On Tuesday morning, The New York Times took over as the PR firm of New York City FC and wrote a puff piece on their most recognizable names, Frank Lampard and David Villa. The piece was primarily about the system of franchises Manchester City is establishing across the globe, but it also included a line about how these two stars are bringing an “authenticity” to American soccer. Unlike David Beckham, the article notes, these two stars are still playing at the top of their game and will raise the level of play in MLS.
The absurdity of these claims run deep, but I wanted to focus on that idea that Lampard and Villa are “authentic”. To the Gray Lady, this word means they are self-made players who are still good. That of course is absurd. While I suspect both players are fun to meet – having never done so I can’t verify that claim – I never associate them with a real definition of authentic: “of a person or agent: that is a source of reliable information; credible, trustworthy” (Oxford English Dictionary).
Stepping away from this article, who actually are the most authentic people in soccer, those people who are recognized for their truthfulness and straight-shooting? In short, who ain’t gonna BS you when talking about the beautiful game? Here is my list of those people in the sport that are actually authentic:
Despite working for a media company that has been accused of bias numerous times, Twellman is a refreshing breath of clean air when he discusses the soccer controversies of the day. He often brings a straightforward perspective to the games he does and unlike his media partner Alexi Lalas, you never feel like he will say something just to troll one side of a debate or another. This is particularly true of his pet issue – concussions. It doesn’t matter who is at fault for a player’s lack of treatment, Twellman will jump all over them.
He has earned his authenticity the easy way – writing two autobiographies. Keane had a reputation as a player and over two books he confirms that what he said and did on the field was actually in many cases what it seemed. Take for example his tackle on City’s Alf-Inge Haaland in 2001. In the first autobiography, Keane suggested it was revenge for another incident. In the new autobiography, he basically confirms it with this quote: “There are things I regret in my life and he is not one of them.” Remember, authentic does not necessarily equate to likeable.
The man who has been one of the biggest reasons for MLS’s success has earned his right to be outspoken and honest. And no matter who it is who makes him mad – league officials, teams, other managers, players – they will get his ire if they deserve it. Few people inside the league poke at the management but Arena has done so on multiple occasions when he feels his LA Galaxy get screwed out of the benefits he feels they’ve earned.
Men in Blazers
Building on a tradition in some British comedy to be truthfully self-deprecating, Roger Bennett and Michael Davies do not hold any punches on some of the things they hold most sacred – their religion, their clubs, and their nationalities. Because they use humor to entertain and because they are constantly attracted to the famous, it can be easy to miss that they can accurately describe the world’s most popular soccer league and its teams.
Who do you find to be the most authentic people in soccer?
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