Soccer

I like soccer. Well…I think I like soccer.

I at least like the idea of soccer.

I grew up playing soccer, but in the United States, that’s like saying I grew up with a friend named John or Jessica. Meaning: I grew up playing soccer…but so did the other 200 million other American’s born in the 80’s. My generation is, after all, responsible for the term “soccer mom”. Mini-vans, orange slices, and shin guards were as integral to my childhood as Legos, Dunkaroos and Top Gun.

So this begs the question: with so many people raised on the sport, why is it disrespected by all national sports media and regulated to premium cable channels like ESPN 18 or FSC? Why do I have to feel ashamed of being a fan of the world’s most popular game? As an adult, saying I like soccer is, in most circles, just asking to be heckled and mocked.

Whatever. I like soccer. I always have, but I’ve never been one to be up-front with it (or anything else, for that matter). Now, I can’t sit here and list all previous world cup winners, give you a game by game breakdown of last year’s UEFA Champions League, or recite the World Cup – 2010 team captains by heart, but I consider myself at least a casual fan. Lately though, I find myself becoming more and more wrapped up in it.

I find myself paying way more attention to the outcome of the latest Premier League match (or “fixture”, as they call them across the pond) than I am to “National College Football Signing Day” or anything NBA. I visit ESPNsoccernet almost as much as I check my Facebook page (which is, unfortunately, far too often). And I’m absurdly excited for the World Cup this summer.

How did this happen? I can’t explain it…but, it just sorta happened.

When I travel, my souvenir of choice is almost always a soccer jersey. It’s a tangible, yet trendy way to “show off” the places I have been…and collecting them is slowly becoming a mild obsession. I can’t resist the team colors and sponsors…from Pirelli and Samsung to Acorns and UNICEF. I have an A.S. Roma warm-up jacket from our trip to Italy (and serious non-buyer’s remorse from an Inter Milan jersey almost-purchase) and two Ghana National Team jerseys’…one I received as a gift, and the other from when I visited in 2008 on a mission trip.

Couldn't find an action shot, but I'm at least sporting the Black Star gear!

Ghana.

All over the world, sports are used as a release. People use them as a way to “escape” from the sometimes harsher realities of the real world. Some realities are harsher than others. In Ghana, soccer (football) is everywhere. If there is a ball, there is a soccer game going on. The young play, the old play, the women play, and the men play. Audiences gather for even the smallest pick-up matches. In most cases, I had more money in my wallet than they had…period. Yet…they were truly happy. More than happy. Ecstatic. It seemed that they found more joy in this…game…than I usually get out of a house full of all my…stuff.

I can’t describe it any better than that, but it is an extremely powerful memory from my trip…you will just have to take my word for it.

==========

So maybe that’s why. Maybe not. Either way, there’s no denying it any longer. Like it or not, I’m a soccer fan. Are you? What are your thoughts? Who’s your team and why? Let me know!

*End note: I feel that soccer isn’t as popular in the U.S. simply because of the choice our country’s best athletes have. All over the world (except maybe Canada), all the best athletes are steered towards playing soccer. Here, they would choose football, basketball, or baseball…before even considering playing soccer. Imagine if Lebron or AP played soccer? I bet our national team would fair a lot better every four years if our best athletes played soccer…

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About Tom Hardinge

Loving husband to my wife Missy, loving father to my four daughters Sienna, Rowan, Jovie, and Lola. I'm a chronic over-packer who loves good coffee, good music, running, waffle tee's, fleece pants, and Jesus Christ!

6 thoughts on “Soccer

  1. dude, I LOVE soccer! I had no idea you liked it too. I could watch or play for hours. unlike you, though, I wasn’t lucky enough to grow up in a town big enough to have a high school team…or even a kids’ league. so, I have never played in a game (I just love to run with a ball at my feet or juggle.). I fell in love while watching the womens world cup in ’99. soon after, I convinced my dad to drive me around the Midwest to watch the us womens national team play five times. good stuff!!!

  2. Tommy,

    Don’t every be afraid to tell the world you are a footy fan. I understand where you are coming from, though, when you almost kind of don’t want to deal with the heckling. However, I have seriously just started to feel sorry for people that just don’t “get it”, or feel the need to disrespect a sport that is referred to around the rest of the world as THE BEAUTIFUL GAME. You love the sport because of the emotion it carries, the skill involved in the smallest of touches, the heart and soul the players leave on the pitch, and fans leave in the stadium. It is an amazing sport, and I can tell you it has brought me to tears on more than one occassion. Three years ago when Real Madrid came back and won the league on the LAST DAY of the entire season in the last few minutes of the game was one of the best and most memorable days of my life.

    I feel the reason that it isn’t as popular in the USA is because historically the USA has been focused on Basketball, Football and Baseball. All national past times. When little Johnny grows up, he likes what his Daddy likes, and Daddy likes baseball or football. Now Johnny likes that too! But you know what? My kid is going to like soccer. They are going to understand all of the details and they are going to cry tears of joy when their team wins and tears of disappointment when they lose. Don’t be ashamed for loving the beautiful game, wear it proudly!

    Kristen

    • Kristen, I was hoping to hear from you on this one! Love the response…it is a beautiful game. Totally agree with kids liking what there parents like. So is it cool if I facebook you a little more often to talk football? I need people to chat with after the big matches! Now if I can only convince Missy to upgrade our DirecTV so that we can get the soccer channels…

      • Yes you HAVE to upgrade! Mike and I pay an extra $5 or so bucks a month to get GolTV (for Spanish, Italian and German League Games) and FoxSC (for EPL games). You’ve gotta do it! Although I understand with 3 little ones on the way all the money save it up counts.

        Feel FREE to facebook me any time you want with football shenanigans. I didnt get to comment much on the African Nations Cup because in all honesty I really only followed it online. I usually root for Cameroon because of Eto’o, but they got knocked out pretty early and it is usually always one of the big boys like Egypt that end up winning. But seriously, anytime you want to talk soccer I am down!! My world revolves around it 🙂 Welcome to other side.

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