Eto’o to Leave Racism Behind

According to a report on the Asian Football Confederation’s official website, Barcelona star striker Samuel Eto’o is set to leave European football in his prime (he’s 29) and move to Saudi club Al Ittihad.

Eto'o at Al Ittihad press conference in the U.A.E.

The reigning African Footballer of the Year, Eto’o has endured numerous episodes of racist abuse during his time with Barca, in both Spanish League and UEFA Champions League play, culminating in Eto’o walking off the field in the middle of a match against Racing Santander a few weeks ago. It’s only logical to presume Eto’o is making the move to Asia to escape the pervasive racism in European football, sacrificing money and the highest level of competition for happiness and a higher quality of life.

Racism in European Football has (thankfully and finally) come to the forefront as the #1 issue for FIFA and Sepp Blatter in the last few years. It’s been a problem for years, from National Teams to Clubs to Sponsors to Fans. FIFA has enacted rules to stop the European-African youth labor trade, where scores of young African footballing teens would be brought to European clubs to train (cheaply), with the best being promoted to the first team while the rest were cut loose to fend for themselves in a foreign country with no job and no support. But still problems with fans persist.

Superstars like Eto’o and Thierry Henry have been outspoken about the problem, and Nike has backed them with the “Stand Up, Speak Up” campaign. But what can be done to reach the level of the average fan?

The Eto’o decision to leave it all behind will hopefully be the Tipping Point. The racist fans and their supporting clubs and federations are the true a**holes in all of this. But we as football fans are the losers, as we’ll be deprived of regularly watching the genius of a great player in the midst of his prime footballing years compete at the highest levels of competition.

The great winner in all of this is Eto’o. Despite the constant abuse, he has handled all situations with grace and dignity. And he will hopefully be remembered as the man who initiated the final movement to stamp racism from the Beautiful Game.

Thoughts? Please post them here:

Final 23: U.S. Score Way Often

The big question for U.S. Soccer supporters after today’s 5-0 thrashing of an understrength Norway squad: Which players helped their causes in the quest to be named to the Final 23 for Germany 2006?

Twellman makes his case

With a cool hat-trick, Taylor Twellman finally showed his club-level form on the international stage. He finished 3 of his 4 chances nicely, and showed hustle on the defensive end as well. We saw TT score goal-scorer’s goals today. There’s nothing wrong with that: the U.S. needs forwards who can put the ball in the back of the net – as Eddie Johnson showed last year and Twellman did today. Twellman still did not connect well with his teammates, but at this point he’s a better option as a target man off the bench than Brian Ching, Conor Casey and Nate Jaqua.

Kerry Zavagnin impressed in the holding midfield role. With Pablo Mastroeni, Chris Armas and John O’Brien all currently injured, there’s an opportunity for defensive-minded midfielders to shine. Zavagnin did just this, snuffing out any Norway attack before it became at all dangerous, while starting the U.S. attack in a composed fashion. He made the simple pass, which on this day was also the correct one. On the other hand, Ben Olsen is too frantic in this role for my liking. KZ makes the final cut, for now.

Clint Dempsey fit in nicely in a Landon-Donovan-led midfield. Nominally, Dempsey was the right-sided midfielder, but his natural tendency to drift towards the middle of the field afforded Landycakes the freedom to play down the right wing. Dempsey also fell back effectively to collect the ball from defenders and start the attck. That being said, on game resets Dempsey held his shape and performed his duties on the right side defensively. Overall, Clint’s most complete national team appearance helps him edge out Steve Ralston and Chris Klein for the last offensive midfield position on the bench.

Dunivant's two assists were not enough

Todd Dunivant was the only player who did not impress, despite his two assists on the day. Too often he was out of position during U.S. possession, and his crosses for the most part were floated aimlessly. For all his supposed flaws, Frankie Hejduk played a much more effective match at fullback than his left-sided counterpart. Although his position is still up for grabs, I’ve seen enough from Todd Dunivant to know he is not the answer for Germany 2006.

Jimmy Conrad, Pat Noonan and Kevin Hartman did not do enough to distinguish themselves at three highly-competitive positions in the U.S. team. Hejduk, Eddie Pope, Josh Wolff, and Donovan played well enough to hold onto their coveted roster spots, for now.

The Final 23 (as of January 30, 2006):

Goalkeepers (3): Kasey Keller, Marcus Hahnemann, Tim Howard
Defenders (7): Steve Cherundolo, Eddie Pope, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra, Frankie Hejduk, Gregg Berhalter, Cory Gibbs
Midfielders (9): Claudio Reyna, Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, John O’Brien, Eddie Lewis, Bobby Convey, Pablo Mastroeni, Clint Dempsey, Kerry Zavagnin
Forwards (4): Brian McBride, Eddie Johnson, Josh Wolff, Taylor Twellman

World Cup Dreams Over (7 Months Early!)

If you play and MLS and you’re not one of the 30 players* called into the U.S. National Team January training camp, you’ll have to get tickets to the U.S. games just like the rest of us poor schmoes. Sorry to the following MLS players who did not get the call:

    Greg Vanney(!)
    Chris Klein(!)
    Eddie Gaven
    Tony Meola
    Jeff Cunningham
    Michael Parkhurst
    Tony Sanneh
    Jovan Kirovski
    Cobi Jones
    and most of all Clint Mathis R.I.P.

More thoughts on the 30 who did make it to come…

*Chris Armas is recovering from an ACL tear; though not in the January camp, he still may make the final roster for Germany (much to our collective chagrin).