â†µGrowing up just outside the City of Brotherly Love, I could never understand why no good players wanted to sign with the teams here. "The city is too hard on its athletes," I was told. Then 1992 happened. The Sixers lost Charles Barkley for 15-cents on the dollar in a ridiculously lopsided trade to Phoenix. The Eagles lost Reggie White to free agency when he signed with Green Bay. â†µâ†µ
â†µThere was a long period of time where it seemed nobody wanted to come to play in Philadelphia. A quick poll online came up with Ricky Watters as the only big-name free agent to sign in Philly in the mid-to-late ‘90s. Someone mentioned Troy Vincent as well, who came to Philly in 1999, but both of those guys were local products with Watters originally from Harrisburg and Vincent from across the river in Trenton. That doesn't really count, because they grew up here so they knew what they were getting themselves into. â†µâ†µ
â†µSomething changed in the Aughts, which were particularly good to Philadelphia with the likes of Jim Thome and Jeremy Roenick coming to town to join a burgeoning crop of stellar draft picks turned superstars and trades that actually favored the local teams. Sure, nobody won any championships, but top-level talent started to want to come to town. Over the next few years, Philadelphia introduced the likes of Peter Forsberg, Terrell Owens, Danny Briere, Asante Samuel and Elton Brand to town. Then, of course, the Phillies went and won a World Series, which changed everything. Now players like Roy Halladay want to come to Philadelphia. The city has become one of the hot towns for athletes to come and ply their respective trades. Philly is finally a cool place for athletes to play. â†µâ†µ
â†µSomebody better tell that to Robert Pires. The former French international told L'Equipe that he has rejected an offer to come to MLS and play for the Philadelphia Union because, "I'd rather do it in a beautiful city." â†µâ†µ
â†µâ‡¥"It does not please me to [go to Philadelphia]," said Pires, 36. "I do not want to be difficult, but [if I had to] take my family away, I'd rather do it in a beautiful city. Otherwise, I will put an end to my career." â†µâ†µPires wanted to stay with Villarreal of La Liga, but the feeling was not mutual and they did not renew his contract. Looking for work, Pires was invited to Philadelphia by Nick Sakiewicz, the CEO of the Union, but turned it down. â†µ
â†µâ‡¥"It's a bit of a shock as to where all this is coming from," said Sakiewicz. "A, He's never been here and B, we never made him an [official] offer. Look, I think Robert is a good player with a lot of experience and a lot of good football left in him, but he may just not have been for us; and obviously, given his comments, he clearly is not for us." â†µâ†µPires must be serious about retiring because seemingly nobody in Europe wants him and if he does want to sign with MLS, just not a less beautiful city like Philadelphia, he's out of luck. The single-entity system in MLS would give the Union first dibs, and if Pires says no to them, he says no to everyone. â†µ
â†µPhilly's reputation as a terrible sports city has completely changed in the last 10 years. Sure, the fans are still unruly, obnoxious and in some cases, criminal. But it sure is a cool place for the athletes. If someone could just mention that to those around the world. Hey, now that Pires seems to be done playing soccer, maybe he could get a job with the tourism board. I hear the view from their office is beautiful. â†µâ†µ
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.