The US men’s soccer team earned respect from players & fans around the world for their World Cup performance in Brazil, losing to Belgium 2-1 in extra time, in the round of 16.
It now behooves US sports fans to watch the remaining matches (of teams entirely from Europe & Latin America) with a deeper appreciation for their unique skills & marvellous physical fitness.
Please notice, you never see an overweight soccer player at the professional level.
The current low level of youth physical fitness, along with the concurring epidemic level of youth obesity, is a major reason the US remains far behind the rest of the world in men’s soccer.
The US players are correct when they say it is not up to them to grow the game.
It is truly up to adults to more fully understand & learn the game, so they can encourage & teach their kids to become better players.
Presently, there are not enough qualified (or even competent) coaches at the youth levels to teach the requisite skills needed to keep pace with European & South American players.
The US men’s team needs to develop better overall skills before a skilled play-maker can emerge. Until then, they will remain outside the heavyweight class that defines the World Cup, when the field is reduced to eight.
When people ask the question, “Will the US ever win a World Cup?”, they are being ignorant & chauvinist.
The US women’s soccer team won their inaugural World Cup in 1991, and also again in 1999.
Today’s ‘soccer moms’ are women who grew up in the 1990’s emulating Mia Hamm & the rest.
The US women won gold in the first-ever US women’s Olympic soccer competition; winning a thrilling final match 2-1 in front of a rapturous crowd of 76,489 in Atlanta. Inexplicably, NBC chose to not broadcast the match and the press conference afterwards was heartbreaking, as team captains Julie Foudy & Mia Hamm wore gold medals around their necks, and frowns of hurt & disappointment on their faces. No one outside the stadium saw the game.
The reason for the blackout was largely political vindiction. In the months before the 1996 Olympics, many of the US women’s star players had held-out before agreeing to play in this all-important inaugural event; insisting they be paid the same as the US men’s soccer players. For months the US women’s best players were vilified by a foul & reactionary sporting media for being greedy & unpatriotic, simply for demanding equal pay. Eventually the US women’s terms were agreed to (with stipulations–the US women had to win gold to receive everything they negotiated), but the real price they paid was the scorn of a paternalist corporate media for being so bold. Therefore, the best story of the 1996 Olympics was ignored. All this & more is well-documented in Dare to Dream.
In 1999 the women’s World Cup was held in the US, and that team became an unstoppable & transformative force, a beautiful example of dialects in popular culture.
The 1999 Women’s World Cup final match played on July 10 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California was not only one of the most dramatic sporting contests ever, but moreover the culmination of a modern sports revolution.
It forever established a niche for women’s professional athletics, as their meteoric rise to popularity proved to girls & boys, as well as women & men everywhere, that women’s competition could be just as exciting & dramatic as men’s competition.
By the time the final match-up between the US & #1-ranked contender China was set, the entire nation had become passionately invested. These women redefined feminine beauty with their naturally athletic look, as well as their skills; making them the dominant world team of the 1990’s. Their best player throughout that period was Michelle Akers, a large and powerful athlete, physically towering over the rest of her teammates. Akers always stood apart from the rest of the team core that centred around Mia Hamm, Joy Fawcett & Julie Foudy.
This is the best cover of SI ever– a natural female athlete, perfectly photographed in her moment of triumph.
Tim Howard may have had the greatest goalkeeping performance in World Cup history in 2014, but the greatest save in any history– men’s or women’s– was Kristine Lilly’s in 1999.
Soccer is a beautiful game because everyone can play it, and it is played everywhere by boys & girls, rich & poor in all nations.
Culturally a shift has occurred, as scientific data on concussions (a by-product of the inherently violent nature of American football), and the mainstream adoption of the ‘soccer mom’ phenomenon; has more & more parents turning their kids away from football and towards soccer.
Note: Soccer has concussion risks too, so be aware.
Heading a ball punted by the goal keeper is a concussion, every time, so don’t do it!
Use your chest or lower body instead.
Soccer is a physical game; Michelle Akers received one of the most viscous intentional spears to the head in the 1995 WC, an example of unsportsmanlike conduct that should never be tolerated.
If you choose to watch the 2014 WC, then take time to appreciate its history & culture. It’s important for all of us to embrace diversity, and for many here in the US, soccer is still a foreign game. Everywhere else, it is the most popular sport in the world, so appreciating the skill & beauty of this game, regardless of sex or national origin, unites us all.