Vuvuzelas buzzing. Body paint and body odor covering the masses. National anthems prompting crowds and neck hairs to arise in unison.
This is it. Our chance to show the world that we’re “for real.” Adorned in the beloved red, white, and blue, our squad will take the pitch opposite Ghana on June 16 with the US of A behind them and critics and skeptics lurking.
Notice the possessives used in the precious description. Every four years we come to embrace this team as our own and attempt to will them to defy the odds and topple a mighty foe on the world’s stage.
Every fourth year brings renewed optimism, patriotism, and appreciation to the ‘beautiful game,’ even if only for a few weeks.
There are two types of American soccer fans: fanatics and fourth-years. The former likely grew up playing the game and follow it religiously, be it in the MLS, English Premier League, or another arena.
Admittedly, I am the latter. I grew up playing the game, enjoy it, get psyched every fourth year for the World Cup, but find it tough to follow on a regular basis… other than the occassional FIFA video game beat down of a reluctant opponent.
It’s an exciting time for American futbol. The popularity of the world’s game is growing stateside, probably faster than most think. The MLS, started basically because it was a prerequisite to host the World Cup in 1994, now boasts 19 teams with two more on the way.
Nonetheless, we’re still well behind most of the world in terms of popularity and skill of the game that transcends culture, politics, and countries like nothing else. However, we can take a bit of pride that it is just a sport and not life or death like it can be seen as in some countries around world.
For the vast majority, the most pressure our kids face is from coaches or intense parents trying to live vicariously through their kids, but in many countries around the world a kid’s footwork on the pitch can be a life-spring for a family or sole way out of poverty.
By no means am I making excuses for not excelling on the national stage… but at what cost? We rightfully pride ourselves on freedom that we have fought for, and I’m glad that we can have the choice to play games like soccer as kids… Not having to move away from family at the ripe age of 7 trying to make a professional team or impress an agent.
So whether you’re a fourth-year , fanatic, or never watched a match, I hope that you’ll watch and appreciate this World Cup in support of the U.S. with some perspective… that it is a game, but in some countries it’s so much more.
If you’re like me, you found yourself in the unlucky section of a dogpile four years ago when Landon Donovan scored the goal against Algeria that put us through group play to the round of 16. With odds against them, hopefully this Cup will boast dramatic moments for the U.S. that will help climb the ladder of relevance on that national stage and be talked about for ages.
Don’t miss it.
And a little help getting hyped…