World Football: A Wish List for the World's Greatest Game in 2012
As we kick off 2012, most leagues are in high gear, and the January transfer rumors are running rampant. Last year was incredible for the beautiful game. As always there were spectacular goals, unbelievable saves, and games that will forever live in our memories. Now 2011 is history, and as we look ahead for what should be another fine year to be a soccer fan, I made a personal wish list of things I hope to see this year. Many of these things could be called fantasy, as the chances that they'll happen are slim, but it is a new year and anything is possible. Feel free to chime in with your own wish items.
Wish 1: Sepp Blatter Steps Aside
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I think a lot of people share this wish. In my opinion, Sepp Blatter has had a detrimental impact on soccer. The controversies surrounding FIFA during his reign have made the Olympics look clean. The stink from the latest round of World Cup host-nation voting will continue to fester for quite some time, and any decision made by the current group running FIFA will always be looked at with some suspicion. I know this is very wishful thinking, but a decision by Blatter to step down would make my year.
Wish 2: Transfer Costs Come Back Down to Earth
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Another fantasy wish, but without a way to curb the outrageous transfer fees for players, most leagues will continue to be top heavy, with only a select few fighting it out for the title and coveted competition spots. Of course, there will be years and leagues that are the exception, but the problem with transfer fees has become more the rule, and not just in England and Spain. Platini's attempt at putting in some economic rules is a start, but it's not the cure. At least it begins addressing some of the problems with club finances in Europe.
Wish 3: MLS Refs Get Better
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I know this is beating a dead horse, and I have to say I have seen some improvement over the last few years, but the level of refereeing in the MLS is below average as a whole. I know that the MLS is working to improve this, as they've been trying to address the problem for several years, but let's hope that this is the year its efforts begin to show results. The MLS needs to improve its referees to help the league take another step forward.
Wish 4: Champions League Is Won by a Minnow
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Everyone loves an underdog, and it would be awesome in my opinion to see an overlooked club like Basel take home the title. No offense to Barcelona, Real, Bayern and the other large clubs, but an incredible title run by a small, overlooked club would be inspiring and give hope to all the other clubs who are small fish in the large pond of European soccer.
Wish 5: PSG Falls Short of Ligue 1 Title
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This is nothing personal against PSG; I just prefer seeing a team have to make the climb up the mountain of success instead of buying its way to the top. PSG will more than likely own French soccer for the next decade, but I like to see talented players competing with passion. Many times, it takes losing what everyone says is yours to make one realize that teams have to do more than just show up to win it.
Wish 6: Thierry Henry Shows the World He Still Has It During His Loan Spell
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He is a legend at Arsenal, but no one wants to see him go back only as a shell of his former self. While I do not believe that Henry is the player he was when he left Emirates, he is still very good and has plenty to offer. I hope he gets the opportunity and takes advantage of it by helping Arsenal achieve results while he is on loan. I know many Irish fans would love to see him fall flat, but this is my wish.
Wish 7: Carlos Tevez Stops the Drama and Just Plays the Game
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This could be said about a lot of talented players, but for the fans' sake I would love to see how good Carlos Tevez really is by putting aside all the drama and focusing on playing. There is no doubting his ability, but to me Tevez is becoming one of those 10-million-dollar-talent, 10-cent-head players about whom you wonder what they could have achieved. It seems as if he only stays focused for short stretches. Of course, a change of scenery is needed to get his backside removed from the bench.
Wish 8: My Beloved Saint-Etienne Qualifies for Europe
We all have our favorites, and here is wishing my Les Verts qualify for one of the Ligue 1 European spots. I could wish for the title, but I've already listed enough pipe dreams.
Wish 9: ESPN's Coverage of EURO '12 Is Done Well
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I am glad that ESPN is picking up more games, and with their showing Euro '12, the opportunity is there to bring in new fans and grow the sport in the U.S. I hope ESPN does the coverage justice, unlike some of their MLS coverage. The last thing soccer in America needs is to have the networks butchering any coverage of soccer.