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Ambassador of ill will
J. D. Reed
June 26, 1978
Washington's Paul Cannell may be a Diplomat but he's not very tactful on the field and has been sat down once by the league for piling up too many penalty points
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June 26, 1978

Ambassador Of Ill Will

Washington's Paul Cannell may be a Diplomat but he's not very tactful on the field and has been sat down once by the league for piling up too many penalty points

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The trouble is that Cannell's "timing" is often far enough off to make referees wonder why he's doing a Jose Greco on the keeper while play has gone else-where—and out come the yellow cards.

After scoring two solid goals in the Dips' season opener with the Fury in Philadelphia, Cannell was ejected from the game for pile-driving Fury Keeper Jim Miller all the way to the back of the net while the ball was somewhere up-field. As he walked off, Cannell gave the Philly fans a "Why me?" gesture with outspread arms, like an old-time TV wrestling villain. It sent the crowd into a howling rage. "I like to work the out-of-town crowds," says Cannell. "There's too many heroes in the game. The fans deserve someone to hate, don't you know?"

Cannell often draws fouls from defenders because they get irritated at his antics. When he's awarded a penalty shot out of town, he runs along the sidelines like a berserk cheerleader, whipping the fans into a frenzy of hatred, and beaming all the while like a spoiled child.

Protesting a yellow card in a home game against Tulsa, Cannell walked disgustedly away from the referee and then almost shyly slipped down his shorts, revealing black underpants and getting an ovation for his dark-side-of-the-moon shot.

"I sort of decided to do it before the game, that's why I wore me knickers," he says. "Otherwise you'd just wear a jock underneath."

European soccer pundits, who criticize the American game, claim it's staffed by foreign stars who are relaxing on their summer vacations and reserve their talents for the winter season, the real season in Europe. Cannell, who gets more than $35,000 a year from the Dips—far above English standards—doesn't entirely disagree. "When I came in '76 it was a lark," he says. "I wanted to see the States, drink it up and see the girls, and get the money. The game was bloody awful. But it's improving here, and I found that, like in England, I wanted to win. I care a great deal about that. That's why I get so many penalties. I work!"

"He's my kind of player," says Bradley. "He's got a big heart and total devotion to the game. And he's got a very high work rate. But on the field he becomes someone else. It's something he doesn't understand, and I don't either."

At times Cannell reminds one of a boy brought up in a strict, religious family who goes away to school and discovers atheism. "In England soccer is a religion," he says. "People live and die by their football sides and the pools. There's photographers crawling into your bedroom, people making speeches. It's serious public business.

"I could never pull down me pants in the F.A. Cup at Wembley. There'd be a bloody riot, and I'd never play again, probably. And besides, it wouldn't be fair to those working people who live for the game, would it?

"But here, ah—soccer is entertainment. It's Hollywood and the telly. It's, like, I can indulge me fantasies. I can do all the wild things I've dreamed of, and the crowds eat it up.

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