Did American soccer just win the football world’s respect?
The World Cup is over for the U.S.A. after a heartbreaking loss to Belgium. But that defeat made for what some regard as perhaps the best match of a tournament that has thrilled from the start. More importantly, the U.S. has been called a “world-class team” by the likes of Barry Glendenning, the ever-critical football writer from The Guardian. Glendenning is perhaps not the Supreme Leader of Football (that title belongs to Sepp Blatter), but he is near the epicenter of international football, and he does not compliment teams lightly.
Men (and a very few number of women) like Glendenning—who is Irish but comments on the English league—and others of his journalistic tribe from Spain, Italy, Germany, and France, hold the keys to the world of football. Their opinions carry enormous weight in the pubs, cafes, and sports clubs across Europe where the best footballers in the world ply their trade. While their individual influence can often be understated, combined and aggregated they can force managers to be fired, bring protests against a team’s owner, or leave an out-of-form player on the bench.
These writers hail from all over the continent, but share one overarching attitude: that national football teams from outside Europe, save some rare exceptions in South America, are inherently second rate. And that’s putting it politely. No team from a non-footballing country has every truly gained the lasting respect of the football world. Even African countries, whose populations are football-mad, are only rarely praised—and often begrudgingly, at that.