Olympics Not for Everyone

It seems the only thing standing between a gifted, motivated athlete and the Olympic dream is a note from his boss.

It seems the only thing standing between a gifted, motivated athlete and the Olympic dream is a note from his boss.

Once again, some high-powered clubs are playing hardball about releasing players for international duty.

Teams pay the player salaries and not only will these stars miss matches, they might also return more worse for the wear; tired, certainly, and occasionally injured.

FIFA demands that players be released for national team duty on pre-determined international dates. That covers things like World Cups, confederation championships such as Euro and qualifiers. Apparently a little quadrennial get-together known as the Olympic Games was omitted from the calendar. Oops.

FIFA maintains it was an oversight, and that all players ages 23 and under must be released. The three permitted overage players, like Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto’o and Juan Roman Riquelme, are by club’s permission only.

At the moment, players are calling their own shots. Some, such as Shalke/Brazil defender Rafinha and Bremen/Brazil talisman Diego, have simply gone AWOL. Effectively, they’ve said, “See you in Beijing!”

See you in court, say Bundesliga club representatives. The Court of Arbitration for Sport, that is. That’s where their cases will soon be heard.

And the names could get bigger. Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, 21, is being told to stay home, against his wishes to join the Argentine selection.

Others with Olympic goal aspirations, such as Kaka, have been blocked by their employer. AC Milan denied Kaka but have permitted Ronaldinho to play in China. Their only recourse is to beg for mercy in the court of public opinion.

As for the USA team of Jozy Alitdore, Freddy Adu and the tournament’s old man, 36-year-old Brian McBride, there’s no resistance on the part of their respective clubs.

Way to go, America. Got that Olympic spirit, yes we do!

They Could Be Hooligans

Beware of swearing men wearing claret and blue. They could be dangerous.

Back in 1985, there was a worldwide ban on the travel of English clubs in response to the deadly rampage of Liverpool hooligans at the European Cup final with Juventus.

So sudden and far-reaching was that ban, its ripple effect was felt in Seattle. Scrubbed were visits by Aston Villa and Manchester City to face FC Seattle. At the time, it seemed a bit much. But given the vents of last Sunday in Columbus, maybe it was best.

Two dozen or so West Ham followers watching the club’s ‘friendly’ with the Crew got entangled with a hundred Columbus supporters. Punches were thrown and the police called in with pepper spray before order was restored. Fortunately, trouble did not follow the Hammers to Toronto.

These days, West Ham is known as much for its tough-guy, East London supporters as for football (see the ‘05 flick Green Street Hooligans, featuring that Frodo guy). The club doesn’t tour often and now, following this Columbus incident, it’s certain that their travel agent might as well disconnect the phone.

Battery Test at Starfire

It’s about time the Sounders started stringing together some wins in USL Division 1, if they are to mount a serious defense of their championship.

Saturday night’s match at Starfire is compelling in that it brings to Tukwila the club which stands in the way of Seattle fans’ dream of ending this chapter with a double.

The Charleston Battery, with former Sounder Dusty Hudock in goal, sits atop the league standings and directly in the path of the Sounders’ pursuit of the U.S. Open Cup. The two sides meet Aug. 12 in a semifinal in South Carolina.

Charleston, which dispatched FC Dallas 3-1 in the cup quarterfinals, will actually be awaiting the Sounders’ arrival. The Battery drew 1-1 in Vancouver on Wednesday while Seattle went back-and-forth to Minnesota, falling 2-1 on Thursday.

Seattle, with only one win in its last eight league starts, sits fifth in the standings.

Turn On, Tune In

Unless I’m missing something, there’s a virtual blackout of meaningful matches on the telly for the next week or so. Unless, of course, you’re a fan of Montreal or Rochester (Friday, 5 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel). Apparently that’s our penance for the gluttony of Euro.

A veritable feast awaits in August. Besides the return of MLS matches Aug. 2 and the new EPL season beginning Aug. 16, there will be a total of 58 men’s and women’s Olympic fixtures beamed back from Beijing and thereabouts.

NBC has dedicated an entire soccer channel, which will be 660, Universal HD, on the Seattle area Comcast lineup.


Were those not-so-subtle expansion hints being spoken by Don Garber in Toronto? “We think soccer can ultimately assume a place beside hockey as Canada’s national sport,” said the MLS commissioner. Garber also spoke highly of not only the Toronto FC success, but the promise of more Canadian clubs in the near future. At the top of that list are both Montreal and Vancouver, the latter to be infused with capital and high visibility from Victoria native and NBA star Steve Nash (clad in Whitecaps gear in Toronto). Other teams under consideration for expansion by 2011 are Atlanta, Las Vegas, a second team in the New York area, Ottawa, Portland and St. Louis…Less subtle was Garber’s reaction to being pelted by streamers during his ESPN halftime interview. “That guy’s going to get kicked out of the stadium,” he said. One wonders whether streamers will survive until 2009 in MLS…It’s already playoff time for some of our local clubs. The Sounders women, winners in four of their final five matches, visit Vancouver on Saturday afternoon for a berth in the W-League semifinals…In the PDL, Fran O’Brien’s Tacoma Tide plays at Fresno on Saturday night…In a Pacific Coast League semifinal on Saturday, the Seattle Wolves are across the border at Surrey United… The world beach soccer championships are at the semifinal stage with Brazil, Portugal, Italy and Spain still in the hunt. Who knows, maybe some day they’ll come to Alki.