New England Soccer Today

A View from the Fort

Jim Dow decorated his house for the World Cup.

Jim Dow decorated his house for the World Cup.

For Lack of a Shirt (the number 9) A Season Might Be Lost As Well As Some Football Wisdom From Fans, Players & Philosophers.


There have been a great many great moments and important lessons to be learned from this current World Cup, now beginning the elite stages where hearts are no longer broken but crushed, often with Teutonic efficiency. From where I sit, transfixed in front of the TV, a transcendent instant and lesson of great consequence for the Revolution was Australia’s Tim Cahill, a man known more for his head than his left, off foot, striking as lovely a volley as this tournament has seen (with full respect to Messrs. Jones, Messi and now, Rodriguez).

Here is one aging player who, along with the Galaxy’s Robbie Keane, has absolutely and fully justified the large transfer fee ($1.7 million in Cahill’s case) and salary ($3.5 million for the Australian) paid annually by his MLS club, the hated New York Red Bulls. In 47 appearances he has 13 goals, but most importantly, his team consistently gets a result when he plays, partially because he is still, at 34 years of age, capable of commitment and quality but also because he brings other players into the game without the insufferable demonstrations of the likes of Thierry Henry (and other overblown DP’s of the past). He may be better than his peers but he doesn’t make an issue of it, preferring to get the job done, even to the point of setting up a tying goal for his MLS team only two days after returning from Brazil.

Imagine a player of his poise and quality interacting with the likes of Diago, Diego, Teal Bunbury, Patrick Mullins, Lee Ngyuen, Kelyn Rowe & Co. A Cahill-level converter could provide a rising tide of offense that could raise all boats as well as the team’s standing in the league. True, he is a midfielder, not a number 9 but, like many contemporary players, he has the skills of a forward while ostensibly plying his trade in a different part of the park.

Of course the Revolution had just such an individual who was and is a number 9, in the person of Juan Agudelo whose futbol nous and physical abilities allowed the nascent offense to flower after he joined the team in May 2013. His departure, while anticipated, has never been made up for and now, as the team begins the MLS ersatz clausura with the transfer window open, it is time for ownership to act with regard their clearly talented but not yet fully supported soccer team.

Given the way in which the Revs approach player acquisition and development, it is unlikely that KSG would spring for a multi-million dollar, high profile international of any age. Jonathan Kraft displayed his lack of understanding of what such an individual might bring on the playing side when he recently told Felger & Mazz that a big signing had to “move the needle” without stressing the actual football side of the equation. I have yet to observe Red Bull Arena packed with Kiwis or the Stub Hub Center stuffed with Irish fans but boy, do players of the quality of Cahill and Keane improve and support the play and playoff prospects of their mates.

And the Revolution would give that player some talented mates to play with.

While the college draft, trades, lotteries and some budget international acquisitions have been the primary methods of building the team it is interesting to think of the actual cost of the academy players (Caldwell, Fagundez and, in future, likely Cole DeNormandie) who are or likely will be on the senior team. If the million bucks of Dempsey money jump-started the endeavor and it costs perhaps $250,000 a year to keep it going then the Revs have gotten perhaps three MLS-level players for maybe as much as $2.5 million in expenditures or about $830,000 per player for a rising star, a sometime starter and a potential prospect.

Not to say this isn’t a bad return on youth development but if ownership is willing to take those kind of fliers on staffing the squad they should certainly try ponying up for talent in the same way everyone in the world does, through scouting, pursuing and signing proven players, in this case a number 9 to convert some of those wonderful setups provided by the terrific players who are already here. At this point in the season, with soccer enthusiasm at an all time high, with this group with all the potential it possesses, reasonable profitability ($2.6 million according to Forbes Magazine at the end of the 2013 season) and with everything to play for it is clearly the perfect time to try.

To celebrate the World Cup I recently mounted an exhibition of soccer shirts, photographs of stadiums and a collection of quotations about the game from players, managers, fans and various public figures. Many of the quotes are well known, like Bill Shankly, the famous Liverpool manager…

“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death; I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

Others are less so, such as the following by John Paul, the Polish pope…

“Amongst all unimportant subjects, football is by far the most important.”
Karol Jozef Wojtyla: Skawa Wadowice, Vatican City & Poland – cleric & pope

An installation shot of a current exhibition at the Riverside, CA Art Museum of my collection of vintage shirts of the 32 teams in the World Cup along with photographs of stadiums and club shirts from Argentina, England, Portugal, Scotland, the United States and Uruguay.

An installation shot of a current exhibition at the Riverside, CA Art Museum of my collection of vintage shirts of the 32 teams in the World Cup along with photographs of stadiums and club shirts from Argentina, England, Portugal, Scotland, the United States and Uruguay.

The quotations, many gathered from wonderful sites like Philosophy Football pair people who have actually been in the professional game with those who have observed it, or in some cases would appear to have done so. The resulting collection offers some insight into why the game is so marvelously popular with so many people in so many places and how there seem to be any number of commonly shared thoughts.

I’ve taken the liberty of associating the non-players with clubs they were known to support or are located in the towns and cities of their birth.

“Football without fans is nothing.”
Jock Stein: manager of Dunfermline, Hibernian, Leeds United, Celtic and Scotland

“Football implies the desire to suffer.”
Theodor Adorno: Germany, Eintracht Frankfurt – sociologist, philosopher and musicologist

“Thank you to the mothers who gave birth to these Atléti players… their sons have massive balls.”
Diego Simeone: Manager, Atletico Madrid, played Velez Sarsfield, pisa, Sevilla, Atleticao Madrid, Inter Milan, Racing & Argentina

“Whereas fanatic is usually a pejorative word, a Fan is someone who has roots somewhere.”
Simon Kuper: Netherlands, Leiden Football Club – journalist, author

“Whoever invented soccer should be worshipped as god.”
Hugo Sánchez: UNAM, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, America, Rayo Vallecano, Atlante, Linz, Dallas Burn, Celaya & Mexico, also manager of UNAM, Necaxa, Almeria, Pachuca & Mexico

“Dear players, you are very popular. People follow you, and not just on the field but also off it. That’s a social responsibility.”
Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Francis): San Lorenzo, Vatican City & Argentina – cleric & pope

“22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and, at the end, the Germans win.”
Gary Lineker: Leicester City, Everton, Barcelona, Tottenham, Nagoya & England

“In football everything is complicated by the presence of the opposite team.”
Jean-Paul Sartre: PSG & France – philosopher, novelist, and literary critic

“The only thing that has never changed in the history of the game is the shape of the ball.”
Denis Law: Huddersfield Town, Manchester City, Torino, Manchester United & Scotland

‘In football there enters an intermediary, a ball. It is in order to possess it that one is strong.”
Roland Barthes: Paris, St. Etienne & France – philosopher & cultural critic

“To see the ball, to run after it, makes me the happiest man in the world.”
Diego Maradona: Argentinos & Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli & Argentina

“Football is a part of I. When I play the world wakes up around me.”
Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley: Tottenham Hotspur & Jamaica

“I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it. Football. Bloody hell!”
Sir Alex Ferguson: manager of East Stirligshire, St. Mirren, Aberdeen, Scotland & Manchester United

“Difficulties increase the nearer we approach the goal.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Eintracht Frankfurt & Germany – writer & statesman

“In my time as an international I have been called a sausage, a dwarf and a sheep. No, not a sheep because we managed to beat the Faroe Islands.”
Jens Jeremies: Dynamo Dresden, 1860 Munich, Bayern Munich & Germany

“International football is the continuation of war by other means.”
George Orwell; Wigan & England – novelist, essayist, journalist, and critic

“Look! We have two eyes, two legs, we are the same as them; the only difference is that they play in Europe. ”
Cuauhtémoc Blanco: America, Necaxa, Real Vallaloid, Veracruz, Chicago Fire, Santos Laguna, Irapuato, Dorados de Sinaloa, BUAP, Puebla & Mexico.

“The imagined community of millions seems more real as a team of eleven named people.”
Eric Hobsbawm: any team playing against any other team with a fascist history – historian

“I preferred my first Serie A goal to my first kiss because (at the age of 10) you do not understand anything.”
Francesco Totti: Roma & Italy

“Dopo la letteratura e lleros, il calcio e uno dei grandi piaceri.” (After literature and sex, football is one of the great pleasures.)
Pier Paolo Pasolini: Roma & Italy – film director, poet & writer

“Tomboy. Alright, call me a tomboy. Tomboys get medals. Tomboys win championships. Tomboys can fly. Oh, and tomboys aren’t boys.”
Julie Foudy: Sacramento Storm, Tyreso FF, San Diego Spirit & USA

“Football is a game for rough girls, not suitable for delicate boys.”
Oscar Wilde: Bohemians & Ireland

“If what is most important about your project is to make a circus, you have much less chance of sporting success.”
Luis Figo: Sporting, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan & Portugal

“For those who desire not simply an aimless skipping from instance to instance, an integral central movement will take us forward towards a great goal.”
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin: Zenit St. Peterburg & CCCP – revolutionary, politician

“Female athletes are supposed to be toned down. You’re always supposed to talk about the team and never stand out.”
Hope Solo: Seattle Reign, Olympic Lyonnais & USA

“Football is an art.”
Germaine Greer: Melbourne Victory & Australia – academic and journalist

“When I was playing, they said soccer was a man’s world and women should remain on the sidelines, all I can say is I’m glad I never had to go up against Mia Hamm.”
Pele: Santos, NY Cosmos & Brazil

“Without some goal and some effort to reach it. No man can live.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky: Dynamo Moscow & Russia – novelist, short story writer, essayist and philosopher

“There are scientists who will tell you that spirit, because it can’t be measured, doesn’t exist. Bollocks. It does exist”
Sam Allardyce: Bolton Wanderers, Sunderland, Millwall, Tampa Bay Rowdies, Coventry City, Huddersfield Town, Preston North End, West Bromwich Albion & Limerick: Manager at Limerick, Blackpool, Notts County, Bolton Wanderers, Newcastle United, Blackburn Rovers & West Ham United

“Five days shalt thou labour, as the Bible says. The seventh day is the Lord thy God’s. The sixth day is for football.”
John Anthony Burgess Wilson: Manchester City & England – composer & writer

“I get goose-bumps only thinking about it (playing for Liverpool). Only 4 years ago I used to pretend that I was a Liverpool player, on Playstation.”
Luis Suarez: Nacional, Groningen, Ajax, Liverpool & Uruguay

“Football causeth fighting, brawling, quarrel picking, murder and great effusion of blood, as daily experience teacheth.”
Philip Stubbes: Macclesfield & England – pamphleteer

“The rules of soccer are very simple… If it moves, kick it. If it doesn’t move, kick it until it does.”
Phillip Abraham “Phil” Woosnam: Manchester City, Sutton United, Leyton Orient, West Ham United, Aston Villa, Atlanta Chiefs & Wales

“All that I know most surely about morality and obligations, I owe to football”
Albert Camus: Hamra Annaba & Algeria – philosopher

One Comment

  1. Jim Powers (@jimmystagger)

    June 30, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    As usual, another dead-on-target assessment sir. I always enjoy reading your work, in a just world you’d be the soccer beat writer for the Revs. Of course, in such a world we wouldn’t be saddled with soccer-clueless tightwads like the Krafts owning this team.

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