Advertisements
Home

The World Cup Failures of Turkey and the United States Reveal the Ills of Industrial Football

Leave a comment

I have often remarked about the similarities between the two countries I call home; even though they are miles apart geographically and culturally they have an odd way of showing similarities in certain aspects. I am not talking about the bizarre visa spat between the two nations which saw both countries make identical announcements—down to a typo. Instead, I am talking about football.

 

59da62032269a2306830b286.jpeg

59da8ee5d3806c3c689102f1.jpeg

The Absurdity of Turkey and the United States Literally Cutting and Pasting Diplomatic Announcements Should Not Be Lost On Anyone. Images Courtesy of: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/son-dakika-abd-vize-basvurusunu-askiya-aldi-40603924

 

After Turkey lost their chance at the World Cup following a 3-0  home loss to Iceland (who became the smallest nation to qualify for a World Cup), the Turkish press was incensed at an image of Barcelona star Arda Turan laughing as he left the field of play. Obviously we do not know what was going on in Mr. Turan’s mind, but one has to ask why he couldn’t have just walked off the field with his head bowed, at least feigning disappointment at losing out on the World Cup. His indifference prompted one Turkish columnist to write:

 

May God Grant Us Arda Turan’s Indifference

–As the Dollar rises…

–As the Euro breaks records…

–As our soldiers invade Idlib [a Syrian city]

–As taxes rise…

–As the tension with [Iraqi Kurdish President] Barzani continue…

–As inflation grows…

–As the weather gets colder…

May God grant our whole country…

Arda Turan’s indififference as his team loses 3-0…

Amen.

 

While it distressing to see a professional footballer take such little pride in his work, it is not altogether surprising. In the age of industrial football, players only care as long as money is flowing into their bank accounts. Where representing one’s country used to be a matter of pride for professional footballers, it is now merely an unwelcome distraction from the real money-making endeavor of playing for their club teams. It seems that the players have become as one-dimensional as their societies.

 

59d93f0f18c77316bcddc44e.jpeg

Perhaps He Didn’t Know Whether to Laugh or Cry. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/yazarlar/ahmet-hakan/allah-hepimize-arda-turan-lakaytligi-versin-40603374

 

Surprisingly, it was no different in the United States as the country of 327 million lost to the tiny Carribean nation of Trinidad and Tobago (population 1.2 million) and crashed out of the World Cup due to results elsewhere. Of course, had the United States at least tied their match, it would have avoided arguably the biggest disaster in American sports history. The result prompted (understandably) rage from U.S. Soccer commentators. Before the match, former U.S. soccer great Alexi Lalas was ridiculed for calling the U.S. team “underperforming, tattooed millionaires”. How right he was, since it seemed like the U.S. team figured they had it all wrapped up following a 4-0 victory over Panama. U.S. sports media didn’t even focus on the match as they were too busy poking fun at Trinidad and Tobago for the waterlogged pitch they practiced on; ESPN’s piece was a typically derogatory news story coming out of one of the world’s richest countries. Of course, Trinidad ended up having the last laugh. Yet instead of recognizing Trinidad’s victory for what it was—deserved—much of the news focused on political issues.

The Guardian claims that this failure was “years in the making”, pointing out that perhaps MLS, the domestic league in the United States, has been of more of a help to Caribbean nations than to the U.S. Of course race came into the equation as well (as it always does whenever anything goes wrong in the U.S.), as pundits claim that the “pay to play” culture of American sports favors white athletes over more talented Latino and African American athletes. For some reason, even U.S. coach Bruce Arena suggested that it was U.S. immigration policies that made qualifying more difficult because it gave the Latin American countries more of an incentive to defeat the United States. If responding to (perceived) unjust immigration policies made teams play better football, than I’m sure Turkey would never lose when playing a member of the European Union. The absurdity of making a sporting failure political should not be lost on anyone.

In fact, I believe there are two reasons for the failures of both Turkey and the United States to qualify for the World Cup: Player apathy and structural issues that go far beyond politics. The first is obvious, and stems from Alexi Lalas’ criticism. Players in both Turkey and the United States are making so much money that they view international duty as an unwelcome distraction. In the American case, they were so strongly favored that they (wrongly) believed that the shear weight of their country’s name would carry them through. It was not to be. The second cause of this debacle is, as I said, structural. I have already written about why the United States will have difficulty in becoming a footballing power; it is because the best athletes are directed towards other sports which make much more money. This is part of the structural problem. In the Turkish context, it is the fact that sporting infrastructure is not well-developed enough to nurture young talent. For many clubs, the goal is profit in the short term. This means that clubs prefer to import foreign talent rather than nurture home grown talent. This means that there are less young players coming through the system with the aim of showing themselves on the international stage. By contrast, in smaller countries like Trinidad, Honduras, Panama, and Iceland, players are focused on getting discovered and play with more desire, as results show.

 

i.jpeg

The U.S. Crash Out Of The World Cup. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.espnfc.com/united-states/story/3226915/sunil-gulati-united-states-failure-to-qualify-for-2018-world-cup-a-huge-disappointment

 

Unfortunately, in the age of industrial football, many players from the larger countries have lost the amateur spirit that makes sports such a fun spectacle to watch. Hopefully, the qualification failures in both Turkey and the United States serve as a catalyst for change. Make no mistake, to chalk these failures up to “racism” or “immigration policies” is the easy way out; it is always easier to look for blame elsewhere.

Advertisements

Germany 1994 World Cup Home Shirt

1 Comment

Since Germany won the World Cup I thought I’d post a picture of my own Germany shirt in celebration. I got this shirt many years ago (back in the 1990s) in Turkey and it is still as striking to me as the day I bought it. In the run up to the tournament I named this shirt the best design from World Cups past and I proudly sported it throughout the competition (when Germany was playing, of course). The classic Adidas “basket-weave” pattern was a beloved template in the mid 1990s and I personally don’t think it has lost any of its luster. Heres to Germany, 2014 World Cup Champions!

 

2014-03-17 18.51.35 20140317_184352