Some initial thoughts on the World Cup, 2010 edition

Let me start off by saying that I think it’s great that for one month, every four years, all sorts of people get excited and pay attention to the sport I am most passionate about these days.

Soccer in America still has its doubters, but what has happened since 2002 (or really 1990) has been amazing.  Soccer is here to stay in the U.S. and is growing, slowly but surely.

Beginning this Friday (June 11) at 9:30 a.m.  I will be unavailable during game times.  For any of my friends and family who want, or need to call me, if you suspect a game is on don’t expect me to answer the phone.  Ok, maybe when New Zealand is playing Slovakia I might make myself more available.

At any rate, June 12 represents a huge moment for the American game, in that we play England for the first time since 1950 in a competitive match.  Hardcore American fans like myself and all of England know the score of the match 60 years ago:  U.S. 1, England 0.  That match was played in Brazil and the American press corps at that event consisted of one person.  The total amount of words devoted to the result in the NY Times was around 60. 

ESPN’s soccernet.com recently ran a piece on Joe Gaetjens called “A Goal, A Ghost”.  Gaetjens was a Haitian playing for the Americans who scored the only goal of that match.  Some 14 years after scoring that historic goal Gaetjens was murdered by the thug dictator Francois Duvalier because members of Gaetjens family (but not Gaetjens himself) had denounced Duvalier.  Ironically, as the soccernet.com showed, the prison where Gaetjens died, though no longer being used for anything, withstood the recent earthquake and subsequent aftershocks, still standing as a reminder of past brutalities.

The lasting image of that match (though admittedly there aren’t many images)  continues to the Brazilian crowd carrying Gaetjens on their shoulders after they had stormed the field after the final whistle.  What I would give for Jozy Altidore, current forward and of Haitian descent, to score the only goal in the match against the English. 

Outside of pulling for the Americans I have my own system of who I root for in any given match.  I will never support Mexico as they are the arch-enemy when it comes to U.S. soccer, so any team playing against Mexico automatically gets my support.  My next least favorite teams are: the Dutch who are dirty little bitches who flop all over the ground despite dishing out some horrible tackles; the English for whom I cannot stand their fans; the Germans – is there anything likeable about them? 

I don’t dislike Brazil, but often find myself pulling for their opponent if only because of the whole underdog thing.  I normally don’t dislike Argentina, but in having Diego Maradona (a man whose most famous goal was scored off his fist) as their coach I’m not really inclined to support them. 

Other than that it’s country by country, generally by what players they have.  Oddly enough, I might even be pulling for North Korea as they take on Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast in their group.  It would be nice to see Ivory Coast do well, especially now that their most offensive player, Didier Drogba, seems likely to miss out on the Cup.

Here are some other thoughts and advice when it comes to Americans who casually follow the sport:

  • Don’t try to make me feel better when the U.S. team has totally broken my heart by saying “We suck at soccer” or “It’s not our sport” or something along those lines (and they will break my heart. 
  • It’s not called the “box”, that is something entirely different and possibly not polite to say in front of mixed company.  The penalty area, or area, will suffice.  Despite what the American announcers will utter 2,000 times in the span of 30 some odd days.
  • A free kick is a free kick, a penalty kick is a penalty kick.  These are not the same things.  A foul can lead to either of these and is also not called a penalty.  The foul can be punished in a variety of ways, but a free kick or penalty (depending on where the foul was committed) or sometimes a drop ball is always given. 
  • Wayne Rooney is God, even if he is English.  While rooting for the English to lose, I will hope Rooney does well.  I cannot hold his Englishness against him, and even against the Americans I hope he does well while not scoring.
  • Didier Drogba has a small cock, as is evident on the cover of Vanity Fair.  Despite having a small cock, he himself is a huge one.
  • Lionel Messi will disappoint, as will Cristiano Ronaldo.  They always do when playing for his country.
  • This is a huge pet peeve of mine, but SUPPORT YOUR OWN FUCKING COUNTRY!  Only in America do we have people wearing a national team jersey and supporting another country other than their own.  This is not club football, this is your national team.
  • Brazil will win.  It’s anticlimactic but it’s true.  The English may have invented the sport, but Brazil has made it their own, and for so many poor children it’s the only way out of the ghetto.  They’re still the best team in the world and though they may not play with the style they used to, their defense is way too good (see Inter Milan’s wins over Barcelona and Bayern Munich this year as evidence).
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