Try to imagine any athlete in a major North American sport eliciting this sort of reaction by signing with what is in effect a sort of Columbus Blue Jackets of European football.
Albert Riera (that’s all right, I’ll wait while you scratch your head and try to remember exactly who he is and who he just played for) just signed for Olympiakos in Greece. Here’s the reaction in Athens:
This is about the equivalent to the Canucks signing a 10-15 goal a season winger who’s going to do well to hold his spot on the second line. Somehow, I don’t see this sort of crowd along Robson Street to welcome such a player.
Is it even possible for any athlete to get this sort of welcome in any city for any sport in North America? Has sport eased too far towards entertainment for it retain any sort of residence where we keep what we are primitively passionate about? What we feel we have emotional equity in? I can’t think of anyone that would do that. If the Canucks signed Sydney Crosby, a crowd would go to the airport, but this? I just don’t see it.
I will guarantee you this. Olympiakos does not have a scoreboard that is programmed to tell fans they need to “make some noise.”
In case you’re still scratching your head, here’s some background on Riera. Started nine games for Liverpool last season. Four Premiership goals in the two seasons he was there. Comparing to a second line winger is starting to sound overly generous.