A few weeks ago, ESPN columnist Bill Simmons wrote an in-depth column on the leadership style of NBA star Kobe Bryant.
It was a well-premised piece with the central theme being that Kobe Bryant has choosen which leadership-style–that of an omnipresent, bristled-at, egotistical bull in a china shop for lack of a better phrase–suits him best. Simmons argument is Bryant is completely comfortable with the notion that many, including his own teammates, will detest him at the expense of the team winning.
USSF President Sunil Gulati finds himself in a similar leadership role as the head of American soccer.
Think about it.
Gulati wiped egg off his face not once, but twice because he and his leadership cohorts thought Jurgen Klinsmann was the best present day solution for USMNT stewardship. Gulati was also probably not considering his own brand equity when he dropped down to his knees and begged Pia Sundhage to remain coach of the USWNT after the 2007 campaign.
This is not say that Gulati is a completely white-gloved servant or samaritan. Nor has Gulati been without blame for an ultimately miscalculated World Cup bid strategy or the poorly-juggled exit treatment of Bob Bradley. Many in the inner circles of the US Soccer community simply acknowledge Gulati as a “survivor” and an “operator” in reaching the pinnacle of American soccer hierarchy.
It’s for these positive reasons that Gulati must be given the benefit of the doubt in his dealings with Sepp Blatter and FIFA … and it’s for this reason that the fans must also give Gulati and USSF the necessary out to say the current dealings are unsatisfactory to US requirements.
First, let’s restate the case against Sepp Blatter. Homophobic and misogynistic views? Yes. Permissive attitude towards racism? Yes. Presiding over World Cup bids ultimately won by nations with opaque oversight and little freedom of the press? Yes. Conspiring to reroute millions in FIFA funds over the years to contractors qualified through nepotism and-or kickbacks? Nearly proven, so, yes.
Any of these aforementioned transgressions above are grounds enough for the US to retract it’s support of Blatter, especially the prejudicial and racial actions and sentiment that are in direct opposition to the ideals the United States was founded. For most, the US ideals of integrity, fair play & hard work are still ideals. What does it say USSF sides w/a “leader” opposite those ideals? (I realize that is a grandiose statement, but take a step back and consider it for a second.)
So why hasn’t the US, in the face of clear under-the-table dealings in World Cup selection for 2022, recent comments by Blatter lamenting the state of the game in the States, a powerful position in terms of commanding the highest WC TV rights and more, continued to author its support in favor of a corrupt leader who favors ideals diametrically opposed to the United States and personal sentiment antogonistic at best, revolting at worst, continued to cast it’s support for Blatter? And with seeing virtually no return on investment from that support?!
The only plausible reason is that Sunil Gulati–whose own equity takes a sledgehammer punch of vitriol with Blatter support–believes the devil he knows (Blatter) is better than the devil he doesn’t know. That despite all of the wretchedness associated with Blatter and with no plausible alternative waiting in the wings, that going against of his (Gulati’s) own volition is a death toll to any leverage in further negotiations over whatever.
Therefore, it’s the contention here that it can be and it should be the voice of the US soccer populace that needs to stand up and demand that the United States Soccer Federation not support Sepp Blatter. In doing so, Gulati & Co. could save face at the highest level of FIFA with an argument that sort of looks like this:
Gulati, “Look Sepp, we can’t support you anymore.”
Blatter, “Okay, what’ll it take?”
Gulati, “Sepp, it’s Sunil over here not Fursenko.”
Blatter, “Oh, right, right sorry. WHY CAN’T YOU SUPPORT ME?!”
Gulati, “Well, I need the support of the people. You know I’m up for re-election in about a year and I’ve got all these folks petitioning me not to support you. I need to still be the choice of the people.”
“Look if it was up to me alone, you’d know I’d be there for you buddy.”
Blatter, “Can you remove the petition from the Internet or pay off the guys that started it.”
Gulati, “I mean, I could try Sepp, but you know we’re into Klinsmann for a hefty paycheck each month. It’s killing us.”
… well not exactly like that, but you get the drift.
Stand up for women.
Stand up for players and people of any sexual persuasion.
Stand up for the ideals of the United States.
Hope to improve the global game, maybe not now or maybe not for ten years, but hope for it anyway.
Give Sunil Gulati and USSF the out they need.
Demand that USSF retract its support for Sepp Blatter. Publicly. It’s a start.