take on the World Cup soccer jerseys



In this country, soccer is still seen mainly as a game played by suburban kids who eventually outgrow it and take up traditional American sports such as golf and shopping. That was pretty much my experience. I first played soccer in elementary school gym class, where we had 42 players per side and could kick the ball for an entire academic year without scoring a goal. In college I played intramural soccer, but only because we were required to do a sport, and intramural soccer posed the least threat of exercise. This was in the ’60s (if you catch my meaning) and our soccer games consisted of guys standing around the field in random mellow clots having philosophical discussions about topics such as Jimi Hendrix. Every now and then the ball might roll past your clot; if it got close enough, you might try to kick it to one of the other clots, but you would never consider actually running after it.

Talk about a party. I’ve been to the Olympics, World Series and Super Bowls. Compared to the World Cup, these events are a meeting of the Des Moines Rotary Club. The World Cup causes entire nations to go insane. Scotland, for example. Scotland qualified for the 1998 World Cup, and although the Scottish team was not favored to win, the Scottish fans blew away all other nations in the competition for the title of Most Alcohol Consumed by Men Wearing Traditional Highland Costumes and No Underpants. You knew this because they would frequently entertain the public with mass kilt liftings. They also serenaded crowds on subways with World Cup themed songs, including one, set to the tune of Winter Wonderland, declaring that Brazilian soccer superstar Ronaldo was . OK, I can’t tell you in a family newspaper, but it was not complimentary.

The Scots made up this song because Scotland’s first match in 1998 was against Brazil, a soccer superpower. Scotland playing Brazil is like Justin Bieber fighting Mike Tyson. But this didn’t deter the Scottish fans at all; they had their national pride, plus their traditional attire, plus a really funny obscene song, plus an Cheap Jerseys
unbelievable tolerance for alcohol. They were in France to represent their country, a proud posse of kilted, mooning maniacs. Despite the fact that their team did not win a single match, they kept right on representing it. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them are still over there.

And that was just one country. There were 31 other teams, and their fans were just as enthusiastic, by which I mean unhinged. For a month they traveled to matches all over France, and every match was a huge party. My son and I were in Marseille during a Holland Argentina match; we didn’t have tickets to get into the stadium, so we watched on the beach, where giant TV screens had been set up among the French bathers. There were thousands of screaming, singing, dancing face painted Dutch and Argentine fans, and I can honestly say it was one of the most exciting sporting events I have ever seen, because a LOT of the lady French bathers were topless. You’d go to the concession stand, and you’d turn around, and YOWZA there would be a lady French bather standing right behind you, acting as though she was not basically naked, which she was. I recall my son going to the concession stand numerous times.

I personally find the diving to be one of the more entertaining aspects of soccer, which is a wonderfully theatrical sport. But don’t be fooled by the histrionics: Soccer players are amazing athletes, playing a sport that requires extraordinary toughness and stamina and, at the international level, almost unbelievable skill. Scoring a goal in soccer is one of the most difficult feats in sports: Everything favors the defense, so the offensive players usually have to do something brilliant just to get off a halfway decent shot. That’s why there aren’t many goals. But that’s also why, when the goals do come, they tend to be spectacular. And because goals especially World Cup goals are so rare and valuable, the tension preceding them is often deliciously unbearable, leading to the cathartic moment GOOOOOOALLL that can cause an entire nation to erupt in joy, and plunge another into years of black despair.

I don’t care. team. plays its opening match against England, I know exactly where I’m going to be: watching my daughter’s dance recital. Really. Both events this is proof that God dislikes me personally are scheduled to start at the same time. And since my wife will be in South Africa covering the match, I’ll be in an auditorium watching dance performances by hundreds of girls, only a tiny percentage of whom are my daughter. This is the mature thing to do, and I made the decision willingly once it became clear that the alternative was divorce.

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