The Beckham Saga: Eurosnobbery 101
Eurosnobs have taken control of English language world football. Between the media whose primary focus is European leagues and European World Cup qualifying ( Tim Vickery of the BBC, and Martin Rogers of Yahoo! are very notable exceptions to this unfortunate trend.) and newly minted football fans in English speaking countries whose sole focus and understanding is recent European football, balanced perspectives do not stand a chance.
Nowhere has the eurosnoberry had a more disturbing affect than in the United States home to an indigenous brand of football which should be thriving and a nation that has hosted the World Cup and reached the finals of a major international event more recently than England. The United States National Team has been more successful in recent years than their English counterparts, winning two consecutive continental championships. No question exists that England has far superior talent to the United States, but English football now represents more of a mish mash of continental and distinctly British styles while the US has developed its own flavor. But this flavor is not comprehensible to the American based fan whose sole perspective is in the European game and the British press.
During the ongoing soap opera created by David Beckham and his handlers, Major League Soccer and the Los Angeles Galaxy have been ridiculed in the European press and most unsettling is the attitude of many a football fan stateside who seem to take their cue from the European press be it Italian, Spanish or English with regards to this matter.
Instead of supporting their domestic league and one its most prominent club sides, these American football fans have engaged in hyperbole about Beckham and AC Milan while simply parroting the unreasonable and often times hypocritical arguments that have found their way into the European press. The press, for the most part throughout Europe has made no attempt to understand football in the United States. Perhaps this is borne from a superiority complex or simply poor standards of journalism.
While Manchester United, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Barcelona are not obligated to sell their best players even when they are discontented or even culturally not settled in a new country, the LA Galaxy are being told that they are being unreasonable and must allow David Beckham passage to his latest desired adventure. The aforementioned European sides we are told understand the business of football while the Galaxy and MLS do not.
All of these arguments are complete nonsense. AC Milan believed the press and forwarded an insulting offer to the Galaxy and then protested when it was rejected. The European press was then littered with commentaries about Americans not understanding the business of football.
One columnist in an English daily stated that LA Galaxy fans do not know football the way Manchester United fans do. This claim is absolutely laughable. United boasts a fan base largely made up of followers and front runners throughout the globe. While it is certainly true that a minority of football fans in Greater Manchester support the club, most of its worldwide marketing appeal lies with fans who may not even be able to locate Manchester on a map or worse yet may believe the club actually hails from London. Many United “fans” have just discovered the game of football in the past few years.
Contrast that with the fan base of the LA Galaxy only moderately enhanced by the Beckham signing. The Galaxy have been the most popular football club based in the United States over the past twelve years and a majority of the Galaxy’s fans were born in the football rich cultures of Latin America or are first generation Americans whose parents grew up in football oriented cultures.
Yet given this divergence in fan bases and club support, Manchester United was lauded as a club that understood football, loyalty and the meaning of a contract when Christiano Ronaldo’s wishes were ignored and he was not sold to Real Madrid. Yet the same press writes that the Galaxy are disrespecting Beckham and do not understand the world game by their similar stand.
The real crime isn’t that British or Italian journalists practice some form of jingoism or hypocrisy. It is that a large percentage of American based fans of the game by into these illogical arguments and undermine the strong stand of the Galaxy and the credibility of MLS with their words.
True fans of football in the United States need to understand the seriousness of this issue. In order to play with the big boys of world football you must hold your ground and force them to respect you. It is imperative that MLS establishes ground rules which force the European clubs to treat the league and MLS teams as equals in the player transfer market and in marketing efforts.
Don Garber’s deadline which passed without a new Milan offer may have been called a “cheap bluff” in the British and Italian press, but in fact it was a gauntlet thrown down that had to be marked. Job well done to MLS and the Galaxy, though it’s a pity so many at home don’t understand that.