members resigned in protest over the basketball team’s sagging fortunes. This time around, seven board members walked. That prompted Laporta to schedule a September meeting of the club delegates to decide if he stays on.

If Laporta manages to survive the summer, ultimately his fate will be determined by what Barcelona’s overhauled team can achieve this season. They must win, and win with style.

If Ronaldinho returns, it must be without the roll around the middle. Thierry Henry must approach his Arsenal numbers. And if Ronny goes and Andrei Arshavin arrives, the Russian must prove to be worth every euro.

No pressure, mind you. Such is life around Democracy in Sports.

Loose Lips

Clearly, no one is demanding changes elsewhere in the Spanish capital.

Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon is a veritable one-man juggernaut. Since winning the club presidency by less than 300 votes two years ago, Calderon has risen with the tide. Los Blancos have won back-to-back domestic titles for the first time in 18 years and Calderon’s quest for more Galacticos seems insatiable.

When running for office, Calderon promised to bring in such stars as Kaka and Cesc Fabregas. He had to settle for Ruud van Nistelrooy and Fabio Cannavaro. Still, what rankles most folks outside of Madrid are Calderon’s methods.

It makes no difference if a player is under contract with another club, Calderon simply, and quite vocally, begins bidding. Currently, he’s playing hardball with Manchester United over Cristiano Ronaldo. Madrid is offering a world-record transfer fee. Apparently the fact that Ronaldo is under contract to United until 2012 is beside the point.

For Adrian Hanauer, the Sounders FC general manager now wading into international transfer waters for the first time, the Calderon-style approach makes him cringe.

"I suppose it’s a style thing, but I believe the best business gets done through building good relationships," says Hanauer. "I may find in my soccer career that’s naïve. But I believe that style has led to a lot of success with the current Sounders team. Being honest, straightforward, understating and over delivering has led to success."

When rumors circulated earlier this spring connecting Thierry Henry to Seattle’s new MLS club, Hanauer was practically a mute in comparison to Calderon. Great player, but he belongs to Barcelona.

"I’m not claiming to be the world’s best expert on how to put together a soccer club," he adds. "I don’t want to be the guy causing problems. There’s already so much noise out there."

Vote and Vote Again

Throughout the month of July, voting is being conducted for Sounders FC Members Association Council. And just completed was worldwide balloting for the MLS All-Stars.

There’s strength in numbers, and judging by the healthy totals of Seattle season ticket sales, Sounders FC players should rise toward the top, come 2009. Here’s evidence.

Ever heard of Danny Dichio? How about Marvell Wynne? Amado Guevera? Greg Sutton? Didn’t think so. But in Ontario those guys are huge.

Each is a member of Toronto FC and all ranked among the top three at their respective position in fan balloting during the recently-completed online vote. Fans were able to vote multiple times. Clearly, Toronto supporters did so.

None of the aforementioned made the starting XI since the public’s preferences are weighted no more than that of the coaches, players and media.

Whether they get added to the MLS All-Star side facing West Ham on July 24 remains to be seen. But since the game takes place in Toronto, home of the league’s most rabid and vocal fans to date, it would be wise to play to the crowd.

Turn On, Tune In

They may be gone, but those gallant Sounders can still be followed by fans via the telly this weekend.

Both Seattle road matches will be televised. Friday’s visit to Rochester is on Fox Soccer Channel at 5 o’clock, and Sunday’s match in Montreal is on CBC at 12:30. Although the Sounders have advanced to the semifinal stage of the U.S. Open Cup, they need points to keep pace with the leaders in USL Division 1.

Undefeated (19-0-1) under new coach Pia Sundhage, the U.S. women’s national team now plays its final fixtures prior to next month’s Olympic Games. The opposition is fellow medal contender Brazil and the flashy Marta. Sunday’s game near Denver is on ESPN (1 p.m.) and next Wednesday (July 16) the second friendly in San Diego airs on FSC (7 p.m.).

On the MLS docket is a pair of Saturday evening matches. Real Salt Lake is unbeaten (4-0-5) at home but will be without their suspended coach against Columbus (6 p.m., HDNet). Toronto travels to Chicago as both teams reach the halfway point in league play (5:30 p.m., FSC).

Throw-Ins

Is Qwest Field part of Plan B? With ongoing stadium construction delays in South Africa, FIFA president Sepp Blatter acknowledged he has approached three countries about being ready in the wings for hosting the 2010 World Cup. The U.S. and England figure to be among the few capable of pulling it off if asked…Katherine Reynolds of Medina and the Sounders women’s team will be in Sweden next week along with the rest of the USA U23s for the Nordic Cup. Reynolds is entering her junior year at Santa Clara this fall…The Sounders women make their final push for the postseason next Tuesday and Friday nights at Starfire, against Fort Collins and Real Colorado, respectively. Seattle (3-3-4) enters the weekend third in the Western Conference of the USL W-League…Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) has scheduled its player allocation draft for Sept. 15. Play begins next spring…Vancouver fared well in its cup ties with Toronto FC, drawing at home after winning on the road in their Canadian Championship series. However, the Whitecaps were winless against Montreal. Toronto needs a win over the Impact July 22 to earn the country’s entry in the CONCACAF Champions League…The Beach Soccer World Cup commences July 17 in Marseilles, France. No word on whether David Hasselhoff will make the first save.

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