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What are the Chinese characters for "Didier Drogba"?
July 11, 2012 10:13 PM   Subscribe

"The last European monopoly, in any area, is crumbling. This recently-opened transfer window has underscored, more than anything else, that it is no longer the European football clubs’ birthright to sign the greatest players in the world." -- Leander Schaerlaeckens on the growing clout of Chinese, Brazilian, and (WTF?) Indian soccer leagues in grabbing the top talent
posted by bardic (24 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yeah, no, not really.

The examples given are all of players who are either not quite as good as the rest of the time they're playing in (Keita) or of those who just want to cash a last big pay check before retiring (Anelka, Drogba, Seedorf) and who aren't good enough anymore to last a whole season in the top European flights. That's always happened, has been going on since the seventies at least, it's just the countries that these players go to that change.

If the European monopoly really was crumbling, what you'd expect to see is footballers in the mid stages of their careers moving to China, the way you see talented Dutch players move from the Eredivisie to the Bundesliga or the Premiership.

That's not happening yet.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:53 PM on July 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


I agree that the "status quo is in peril", but I don't think a few defectors signal an exodus of players heading to China. See, this has already been going on for some time, just at a lower level. Several players decide they're happy to earn less but keep themselves in the running for their national squads by playing against higher-caliber competition. Others just decide the environment is too foreign for them to settle into. (Ask New Zealand's top striker Shane Smeltz when China's league tried to sign him out of Australia's top league.) Similarly, Japanese baseball has not sapped the MLB of top talent. I think it will continue to be the high-profile player leaving more than people are used to, but hardly tidal waves in the talent pool.
posted by Metro Gnome at 11:00 PM on July 11, 2012


And I for one welcome our new BRIC overlords. I’d like to remind them that as a trusted MeFi personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their ironic reverse-colonial plantations.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:18 PM on July 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Lumping together China, India, and Brazil is very strange. Brazil is known for producing brilliant players, it's got a league with strong history and some well-established rivalries, with the bonus of a strong continental competition in the Copa Libertadores. That doesn't apply to the other two, but even including China and India together doesn't make a lot of sense! The author literally hasn't mentioned a single player who's gone to India in the article.

The South American football expert Tim Vickery has frequently mentioned - at least on the BBC's World Football Phone-in, I can't find an article right now - that even as the Brazilian clubs get richer, they cannot fundamentally compete for the top level of player with the European clubs. Not because of money, or even the prestige of the club itself, but because European football has the highest form of competition: the Champions League. That, he says, is the stage on which every player wants to test themselves, and I agree with him. Brazilian clubs aren't part of that, and nor are Chinese or Indian clubs.

Finally: Alessandro Nesto? That seems like a really weird typo.
posted by smcg at 11:33 PM on July 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


The examples given are all of players who are either not quite as good as the rest of the time they're playing in or of those who just want to cash a last big pay check before retiring.

Why, I can't imagine what you could possibly be talking about. With signings like these, surely a revolution in world football is right around the corner. Any day now I tell you.
posted by Winnemac at 11:55 PM on July 11, 2012


Yeah, that's what I was thinking as well.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:57 PM on July 11, 2012


"Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka, elite strikers with good years left in their legs"

Hmm...so so years, maybe.
posted by jaduncan at 12:18 AM on July 12, 2012


Surely, if this article proves something it's that the "European decline" trope is getting awfully overused these days. Keita? Not good enough. The others? Going into retirement (I mean, Seedorf?! I thought that guy had retired already a decade ago).
Indeed, the proof that this hack didn't want reality to get in the way of a good narrative is that he mentions cricket-obsessed India, but omits the one non-European country which has been busy collecting football talent lately, namely Qatar. And Qatar, like most Russian billionaires, is mostly investing money into the European leagues, rather than creating local competitors.
Anyway, things are a-changing in European football, but not in the way this article presents it. Spanish clubs are horribly in debt, mostly to the Cajas which have brought the Spanish economy to its knees. They are going to have to de-leverage themselves, which is going to release an awful lot of talent. Some of it may go to Brazil or Russia. China and India? Not so much...
posted by Skeptic at 12:34 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]



Indeed, the proof that this hack didn't want reality to get in the way of a good narrative is that he mentions cricket-obsessed India.


While India _is_ cricket-obsessed, many parts of India have also been football-obsessed for over fifty years now. The one time I went to Kolkata, I just happened to be staying in a two-bit dorm that turned out to be next to the local football stadium, which turned out to be the world's second largest football stadium, second only to the stadium in Pyongyang (where they also do those weird-ass mass games thing). This stadium seats 120,000 people, which, even by overpopulated urban Indian standards, would be the population of a mid-sized suburb, currently, twice as big as India's largest cricket stadium, Eden Gardens, also in Calcutta.

The Wikipedia page lists four home teams for the stadium - and probably, all four teams do wear their home kits if they play against an external team here - but that's a bit confusing, because though two of the more traditional Calcuttan rivals, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal are listed here, they have had their own traditional home-grounds as well.

Us Indians are cricket-crazy, but many of us are football-crazy, is what I'm sayin'. :)

And yes, we have been importing football players from Brazil for quite a few years now; quite a few of them, in fact, people like Luciano Sobrosa, who is the captain of a Goan football team, Salgaocar S.C.

However, the dude is a hack nevertheless, for an entirely different reason; this trend isn't something new or because of the financial crisis in Europe this has been happening since, wait for it, 2002! Not a big club-football fan myself, so this is just a random observation without too much insight, but looking through the team-lists, seems like Brazilian participation in Indian football has gone down lately.
posted by the cydonian at 2:01 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


And excellent, world class Brazilian footballers are a dime a dozen anyway, so they can be exported easily to Europe AND Russia AND India AND China.

Spanish clubs are horribly in debt, mostly to the Cajas which have brought the Spanish economy to its knees. They are going to have to de-leverage themselves,

or get the government to pick up their debts for them, as seems to be the direction they're moving in...
posted by MartinWisse at 4:08 AM on July 12, 2012


If anyone's interested in football finance, they should really be reading The Swiss Ramble.

They're mostly focused on English clubs, but there have been recent pieces on Milan, Bayern Munich, and the European Championship. Most relevant to Skeptic's point, though, is The Truth About Debt At Barcelona And Real Madrid, which says:

Spanish football's struggles are highlighted by the fact that no fewer than six clubs in the top division are currently in bankruptcy protection: Racing Santander, Real Mallorca, Real Zaragoza and all three promoted clubs (Real Betis, Rayo Vallecano and Granada). Furthermore, the beginning of this season was delayed by a players' strike over unpaid wages. The figures are frightening with 200 players owed a total of €50 million, up from €12 million owed to 100 players the previous year.
posted by smcg at 4:26 AM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I agree with a lot of what's been said. The key is the Champions League. This is what gets players to move to 'big clubs' within Europe, and will keep players from moving entirely out of Europe. I am curious about the rise of Anzhi Makhachkala in the Russian Premier League. They are able to pay ridiculous transfer fees and wages, but do have the benefit of possible entry into the Champions League.

And apart from Drogba, who seems to have at least a couple more decent to good seasons in him, the others mentioned are truly on their last legs and looking for a final payday.
posted by RabbleRabble at 7:09 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


India and Brazil aside, The Economist disagrees on China. Little Red Card: Why China Fails At Football from December.

(Spoiler: Corruption.)
posted by maryr at 8:11 AM on July 12, 2012


Speaking of corruption, seems like the past FIFA president, Havelange, and his son-in-law, have been shown to have received 41m Swiss francs (£27m) in bribes. Current honcho, Sepp Blatter thinks we shouldn't be "judg[ing] the past on the basis of today's standards".
posted by the cydonian at 9:01 AM on July 12, 2012


If the European monopoly really was crumbling, what you'd expect to see is footballers in the mid stages of their careers moving to China

The one is a precursor of the other though. Rugby has had this with players moving from the Southern Hemisphere to France and, to a lesser degree, the UK and Ireland and Japan for bigger pay packets. For years, the cry from places like New Zealand and South Africa was that the only ones going were the old ones and the journeymen. That's no longer the case now, and it won't be in football if a significant pay disparity for lots of players emerges.

At first in rugby it was some players looking to fill their pensions. But the progression as it has been in rugby (and is in football) is:

- Much older marquee players with big names but well past their best (I'm thinking Pele, Beckham et al in the US)
- Players with 1-3 years left of useful professional football
- Players "retiring" earlier - i.e. the moment it is clear their international career isn't going to happen or is less stable moving abroad in their late twenties rather than stick around and fight for a place
- Players going when they are very young, and in some cases just not coming back (typically, but not always, ones who make a call they may not be international grade)
- Players going mid-career, typically just after a World Cup year
- Players forgoing an international career with their home country

Football is arguably getting onto the third stage. At the moment, football clubs are still happy to lose money and be bankrolled. When that ends, pay levels will come down for most players and if there are leagues prepared to pay top dollar then they'll get younger and better imports.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:42 AM on July 12, 2012


or get the government to pick up their debts for them, as seems to be the direction they're moving in...

Not bloody likely. Yesterday the Spanish government raised VAT from 18 to 21% and cut unemployment benefits (which, with unemployment running at 24%, is hurting a lot of people). Spaniards may love football, but, in the current climate, a single cent for the football clubs, which are mostly run by the same crooked real estate and building barons who are most responsible for the crisis, would lead to torch-and-pitchfork time...
posted by Skeptic at 12:16 PM on July 12, 2012


Logging my objection to the WTF in the comment. The Cydonian has captured the snippet well on football fever in Calcutta, but I was born in that city (Ballygunge to be exact). They have been importing players for eons.

May I introduce you to The Calcutta Cricket and Football Club established in 1792.

The present day Calcutta Cricket & Football has absorbed several sporting clubs over the centuries. Calcutta Cricket Club of 1792 vintage, Ballygunge Cricket Club (1864-1950), Calcutta Football Club (1872-1877) and the revived Calcutta Football Club set up in 1884. It is important to remember that these were not separate clubs but very much a part and parcel of the great and historic institution known today as Calcutta Cricket & Football Club. [...]The highlight of the first floor is the Centenary Hall commemorating the centenary, celebrated in 1972, of the original Calcutta Football Club.

Mind you, this isn't the league stuff but one of ye olde British handmedowns of "the Club" with all its exclusivity but they were playing football...er...soccer.. in Calcutta for more than a 100 years.

Calcutta Football League (CFL) is the football league where several football clubs of the Indian city of Kolkata (Calcutta) participate. The CFL is now having a Seven League Division.

Indian Football Association (IFA) conducts the CFL with 157 mostly Kolkata based clubs and units. Started in 1898, this league is the oldest league in Asia and one of the oldest in the world. There are about 8500 directly registered players of IFA who participate in CFL.


My favourite snippet:

Ever since Mohun Bagan defeated the East Yorkshire Regiment in that historic IFA Shield final in 1911, football became a way of life for most of the Calcuttans or rather Indians and to a great extent, Bengal became the home of Indian football.
posted by infini at 12:31 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry, that's the WTF in teh FPP I'm objecting to strenuously like a good honorary Bengali.
posted by infini at 12:35 PM on July 12, 2012


Sorry, that's the WTF in teh FPP I'm objecting to strenuously like a good honorary Bengali

The "WTF" in the FPP I'm certain refers to the importing of high talent (and high-cost talent) from Europe. Traditionally it's been the opposite. And the issue isn't the existence of foreign players playing in these countries, as players from South America and Africa in particular play all over the world. It's the fact that some of these are "big name" players. Soccer is a global game but the high rollers have always been in Europe.
posted by RabbleRabble at 12:43 PM on July 12, 2012


It's the fact that some of these are "big name" players. Soccer is a global game but the high rollers have always been in Europe.

Interesting, that shift implies there's money to be made. Let me poke around the webz.

Hernán Crespo became the hottest property of the new Indian football league starting next month when the Argentinian fetched $840,000 (£536,000) in an auction of players and coaches on Monday.
[...]
Italy's 2006 World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro went to Siliguri for £530,000, while Robert Pires of France (£511,000), the Nigerian Jay-Jay Okocha (£351,000) and former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler (£338,000) went to Howrah, Durgapur and Kolkata respectively.

Five franchises collectively spent nearly £4.5m, each buying an "icon" player, two overseas footballers and a coach.
The Guardian January 2012



Pune also has contacts with English Premier League football clubs, including Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers, who both have training academies in the city.

"Other clubs have been to India to just hold training sessions, but Liverpool has shown a clear commitment," says Mr Kadam.

"Most European clubs seriously underestimate the Indian market.

"There are organisations in India ready to spend money in partnerships with European clubs."

One club which has formed a partnership is Italian side Inter Milan, which has entered a joint football venture with Tata Tea to support a youth football tournament in India, covering 15 cities, 1,000 schools, and one million children.
BBC April 2012
posted by infini at 12:56 PM on July 12, 2012


Interesting stuff infini, but it looks like the Indian competition never actually happened (see third and fourth paragraphs). I have to say, my first reaction was to think "huh! He's still playing?" and my second to check Wikipedia to see how old those players were (37-39, it turns out, with Cannavaro probably the only one who could conceivably play at a reasonably high level).

So this proposed Indian league isn't, yet, anything like Indian Premier League cricket, which has genuinely attracted the best players from around the world.

Just coming back to the cydonian's point, too: Brazilians play everywhere. There's a lot of them in the Australian league, which isn't exactly high quality. Easy enough to understand when you think that someone who'd be nothing special in Brazil can play in front of 10,000 people and earn a decent living in Australia.

But overall, it's as others have said: we're not seeing any really good players, in their prime, moving yet. The more interesting story at the moment is the rise of clubs like Anzhi Makhachkala, as said above, or even of newly rich PSG in the "second tier" French league.
posted by Infinite Jest at 1:25 PM on July 12, 2012


I'd give them a B+ for effort and go finish off that Laphroig melting ice in my glass now.
posted by infini at 1:54 PM on July 12, 2012


That's the real wtf, that you'd put ice in your laphroaig.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:26 AM on July 13, 2012


Just 3 large cubes (or 4 small) in 2 fingers. Sometimes I even put hot water instead. Neat is nice too and I prefer it but variations depend on the weather outside. Don't forget Scottish room temp and Singaporean room temp are about 20 C apart.
posted by infini at 8:46 AM on July 13, 2012


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