Think of all those brand names that players pick up as endorsements. And make bags of money in the process. And the team strips emblazoned with corporate logos. But maybe it's time for a new logo to be branded across the chests of our favorite soccer stars -- those ones who like to flop, or use their hand to earn a goal. Welcome to soccer's growing, dynamic brand: CHEAT
To brand a player a cheat is a tough, ugly call. Some would argue that unfair advantage is part of the game. Yet, French star Tierry Henry deliberately used his palm to knock Ireland out of the World Cup Finals on Wednesday. Shouting and cursing will follow him like the smell of rotting escargot but it will come to nothing. The hubris of star players demonstrates their supremacy over the game. Henry will shrug his shoulders and be happy that his World Cup appearance bonus is secure.
But back to that CHEAT endorsement. FIFA will no doubt be happy that its marketing department has all the big teams in its World Cup 2010 tent, while gearing up its message of liberty, equality and fraternity for all the soccer-loving nations. But maybe it's time to add a new positive campaign like FIFA's 'No to Racism' effort. We need a 'Kick Cheats Out of Football' crusade. A yellow card for simulation needs to become a three-month ban. A Hand of Henry goal needs to be a year ban.
Today, a ruthless manufacturer in China could make three million fake Henry tops with a new endorsement and sell them to every man, woman and child in Ireland. They will not forget the Hand of Henry. The Irish memory is long.
Alan Black is the co-author of the upcoming book, The Glorious World Cup - A Balls Out Guide (NAL/Penguin)