I felt my protective side getting all stirred up, my sense of indignity rising.
I saw something about how Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas, a World Cup winner with Spain and generally considered among the top globally at his position, was the latest to “diss” MLS.
He did so, it seemed, by painting a picture of a country club culture here, where he could be a part-time player, training almost leisurely and competing at a level more akin to Harlem Globetrotter games. As in, “Hmmm. Let’s see. Go to practice today … or maybe play some golf? … I’ll sleep in a little while longer and then decide after I watch the 11 a.m. SportsCenter.”
He would hardly be the first to portray Major League Soccer in such unflatteringly low light.
Only, that’s not exactly what he said, not apparently anyway. Never mind what the reports in major outlets say or imply. (Seriously, guys … let’s be better than this.)
What Casillas told Spanish television’s La Sexta:
I would like to play out my soccer in the future in a more relaxed environment, and if I have to play somewhere else then it would be for a team that would not come into direct competition with Real Madrid. For example, in the USA, which I love.”
“I would like to retire with Madrid, but if the critics are fierce when I am 31, imagine what they will be like when I’m 37.”
Not that Casillas needs me to defend him … but let’s be fair here. There’s a subtle distinction in his words.
No, he didn’t really impugn the league’s competitiveness. He said something about the league’s less taxing environment relating to its far-less-frenzied fan culture. And he’s absolutely correct. If anyone thinks the weight of playing in MLS is in the same weight class stratosphere with competing in Spain’s La Liga … then I suggest they may not be smart enough to peel a banana.
Of course this is a more relaxed environment for soccer players – which is a ginormous selling point as MLS sides lure these global heavies. They can train and play hard … but then go to the mall without being spit at / slobbered over, depending on which way the supporter winds are blowing.
About the Los Angeles and New York thing. Yes, I’ve said that plenty of times before, that too many players say they want to play in MLS, but really mean they want to play in New York or L.A. And I’ve explained time and again that the match simply doesn’t work.
I believe that, too. But content producers need to couch that sentiment as a generality. It’s unfair to pin that on one certain individual minus evidence that he truly feels that way.
Casillas may or may not feel that way. I don’t know. But let’s not pretend to know when we, you know, don’t know.