Thursday, October 15

Injuries, Pro Sports, and Patriotism

Let’s play Guess the Speaker.

“I'm very angry because once again the national teams take players and we lose out due to injuries.”

Mark Cuban? Nope.

It’s AC Milan CEO Adriano Galliani, talking to the media about his disgust with the fact one of his defenders, Oguchi Onyewu, was injured while playing for the U.S. against Costa Rica in a World Cup qualifier on Wednesday and may be out for six months.

As a result, Galliani will now be paying Onyewu to watch Milan from the sidelines– something that is understandably irksome to him.

But is anyone surprised this happened? It’s not the first time, obviously, that a professional player has been injured while competing on the world stage, but what makes this case unique from others before is that Galliani is demanding the US Soccer Federation provide compensation to AC Milan for depriving them of Onyewu’s services.

It’s an interesting demand, and, if successful, would completely destroy international competitions as we know them. Is there any country that would recruit a professional athlete if they received, along with his obvious talents, the risk of writing a multi-million dollar check if said player should tear an ACL?

Onyewu’s salary is estimated to be about $1.1 million per season (he just signed a 3-year deal with Milan this July), so his salary wouldn’t decapitate the US Soccer Federation, but imagine how devastating it would be, just as an example, if French Basketball was forced to cough up $11 million for an injury Tony Parker. I can’t imagine their budget could even begin to take on those sorts of costs, could they?

The whole idea of professional athletes performing in international competitions is tenuous at best and ridiculous at worst. While the World Cup will likely never change, simply because of the immense history and dollars involved, I would be surprised if we see NBA players and MLB players competing in international competitions for much longer; the vast amounts of money invested in these gentlemen are just too large.

If nothing else, then, Oguchi Onyewu’s injury may provide a hint that this era may finally be coming to an end.


Justin Townsend said...

One thing that bothers me about Galliani's demands in this case are that Onyewu has already been sitting on the bench for AC Milan. Through the team's first 10 matches he has played a grand total of 30 minutes - all of those minutes coming as a 60th minute sub in one match.

nuss said...

You're absolutely right, and I had intended to mention that but forgot to include it in the article.

From a broader perspective, though, it's still a valid point, right? To turn the argument on its head, if a CEO is going to make this much of a stink about a fringe player, how much is he going to make if its the starting keeper, or the starting point guard? When you add in the nationalistic aspect, it gets pretty messy awful quick.