Wow, a massive mailbag to get stuck into this week. Thank you so much for all your comments and insight. Sadly, the sheer volume of replies has made it impossible to respond to every comment – but I have tried to cover most issues.
My article on David Beckham and his charitable works attracted more than 90 percent of the mail, with the vast majority of it in full support of the Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder. The main point that I tried to get through – and it seems to have been picked up by most readers – is that while he, like any other player, is open to fair criticism on the field of play, away from the game his character stands up to scrutiny.
It would be a bit too self-indulgent to post the many congratulatory emails I received for the Beckham piece. But to all those who sent in kind words, it is much appreciated. Your positive comments and support really mean a lot to me.
The Beckham factor certainly seems to be picking up interest in Major League Soccer, with plenty of replies from around the nation asking where the next franchise could be headed.
Incredibly, more than a fortnight after I wrote in a column on Freddy Adu that the Portuguese league was more about skill than blistering pace, I am still receiving answers lambasting me for daring to suggest that MLS is superior to the Portuguese game. For the last time, guys, please read the article. I did not say MLS was better. It is not better. It is not more skilful, but MLS is played at a fast pace and the players are fit and strong. Can we please drop it?
On a happy note, New York Red Bulls youngster Jozy Altidore is attracting a lot of attention following a series of exceptional displays. This kid is exciting and very talented. Let's hope there is much more to come from him.
Until next time, all the best. (Below, my comments appear in italics.)
DAVID BECKHAM ("The bashing of David Beckham," Aug. 17, 2007)
Amen. Some people can't accept the fact that someone is just a good person. I hope the soccer fans and people in general can realize that Beckham is, indeed, a good person, role model and a pretty darn good soccer player.
Beckham is a genuinely decent man and exemplary athlete. As you mentioned in your article, Beckham's story is one to admire and celebrate. In a post-modern era where cynicism has replaced heroic admiration in our professional athletes, the David Beckhams of the world should be held up as points of inspiration.
Professional athletes tend to be pompous, egotistical idiots with a totally over-inflated estimate of their value to society. Here's to Becks – his skills, behavior and philanthropy!
Our youth now has a humble and socially conscious hero to respect. If only soccer and its players got the respect and following it deserves as the world's greatest sport. Please keep supporting the GOOD GUYS in your writing. Thank you.
Thank you for your article on David Beckham. Why do people hack on No. 23 so much? I would imagine that for many of these people it's all about envy. A good-looking, great athlete, decent guy who does charitable things when the camera isn't around, and a millionaire several times over. Who wouldn't want to live that life? I guess that several have illogical reasons to trash him.
Immediately he was casted as a publicity-seeking superstar and I, again like many others, no doubt judged him harshly. Thanks, for setting me straight!
I totally agree with your piece on David Beckham. He's been nothing but a complete class act since he's been here in the States. The LaDainian Tomlinson of soccer, maybe?
My daughter, along with 99 other children, met him on July 18, 2007 for a meet-and-greet at his soccer academy at Home Depot Center. I figured he'd be there one hour saying hello and signing one thing for the kids. But he actually stayed the whole time, which started at 1:30 and ended around 4:30. An outstanding individual.
I watched every game of Beckham's last season in Real Madrid when they became La Liga champions. The way he unified a team with such great superstars through his example of perseverance made me a Real Madrid and a Becks fan for life.
Perry Hall, Md.
As an American citizen now living in Greece, I can only tell you the fame of Beckham in Europe and other countries. He and soccer players are celebrities everywhere around the world. People don't know much about Tom Brady or Drew Brees.
This selection of pro-Beckham messages merely scratches the surface. Clearly, as proven by the 66,000-plus at Giants Stadium on Saturday, he has already made a huge impact. There were a couple fans with posters who still need to be convinced, though.
Beckham – much ado about nothing. Soccer has never been and will never be a major sport in the USA. Pele tried and failed to make it so.
This is just a clip from an extremely long and rambling message from an NFL fan. They are scared of the attention soccer is getting – very, very scared. Great, isn't it?
How about Peyton Manning? Not a soccer player, but what a gentleman and great role model! I wish sports writers would not even write about the thugs breaking the law and having no morals!
I agree totally on Manning. By all accounts, he is a great individual and a wonderful ambassador for sports. However, I think it is better for horrific outrages such as the Michael Vick situation to be written about and publicized in order to highlight and help stamp out these truly sickening and evil practices.
Do you think that Landon Donovan would have so easily given up the captain's armband if the Galaxy had a winning record? In a way, it is yet another example of Donovan's lack of spine.
I think that's tough on Donovan. In my opinion, giving up the armband showed some class and commitment to the team. Maybe if they had a winning record, he wouldn't have given it up – but in that situation hanging onto it may have been the best option.
We don't have a team anywhere in the Southeast, and I rarely hear talk of expansion here. Any chance of getting an MLS franchise in Atlanta? Thanks again for the good work.
Do you think there could be an MLS franchise in Michigan? Our youth clubs are one of the best in the nation and there is a lot of following for soccer here.
Rochester Hills, Mich.
Any word on any MLS expansion team for the Philadelphia area?
Expansion is definitely on the agenda for MLS, with San Jose joining next year and a medium-term goal of increasing to 16 teams. It really all depends on whether local businessmen are prepared to stick in the right sort of figures. My tips for the next additions after San Jose are Vancouver and a second New York franchise in Brooklyn or Queens.
Do you think that the World Cup could come to Africa anytime soon? And also, what do you think the chances are of the continent to be on the level of powerhouses such as Europe and South America?
In terms of hosting the World Cup, it will be in South Africa in 2010, which will be a great opportunity for some of the African nations to make an impact. African soccer has moved on immensely in the last 20 years and can be very proud of itself, but there is still some way to go to match the biggest nations with highly developed professional leagues.
JOZY ALTIDORE ("U.S. soccer's next big thing," Aug. 20, 2007)
I don't believe that the U.S. team has ever had someone who could take on defenders and create goals from nothing. Who do you think is someone that might fit that profile in the U.S. youth system?
Having seen Jozy Altidore of the New York Red Bulls last week, U.S. soccer has a tremendously exciting prospect. It is early days, but if the kid keeps working hard he could be special. He might be more of a natural finisher than a creator, but he can be the sort of player every national team wants.
Jozy Altidore turns 18 this fall, and I hear rumors that he's likely to be moved in the winter transfer window. How likely do you think it is for this to be his last season with the Red Bulls?
I think he will stay for a couple more years, and I hope he does. It would do his game no harm at all to stay with the Red Bulls and learn from the likes of Juan Pablo Angel and Claudio Reyna.
Who do you think will win the English Premiership?
Before the season started, I thought Manchester United would retain their title, but they have had a shaky start. I will stick with them for now, though. It is always dangerous to write off a Sir Alex Ferguson team.
Any rumblings in MLS that Oliver Kahn may come to the U.S. to play a couple of years? I've read he's interested in playing in Asia, but a friend in Munich said there's rumor that he's considering America now.
Kahn has been a sensational goalkeeper during his career, and his performances in the 2002 World Cup – apart from the final – were fantastic. But the standard of goalkeeping in the U.S. is pretty good and he may be better off going elsewhere. Japan and South Korea are both options for him, but my guess is that he will end up in the Australian A-League for a couple of years.
Who do you think is the best national team in the world?
It is hard to tell when the top teams from Europe and South America only meet every four years. In my opinion, there is little to choose between the top seven or eight, but if I had to pick, I would go with Brazil.
Since the arrival of David Beckham in the MLS, do you think other huge soccer stars like Ronaldo and Ronaldinho will ever come to America, too?
North Augusta, S.C.
Ronaldo apparently loves America and it is not impossible to envisage him coming here. For Ronaldinho, such a move would still be many years away, but it's a possibility.
Who do you think is going to win La Liga? Real Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla or Valencia?
The beauty of the Spanish league is in its unpredictability. It will be close, but I will go for Barcelona to make the most of Thierry Henry's arrival and atone for last season's disappointment.