Growing up, I played soccer. It was the only thing I played consistently. I played some recreation league basketball and was on middle and high school teams. I was never very good despite my height. I enjoyed it well enough but my heart wasn’t in it like it was in soccer.
I was never lured on to the football field. Much to the displeasure of my high school coaches. I have the body of a lineman and the demeanor of a cheerleader. Though I almost played one year. They needed a punter and kicker. I tried out and got the spot. But the practice times conflicted with my recreation league soccer.
So I turned it down. Much to the chagrin of the football coaches. If you ever want to go from a nobody to a popular kid back to a nobody in the course of a week, I recommend almost joining the struggling football team.
I loved playing soccer growing up. The recreation league ran twice a year. There was a spring and a fall season. I played twice a year and had a blast during both seasons. I loved to play in the pouring rains in spring and the frigid cold of an early winter. I played with a good group of people and despite our age difference, there was even one year my brother and I got to play on the same team. This was a relief to my parents. We had a blast.
I was always a defender. A lumbering beast with poor form but a thundering foot. I kept the ball out away from our goalkeeper and slowed down many swift strikers with well-timed slide tackles. I even had a moment in the spotlight when I put a ball in the net from midfield thanks to an a keeper who cheated too far up the field.
I played left and right defender, getting reasonably good kicking and clearing with both feet. Later, I moved into stopper or sweeper positions in line ups that featured those positions. There is little more satisfying than a well-placed slide tackle on a striker who tries to dribble around me.
This is a long way to say I love watching the World Cup. I don’t follow Major League Soccer. I’m not a supporter of any teams overseas. I don’t watch or pay much attention to the sport outside of those few international matches.
When it’s World Cup time, I’ll watch any and every game I can manage to find. I watch because nothing is decided until the game ends. A powerhouse can easily fall to an underdog. A defending champion can fall to a weaker country in early rounds. A team can come out of nowhere to run over all competition. It’s a sport where lucky breaks and mistakes can change the outcome of the entire match.
I watched Portugal tie the United States in the closing seconds of the game. I watched France battle Switzerland to a 5-2 win. I saw Brazil and Mexico play to a scoreless tie. and Algeria put on a clinic against the Korea Republic with a 4-2 win.
I did not expect England not to advance. I didn’t think Spain, the defending champions would also fail move forward. I didn’t know how the US team would do. And in the wake of the victory over Ghana and the heartbreaking tie to Portugal much has been written about whether the US has arrived as a soccer power.
Soccer is such an exciting sport to watch, and play. It’s not constantly stopped with commercial breaks. It’s nonstop action with the potential for scoring plays at any moment. I’ll be watching the US play today against Germany in hopes the team can advance to the next round. Then I will be watching Algeria face off against Russia or Korea play Belgium later today.
I love to watch soccer. I love seeing it played on an international level with amazing players. It’s not an american sport. It’s not a US sport. It’s a world sport and the very best in the world have come to play in Brazil and I salute them and can’t wait to see what happens next. Anything can happen. That’s what makes it so exciting!
Photo by marcp_dmoz on Flickr.