CARSON, California, Oct 13 (Reuters) - David Beckham faces a near-impossible task to try to elevate soccer to unprecedented heights in the United States, says former Los Angeles Galaxy coach Ruud Gullit.
England midfielder Beckham, one of the world’s most marketable sports figures, joined the Galaxy in July 2007 as part of an orchestrated bid to lift American soccer to a new level.
“David is more than just a football player and I think he does extremely well to give football here a lift,” Dutchman Gullit told Reuters at the Home Depot Center on Monday.
”But I doubt if they (U.S. soccer organisers) really want that. I think they are afraid of football because it’s so popular everywhere around the world. I think they will just control it so it doesn’t become more popular than their American sports.
”So it is very hard for him (Beckham),“ added Gullit, speaking at a training event arranged by Ford’s www.FeelFootball.com programme. ”They will never allow that, and in some ways I can understand it as well.
“I have my doubts if they really want to make it popular. Some sports already have had a bit of a dive so they don’t want American football to become less popular, or basketball or baseball.”
Gullit, a former World and European Player of the Year who previously coached Chelsea, Newcastle United and Feyenoord, had said he was ready for “a huge challenge” after being appointed Galaxy head coach last November.
The Dutchman’s arrival gave the club the highest-profile coach in Major League Soccer (MLS) as well as the biggest-name player in Beckham.
Just nine months later, though, Gullit resigned for personal reasons with the team struggling to book a place in the end-of-season playoffs.
Asked if he had any regrets in accepting the Galaxy position, Gullit replied: “Of course you do, especially if you know what you know now. I don’t know if I would have taken the same decision again, that’s for sure.”
Gullit never settled at the Galaxy. According to local media reports, he did not see eye-to-eye with the club president and general manager and he struggled to come to terms with salary caps and other constraints imposed by MLS.
“The rules and all the things that they do here are so different from what we do in Europe,” the 46-year-old said.
“Everything that looks logical, they do it in a different way, and that can be frustrating for a lot of coaches. Everybody talks about it here in the U.S.”
Asked to assess the quality of football in MLS, Gullit replied: ”I think the level was reasonable, especially under the circumstances. You travel a lot and you play under different levels of temperature, height and humidity.
“That made it all extremely hard, especially when you had to go the East Coast in the summer. It was 32 degrees Celsius, 80 percent humidity and on turf. That’s ridiculous and it made it all very hard for the players to perform every week.”
Gullit has no desire to rush back into coaching.
“l think I need some more experience,” said the Dutchman, who works as a television soccer analyst in Britain. “I have had some bad experiences and you don’t want that any more. You want to build it up slowly, slowly, slowly and not jump in immediately. It’s a question of more time.” (Editing by Ed Osmond)