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America getting into soccer


America getting into soccer

Slowly, we are getting into the game.

This is not kneejerk hyperbole attached to a fine opening performance by the Americans at the 2010 World Cup, where they fought to a 1 1 draw with glum faced England. And this will not go over well with those who feel cramped and crowded in the new world, many of whom decry the sport as foreign, pointless and lame.

But look around. Soccer jerseys fly off the rack in most stores, considered ultra cool by a younger generation. You probably have a friend who cheers for a professional team in Europe. And though the sport might never truly catch on in a country that likes explosions, touchdowns and commercial breaks to get more beer, you can’t deny this:

Soccer seems more hip than it has ever been, and the team representing America has come a long, long way. The Americans no longer appear outmanned and out of place in the beautiful game, hoping for a miracle goal and a 1 0 finish. They look legitimate, and not like Boise State trying to hang with Oklahoma.

That’s a sure sign of progress.

In England, they were expecting bragging rights. Tabloids will excoriate their shoddy goalkeeper, who choked and pulled a Bill Buckner. They will bemoan opportunities lost, Cheap Jerseys free shipping and how a soft goal changed everything. But the real story was how comfortable and confident Team USA looked in the second half, and how well they matched up against one of the better outfits in the world.

It is proof that a country doesn’t become a soccer power overnight, on fleeting moments stuffed with symbolism (Brandi Chastain) or the hype filled import of Euro legends (David Beckham). It takes time.

Still, it’s not the final scores that make this tournament feel so huge. It’s the clashing of cultures. It’s the national pride and kooky fight songs. It’s the backdrop of South Africa, where elephants cause traffic jams. It’s the plastic horn that everyone blows inside the stadium, making it seem as if the match were taking place inside a mosquito net.

Listen closer, and globalization is the real buzz word. The NBA is brimming with foreign born stars, and the Lakers would be chumps without their Spaniard center. Nearly 30 percent of Major League Baseball players are of Latino or Hispanic descent, and if you hack through their bushy playoff beards, you’ll find great diversity on the face of the NHL.

And as the world continues to shrink, the World Cup only gets bigger.

Kobe Bryant learned early. Growing up in Italy, he spent his solitary hours playing basketball at an outdoor park. He was forced to leave whenever the soccer team showed up, taking over the entire facility.

Diana Taurasi gets it. She watched the end of a 2006 World Cup match in the garage at Staples Center in Los Angeles, refusing to join her Mercury teammates in the locker room until the penalty kicks were over.

Steve Nash understands. During idle moments in the NBA season, he can be seen dribbling the ball with his feet or heading it to an official, unable to contain the Pele within. And over the past two months, Nash battled with two of the better coaches in the world.

He exchanged barbs with Lakers coach Phil Jackson (who claimed that Nash carries the ball), and to the world’s surprise, he criticized the playing style of Inter Milan, prompting this response from famed coach Jose Mourinho.

Nash knows a lot about football. He was born in South Africa, raised in Canada and cheers for England’s soccer team. The one that’s fit to be tied.5A Arizona high school football championship history.


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