By IVES GALARCEP
Sepp Blatter has never lacked for controversial comments, and he has also been known to offer up his fair share of tone deaf statements about the game he helps govern. So perhaps it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when he delivered a set of misguided comments about Major League Soccer yet again.
Speaking to Al Jazeera in a recent interview, Blatter criticized MLS for a variety of perceived faults, including what Blatter considers a failure to make inroads in “American society.”
“The problem in the United States is a little bit different,” Blatter said when asked about the progress the sport is making in China and the United States. “Soccer, as they call football there, is the most popular game in the youth. It’s not American football or baseball, it is soccer. But there is no very strong professional league, they have just the MLS. They have not professional leagues that are recognized by the American society.
“It is a question of time, I thought, when we had the World Cup in ’94, 1994, but now we are 2012, it is now 18 years, so it should have been done now, but they are still struggling.”
Blatter’s comments about MLS are surprising considering the clear growth the league has experienced in recent years. Expansion has grown the league to 19 teams, with vibrant fan bases emerging in markets like Seattle and Portland. Meanwhile, the construction of soccer-specific stadiums across the country has helped several MLS teams move toward financial stability.
Blatter’s most recent comments are hardly the first ones he has made that have been critical of MLS. A year ago, Blatter criticized MLS for not changing to the summer-to-spring calendar.
So what do Blatter’s latest critical comments mean to MLS?
Nothing much really. Some might say that his comments hurt the league, but that would be assuming Blatter still had any credibility left. In short, he doesn’t. He has turned putting his foot in his mouth an art form and the idea that he is out of touch when it comes to MLS shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone.
Perhaps the must absurd notion raised by Blatter is the idea that 17 years is enough time for a fledgling soccer league to become a top sport in a country that already had four major sports entrenched after decades upon decades of established presence.
Something else that stood out about Blatter’s comments was him being so optimistic about China’s soccer prospects despite concerns about corruptions and instability.
“In China definitely, we have no problems for the future of football,” Blatter said. “It’s only a question of organization.”
Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka might disagree with that statement.
MLS is far from perfect, and still has things to work on, like significantly improving TV ratings and stadium deals in the DC and New England markets, and figuring out a way to make regular season results more meaningful, and continuing to make rosters stronger so MLS teams can find success in the CONCACAF Champions League. All that said, MLS is growing, improving, getting stronger and making far more progress than Blatter realizes.
His ignorance doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. He is a dinosaur, a keeper of a tainted legacy who is playing out the string as soccer’s so-called leader. Rather than respected official, his semi-coherent rants make him sound more like the old uncle you tolerate but don’t take seriously.
You can see Blatter’s video interview here (his MLS comments come at the 20:40 mark):
What do you make of Blatter’s comments? Think he’s out of touch? Agree with his comments? See MLS being much stronger than Blatter gives the league credit for being?
Share your thoughts below.