The European media spent much energy looking into Bora Milutinovic's recent flirtation as a potential coach for AC Monaco, which plays in the French first division. That's because they don't know Bora.
Milutinovic is one of the most noncommittal coaches to stand in front of a chalkboard. He signed to coach the U.S. team to the World Cup, but that contract did little to anchor him to the country. In the summer of 1993 there were rumors that Milutinovic would leave to become the national coach of a South American team. Far from categorically denying them, Milutinovic smiled coyly and said something to the effect that he works for Mr. Alan and he loves America.
It's all for the benefit of Mr. Alan that these rumors start. Mr. Alan Rothenberg is Milutinovic's boss and, more to the point, pays his salary. When asked what his plans were after the World Cup, Milutinovic said he always has his bags packed, he's a coach. This is the life.
Eventually, Milutinovic managed to say that his future was tied to Mr. Alan and if Rothenberg won reelection as president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, then he'd stick around. Rothenberg won, and still Milutinovic's name is floated for coaching openings around the world.
Even given Milutinovic's reputation as a successful coach of national teams and the U.S. team's surprising performance in the World Cup, it's strange that the soccer world doesn't view Milutinovic as a coach working and looking to stay in the United States, because he's still under contract until the end of the year.
Like most, Milutinovic would like to be paid more money. To gain leverage with his boss, Milutinovic must demonstrate that he's a sought-after talent who might leave at any time.
The more Milutinovic's name is out there, the more gilded his reputation becomes, the higher his salary will become. On this, Milutinovic is not wishy-washy. And in this regard, he has taken on true American characteristics. As he might say--My friend, this is the life.
While goalkeeper Brad Friedel continues to get the runaround regarding his work permit in England, Cobi Jones, at least, got into his first game in the English Premier League last week.
His team, Coventry City, beat Leeds United in Jones' debut. It was also Coventry's first victory of the season. Jones was responsible for one of Coventry's goals when he was pulled down for a penalty kick after making a swift run and eluding a handful of defenders.
However, Jones' role was only grudgingly acknowledged. The Observer's account of the game referred to Jones as "the little U.S. player."
The decision by the English Football Assn. to eliminate shootouts in some lower division matches should be cheered by anyone who remembers the World Cup final.
Under the experimental system that will be used in November, if the game is tied after 90 minutes, one player from each team is removed every five minutes for the next 20 minutes, until there are seven players per side.
If the game is still tied, another 10 minutes of sudden death are played. Officials haven't figured out what to do if neither team scores after that, but the fact that soccer's staid officials are tinkering with ways to make the game more fan-friendly is a welcome development.
The French have presented the logo of the 1998 World Cup--a soccer ball/globe representing a sunrise. World Cup organizers always treat the unveiling of the logo as a landmark event. What it does is signal the beginning of the merchandising stampede. It also allows sponsors to get the logo on those soda cans.
The best thing to come out of the news conference was a remark by FIFA official Guermillo Canedo. In light of the fact that France failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup and considering France is host of the next one, Canedo remarked that while he liked the logo, "We don't know yet if the French team will be good."
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Also in France, after two unusual incidents of violence recently, club officials say they will start bringing legal action against fans who cause trouble at matches.
Jean-Louis Levreau, vice president of Marseilles, needed stitches after suffering a gash in his cheek, caused by a fan who threw a stone after a match in Paris.
"We're going to sue," Levreau said. "This is not football, this is war."
In another incident, the goalkeeper for Lens was punched and knocked down by a fan who rushed on the field at Bordeaux.
The French are accustomed to relative tranquillity on the field--if not off--and have a low tolerance for mischief. The threats of lawsuits should signal that club officials are serious.
Soccer might be becoming too much of a good thing in Italy. A group representing 4,000 Rome restaurant owners has asked the Italian prime minister to intervene in a situation that, last week, allowed Roman soccer fans to watch a live match every night of the week except Monday and Friday.
The restaurant owners complain that televised matches keep their potential clients at home, in front of the TV. During the middle of the week the various European club and national competitions are televised and Italian league games are shown on Saturday and Sunday.
Even the players are beginning to complain. Roberto Baggio noted that with so much soccer on television, fans will stop attending games.
The restaurant owners have a point, but there's one problem with their plea to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi: Berlusconi owns the country's biggest team, AC Milan, and a television channel that broadcasts European soccer.
Germany and South Africa would like to play host to the 2006 World Cup finals. The countries offer sound and similar arguments for their candidacy: politically reunited nations that can boast strong fan support for soccer. Germany has the advantage of a superior infrastructure and organization, in addition to well-placed officials within FIFA.
South Africa also has large, modern stadiums. Its advantage is FIFA would like the symbolism of placing the World Cup in South Africa--soccer as a means for peoples of the world to come together in peace--and, like the United States, Africa is a vast and still-untapped resource for soccer talent and future revenues. Like the United States, however, South Africa's sprawling size might work against its bid as will nagging doubts about its political stability.
By the turn of the century, when the bids are awarded, much can change.