February 06, 2008

From Exeter City to the 2010 World Cup... via Singapore?: After struggling to forge a professional career in the lower leagues of English football, John Wilkinson was about to pack it all in and quit the sport. Then the Singaporean FA came calling, and he now has a realistic chance of competing at the next World Cup in two years time.

posted by afx237vi to soccer at 10:10 AM - 9 comments

See also: Chris Birchall in 2006. "Six months ago, Chris Birchall was hanging out with friends in Stone, Staffordshire, trying to become a regular at League One Port Vale, and now he's eating chicken feet with Dwight Yorke and heading to the World Cup finals with Trinidad & Tobago."

posted by afx237vi at 10:12 AM on February 06, 2008

Great article. I've never had any desire to follow Singaporean football but I'll definitely keep an eye on their progress now. Very interesting. The opinion that this guy is putting his life in his own hands by traveling to N. Korea, Saudi Arabia, etc. to play games is rational. I sure wouldn't want to see a SpoFi FPP detailing this young man's death.

posted by Texan_lost_in_NY at 11:06 AM on February 06, 2008

This is an interesting article about a true football "gypsy" with writing that is well up to The Guardian's standards. Other than the possibility of being caught in a war zone (a danger faced by many businessmen and members of the media), I should think that Wilkinson is in more danger from rabid fans than he might be from some of the governments in that part of the world.

posted by Howard_T at 11:29 AM on February 06, 2008

I watched this Singapore team in the ASEAN Cup last year. There is quite a bit of resentment in the region towards the Singapore FA's policy of recruiting foreigners. This was particularly acute in Thailand (the opposing finalists), and I note the article mentions a similar feeling in Malaysia. Even in Singapore, some fans have opposed the use of foreigners, mainly because a few of them aren't actually any good, but there is also an element of racism - towards the African players in particular. On a side note, I watched Australia beat Qatar in a WCQ last night, and the Qataris have Brazilians, Uruguayans and Senegalese origin players in their squad. It was pretty clear from a few defensive shockers that the Uruguayan defender and the Senegalese keeper didn't have a common language.

posted by owlhouse at 03:55 PM on February 06, 2008

Having seen Brazilians playing for Japan and Croatia, it's kind of hard to complain that the minnows are now doing the same thing. Brings whole new meanings to "globalization" and "World" Cup, donnit?

posted by worldcup2002 at 04:12 PM on February 06, 2008

That story's got some gems but here's one that floored me:

Wilkinson's journey to Singapore began in the West Country, where he played for Exeter while Uri Geller, Michael Jackson and David Blaine took ineptitude in football club ownership to a whole new level. "Uri used to come into the changing room bending spoons and that before games, handing everyone a spoon and saying, 'I want you to focus on it'. We started giggling and he used to get really angry and storm out, throwing his spoon on the floor," explained the 28-year-old of the time when the Israeli-born psychic briefly ran the club. "It was a crazy time. I'd love it if Michael Jackson was at David Blaine's house now thinking, 'Oh, I must just check how Exeter got on. ...

posted by worldcup2002 at 04:19 PM on February 06, 2008

Yeah, I liked one of the comments about the opposing fans seeing Michael Jackson in the stands, then breaking into a version of "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles".

posted by owlhouse at 04:42 PM on February 06, 2008

Having seen Brazilians playing for Japan and Croatia, it's kind of hard to complain that the minnows are now doing the same thing. Brings whole new meanings to "globalization" and "World" Cup, donnit? Agreed. I wasn't complaining, just reporting some of the neighbourhood reactions to Singapore's success at the ASEAN Cup. Of course, there must be extra pressure and higher expectations in being a (relatively) high paid foreigner in these teams. A more sophisticated analysis in some papers (The Straits Times for instance) did mention the negative effects of foreign recruitment on local player development, and the difficulty that some Singapore fans have in believing that foreigners have enough passion when they pull on the national shirt. The Brazilian Cesar was up front for Qatar last night. He is living proof for anyone that just being Brazilian means you can't be crap at football.

posted by owlhouse at 05:19 PM on February 06, 2008

Not picking on you at all, owlhouse. I think it'll be fun to watch the World Cup if any of these "import" countries make it. It gets really interesting when a preponderance of the team is not local-born talent (what's the FIFA-sanctioned ratio of locals v foreigners for national teams, if any?). At that point, we might just want to dissolve the national teams, and have the top club teams represent their respective nations. Oh wait, it's called the Champions League. But we can just dispense with that and have a yearly World Cup instead. I'm only half kidding.

posted by worldcup2002 at 06:15 PM on February 06, 2008

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