International Papers

Sports Special: Globalism Runs Wild

Outside the United States, most folks don’t give a first down for “American football.” It’s a “Super Bore,” they all agree. Britain’s Mirror offered this consensus view of Super Bowl Sunday’s excesses to its readers:

Watch the Hyper-Bowl from Florida tomorrow night and you’ll see there is no stretch of action that lasts longer than seven seconds. But so much energy do the planet-sized players expend in those madcap bursts of activity that they must rest for the next two minutes. No wonder fat Yanks love it—just think of all the opportunities to open another six-pack and shovel another burger down the throat.

You know you’re in trouble when Canadians find something boring. Le Devoir of Montreal declared:

The Super Bowl is, without doubt, one of the more overrated sporting events on the planet. … On Sunday … there’ll be six hours of pre-match coverage, then four-plus hours of football that’s as boring as a Monday night in November in South Dakota. As soporific as a middle-management meeting to discuss the recommendations of the rationalization committee. As exhilarating as a Bergman film shown in slow-motion without subtitles.

Sports coverage in most European, South American, and African sports pages means soccer—click around the world’s newspapers and you’ll see reports on Manchester United’s F.A. Cup loss in papers from Singapore to South Africa to Argentina to Israel.

Soccer’s global reach touches the game’s latest scandal: El Tiempo of Colombia reported that French authorities have refused a residency request for Metz team goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón, a Colombian “from a Turkish family who plays in France with a Greek passport obtained in Buenos Aires,” because they suspect the passport to be false. Since 1995, when European Union regulations allowed free movement of workers among EU countries, players from EU nations are no longer considered “foreign” as far as the rules governing the use of non-nationals are concerned (in France, for example, teams can only play three foreigners). Following the reclassification, players from South America, eastern Europe, and Africa developed an interest in genealogy and discovered EU ancestors, making it easier for them to earn top money in the Old World. Le Monde facetiously observed, “Football club directors are not very curious people,” but the French authorities are: Mondragón is one of 78 players currently under investigation there. According to El Tiempo, the bulk of the French inquiries involve Brazilians with Italian or Portuguese passports and Argentines with Italian passports passports. The scandal has also spread to Britain: This weekend the News of the World questioned the validity of a Greek passport used by Moscow-born Lithuanian player Tomas Danilevicius when he signed with the London club Arsenal.

Not that soccer is the only migratory sport. Building on an excellent performance in the Sydney Olympic Games, where Great Britain snagged three golds and two silver medals in the yachting events, a U.K. team is making a bid for the America’s Cup. A story in the Independent said the Brits have bought two yachts from the 1999 Nippon Challenge group and at least two members of the Japanese design team will establish British residency so they can work with British group. But, the paper added, “The handling of the transfer of technical data and intellectual property will have to be very careful. The challenge has to be wholly British and, these days, the top syndicates have a posse of lawyers waiting to pounce on any rules infringements.”

Last Monday, Akebono, the first born-outside-Japan sumo wrestler to reach yokozuna, the highest rank, announced his retirement. The Japan Times compared Akebono, born Chad Rowan in Hawaii, to Jesse Owens, who “in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, crushed Hitler’s claims of Aryan superiority. Many in Japan predicted for years that no foreigner had what it takes—not only physically, but also mentally and spiritually—to make it to the very pinnacle of sumo.” Akebono became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 1996.

With all this international mobility, it’s no wonder Sri Lankan sprinter Susanthika Jayasinghe plans to stay put. The Island reported that after becoming the first Sri Lankan woman to win an Olympic medial, taking the bronze in the 200 meters event in Sydney, Jayasinghe recently had an hour-long meeting with the nation’s president and was given a plot of land in Colombo, where she plans build a house.

In Australia, the sports pages were dominated by the Australian Open tennis tournament, which ended Sunday. The Age of Melbourne’s event wrap-up dissed 19-year-old Aussie Lleyton Hewitt, who behaved ungraciously after his third-round loss: “He was brave and brilliant in his defeat by Carlos Moya, and at the death, unforgiveably crude. Maybe Hewitt thinks of himself as a rebel. Nothing could be further from the truth. As the millionaire frontman for a multi-national shoemaker with a dubious work force policy, he is an icon of establishment.” And globe-trotting has human costs: Surprise men’s finalist Arnaud Clement of France told Britain’s Independent (via the Associated Press) that he couldn’t sleep the night before the match. “Believe it or not, 30 percent of the stress was about playing a Grand Slam final and 70 percent of the stress was about knowing I had to give a speech in English at the end of the match. I had all kinds of strange English phrases floating around in my head until I finally got to sleep at 2 a.m.”