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Readers have little sympathy for Harkes literary feeling of entitlement.

(Wednesday, June 16, 1999) -- SoccerTimes readers were for the most part were unsympathetic with John Harkesí feeling he was unfairly left off the United States 1998 World Cup team. The following is a sampling of our readers responses to Jerry Langdonís book review of "John Harkes: Captain for Life and Other Temporary Jobs."

Harkes complains too much

I have just heard about John Harke's book release and was very disappointed to read that he has devoted so much space (over 15 percent!) to complain about the things that occurred last year.

In the business world, if one expresses reluctance to do a job given to him by his boss (like JH's reluctance to play defense); if one gets caught, several times, drinking and carrying on before important meetings (like JH's partying before a game), if one misses planes and buses to said meetings, and if, as manager (captain) of a group, exhibits "leadership problems", this individual would be fired in an instant! I think its laughable that John Harkes thinks he should have gone to the World Cup!

Don't get me wrong, I would have loved to see him there. However, the fans wishing he had played and whether he should have gone in spite of the transgressions that occurred, are two different questions.

What is most disappointing about this whole matter is that John Harkes could have, even if he felt wronged, handled it in a professional and polite manner and held himself above the incident. Instead he chose to lower himself to the gutter-level in which he thinks Steve Sampson is. Don't you agree?

Derek J. McCracken

Harkes didnít deserve World Cup


I enjoyed your article, "Bitter Harkes closes with blistering shots at Sampson" and I have made a couple of observations about John Harkes' situation.

First of all, based on his performances on the field, I didn't believe John had been playing at the top of his game for quite some time, and don't believe he should have been included on the team anyway. Secondly, I don't believe Mr. Harkes demonstrated very professional behavior as evidenced by, in his own words, his "alleged transgressions." The more I read the excerpts from his book that you included, the more it seemed to me that John decided he was "owed" the privilege of playing in another World Cup just because he put in his time and had been pronounced "Captain For Life," an honor that I had never heard of from any other soccer nation -- and that I did not believe Mr. Harkes had earned.

How foolish of him to think that he did not have to work hard until the World Cup in June! Not being focused on a match or in form is not the what I expect from any of the players representing my country AT ANY TIME -- let alone the captain. Obviously, Mr. Harkes has forgotten that it is an honor and a privilege to wear the national team jersey.

As an American growing up in Brasil, I saw "starters" from qualifying matches left off Brasil's World Cup team for a variety of reasons including being not in the best of form, not playing the role the coach asked, for causing chemistry problems to the team, or simply not being the best player available anymore at the time the team is selected. I think these reasons, and more, unfortunately apply to Mr. Harkes.

As I continued to read your article, some other characteristics became apparent, such as John's stubbornness and his being difficult to "handle" -- no coach wants to spend an inordinate amount of time on one player simply to accommodate him -- especially at the risk of that player causing turmoil among the team. I'm all in favor of leaving "Prima Donna's" at home.

As John explains that Steve Sampson began micro-managing and overanalyzing the team, he also does in his "see, I told you so" comments regarding the Jamaica match. It is definitely apparent that he John did not respect Steve and he appeared to be looking to get back at him for leaving him off the team.

It's unfortunate that John is unable to recognize his responsibility and accountability with the situation HE created. I guess even after all John put HIMSELF through, he has still learned nothing . . .

Thanks for the article. Keep up the good work.


David Burks

Harkes was not entitled

Wow . . . I keep trying to feel sorry for John Harkes. But I can't help but look past his feeling that he "deserved" to be there (in France í98) because of his tenure with the team, rather than for having talent or even leadership qualities. Of the list of American players from last summer's World Cup, only Jeff Agoos has proven me wrong. Harkes, Lalas, Balboa, and a few others did not deserve to be there.


Ryan Dawson

Harkes popularity perplexing

Mr. Langdon --

I read your review of John Harkes' book dated the 14th of June. The continued press that Harkes receives is a bit perplexing to me. He has not been one of the top 30 players in the U.S. for the last 2 to 3 years, yet the media has latched on to him as the "Voice of Soccer" in America.

I will grant you that he has played a major role in the growth of soccer on the international level for the U.S. His mere presence in the Premier League gained the U.S. at least a little credibility. Plus, the blood, sweat and tears that he gave to the team and to his country during the 1990, 1994 World Cups, and the '98 qualifiers, will never be fully appreciated by the casual fan. In today's age, John represented what was good about pro athletes . . . at least, on the field he did.

(But) Steve (Sampson) has taken entirely too much abuse for the failings of the U.S. team in France, and for John to publish a book that further blasts Steve is disgusting. First of all, the U.S. team was going to fail - no matter who was on its final roster. Germany and Yugoslavia were two of the top eight teams in the world. The loss to Iran was a fluke. If anybody knows anything about the sport, they understand that sometimes you can't find the back of the net . . . just ask Raul Diaz Arce.

John's impact on the team in France would have been minimal at best . . . he was a part of the past that played for a draw in '94, hoping for a lucky break. Speaking of lucky breaks, the expectations for '98 wouldn't have been so high if not for the own goal by Colombia in the first round (in 1994). Had this goal not been scored (and it wasn't a simple deflection), the U.S. would not have played Brasil on the Fourth of July . . . they would have been at home watching the games on TV. Anyway, I digress.

I think the most important thing to remember is that France provided an incredible opportunity for U.S. Soccer to move forward in its attempt to reach the lofty goal of a World Cup Finals. The players who are making a big impact on the team today gained valuable experience on the ultimate world stage. You can never duplicate this type of experience, you can't buy it, you can't dream about it...you have to be there and experience first hand. These experiences are already paying dividends in the international arena.

So in retrospect, Steve may not have been able to put the best team out there in France (even he would admit to this), but he has helped to pave the way for the kind of changes we need as a country if we are to consistently challenge the super powers of world soccer.


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