Hooked on World Cup Soccer

Well, I am hooked on World Cup Soccer.  I am still not sure how it happened, but I have to admit to sitting in front of the TV this past weekend riveted.  Keep in mind that I attended schools that did not offer soccer as a sport and my friends and I didn’t play or watch soccer.  The more I think about my new found interest the more I realize that it may have more to do with wanting to take part in an event that involves people from all over the world rather than simply wanting to watch 22 men kick a ball back and forth.  Perhaps this interest is magnified given the general perception that the United States takes little interest in the affairs of the rest of the world. While I cheered for the U.S. team on Saturday against Italy I have to admit to enjoying the fact that we can’t claim to be the "big boys" on the block.  The U.S. isn’t perceived as anything special or even necessarily respected on the international soccer scene while other teams such as Brazil have a rich history of success.   In the end, the game acts as an equalizer among nations.  It was a thrill watching and listening on Saturday to the Italians as their national anthem was being played.  They had their arms around one another and enthusiastically belted out the words.  The Americans were much more complacent and very few took the opportunity to sing along. 

Given that I have no experience playing the game I’ve had some difficulty following the rules.  I understand that the goal is to place the ball in the opponent’s net, but beyond this I am lost.  What’s a yellow card as opposed to a red card, how does substitution work, and why do they add time at the end of the half?  Luckily I have my wife who is from Germany who explained it all to me in very clear language. 

This stands in sharp contrast to our trip to Fenway Park a few years back and my attempt to explain baseball to my wife who understood about as much as I understand the game of soccer.  I never realized how complicated the game is.  My wife asked some excellent questions: Why three strikes?  Why do they run in that direction?  Why does that player keeping touching himself in the crotch?  I’m sure I didn’t handle these questions in nearly the same fashion as my wife did in response to my questions.  I’m sure I thought to myself, "How can you not understand the game of baseball?  Didn’t you watch or play it when you were a kid in northern Germany?" 

As I don’t have cable I am going to have to find a sports bar on Thursday to watch the U.S. and Ghana.   

2 responses... add one

I am enjoying the games as well as I have a 12 yr old son who plays soccer with an all-city team and travels a lot playing. Before he played I hardly watched soccer and knew little about it. We are big fans now and cheer for several countries including England, Mexico and Brazil. The U.S. team is indeed not a world power and I do love underdogs. I wanted to follow up on your comment about the singing of the anthems. The Italians obviously underestimated the Americans and that was evident by the opening singing of the anthems as you pointed out. As a former athlete I can remember before events where I was overtly nervous that I could barely remember the words to the anthem let along sing it. The Italians were relaxed and arrogant. They were playful and carefree. The Americans were fighting for their tournament lives and that was etched on every face. Anyway, good drama out there and my son and I look forward to watching the rest of the games.

I caught the same bug while in Ireland for three weeks in 2004. It was the European Cup that was on, which Portugal eventually won. I watched in the pubs, and it did not really matter who was playing, though the locals rooted for any team playing England.

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