Although by now the World Cup is likely a distant memory for most, the name of Landon Donovan hopefully still rings a faint bell. Before the U.S. crashed out of the tournament in a frustrating loss to Ghana, Donovan was the hero of the hour (see miraculous injury-time goal over Algeria here), representing America’s hopes and dreams for World Cup glory with his talent as well as leadership on the field.
It came as a dull disappointment, then, to read in the midst of all the World Cup excitement that Donovan, who has been separated (but not divorced) from his wife Bianca for about a year, was accused by a British woman of being the father of her unborn child. Donovan’s response, while disappointing insofar as it confirmed his behavior with this woman, was surprisingly mature: he publicly promised to provide the appropriate support if, after tests, the child proved to be his.
Soon after the World Cup ended, it was announced that Landon Donovan was not the father after all. In addition, it appeared that he was in the process of reconciling with his wife, and I along with other Donovan fans could breathe more easily. For me, it is always such a disappointment to discover that a talented soccer star whom I greatly respect and admire is involved in sordid scandal, and I had hoped it would not be the case with Donovan. Only recently, the great John Terry of England was involved in a messy affair with the wife of a good friend and fellow teammate, and Franck Ribery of France was charged with soliciting under-age prostitution. Here, while Donovan’s behavior was far from a shining standard of fidelity or self-control, my respect for him can remain mainly intact: although I certainly wish that he would lead a lifestyle of complete integrity, I am glad that he acted maturely when the time came to take responsibility for his actions, as so few athletes of his kind do in similar situations. To Landon Donovan I would say: thank you for your incredible leadership during the World Cup, good luck in Brazil 2014, and here’s to hoping for a happy and lasting reunion with your wife!