The beautiful game

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The beautiful game

David Albers, Time Traveler Extraordinaire (Guest Writer)

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In the second and third centuries B.C., the game of soccer was born—well, sort of. It was an ancient form of soccer called tsu chu and was most likely a military training exercise, but it still had the same main objectives and rules of modern day soccer. Since that epoch, the game of soccer (football, footy/footie, “the beautiful game,” “the world’s game”) has evolved into one of the greatest sports in the world. In a very un-American fashion, we have not invaded the sport and tried to become the most dominant force in the soccer world. Soccer in the United States is not the most popular of sports, but it will become so.

In 1848, association football, which is just another name for football or soccer, was born in Europe. Rules and laws were developed and a governing body was formed. The Fédération Internationale de Football Association or FIFA (pronounced FEE-fa) has been ruling over soccer worldwide since 1904 from its headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland. Surprisingly, the United States of America Football Association was one of the first members of FIFA and the very first from the North American continent, but it was not a widely held sport, by any means. Football and baseball were very popular in those times and were both considered “man-sports,” which meant that the majority of people were not going to soccer games and were not participating in the sport itself. In turn, Americans were not improving at the sport and were not able to establish their place at the top of the food chain. If there is one thing that we as Americans like to see, it is winners, so when American soccer slipped in the rankings, so did the American population’s interest.

Soccer in the United States is not taken seriously. We soccer players are called “grass fairies” and many other more explicit names because it is not regarded as a very manly sport. “Soccer players are weak,” they say. “All you do is run around the field in your short shorts and kick a ball, how gay.”  There have been many heated debates and fights over this issue. All biases aside, the simple fact of the matter is that a good chunk of young men, high school age and older, have the thought process that one MUST play American football and baseball in order to be socially accepted as men or to avoid being teased. Some guys, however, simply do not like the game of soccer the same way some guys simply do not like the game of American football; it is to be expected in some cases. This misconception has hurt American soccer in ways that other reasons could not: some of the best athletes in the United States never play soccer competitively and therefore never get a chance to be a great soccer player.

In American culture, Monday night football and fantasy football dominate the stage. As a male high school student, I constantly hear things like “Hey dude, did you watch the game the other night?” and “Aaron Rogers got me 13 points last night!” If you cannot already tell, those students are not talking about soccer.

Soccer is neither the most popular sport in the United States nor is it the easiest to watch and understand. One thing that we as Americans truly enjoy is when any sports team runs up the score on its opponents. In 1940, the Chicago Bears embarrassed the Washington Redskins 73-0; that is the amount of points that Americans look for. Although there is the occasional blowout of seven or eight to nil (zero in soccer jargon), the score of a good soccer game should never reach more than three goals per team. The beauty of the game, which many people fail to understand, is not in the scoring of a whole heap of goals in one game but in the beauty of a hard-fought defensive play or series of passing and dribbling that sparks a fire in the rest of the team. In soccer a close shot on goal with a great save by the keeper is just as great as a goal. There is an elegance and beauty in soccer that, in the soccer world’s opinion, cannot be matched by the hard-hitting, brute force of American football.

But there is hope for this beautiful game; soccer is becoming more popular at a much younger age. Soccer leagues are lowering their beginning age to four and five years old; international and national soccer is becoming more popular to younger generations, and young kids have started to understand the game at a higher level and in turn, have begun to compete at a higher level. For all of the reasons for soccer not to succeed, its future is looking pretty bright.

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