Sports Illustrated names their top 10 most powerful people in soccer (and one’s not even real)

8 Comments

Roger Goodell is the most powerful man in sports, according to Sports Illustrated.

Allow me to pause and record your utter lack of shock. Simultaneously, I’m moving the to soccer side of the equation, where Grant Wahl has expanded the four listed in the broader 50 to a soccer Top 10.

Read the piece for explanations, but here’s his 10:

1. Sepp Blatter, FIFA President

2. Richard Scudamore, chief executive of the English Premier League

3. The Glazer Family, owners of Manchester United

4. Sheikh Mansour, owner of Manchester City

5. Qatari Royal Family, owners of Paris-Saint Germain, BeIN Sport, the power behind the successful 2022 World Cup bid

6. “Corrupt Guy” (see below)

7. Lionel Messi, attacker for FC Barcelona

8. Michel Platini, president of UEFA

9. David Beckham, midfielder for Paris Saint-Germain

10. U.S. TV Bosses

Some of these aren’t actual people, but that’s the nature of these lists. Qatari Royal Family, Glazer Family, U.S. TV Bosses? Sure, they could have picked Nasser Al-Khelaifi, Malcolm Glazer, or John Skipper*. But I get the point.

(Note: John Skipper was named in the more general top 50)

I’m having a little trouble with No. 6, though, something that appears to be an amalgam of complaints. Here’s how Wahl defines it:

How many sports are dirtier than soccer? Not many, that’s for sure. A recent Europol investigation revealed what most of us already knew: Match-fixing is rampant around the world. Meanwhile, FIFA has yet to rid itself of its reputation as an unclean organization, highlighted by the fiasco surrounding the bid process for World Cups 2018 and 2022. How serious are the people in charge about fighting it?

Corruption is a huge problem in soccer, but I’m having trouble seeing the justification for creating something like Corrupt Guy and putting him above Platini, the unranked Jerome Valcke (FIFA General Secretary), CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb, or somebody like Cristiano Ronaldo, since the list deigned to rank players.

source: Getty ImagesHow about the President of Hawk-Eye, a company whose goal technology could answer a lot of fans’ biggest on-field concern? No mention of Nike or adidas here? And what about Alex Morgan, now the face of a growing women’s game?

It’s not that corruption isn’t important. It’s just arbitrary to choose that issue to create an amalgam to represent the totality of the issue’s influence.

Is Corrupt Guy really more important that Soccer Player Dude? You know – the guy who scores, creates, and saves all the goals? How about Tactics Man, somebody who is not only an underrated comic book hero but also raising the level of fan dialog around the game? Then there’s Analytics Boy, the young sprite who could Billy Beane this thing in the next 15 years.

What about Controversial Officially Type who sometimes gives Nani a red card, other times gives Nigel de Jong a yellow?

And given the attention women’s soccer receives, how about Female Icon? And maybe there’s room for Youth Soccer Hopeful?

I get this is an issue close to some people’s hearts. Perhaps I’m being too cavalier about this. Grant Wahl ran for FIFA president on a reform platform, and although he didn’t get nominated, the publicity around his campaign showed his affinity for these issues. And they’re issues to care about.

But for some reason, main stream sports media in this country is quick to define soccer by the outrageous: The fabulous David Beckham; puckish Mario Balotelli; racism and fans rioting at random location. And yes, corruption.

Even the mundane, day-to-day annoyances get more attention in soccer: Referee errors; on-field player behavior; and handshakes. When was the last time we truly obsessed over equivalent stories in football or basketball?

It would be nice if what happened in the game was covered with the same gravity as what happened around it.

As somebody who has had a little bit of experience in media, I take these things to heart. Soccer’s rise to the fringe of the main stream means finding a niche in a crowded cultural landscape. But thus far that niche has only been open to the sensational. What did Hope Solo do now? Did Mario Balotelli ignite something new? Where did that Paraguay fan put her cell phone?

It’s a bias. It’s understandable, given the huge attention those stories get. But for soccer fans, it’s unfortunate. It means while we watch match after match and share our love for the game with each other, the sensational defines the sport. That means Hope Solo becomes Dancing Goalkeeper, Mario Balotelli becomes Disgruntled Talent, and Corrupt Guy becomes a face of the sport.

Corrupt Guy is definitely important, but that amalgam wouldn’t even be number six on the list of fictional soccer characters. Dedicated Fan is far more important. International Apparel Giant is more influential. Nefarious Agent also deserves a shout, but so does Emerging Asian Soccer Lover.

Oh, don’t forget Soccer Player Dude. And Manager Man. And Front Office Decider and Stripe-y Guy With A Whistle. They’re all pretty powerful, too.

Huddersfield seal fairytale promotion to Premier League

Getty Images
2 Comments

LONDON — Huddersfield Town have been promoted to the Premier League.

Let that sink in.

[ MORE: Wagner reacts to “fairytale” ]

The Terriers, for the first time in their history, will play in the PL and for the first time since 1972 they will be in the top-flight of English soccer.

German-American manager David Wagner has worked a miracle to turnaround a team who finished in 19th place in the Championship last season. They beat Reading 4-3 on penalty kicks on Monday after a tight, tense 120 minutes of action at Wembley Stadium, holding their nerve to seal an estimated windfall of $218 million next season and up to $372 million if they survive in the PL for another season.

All day long, and perhaps all season long, it has felt like Huddersfield were destined for promotion.

Huddersfield sold out their full allocation of tickets, 39,150, and their fans made the most noise all day long. There was no contest.

In central London Huddersfield’s fans piled on to the tube heading to Wembley for their day of reckoning.

“It’s his first full season as a fan!” said a proud mother decked out in a Huddersfield shirt as she hugged her five-year-old son proudly. “What a time to start!” replied a stranger, also a Huddersfield fan.

Excited chatter filled the 15 minute tube ride from Baker Street to Wembley Park as fans “I can’t believe it,” said one fan to another, quietly. “It will hit home when we get into the stadium,” his friend replied.

Steven Sunderland stood outside Wembley with his wife Melanie and their daughter Megan.

He summed up the surprise that Huddersfield were even one game away from the Premier League to start with.

“It would be amazing to play all of the big clubs, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, clubs like that,” Sunderland said. “I never thought we would make it. No chance. I just thought if we make midtable, it would be an improvement on last season because we’ve been struggling with relegation the last few seasons. This season, David Wagner has got the team playing really well, best team spirit I’ve ever seen for a long, long time. The fans are really connected. It shows today, there are nearly 40,000 Huddersfield fans here today and they are up for it.”

Oh yes. Yes they were.

Amid dissecting the struggles of Yorkshire rivals Leeds United, talk of just going up to the PL for one year and then enjoying it “no matter how we do” was rife among the Huddersfield fans. One Terriers supporter puffed out his cheeks, gripping his can of cider nervously as he walked up Wembley Way.

Tense was the word of the day.

With the future of both clubs on the line, the game itself didn’t deliver end-to-end excitement. With an estimated $218 million on the line for next season and $370 million if they manage to stay up one year in the PL, the economic benefit for Huddersfield the club, and the town, will be huge.

When Michael Hefele headed wide and Isaiah Brown missed a glorious chance early on, you began to wonder if it was Huddersfield’s day. In the end none of that mattered.

Christopher Schindler stepped up and slotted home the winning penalty kick after Danny Ward saved from Jordan Obita as Huddersfield had reached the promised land.

Huddersfield chairman Dean Hoyle summed up his emotions after taking over the club and putting in a prudent plan for promotion involving loan players and a budget less than $12 million this season.

“I’m so emotional. To say I’ve been supporting this club since 1969, to be a Premier League team now – dreams come true,” Hoyle said. “It’s huge what it means for Huddersfield, we’re on the big stage. It proves you don’t have to blow your brains to get promoted. We’ve done it the right way.”

What impact will this have on the Yorkshire town?

Sunderland and his family summed it up perfectly as yet another underdog, just like Bournemouth, Blackpool and Burnley before them, has risen to the promised land.

“It is massive. It is the land of milk and honey if you like, the place where everybody wants to be,” Sunderland said. “It will be brilliant, for the town. Just that little bit of success makes a big difference. We’ve been on TV this season more times than we have been the last 10 seasons. Next year it will be high profile very week. Match of the Day, on TV… Champions League the year after!? You never know.”

What did Wagner have to say? He told ProSoccerTalk he wants Huddersfield to keep the identity he has helped build and nurture.

“We have to be focused on ourselves and this football club has to be focused on themselves. This football club has created an identity and this was always our target, that we create an identity and a style of football where even if we wear neutral jerseys people from outside are able to say ‘okay, that could be Huddersfield.’ I think it makes no sense to compare ourselves with other small clubs. This football club has its own story and I think, we are on the way.”

They certainly are. Watch out, Premier League. Huddersfield are on their way.

David Wagner reacts to Huddersfield’s promotion

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LONDON — There will be an American coach in the Premier League next season.

David Wagner, 45, led Huddersfield Town to its first-ever promotion to the Premier League as the Terriers beat Reading 4-3 on penalty kicks after a tense Championship Playoff Final at Wembley which ended 0-0 after 120 minutes.

Speaking after the nail-biting win, Wagner was delighted that his team proved everyone wrong and came from nowhere to reach the top-flight for the first time since 1972.

“A lot of the pundits wrote us off before the season,” Wagner told Sky Sports. “Over the season I thought we could do a little bit more, I thought around Christmas when we’d played everyone we had a chance. What happened is an unbelievable story – a fairytale.”

The former U.S. national team forward has galvanized the club, linking the team and fans together with passion and a plethora of loan players from the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea.

What he has achieved this season has left Huddersfield fans stunned as the former Borussia Dortmund II boss, who left the German giants in November 2015, has built a hardworking, organized team.

ProSoccerTalk asked Wagner if he will look at any of the smaller teams who have been recently promoted to the PL — the likes of Bournemouth, Burnley et al. — to follow a blueprint of how to plan ahead.

“We have to be focused on ourselves and this football club has to be focused on themselves,” Wagner said. “This football club has created an identity and this was always our target, that we create an identity and a style of football where even if we wear neutral jerseys people from outside are able to say ‘okay, that could be Huddersfield.’ I think it makes no sense to compare ourselves with other small clubs. This football club has its own story and I think, we are on the way.”

They are certainly on their way and we will be hearing a lot about the Terriers in the days and weeks to come.

Huddersfield promoted to Premier League after PK drama

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LONDON — Huddersfield Town beat Reading 4-3 on penalty kicks in the Championship Playoff Final at Wembley on Monday to secure promotion to the Premier League for the first time in club history.

[ MORE: JPW on”miracle” for Terriers ]

In a tense, tight game Huddersfield missed big chances early on and Reading fought back valiantly but the Terriers won and secured an estimated $218 million jackpot for next season.

German-American manager David Wagner who got the better of Jaap Stam as his team won 4-3 on penalty kicks as Danny Ward saved Jordan Obita‘s spot kick and then Christopher Schindler scored the winner.

[ MORE: Wagner reacts to fairytale

A remarkable story as Huddersfield secured promotion to the top-flight of English soccer for the first time in 1972.

Huddersfield had the first big chance of the game as Aaron Mooy‘s free kick from the left found Michael Hefele but he nodded just wide after rising at the back post.

The Terriers continued to press and had a glorious chance to take the lead as Elias Kachunga got free on the right side of the box and his shot across goal looked destined to be tapped home by Isaiah Brown… but somehow he shinned the effort wide from one yard out.

At the other end Reading went close when Lewis Grabban dropped deep and curled towards the top corner but it flew just wide.

Huddersfield continued to pour forward in search of the opener as Nahki Wells’ cross was hooked clear and Reading, somehow, went in level at the break.

Reading started the second half well as John Swift burst into the box but his show was straight at Danny Ward who saved.

That effort sparked Huddersfield back into life as they twice surged into the box but couldn’t find the final pass at the crucial moment.

The game grew more tense as the clock ticked closer to 90 minutes with substitute Collin Quaner failing to get proper contact on Aaron Mooy’s cross.

Late on Reading pushed forward as Hefele made a wonderful last-ditch clearance with Yann Kermorgant lurking and Huddersfield lost captain Tommy Smith to a serious injury.

Seven minutes of stoppage time couldn’t find a winner, so the game went in to extra time but an extra 30 minutes failed to open up the game as Garath McCleary drilled a low shot wide and then Nahki Wells dragged a tired effort wide in the 116th minute and that was as close as either team came to scoring.

After 120 minutes it finished 0-0 and penalty kicks were needed to decide who gained promotion to the Premier League.

Huddersfield won on penalty kicks after Danny Ward saved Jordan Obita’s spot kick and then Schindler stepped up to send the Terriers into the top flight for the first time since 1972.

Marco Reus out several months with cruciate ligament tear

Getty Images
Leave a comment

DORTMUND, Germany (AP) Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder Marco Reus has been ruled out for several months with a partial tear of the cruciate ligament in his right knee.

Reus suffered the injury in Saturday’s German Cup final and Dortmund says, “Further examinations will be conducted over the next few days to determine what course of treatment is required. Borussia Dortmund will therefore not make any precise prognosis on the possible length of the player’s absence.”

Reus, who had been left out of Germany’s Confederations Cup squad after a season plagued by injury, suffered the latest blow in the first half of Dortmund’s 2-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in the German season’s showpiece in Berlin.

Dortmund’s win gave the 27-year-old Reus his first title in a career of persistent injury setbacks.