As a devout Muslim would proclaim his or her faith, similarly I say: “There is only one sport and its name is football…real football.” Yes, I mean “soccer.” I’m a sport snob. I don’t apologize for it, because there are billions that make up the majority of humans on this planet that agree with me.
While soccer still may not be at the top of the favorite sport list in the U.S., it is fast moving up, considering where it was only a few decades ago. As a player (sometimes), a man with Brazilian blood who has been in Brazil multiple times when we’ve won, and a soccer fanatic, allow me to present three reasons why I think you should tune in to the world’s most popular sporting event if you haven’t already:
3. The U.S. team is actually pretty good
I admit that I don’t normally go for the U.S. However, I do have two passports, and I have been following the team for a couple of years now along with a few of the U.S. players in their European Clubs. Yes, the fact that half the team plays in Europe is a huge and much needed change for the better.
This is the same U.S. team that beat Spain and gave Brazil a run for their money in last years Confederations Cup (a continental champions cup, a “pre-World Cup” hype event). Without question, this is the most talented U.S. squad in Cup history. Some know the name Donovan, but you should learn the names: Dempsey, Altidore, and Howard (probably one of the top three goalies in the world).
2. There are no Yankees.
The World Cup is ALWAYS unpredictable. There are always powerhouse nations: Brazil, Italy, Spain, Argentina, and Holland, to name a few. However, in this thing, anything goes and there are always upsets. Most worldwide, including me, have picked a Brazil x Spain final. Well, the mighty Spain, 2008 European Champions with players whose salaries could pay off Minnesota’s budget deficit five times over, fell to Switzerland in their opening match and now faces an uphill battle just to get through to the next round, let alone make it to the final.
1. International relations through the ball
Some in the United Sates complain that soccer is too slow, there are no breaks, and don’t like the low scores. In a way, there is some truth to these complaints. You only get half-time instead of a commercial every five minutes. I once read that if you subtracted commercials and replays from an NFL game, you would have less than 1 hour of live action. I can’t even do the math with baseball (not to mention golf) since it seems like guys are standing around for an eternity.
Yes, it can take a long time for a goal to come and many times you’ll watch 90 min for a 0-0 draw. It could still be a brilliant match if you learn the game and know how to look for strategies and moves.
Anyway, when I hear something like this, the subtext I hear along with it is: “Why would I watch something where the United States isn’t the best. We’re the winners, always.” Add to this the fact that in the United States the game goes by a different name than in THE REST OF THE WORLD, and there is no wonder why U.S. arrogance is still a problem on so many levels, including sport. A little humility can do everyone good.
Soccer will not save the world. I am aware of this. I also know that soccer is not perfect. However, the world’s lingua franca (for now), in my opinion, is soccer. In a time when cross-cultural conflicts abound and it sometimes seems harder than ever to get people to understand one another, soccer is one thing that everyone everywhere gets, regardless of ethnicity, religion, class, education, and so on. If you try to start up a conversation anywhere in the world saying “Adrian Peterson” or “Joe Mauer” blank stares will abound. Replace those with “Kaká” or “Drogba” and you’re likely to get an immediate reaction. Of course if you do that, you had better be ready to back it up!
Enjoy the World Cup. ESPN and Univision (free, channel 13) are carrying the matches and you can find them online at espn3.com and other places. Finally, HEXA BRASIL!!