Today is was announced that US Defender Oguchi Onyewu would play for free with his European Club, AC Milan. While a stand up move by clearly a stand up guy, this act clearly signifies how far the United States is behind Europe in soccer/football standing.
Every time an American player signs with a European team, its major news. Any significant playing time, also major news. Last year when Onyewu's signing with a top Italian side AC Milan was announced I was very excited! Looked ahead a year and thought about how great it could make the U.S. side come World Cup time. And then he landed funny, in the last WC qualifying game. And he had to miss the entire AC Milan season. They kept him on, he trained, healed and traveled with the team to their last two games. And now we have him back for the World Cup and next year he'll return to Milan. So by offering to forgo payment next year, Onyewu is basically, thanks for paying me all last year for doing nothing, because I got hurt playing in a game for my international team. You paid me, now I pay you. He's doing it because he has to. U.S. players have little reputation off U.S. shores (heck, they barely have any real rep here!). He has to reward his European team for sticking with him. So no pay next year and its a wash. He can go out on the pitch and prove that he was worth the money at no risk to the team.
U.S. players have to prove this, International Players do not. Esp. within the U.S.
David Beckham. I like Man U. I like England. I like David Beckham. He came to the MLS as the first major European star to play in the MLS. As the World Cup neared, he felt the need to make a push to play for his country and returned (oddly enough also) to AC Milan. We all remember the controversy. He wanted to stay in Milan longer, the Galaxy wanted him back, Landon Donovan was pissed, etc. Well they seemingly worked out all the kinks and Beckham was allowed to play for both clubs. At the end of this season, in like Onyewu a non contact play, Beckham was injured. He'll miss the World Cup, and he'll miss the entire MLS regular season, with hopes of returning for the playoffs. Beckham's missing his whole teams season from an injury he sustained playing for a different team. Is Beckham giving anything back to the Galaxy. NO! And its ridiculous to assume that he should. But why isn't it ridiculous for Onyewu to go without pay?
Because the U.S. has so much to prove. We are borrowing this game. Trying to make it our own. We've made progress, but Onyewu's action clearly shows that we are not equals. As fans, our blind initial acceptance - at least mine - shows that we too accept US Soccer/Football as second rate.
In my opinion he shouldn't offer to go without pay. Unless someone at Milan suggested it, and in that case they should step forward and take the blame/credit. By going without pay, by even suggesting it, Onyewu is solidifying the U.S. as second rate. Any true fan, any team, knows the truth, we have a ways to go, but any true fan, any true member, any true team should be out in front and saying "Look at me! Look at us! We can play! and you will respect us!"
Maybe I'm completely wrong. Maybe he'll come out and kill it next year and he'll show everyone and no one will doubt him again. I'm just not so sure that the next time a U.S. player lands in a similar situation he won't also be expected to forgo pay.