We end our trio of Sunday morning reads on a controversial note. Jeremy Robson, writing from Ontario, risks the wrath of nearish neighbours to, whisper this, welcome the USA’s exit …
Well, thank goodness the USA have been eliminated from the World Cup.
Well done to the Black Stars of Ghana who will face Uruguay in the quarter finals. A wonderful game of football, and certainly the most gripping match of the tournament by far.
The thought of the USA becoming a genuine force in world football should make the average fan shudder at what that might mean. Regardless of the popularity of the sport amongst youngsters it has never reached mainstream popularity.
It seems to be viewed as an effective means by which children can get some exercise when they aren’t playing gridiron,.box lacrosse or ice hockey. The USA is a nation that doesn’t particularly excel at sports which they didn’t invent or redesign, or at least don’t have to wear a helmet.
“There aren’t enough goals!” …“How come a game can end as a tie?” are the sorts of comments that you will regularly hear from Americans when “soccer” rears its beautiful head.
There is simply no understanding of what the game means, or of the culture in which it resides. Leading up to the 1994 World Cup when it was held in the US, there were strong rumours that the powers that be, wanted to see more goals, so they suggested widening the goals. Forty five minutes is a long time to concentrate on an uninterrupted period of activity.
“Can’t we have the game in 22.5 minute quarters?” they asked. You can’t have some trivial sporting event interfering with TV commercials. Sporting events in the USA are nothing more than an opportunity to make money from endorsements and sponsorships.
The experience in Canada is not so very different to from what happens with our neighbours a couple of hours drive away. Kids football bears a passing resemblance to the game played across the rest of the world. They kick the ball in rather than throwing it.
Rolling substitutions where the complete set of outfield players switch at the coach’s instruction, and then back off again when there’s a free kick or a throw in. The notion of players being substituted and staying off for the remainder of the game is met with strange looks when the locals are informed that his is what the rest of the world do. This is what we do in “hockey” so it must be ok. They can’t help tinkering with something that works wonderfully the world over. Back in the 1970s during the first ill fated attempt to introduce “soccer” to the American public, there were some bizarre changes to the rules, so absurd that most of us have forgotten about.
One that does stick in the mind was those ridiculous shoot outs (to decided the outcome of a drawn game) where a player would run with the ball at goal from a predetermined distance. An “innovation” drawn from ice hockey.
The notion of exchanging the whole team reminds us of ice hockey where there are legitimate as well as practical reasons to do this.
Hockey is faster, played in a smaller playing area and is far more intense than football. Shorter bursts of explosive energy are required. Someone I know well, and is a coach of kids football told me that the rolling substitutions occur because of the hot weather.
Doesn’t it get hot in Africa, Asia and South America too? There is some reinvention going on with a game of “soccer” which everyone else knows as football. A Brazilian acquaintance of mine said to me recently: “They can play ‘soccer’ if they want. We’ll just play football.”
This is a man who grew up playing with a rag ball in his homeland in much the same way as the legendary Brazilians have done, and a long way from Jabulani balls, corporate sponsorship and greed.
The modern professional footballer is a highly paid individual, and whilst any concept of there being a remnant of the Corinthian spirit still residing in the World Cup, the reported bonuses that would have been paid to the USA players are really nothing short of obscene
The honour of representing your country and being paid a respectable sum for doing so is not enough it seems in the land where money is God. The equivalent of some £677,000 was what the US players were set to pocket had they won. This would have been the highest individual bonus ever paid to individual players in the history of the World Cup.
The Americanisation of the World Cup with the $300M sponsorship deal from Budweiser and similar contracts with McDonalds and Coca-Cola, are completely nauseating when you consider that no further than a Tim Howard goal kick away from the Mbombela Sradion in Nelspruit which seats 46,000, lies a township where the inhabitants live in grinding poverty with no electricity or running water.
If you’d never heard of Nelspruit prior to the World Cup then that’s hardly surprising as it has customarily been regarded as a refreshment stop off for visitors to the Krueger Game Reserve. Local traders who would regularly peddle their wares in the streets nearby have been cleared away in the lead up to and aftermath of games so that the sponsors can the monkey piss that passes for beer, sugary drinks and fast food.
The idea is even more repellent than its taste.
The township is home to around 50,000 people. Look on the bright side though, and there’s a seat for nearly everybody, but no school since construction workers raized it to the ground to clear the site for the World Cup venue. Unfortunately, the township lacks either a football or rugby team of merit.
There is now a huge white elephant in town to accompany the African grey variety which attracts wildlife tourists. So for the people of Nelspruit; “This dud’s for you!”
I couldn’t help how the Americans would settle the problem of teams finishing level on points, goal difference, and scores against each other.
The current system is to draw lots. Nothing can be “tied.” The Americans would probably prefer the teams that finished level to play each other seven times home and away on consecutive nights. Can you imagine how boring that would be if this happened in any standard of football. It’s like having fish ‘n chips for tea every night for a week. They love it in hockey!
Thank the heavens that they went out against Ghana. More success would have been more grist to the mill of those who seek further globalization of their own insularity as part of the showcase for the game they care and know so little about. The US corporations aided and abetted by FIFA have gone too far in this World Cup and the football team just far enough.
The tournament doesn’t need it and there are a lot of us who just don’t want it. “Thanks for coming boys, and have a safe trip home.”