a comment on my poem from yesterday inspired this post.
why do i love football (or for those of you with American or western sensibilities, why do i love soccer)
i guess i’ve always loved the actual game. i played as a kid and remember watching television and seeing footage of Pele. i even read books about him in elementary school. i never really aspired to be an athlete, and in the small towns we lived in, soccer was not a priority. football, basketball and track were the sports you played.
still going into college, i was intrigued. i would catch the occasional picture of the bright colorful uniforms that national and club teams wore (they’re called “kits” btw) and of course the World Cup was on tv somewhere every four years. i would play pick up games in the park with the international students at school. it was just something in the background. i had several pairs of Umbro shorts,
but beyond that it wasn’t an obsession or anything, i had class and more pressing matters. besides, playing soccer did not seem to impress the ladies.
rolling on into the next few years, i began to teach school and of course the World Cup came to America in 1994.
although there were games played in the Cotton Bowl not too far from where I was teaching, i could not get away to watch a match. i do remember the crazy red mop of hair that Alexi Lalas displayed and the smoothness of Cobi Jones. still soccer didn’t really hold a prominant place in my life. i did want a Dallas Burn jersey, but that’s just because i like jersey’s in general.
as life rolled along and marriage and children came. different jobs, different cities, i ended up in Houston working for a church part time and ran into a guy named Jay. Jay was a software programmer and he also coached the local Christian schools boys soccer team. Jay kept telling me that i needed to sit down sometime and watch a Premier League game. he paid extra money in his cable package to get the EPL. Jay wore Adidas Samba’s and lived and breathed soccer. at this same church was a mad Scotsman named Martin and a very refined Brit named Eifion. of course everything English was crap to Martin, especially David Beckham and the English national team. Eifion introduced me to Arsenal.
the next year i began to teach school in Cy-Fair and one of my students father’s was also an Englishman who has become a dear friend over the years. Kit and i never really talked about soccer until the advent of facebook. now it’s on.
fast forward to now, moved to Lufkin in 09, i picked up my first training jersey at a store. of course i had to go with Manchester United to the dismay of my friends who are from Liverpool, but i was interested in the history and the lore of the legendary club. i began to really delve into the game. i wanted to really understand what it was all about. what had been a passing fad was now something i wanted to know about. it helps when the cable company gives you a channel you can watch soccer on 24/7. i began to watch games. i would ask Kit about rules, and what was going on, as i just had a basic knowledge of what was happening. i learned about tables, and tournaments. draws and points. goal differentials, etc. of course right as i’m getting into this, U2’s Magnificent is playing in heavy rotation on World Cup commercials, so i begin to pick up interest in the USMNT (United States Men’s National Team) i realized there were 3 Texans on the squad and two of them were from East Texas of all places. i mean the fact that Clint Dempsey is from Nacogdoches fascinated me.
i now own both his home and away USA jerseys. so i made it through the highs and lows of the World Cup (Spain plays boring football btw) and really had a new spark for the beauty of the game. so this year is my first full year of keeping up with the EPL (English Premier League) and i’ve loved every minute of every game i’ve watched. my side, Man U is still in the hunt for a treble (three trophies) they are at the top of the table in the EPL, are playing in a FA Cup semi-final on Saturday, and just defeated Chelsea to advance to the semi-finals of the Champions League. and Man U does have my absolute favorite player in the world, Wayne Rooney.
all of that rambling to get to this. why do i love soccer.
1. it is a global game and we are supposed to be global people (every tribe, tongue and nation)
2. i love strategy and a soccer game is not just going out and kicking a ball around. there is great strategic planning that goes into each match, and impromptu strategy that plays out as the game unfolds. the word the commentators use is creativity. i love that.
3. passion. you won’t find any group of supporters more passionate about their clubs. the songs and chants and the sheer joy or utter disgust is part of what makes the game so amazing.
4. it makes me different. although a lot of Americans are catching onto the soccer thing. it still lets me stand out as most Americans are still enamored with the NFL or the NBA. i mean for goodness sakes Glen Beck called soccer a communist sport. he’s obviously never read Soccernomics and seen how unbalanced and unsocialist most soccer leagues are.
so i guess that’s a synopsis of my journey to becoming a lover of the beautiful game. i’m hoping to go to England as a 40th birthday present to myself this year, stay with my friend Ian and catch matches at Anfield and Old Trafford. any donations to my England or bust fund are welcome.