Or as it is known to the entirety of the planet outside of the United States and Canada………
Of course, here in the upper reaches of North America, we play a sport called Football that utilizes nearly every other part of the human body to a much greater extent than it uses the actual foot.
There are about 65 men on a Professional Football team in the National Football League, yet only two of them, the kicker and the punter, are actually allowed to use their feet on the ball. To everyone else on the field, using the feet is a huge “NO NO”.
Yet we call it Football.
That makes a whole lot of sense.
Which brings us to what we savages here in North America call Soccer.
You know Soccer. The game that seemingly every kid in North America, boys and girls, all play in their formative years from about age 5 up until age 12 or so.
It’s practically an unwritten law in this country that young kids HAVE TO PLAY soccer.
And like every other parent in North America, my kids played soccer.
You remember soccer being played by 5 yr old kids. One huge blob of 20+ kids all slowly moving as one solid pack, up and down the field, with the ball hidden deep somewhere inside that pack. You had no idea which team actually had the ball, outside of watching which way the huge blob of kids was slowly going down the field towards one goal or the other. And ah yes, the goal. Tendered by the brave goalie or goalkeeper. Usually the least athletic kids in town. The kids far more interested in playing in the dirt, playing with bugs, or with eating the actual grass than they were with actually participating in the game.
Every now and then, the blob of kids would slowly move down the field, towards the goal, where the goalie was now fast asleep on the ground in the fetal position, and as the blob edged across the goal line, with all 20+ kids all crowded together, the referee would suddenly blow his/her whistle and would signal a goal! Kids would jump and down with joy, parents would go nuts, and no one around the field would have any clue as to which kid actually scored.
Games were offensive displays, with scores of 15-14 being common. Goalkeeping statistics were horrendously bad. Ball handling skills were laughable at best. The kid who could successfully kick the ball with an actual forward motion, while not managing to hit himself in the nose, or trip over his own feet, was deemed to be highly skilled. A kid who had total fear of the ball, fear of being anywhere near the ball, and who had never actually touched a soccer ball in his/her brief life, was put on Defense.
A defensive player, screaming in terror as the ball is rolling towards him/herself, who then has a panic attack on the field and falls down into a shivering ball of tears, just before the ball harmlessly ricochets off of their trembling body, is considered to have made a great defensive stop.
An offensive, attacking player, more interested in staring at the skies to watch the birds and insects, who is lucky enough to have a ball careen of the side of their head with such velocity that it actually trickles across the goal line before the player slumps to the ground unconscious, is future striker material.
My youngest son on the pitch.
I remember it well.
In our area of North Texas, the soccer craze suddenly dies when kids reach the age of Junior High School. (12-13 yrs old)
Well, for some odd reason, even though every county and town in the area has organized leagues for the kids, with nearly every kid playing soccer, once the kids reach Junior High age, the leagues stop. There are no leagues for the “older kids”. The area Junior High Schools and High Schools do not have soccer as an organized sport. I live in a county just north of the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas metro area and there is one school in our entire county that offers Soccer to it’s students. That’s it.
The kids quit playing soccer and they quit caring about soccer.
Us adults in these rural areas turn on Soccer on the Television and we don’t see the 15-14 shootouts that we used to watch our kids engage in, we instead are treated to 0-0 “defensive battles” and 1-0 “Thrillers”.
We instead watch what we call the “REAL FOOTBALL”, whether it be College or the NFL, and we see 35-21 games with bodies and blood flying everywhere, scantily-clad cheerleaders, people consuming near-fatal amounts of alcohol, every weekend from August until January, and we are happy.
That’s the “boring” sport played by all those guys across the pond with unpronounceable last names, in countries we can’t pronounce, with rules we can’t understand, and all we do know is that there is not nearly enough actual goals, the people have on way too much clothing, the weather always seems to be cold and rainy, and for some odd reason, everyone in the entirety of the rest of the planet insist on calling “Soccer”…….”Football” for some odd reason.
Once each of my kids reached the age of 12, Soccer ceased to exist as an actual sport for me. They were no longer playing, they had no opportunity to play in school as they aged, so what did I care?
I was once Volunteering in DFW Airport during the World Cup. Hundreds of people were crowded around every TV in the terminal, all watching a World Cup SOCCER match between two far-away lands, with players that 90% of the people had never heard of. I looked over the crowd and saw that it was another typical 1-0 offensive explosion, yet the people in the terminal were acting as if the game was 15-14 with a large pack of 5yr olds out on the field.
What was the big deal? It was only a Soccer game! It wasn’t the Super Bowl, the one real championship of the one real FOOTBALL!!
I had no idea what the allure was for Soccer. And, I was far from alone in that belief. Here in the United States, I can name off about 20 other sports or activities that get higher Television ratings than Soccer.
A Wrestling match between two blind midgets would get double the amount of TV viewers than a boring soccer match.
Because soccer is boring!!
or so I thought…….
2013 would be a momentous year for me, sports-wise. As I near 50 years of age, with decades of being a rabid supporter of Football, Baseball, Basketball, Hockey, Golf, Car Racing, and every other sport in North America, I found myself in the position of actually considering giving “football” a try. Not the version of what we mistakenly call football, but the version that the rest of the planet calls “football”.
I was going to start watching socc………. I mean Football. The “REAL” Football.
Part of my reasoning was my son, now 16 yrs old, who had played soccer as a youth, and who now enjoys playing FIFA SOCCER on his gaming system. Another reason was that NBC Sports had gotten the contract to televise the Premier League games here in the US. They would be making EVERY game available to the US Audience. This is totally unheard of in any sport here in the US. In order to get EVERY game of your favorite team, especially if you live in a different part of the country, you have to subscribe to an expensive television package that allows you watch YOUR favorite team play. NBC was going to allow us to see EVERY Premier League team, every week!
But what did I know about the Premier League?
It must be the Premier League in the world, because it’s called the Premier League……. right?
And it had teams from England.
I would later find out it also has teams from Wales.
99% of the people here think that Wales is part of England. Isn’t it?
What Premier League teams do I know?
Manchester United………… Because everyone on the planet hates them………even though I don’t know why…………yet.
Liverpool………… They wear red and the Beatles were from Liverpool…….weren’t they?
That’s about it.
NBC started airing commercials over the summer in an attempt to warm the American audiences to the many teams in the Premier League.
Even though I actually lived in England for three years in the 1980′s, even I had never heard of some of the cities.
Hull? Where the heck is that?
Stoke? What’s a Stoke?
West Bromwich Albion? Is that near East Bromwich? And what is an Albion?
I lived near Luton.
Where is Luton’s team? How come Luton is not in the Premier League but an Albion-thingy is?
NBC made a few points clear.
There were teams from all over England and Wales. A good chunk of the league were teams based in London. You mean London just does not have one team? They have how many in the Premier League? Six!! You have to be kidding! What? There actually a whole bunch of other teams in London that are not in the Premier League, at this moment, but who COULD BE, in coming years?
This all hurts my head!
NBC tells us that EVERYONE in England supports a team. ONE team. You do NOT under any circumstances, under the penalty of being imprisoned in the Tower of London, drawn and quartered in a public execution, with your severed head then being displayed on a spike outside the gates of the Tower, do you EVER consider cheering and supporting TWO teams! Got that? You have to support ONE TEAM, and ONE TEAM ONLY, for your whole LIFE………..under unwritten penalty of Death!!
But who to root for?
Apparently, you have to do lots of actual studying up on the teams, the cities, their history, the fans, their colors, and you have to do lots of research on how many supporters that they have actually put to death for trying to switch allegiances somewhere during the course of the victims life.
This is all important.
So, that’s what I did this past summer, before the Premier League season kicked off.
I studies on the Toffee’s, the Hammers, the Villans, the Blues, the Reds, the Red Devils, the Canaries, the Potters, the Tigers, the Eagles, the Cottagers, the…..
What the heck is a Cottager?
I watched pre-season matches on TV and watched replays of great matches from last season that NBC was showing.
I knew NONE of the players.
My son had always ranted and raved about Messi and Ronaldo on his FIFA game……. who do they play for?
What? They don’t even play in the Premier League? How can that be?
NBC continued to offer programs geared towards helping us wayward Yanks find a team that we could support for the rest of our waking days here on the planet. Did we like a team from an affluent, wealthy area with rich owners, or ones from working-class, blue-collar areas owned by locals or less wealthy owners? Did we like blue or red? Did we like teams who’s fans blow bubbles, who bounce up and down, or fans that sing to the team before each match? They showed us famous celebrities that supported various teams. Prince William supports Aston Villa? Where the heck is Aston Villa? I don’t even see an Aston Villa on my map! Wasn’t Aston Villa a type of car in the early James Bond movies?
This is all so confusing!
Then, I read that you should study the teams and most important, watch the teams. Over the first month of the Premier League season, NBC would be featuring EVERY team in the league on their featured matches of the day, while the other teams would all be available live online.
I told myself that I would make a point to watch EVERY team in the league before I would make my decision as to who I would support.
I told myself I would not be a band wagon supporter and automatically gravitate towards one of the powerful teams that is always in contention from year to year. I learned that my team of choice in fact, WOULD FIND ME.
At some point in my search, the team that I was destined to support, would make itself known to me.
They might be a championship contender, or they might be a doormat that the rest of the league steps on each week.
Either way, this would be MY team.
My 16 yr old son, the former soccer player, and current FIFA gamer, already had HIS team. That meant nothing to me in my search. If I was lead to support that same team, so be it. If not, no worries. MY TEAM would find me.
I found out that my 26yr old son also has a team that he supports, a different team than the one my youngest son supports. I would not be swayed by that either.
And a month into my search……….
My team found me.
I was watching a match on TV and early in the match, with the score still 0-0……. I knew that I had found my team.
To be continued……….