On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Soccer-less in New York

IT’S going to be a long weekend for me. I am going to miss all the English Premier League matches this weekend as, understandably, none of them would be shown on American TV.

I have been advised that the best way to follow the games is to sign up as a subscriber for Internet streaming, for a fee. And no, I won’t get the results in the newspapers the next day. So I had better get someone in Malaysia to text me the score.

Football, or rather soccer, does not exist in the United States of America. Just flip through the newspapers here and you will see that the sports coverage is limited to American style football, which features tough guys in tights wearing helmets and pads and who seem to be more interested in piling on top of each other.

The other beautiful games as far as the Yankees are concerned are baseball, basketball and golf. Soccer just does not exist. Period.

If you think that with David Beckham playing for LA Galaxy and Thierry Henry donning the New York Red Bulls jerseys, they have created some excitement in the US, you have been misinformed.

Stories of their post-EPL careers are probably seeing print only outside the US.

Henry, the Arsenal legend, found out the hard way recently how reality can bite painfully when you have to play in the US.

In what has been described as the worst football interview on TV, two Fox 5 presenters of the “Good Day, New York” programme began the show by saying: “So, you have just won the World Cup, right? So, now you’re here.”

Like a bad football game, it got worse after that. The presenters obviously had no clue that it had been a disastrous run for the French team in South Africa and that they had gone home in disgrace. And the stinker was they showed the video clip of Henry’s infamous hand ball goal against Ireland in the qualifying match as the interview was going on.

They probably thought using the hand was perfectly acceptable and part of the game – like basketball, baseball and their football.

The video clip was shown not once but four times. It would have been more than enough for any football player to be sent off, but the show’s morons – Rosanna Scotto and Greg Kelly – continued talking, completely ignorant of their stupidity and taking American TV coverage of football to an incredibly all-time low.

Welcome to America, Henry. At least Fox TV – known for their right wing views and devotion to Sarah Palin and the Tea Party – did not ask the footballer about Obama and black politics.

The TV interview, which took place in July, is still making its round on YouTube, the video-sharing portal, and continues to receive criticism worldwide.

Henry was then told by the two hosts that Americans love “big scores” and “big blowouts”, which must have sounded, well, French, to Henry, who speaks perfect English, of course.

I really do not know what the TV hosts meant but we guess they believed that Americans preferred games with plenty of scores.

So, football, err, soccer would just be a “sissy” game for them. Seriously, I guess the average New Yorkers, who are known for their impatience, cannot imagine themselves watching 22 guys slog it out for more than 90 minutes without a goal.

A 0-0 draw! You’ve got to be kidding, bro! We are not going to take that crap; that’s for gays, not for Yankees and Red Necks.

Americans like a definite conclusion. You win or lose. Like a gun shoot up – you are either dead or alive. A draw or a tie is just a complete waste of time.

Americans are at a loss when it comes to soccer because they cannot put a face to it. Sports and entertainment are one. They like the loud mouths in wrestling. They know it’s fake but it’s entertaining. They like their sportsmen to grab the headlines, like boxer Muhammad Ali used to do.

Beckham is good for the cover of Vanity Fair and for guys known as SNAG. It’s not food but an acronym for Sensitive New Age Gentle­men. With Henry, who is super cool and just too quiet, the Americans don’t understand his French-accented English. Only his ex-manager Arsene Wenger does.

I am told the Red Bull Arena in Newark, New Jersey, is just a 20-minute train ride from Manhattan, where I am staying for the next five days. It’s a 25,000 seater – a far cry from the 60,000 Emirates Stadium in North London or, for that matter, the old Highbury Stadium with over 38,000 seats.

The Red Bull Arena will be Henry’s home for the next four years. It’s a pretty rundown place, according to reports, with one British sports writer saying it looked more like Reading’s stadium.

Worse, most New Yorkers have not heard of Red Bull or Thierry Henry or the stadium. In short, he’s really a nobody here. He doesn’t have a clever wife like Posh to help sell sunglasses, jeans, aftershave and perfume. So, New Yorkers won’t be seeing Henry stripped to his undies on billboards in Times Square.

But the multi-millionaire footballer isn’t doing too badly financially. He has just bought the top three floors of a slick Manhattan apartment for US$15mil. One floor reportedly has a bar with a 72-inch built-in flat screen TV. That’s living it up in America.

The world is one big global village, we are told. I am supposed to get the EPL results immediately, but not in the USA.

Well, has Chelsea finished off Manchester City? And has Arsenal steamrolled West Brom?