Ruud Gullit makes no sense
When coaches or players fail, the more sensible of them learn from the experience and move on. The less sensible look for someone other than themselves to blame.
Sadly, Ruud Gullit has placed himself in the latter category.
The former Dutch star, who spent all of nine months as coach of the Galaxy, on Monday suggested that there is a conspiracy among other American sports to keep soccer down, and therefore that no amount of David Beckhams could turn it into a major sport in the U.S.
"I think they are afraid of football because it is so popular everywhere around the world," Gullit told Reuters. "I think they will just control it so it doesn't become more popular than their American sports."
Gullit said that as a result, Beckham is fighting an uphill battle to sell soccer to U.S. fans.
"So it is very hard for him," Gullit said. "They will never allow that, and in some ways I can understand it as well.
"I have my doubts if they really want to make it popular. Some sports have already had a bit of a dive, so they don't want American football to become less popular, or basketball or baseball."
All of which is utter nonsense, of course.
If there are unnamed, shadowy figures lurking in the corners of American sports trying to keep soccer down, why have such influential figures as Phil Anschutz, Robert Kraft, the late Lamar Hunt and more recently the likes of Andrew Hauptman, Stan Kroenke and Dave Checketts invested
literally hundreds of millions of dollars in Major League Soccer?
Why are there now seven soccer-specific stadiums in North America -- with another handful on the way -- when there were none only a dozen years ago?
Why have American television networks begun devoting countless hours of programming to soccer, not just MLS but the European Champions League, the English Premier League, World Cup qualifying and the like?
Why have at least 18 American cities said that they would very much like to stage games if and when the World Cup returns to the U.S.?
Why are more American players than ever before seeing the opportunity that soccer presents and actively carving out careers in the U.S., Mexico and Europe?
Why is a new women's professional league being launched next spring?
The truth is, Gullit did not do is homework before coming to the Galaxy. Perhaps the money being thrown at him by AEG distorted his perspective. He should have known about the salary cap. He should have known about the modest skill level of players a little further down the salary line than Beckham. He should have known about the heat, the travel, the artificial playing surfaces and all the other things that he later complained about.
Instead, he thought his reputation as a player would allow him to do as he pleased in MLS, but forgot that as far as coaching goes he has no reputation whatsoever. He failed at Chelsea, Newcastle United and Feyenoord and he failed with the Galaxy.
When the losses started to pile up, Gullit cut and ran, citing unspecified personal reasons. Now he is blaming the system and inventing an anti-soccer conspiracy.
There is no need to listen to him any longer.
-- Grahame L. Jones
Photo: Ruud Gullit during a Nov. 9, 2007 news conference in Los Angeles. Credit: Phil McCarten / EPA