Work in Sports
Milbrett makes noise in Melbourne
MELBOURNE -- Last Friday I left Seattle, flew 10,000 miles and landed, strangely enough, back in Seattle again. That's how it feels, at least, not just because of the rain and 45-degree temperatures, but also because of the World Economic Forum that began here on Monday. Turns out that hundreds of anti-globalism protesters planned to disrupt the event, just as they did at the WTO conference in Seattle last year. (Why, even Seattle mascot Bill Gates is supposed to show up in town this week.)
So what does any of this have to do with Olympic soccer?
Plenty. Taking advantage of a day off on Sunday, U.S. players Tiffeny Milbrett and Brandi Chastain walked by an open-mike public forum for protesters and stopped to listen. "Raise your hand if you're wearing Nike shoes!" shouted a boisterous chap over the microphone.
Milbrett raised her hand -- and put a target on her back. The guy on the mike screamed at her, and a woman standing next to Milbrett immediately started heaping abuse on the quicksilver American striker.
"Well, who makes your shoes?" Milbrett fired back. (Both she and Chastain, as well as the U.S. team, are sponsored by Nike.) "And before you criticize Nike, ask how much money other workers in those countries are making."
Clearly the protesters didn't realize that Milbrett and Chastain, who were dressed in street clothes, were soccer players. "You're probably a bloody f---ing American, too!" the man at the mike yelled.
"Yeah," Milbrett yelled back, "I am a bloody f---ing American!"
Milbrett and Chastain finally started walking away, but then the angry female protester began advancing toward Milbrett. "All I'm thinking is, Be prepared to swing," Milbrett recalled. "But she just said she wanted to apologize. I was like, 'Are you kidding me?'"
Apparently not. Still, as Milbrett found out, it would be advisable for Nike-sponsored players to stay away from protesters this week.
And, oh yes: Welcome to Australia.
Cue the video, Clive
According to a source with U.S. Soccer, men's Olympic coach Clive Charles has seen so few of his players in action during the past five months that national team coach Bruce Arena had to send Charles an e-mail last week bringing him up to date on the progress of each member of the team. That makes sense, considering that Charles told me last week he hadn't seen Landon Donovan play since the Olympic qualifying tournament in Hershey, Pa., back in April.
Well, why not? All Charles had to do was get a tape of Donovan playing for Bayer Leverkusen's reserve team or training with the first team.
What's more, the source said, several people in U.S. Soccer are convinced Charles has seen no more than a handful of MLS games all season, a scary prospect for a coach who has 14 MLS players on his team. The allegation brings back memories of Steve Sampson, the 1998 U.S. World Cup coach who pooh-poohed MLS for years.
Who was Sampson's assistant in '98? None other than Clive Charles.
Sobrero: The next Kurt Loder?
American defender Kate Sobrero is making decent jing these days, now that the women's national team has a more lucrative deal with U.S. Soccer. Good thing, because she won't be earning a dime for her new internship with MTV.
Starting this fall, the free-spirited 23-year-old will be a production assistant for three days a week in the MTV news department. "My job is pretty much getting coffee for people and running tape," says Sobrero, who actually appeared on MTV's Total Request Live program last year. "They told me it's non-glamorous and you won't be on the other side of the camera meeting people. But I'm like, 'I've been on the other side of the camera, and I don't care.' I watch MTV religiously, and I've always wanted to work there."
But for no salary? "Kate's payment is just being able to go into the studio," says Chastain, "and rub up against Carson Daly a little bit."
Sobrero's internship will run until February, when she begins preseason training with WUSA's Boston franchise.
After much internal debate, the U.S. women have decided to fly to Sydney and participate in Friday's Opening Ceremonies, just as they did in Atlanta four years ago. The trip will come one day after the Americans' opener against Norway, and two days before their next game against China. ... Here's the most likely starting lineup for the U.S. men against the Czech Republic on Wednesday: GK -- Brad Friedel; D -- Jeff Agoos, Chad McCarty, Brian Dunseth, Frankie Hejduk; M -- Ben Olsen, John O'Brien, Pete Vagenas, Chris Albright; F -- Conor Casey, Josh Wolff. ... The U.S. women met up with the American women's basketball team when the hoopsters played in Melbourne over the weekend. "Everybody had their video cameras out," says Chastain, who was invited to fellow No. 6 Ruthie Bolton-Holifield's golf tournament next month. ... Want the skinny on what's going on behind the scenes at the U.S. women's hotel, right across the street from the Melbourne Cricket Ground? Well, there's an icy tension between the Yanks and the Brazilian women's team. "I respect them as players," Sobrero says, "but I think they're dirty, and they fake injuries. That's not how soccer is meant to be played, so I don't respect that part of their game." Then there's the Italian men's under-23 team, which is composed of young hunks from Serie A. This week Sobrero, Danielle Slaton, Sara Whalen and Nikki Serlenga have been carrying around their video cameras, trying to "interview" the Italian and Australian men's teams. When I asked Sobrero if there were any, uh, cross-cultural exchanges going on, the conversation went like this:
Sobrero: "Is there any flirting going on? Is that what you mean?"
Me: "Well, things happen in Olympic Villages sometimes."
Sobrero: "That's not until the medal round ... Kidding! The Australian team wasn't very nice, but some of the Italians will come and talk to us. They're cool, but we're entertained by it and just keep going. It's just a different culture. I don't know how else to put it without getting myself in trouble."
Fair enough, Kate. But haven't you noticed that Italy's Gianluca Zambrotta looks exactly like Ben Affleck?
Sports Illustrated staff writer Grant Wahl covers soccer and is a regular
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