Thursday, April 22, 2010

Making the Team

If it's seven weeks and small change until South Africa 2010 ... we are approaching the zenith of the "I should be on the team" campaign surrounding fringe players of the 32 countries in the World Cup finals.

The process is amusing, shameful, pathetic, embarrassing, selfish, painful ... all at once.

The reality of not making the World Cup team is beginning to sink in for some former stars or would-be stars. And they realize that it hurts.

In several ways.

Not making the team ...

--Means your national coaching staff and federations believe you're not ready yet to help or (worse) believe you no longer can. That is an ego blow of the first order.

Two recent examples of this one? Ronaldinho promising that Brazil will win the World Cup if only coach Dunga would add him to the roster. ... and Torsten Frings, onetime starting midfielder for Germany, campaigning (ineptly) to be added to the Mannschaft. And the flip side: A kid from Slovenia, Haris Vuckinic ruing that he probably won't make it. (The kids are never as bitter; they assume they will have more chances.)

--Not making the team means your brand is about to take a major hit. You may still be a club star, and make serious money, but when the world is watching, seven weeks hence, and you're not there? Advertisers are going to cluster around the guys on TV in South Africa, not the guys watching them on TV.

--Not making the team means that, for the fairly significant fraction of players who really enjoy putting it out there for the national side, well, you're out of it. No getting misty as they play the anthem before kickoff. No running about the stadium with a flag after that big victory.

The deadline for a 23-man provisional roster is May 12. Coming up fast. The final roster must be turned in the day before the opener, on June 10.

This is the time to campaign, and all the guys on the bubble know it. Expect more bleats similar to that from Ronaldinho.
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