But lets back up to this morning, long before riot police stationed at the Plaza Viña to control this afternoons crowd....
Today a boy yelled that it wasn't fair that I was making him study English today because he wanted to watch the Chile vs. Spain game. The game still wasn't going to start for a few hours so he'd get to see it anyway, so I told him to stop complaining.
He yelled: "Its not fair! And its all because the United States sucks at soccer and you're never going to make it further. None of you care about soccer. Plus, all girls hate soccer and they don't understand it!"
Is that so? From what I hear, people in Chile seem to think so. Its true professional soccer isn't to the U.S. what football is to the rest of the world. But, its not true that nobody cares about it. And its less true that people in the U.S. aren't into soccer at all. Soccer is a HUGE sport in the US as far as playing it. From what I've observed, it almost seems like more youth in Minnesota play soccer (and play it more) than here in Valparaiso. More people seem to be involved in organized school and private teams, and practice and compete more intensively than they do here. Also because of the city layout and protective parents, I see kids playing in the streets much less here.
But soccer culture IS much different in the U.S. Abby posted a really interesting NYT article about soccer culture in other countries vs. the U.S. It explained The U.S. follows a "pay to play" system, where most players financially backing and managing their own way through teams during early years, with the most talented ones continuing on to play for the University while they get higher education. In the rest of the world a professional player might see no need to get a higher education; in many places, there exist various systems of early recruitment, training, and sponsorship, or those without those options might train on the streets and escape into football stardom.
Its true there are many differences. Regardless, there are many people that do love soccer, and more that will support the team in the World Cup purely for reasons of patriotism. Most of the U.S. doesn't expect to win, and many couldn't be bothered to do more than read the headlines announcing the outcomes, but as a video passed along through Marmo and Kyle shows... there were also quite a few people that were just as into the games as everyone in Chile. (Without the gear! Nobody sells stuff on the street in the majority of the U.S., so you'll notice most sports fans aren't decked out in mass produced silly-hats and other soccer paraphernalia.)
So back to the kid... I told him that 1) it wasn't unfair at all. Being asked to do something that doesn't interfere with his chance to see the game makes his argument irrelevant, and 2) he was being rude and making unfair judgments himself because 3) not all people from the US are indifferent to soccer and 4) that goes for girls too.
Young kids will rarely take back their words in a tense moment but some little recognition of the possibility my words were true seemed to come over him. He looked at me and asked, "do you like football?" I smirked and said "I've been playing longer that you've been alive."
He smiled at my comment, said sorry, waited the obligatory awkward few seconds after an apology where a kid stubbornly avoids eye contact and pouts about having given in.... and then asked to get out early anyway.
"It's still a 'no'." I said.