Getting with the programme

Just been sent an interesting soccer programme from the US. I have this friend in California who used to be my room-mate at Durham. He did
a PhD, then went off to become a nuclear scientist in the US. He now has a large all-American family but he's retained his Geordie accent and his passion for footer. The programme was for a game in Seattle this July, when the local Major League Soccer team, Sounders FC, played a friendly against Chelsea in front of 66,000 fans. Shows how well soccer is doing in some of the US cities.

The programme lists the team players, with fascinating details such as the names of their wives and children, even brothers and sisters. It also has a section marked Salary - which is the most revealing of all. As it's the official programme, one has to assume the details are correct. It shows that around half the team are on piddling wages of about $35,000-60,000 a year. That's what the average journeyman lump in the Premiership gets in
a week. Four are around the $100,000 mark; one, Kasey Keller, is on $300,000. Yes, the ex-Spurs and Fulham goalie (whose wife, by the way, is called Kristin, and his children are Chloe and Cameron). The rule in the MLS, set by the league itself, is that the total team salary cannot be over $2.1m a year. But, a-ha, there is something called the Designated Player, which is how LA Galaxy managed to give Beckham his huge salary. In the case of Sounders, their designated player is that old Arsenal favourite, Freddie Ljungberg. He is on $1.3m a year. Well done, Freddie. No family details are given, so presumably he ain't got none.

I wonder what the American fans think, with these salaries written down so blatantly in front of them, when a foreigner on a vast whack such as Freddie, say, is playing rubbish, while Stephen King, aged 23, from New Jersey, who earns only $34,000 a year, is playing a blinder. The temptation to boo must be very great.The programme also gives Chelsea's personal details - John Terry naming his children, stuff my wife is always asking me about. She went on for weeks because I didn't know the names of Terry's twins (Georgie John and Summer Rose is the answer). Lampard's daughters are Luna and Isla. Ballack's wife is Simone; his sons are Louis, Emilio and Jordi. Malouda's wife is called Florencia, his son Aaron and daughters Kelys and Satya.

It also includes their salaries. Now, in the UK, we think we know how much our heroes get, but we don't, as it's kept very secret and certainly does not appear in any match programme. But the Sounders programme states that Lampard was on £150,000 a week, Terry on £140,000, Ballack on £120,000 and Ashley Cole on £100,786. Poor old Michael Essien is rubbing along on £62,433 and Malouda on £65,000. I don't know
where they got these figures, and I suspect they're out of date already, but they look believable. At Chelsea, the best-paid gets three times the worst-paid. In the US team it's 40 times.

Details of the coaching staff are also listed. Sounders's head coach, Sigi Schmid, born in Germany but having moved to the US as a child, has two degrees: a BSc in economics, UCLA, and a BA in business administration, USC.

Oh, if only we were given such fascinating facts at English League games. I might start reading the programmes.

newstatesman.com/writers/hunter_davies