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Monday, May 17, 2010

And that's how you do it, kids...

There are a lot of stories - good and bad, inspirational and insipid - leading up to this summer's Football World Cup. For the uninformed, this year's tournament marks the 19th edition of what has become a global footballing phenomenon - and the first World Cup held on the African continent.

Injuries have dominated the news as the major European club seasons are wrapping up. Charlie Davies (F), Oguchi Onyewu (D), and Clint Dempsey (M) of the US team all went down with injuries during their respective seasons. Of the three, only Dempsey and Onyewu have recovered sufficiently to be invited to the pre-World Cup training camp by US Men's Team coach Bob Bradley. Sadly, Davies, who was nearly killed in a violent automobile accident last year, has not returned to full fitness, although he is well along in his recovery.

David Beckham, who fills a dual role playing midfield for U.S. club Los Angeles Galaxy and Italian giants AC Milan, went down with a freak tear of his Achilles tendon. The injury will likely prevent Becks from participating in his record fourth World Cup.

Germany, certainly one of the teams to watch in this year's footy-fest, were stunned this weekend as captain Michael Ballack went down with torn ankle ligaments, thanks to a late challenge by Kevin-Prince Boateng, in Chelsea's FA Cup victory over relegated Portsmouth. Fans of conspiracy theories will no doubt be exploring the coincidental timing of Boeteng's tackle - especially since he plays for Ghana, who are in the same World Cup group as the German squad.

Even non-players are getting in on the action as English Football Association Chairman Lord Triesman has stepped down from his FA post as well as the chair for England's 2018 World Cup hosting bid. Apparently, Lord Triesman was secretly taped speculating on whether the Spaniards and Russians were in cahoots to bribe some referees...or something like that. And of course, that bastion of British journalistic integrity - the Sunday Mail - appears to have thrown in some questions concerning Lord Triesman's relationship to his outer - and former personal aid - Melissa Jacobs.

Scandal, injury and intrigue aside, the best story I've seen so far is the next chapter in the Oguchi Onyewu injury tale. After rupturing his pateller tendon in a World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica, "Gooch" hasn't been able to play for his club, AC Milan.

 For the love of the game

In an incredible gesture - Onyewu has signed a one-year, unpaid extension with the Italian Serie-A third-place finishers. You heard me right - unpaid. Can you imagine A-Rod, Peyton Manning, or LeBron James opting out of their salaries after sitting for a year due to injury? Isn't that what insurance and contract guarantees are for? In these days of prima donna sports personalities, Onyewu's loyalty and commitment to his club and contract are exemplary. In fact, here are AC Milan's exact words, ""This is an exemplary gesture that deserves our sincere congratulations."

I don't know about you but I'll be cheering a little louder for Gooch as the U.S. men take the field on June 12th.

U.S. Men defeated Spain 2-0 in 2009 Confederation's Cup

How about you?


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