By Paul Gardner
One thing that never made any sense to me was all the criticism that MLS used to take about its playoff system. When the league had only 10 teams, and the
playoffs needed eight teams, the air was repeatedly filled with whinings and moanings and bitchings about how stupid it all was to play a whole season just to eliminate two teams.
MLS could have limited the playoffs to just four teams, but I doubt whether that would have prevented the critics from complaining. Any more than this season's playoffs, as suspenseful as you could
wish for, will change their minds. What they really disliked -- and still do -- was the playoff system itself.
And they particularly dislike it because it is an American invention. None
the worse for that, not in my eyes anyway. But there are many people involved in American soccer who seem to be ashamed of the fact that American soccer is ... well, American.
many of these malcontents are immigrants who wish that American soccer were Italian or Argentine or German or whatever. Pity about them. They are irritating, at worst.
But there is one
set among the immigrant naysayers, and they are much more significant in terms of the damage they can inflict on the American game.
The Brits. They are much more prominent than the other
immigrant Eurosnobs -- mostly because of the language, which ensures their easy entry to things American. They are much more than irritating, they are a pernicious threat to the growth of the American
They seem to have infiltrated at just about every level of the sport. I meet plenty of them. Some of them sport credentials that are highly suspect. They can't all
played for Arsenal and ManU, can they? Did they really all
coach the Cosmos?
An exaggerated background can certainly help in acquiring a job. As can a very ordinary background
presented to someone who hasn't the remotest idea what any of it really means, except that it sounds
impressive. I'm always amazed when I hear Brit coaches here tell of how they played for
Wimbledon or Watford. Anyone who wants the American game to progress beyond rustic park kickabouts would avoid such a background like the plague.
But at the youth level here, it would
appear that far too many of the club people doing the hiring for full-time coaches simply haven't a clue what they're about. A Brit accent is likely to be the determining factor.
this far, things are reasonably OK. It's what these coaches bring in their coaching baggage that spells disaster. They bring British soccer. And that is more than enough to damn them.
This is the soccer that hasn't won anything in over 40 years. It hasn't won anything in that long because it is archaic, because it has learned nothing, despite all the first-class foreign talent
playing in the Premier League. The proof of that is the calamitous failure of the British -- I should say English, which is the only one that really matters here -- youth development system. The very
process that all the Brit carpet-baggers want to implant here. And I'm including all the Brit clubs -- Chelsea is the prime example -- who are so keen to set up academies here and to create
"relationships" with American youth clubs. To help American soccer? Or to snaffle young American talent?
Am I damning every last man of these coaches, then? No, of course not. There are
exceptions -- I can think of three or four right now, and I suppose there are others. But the vast majority of the Brit coaches in this country are not qualified to teach the game here -- simply
because they have no experience of soccer outside the British Isles. In a word, they are ignorant.
The Brits have always been insular, unwilling to accept that anything created or thought
up outside their shores can be any good. In Victorian times -- the triumphant Brit era in which they invented soccer -- that attitude may have made some sense. Today it is merely laughable -- and, of
course, suicidally counter-productive.
Here are some simply incredible figures. They come from a new book "Every Boy's Dream" by Chris Green, which investigates youth training in England,
and are quoted in the November 2009 issue of When Saturday Comes
magazine. In England there are 895 coaches with the UEFA "A" license -- in Spain there are 12,270.
As I'm not a
great believer in the efficacy of coaching licenses, I'm using that merely as a horrendous example of the way that the Brits will not even take a look at anything tainted as "foreign" in soccer.
People with that background, with that mentality and the arrogance that goes with it, are totally unsuitable to be coaching youth in this country. The wonderful thing about the American youth
scene is its variety. It has to be one of the richest, the most fertile breeding grounds in the world, a thrilling mix of African, Hispanic, European and, yes, American talents. Is it conceivable that
Brit coaches -- with their long out-dated approach to the sport (they're still talking of center halves, who disappeared from the game about 80 years ago), their emphasis on getting stuck-in, their
scornful attitude to anything that smacks of real soccer skill and their absolutely ineradicable faith that attacking soccer consists of nothing more than an avalanche of crosses -- is it conceivable,
I ask you, that these guys can be anything other than a drag on the development on young American players?
The fact that, even at the top level, the English themselves have given up on
their own coaches and hired an Italian (who follows a Swede) tells the story.
Enough said. American soccer must build its own character, its own style, must speak its own language in its
own voice. The last thing it needs is narrow-minded instruction from people who can't even put their own house in order.