Behind The Scenes

ESPN’s Alexi Lalas drops soccer knowledge on Stephen Colbert

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ESPN’s lead soccer studio analyst Alexi Lalas lives a bifurcated existence.

On the one hand, the former U.S. Men’s National Team defender and FIFA World Cup player has spent a better part of two decades as a soccer missionary — preaching and gathering converts in the U.S. to appreciate the nuances of the beautiful game.

On the other hand, Lalas is among the loudest voices in defense of the quality and style of soccer played in America.

Last night on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, the two sides of Lalas’ soccer odyssey crossed paths as he sparred with the critically acclaimed host Stephen Colbert on the match-fixing scandal, diving in soccer and the “soccer-is-boring” retort.

Lalas discussed his appearance on The Colbert Report with Front Row.

His experience on The Colbert Report:
This was my third time on the show and it’s always a blast. You never know when something from the soccer world is going to pique Stephen’s interest. Stephen’s character comes from a place of ignorance, arrogance and delusion. He wants the guest to play it straight and challenge the character because that’s when his brilliant satirical humor often comes out.

Defending soccer on the show:
I never get tired of defending soccer. I think it is part of my job and I don’t think that soccer bashers (real or fictitious) get challenged enough when they generalize and trivialize while dumping on the sport. I can’t make someone like soccer, but I can point out why I find it beautiful or why they may not be able to see the beauty.

His solution to the match-fixing scandal:
Match-fixing is a serious problem for the sport and it needs to be dealt with, but soccer is not going away. FIFA and its member Confederations need to hold clubs, leagues and member countries accountable but they also need the local law enforcement to recognize the crime, and act. Players must also be educated to the realities of their decisions when faced with the opportunity to fix a match. Maybe most importantly, whistleblowers must be championed, rewarded and protected when speaking out.

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