Nigeria v Burkina Faso - 2013 Africa Cup of Nations Final

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


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.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.