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Why the USA will never embrace Soccer


“The rules are only decided by winners while the losers only get to follow them.”

- Xenocrates

Asamoah Gyan of Ghana scores against the USA.

It is football season. No, I don’t mean that bloodsport between monstrous men that clash bones and rend muscle in what amounts to little more than an out dated version of rugby on steroids – literally. I mean football – a game that is actually played with the foot. It’s also called “Soccer” and it’s the greatest game on Earth – the only one America sucks at. I’ll give you 10 reasons why.

10. Soccer is intrinsically Un-American

The Empire of America represents a perfect storm where contiguous land space and immigrant population growth came together to perpetuate the most effective implementation of intellect and raw power on Earth since ancient Rome. Therefore, it is not altogether unthinkable that its denizens will scoff at any other creation that isn’t culturally idiosyncratic of their pompous empire.

That is why Americans still feel compelled to think, quite fallaciously in fact, that only their version of the game is actually called football while the rest of the world is playing Soccer – a term that is only ubiquitously used in the United States. This is despite the fact that Soccer is more popular than American Football, and that the word “Soccer” is misconceived as an American idiom.

In other English speaking countries, the game is known as “Football”. In Spanish speaking countries, it’s called “fútbol” (except in Spain, where it is “balompié“). In German, it’s “Fußball“. In French territories, it’s “La football“. In Portuguese territories, it’s “Futebol“. The English word literally became a global cognate – except in America where they still insist on referring to it as “Soccer“.

Now while American Football, Rugby and Soccer all share the same origin in 19th century England, neither Soccer nor Rugby are American concoctions. Rugby is the oldest version of football. When English immigrants colonized America, rugby inevitably made the trip to the land of opportunity as well.

While old football underwent numerous American revisions, it’s European version was revised into what was then called Association Football. Those who didn’t like the Association format formed their own league and “Rugby” was born. The Association Football acolytes continued to revise the game until it took its current format, where the ball is played exclusively with the feet.

Remember that the game that made it across the Atlantic to the US and the game that was revised in England were both called football. The word “Soccer” was only used to differentiate between Association Football which became the de facto standard. However, so long as America didn’t have an exclusive hand in its invention, the game will never be truly embraced as one of their own.

09. Soccer is not an instant gratification game

A yellow card is shown to Team USA.

Americans are notorious for having the attention span of a housefly. That’s why all of their most popular sports deal with a lot of hot action and instant repetitive scoring. That’s part of the reason why Baseball and Basketball are so big and why American football has such a massive local subscription base.

Soccer is a game where 22 men kick a ball around for 90 minutes, trying to get it into a net that is just large enough to permit only the clumsiest of goal keeping or the most talented curve kicking to actually get the ball inside. With that said, there are dozens of rules that make scoring even harder to do.

Take the offside rule for instance. There probably isn’t a more frustrating rule in any game anywhere else. The rule basically says that a striker cannot score a goal if there is less than two of the opposing team’s defenders between him and the goal. If America adopted Soccer, this rule would likely be first to go.

To make matters worse, those who have studied the game at length and know how to bend the laws of physics to make the game exciting are few and far between. Germany, Brazil, Argentina & Spain come to mind. If players from one of these countries are not in the game, the match can be an empty emotional thrill ride of near misses, tight defending and offside violations.

That’s why FIFA developed rules to break these deadlocks in the World Cup.

So while it is impossible for a game like Basketball to go scoreless after an hour of play, it is not uncommon for soccer games to occur where the teams can be tied or where the match can go scoreless altogether. Americans will never be able to appreciate a game where there may be no immediate victor.

08. Only “inferior” Countries Dominate it

Carlos Tevez of Argentina celebrates.

I can clearly remember when Usain Bolt destroyed two world records in the biggest event at the Olympics in 2008. On the sports channel in every other country, this was headline news – with one newspaper exclaiming that Usain was a real life mutant. On ESPN, his story was reduced to just a foot note.

Instead, Michael Phelps was all the rage in America (and not undeservedly so). However, even though Phelps’ achievements insinuated that his progeny were in reverse evolution, Bolt’s achievements defied the natural laws of physics and biology, making scientists scratch their heads – yet ESPN barely noticed.

The reverse is true when Americans dominate the 100m dash and the 200m relays at the Olympics. Soccer will always suffer the same fate in America and it largely has to do with American pride. In fact, it’s only very recently that Soccer has been gaining some momentum – but only because Team USA was doing fairly well on the pitch. They actually looked like they could actually do damage.

However, when a sport as big as Soccer is only dominated by third world nations and socialist European countries with only a fraction of the marketing power as the USA, it’s not hard to see why young Rome sometimes looks down on the sport. So losing at the World Cup is a major blow to American pride. Many Americans would prefer that they not enter the competition at all.

07. FIFA refuses to embrace the technology

The controversial Coulibaly decision

When Team USA was denied a third goal against Slovenia by the dubious decision of referee Koman Coulibaly, it was a gut wrenching put down. I’m a big fan of the game and while I’m not necessarily a fan of Team USA (I think they need more experience), they really did deserve that goal. I felt bad not because they drew the game, but because they will hate Soccer even more.

I, like many others around the world, actually wanted Team America to beat Slovenia. I mean who doesn’t like an underdog story? While Team USA would certainly have been utterly decimated against the likes of Germany in the later rounds, fair is still fair. They really deserved to get those three extra points.

But to make matters worse, Team America (and America at large) found out the hard way that the referee’s decision is final – even if it is clearly in error. But what really pissed them off is the fact that video replay clearly showed that the goal was valid. However, FIFA doesn’t allow instant replay to influence referee decisions, suggesting that it would undermine the role of the referee.

While that explanation is utter nonsense, it doesn’t motivate a fledgling Soccer nation like the USA to gain enough interest in the game as a major marketing event. Every other major tournament allows video feedback to influence the game. World Cup soccer is the only one that doesn’t embrace that ideology.

And here I was thinking that Americans were stubborn.

06. The Governing body of World Cup Soccer is French

Well this is pretty self explanatory. Ever since World War II, the French have been at the butt of every American political pop culture joke for the last half century. If America had respect for the French before WWII, it died thereafter. Having the French tell them what to do for anything – especially after that Slovenia match and the nonsense that followed – just won’t stand. It won’t.

05. Support for the game requires a major win for America

Bill Clinton watches the game

So long as Soccer is seen a “fringe” sport amongst the din of the Superbowl, Major League Baseball and the NBA playoffs, it will take an epic win at the World Cup before America decides to take it seriously. Nothing less will do. Perhaps knocking out a team like England or even a more historical European rival like Germany (yeah right) might do the trick. They need encouragement.

Either way, there just isn’t enough noise being made state side about the sport to make it important enough for America to throw their backs into it like they do Baseball, Gridiron and Basketball. Even athletics gets more political and social support than Soccer. This is a vicious cycle. It is simultaneously why they do poorly at the game and also why they fail to take it seriously enough.

04. It only happens once every four years

Due to the sheer magnitude of the FIFA World Cup, it requires at least two years to organize the event and another two for qualification among the over 190 participating countries. Four years is a long time and that is why America lost to Ghana again – with exactly the same scoreline. Quite a bit odd, isn’t it?

Well… not really.

After four years, the Americans have not improved their ball play. They are still playing scrimmage even at the international level, because they have long forgotten the lessons learned at the last World Cup. Americans need a yearly Soccer event to hone their skills – which subsequently brings me to point #3:

03. The US has no major Soccer League events

Can you imagine if there was a World Cup Basketball? America would crush the rest of the world – blindfolded. The same applies for Baseball. Let’s not even talk about Gridiron. Winning would be a walk in the park on a cool summer’s afternoon. This is precisely why the Europeans and the South Americans dominate at World Cup Soccer. They have year long international leagues.

If the United States were to invest in Soccer at the High School, Collegiate and Professional level in the same way Spain, Germany, England, Brazil, Argentina, Ghana and many others have, they would not only be a force to be reckoned with, but they would also have the very best legs to pick from when the World Cup comes around. The availability of variety is critical in a game this big.

If there was a yearly Major League Soccer event with the 50 contiguous states playing off against each other with all the media glitz and glamour of the NFL and the NBA and with ESPN drooling all over it like a new mother fawning over her latest delivery, the United States would dominate at World Cup Soccer.

02. There isn’t enough variety

The players on the US team are fairly static. From the looks of it, (and based on their qualifying games), most of Team USA is made up of football enthusiasts and not necessarily well exposed professionals. The United States is a massive country. Surely there potential football geniuses lurking out there. However, without a major soccer event, finding such players will be difficult.

Perhaps the USA should consider doing what many other Football nations have done, and naturalize some of those really good foreign players who could use a better life in the States. Look at how many foreign nationals migrate to the US every year! These folks will however need the support to make their love of the game as worthwhile as the rest of the nation’s love of their other ball games.

…and that brings me to the top reason:

01. Human Nature abhors competition

Team Brazil

Brazil is the top ranked Soccer nation on Earth. The country is practically a football gold mine. Even Germany is importing Brazilian players onto its team. It is no wonder then that because of Brazil’s capacity to churn out top players every World Cup, that they can even cast them aside after each tournament.

If Brazil is so discriminate, how should we then expect less of the USA?

Unlike Brazil, the US is a super power. It may suck at football, but it practically dominates at everything else. In political terms, the United States is the single most powerful nation on earth and has practically no other comparable competitors. That’s why the NBA, the NFL and the MLB haven’t gone global.

At their monetary worth, they don’t feel the need to.

I’m not sure if you realise it, but America is the only country in the world that features localized major league sporting events that are so big that they are practically like a global tournament – except that the events are 100% local to the United States. In some cases, these games are even referred to as World Tournaments – which in itself is a powerful statement of American arrogance.

All this makes a telling statement about us: Human nature abhors competition – especially when one competitor is forced to defend its honour. The US Military and Government are well aware of this. They know that the rules are only decided by the winners while the losers only get to follow them. That’s partly why Soccer is dead to them. They’re not the ones making up the rules.

The United States is used to being on top. Being in second place (or failing to qualify for that matter) is not something the country takes very well. Just knowing that there are other countries in the world that are better than them at anything cuts too deep to even fathom for some highly patriotic Americans.

That’s why the NFL, the NBA, and the MLB will always be such massive events that they will dwarf even the World Cup in terms of their sheer magnitude in viewership, dollars generated and international appeal. Young Rome is not interested in a sport that doesn’t support their cause for imperial conquest.

Besides, in the three year interval when there is no World Cup, the NFL, NBA and MLB will attract more audiences and have more money pass through (mostly into) the American Economy than the entire advertising revenue of all of FIFA’s World Cup events combined. It’s like comparing a bicycle to a BMW.

So why should Americans care about the most popular game on Earth when the most powerful nation on Earth isn’t one of its top contenders? It really doesn’t feel compelled to – and that’s why the US Soccer Team will probably never get past the round of 16. Ghana will always be there – waiting for them.

Asamoah Gyan of Ghana Celebrates after scoring a goal.

Conclusively;

The really sad thing however, is that Americans fail to realize that they are too  comfortable to be successful at that level. Third World countries dominate the game because they have nothing else to look forward to. So they spend 3 years honing their skills to perfection and then unite themselves as one world every fourth year in the glorious celebration of the greatest sport of all time.

It doesn’t matter to them that America won’t truly embrace the game. In fact, the third world takes comfort in the idea that Soccer is the only thing in the universe that proves false the adage, that “might is right“. It’s the one time every four years that they can ignore their poverty and utterly crush the USA.

American arrogance is such a beautiful thing that they dare to call their team’s struggle in the World Cup something of a “Hollywood Ending” – a “perfect underdog story that captured an entire nation’s hearts“. The only trouble with that logic, is that for every under dog, there’s a dog that is far lower still.

Irrespective of who wins the World Cup, the United States will quickly forget their humiliating defeat and go back to leveraging their beating stick over the rest of the world. It’s the way of things, you see. After all, in the game of life and death, the rules are decided by the winners. The losers only get to follow them.

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  1. Nomena
    February 10, 2013 at 2:10 am | #1

    The writer of this article belongs to the old-american generation.

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