The Olympics are one of the four times I care about soccer (the others: World Cup, Women’s World Cup and Euro). Whenever the best in the world in a hugely popular sport get together to find out who’s the best, I am there. And because I am a big fan of Spain, I clicked on the first round of play in men’s soccer Thursday for the sole purpose of watching the Spanish dazzle their opponent with their signature style that has won them two straight Euro tournaments and the 2010 World Cup.
Spain wound up getting shocked with a 1-0 loss to Japan. And worse, I didn’t recognize anybody on the pitch. Except for Jordi Alba (who only really made a name for himself at Euro last month), there were none of the major players of Spain’s all-star team.
Turns out, in the traditional spirit of the Olympics, Spain and most of the other men’s soccer squads are fielding relative no-names, anonymous players who are trying only to bring pride and glory to their country. I did recognize a few names taking part in the Olympics — namely Uruguay’s Luis Suarez and Mexico’s Guillermo Dos Santos — but for everyone else, it’s pretty much just flags and anthems.
I wouldn’t be so torn up about this except not every event is handled this way. The lack of premier talent in the men’s tournament actually got me even more excited for the women’s events, not only because it’s the only one that actually includes the USA, but because it actually features the best players in the world. Marta is suiting up for Brazil. Abby Wambach, Hope Solo and the rest of the Team USA members that captivated the country are all playing. It really feels like a gathering of the world’s finest in the sport.
I realize this is mostly a philosophical debate. Some prefer having athletes rise from obscurity to worldwide prominence over the course of the games. Some don’t like the Dream Team aspect of having professionals and millionaires competing in what started off as a competition for amateurs. I guess I fall in the camp of wanting to see the best athletes in the world fight for supremacy.
What’s your stance on the issue? Which would you rather see in the Olympics?