Friday, June 25, 2010


People are still celebrating in the streets 4 hours after Chile... lost! Its not the outcome of the game, of course, that provoked the celebration, but rather the outcome of the first round... as, despite today's loss, Chile has qualified to move on to the quarter finals!

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.


  1. In one of the bizarre internet forums that I often check, were many europeans, asians and americans, talking about U.S. soccer culture. They were mostly trolling each other, but one of the gringo soccer fans said, "we´re about 300 million ppl, if 5% of us are real soccer fans, you get 15 million people watching the world cup, caring about soccer in U.S., and supporting the local tournaments. That´s more ppl than many of those so called soccer loving countries..."
    Well, 15 million people is like the total population of Chile, food for thought.
    Chile´s match today sucked. Badly.
    Landon Donovan also commented his own reaction to the reaction of his goal, in facebook.

  2. Right...great example, soccer can still be HUGE in the US even if everybody doesn't follow it, but like I was saying... the fact that everybody doesn't like it changes it in a big way too: there isn't really a (pro)soccer culture.

    I did play soccer growing up, and had lots of friends who did, in high school more than 100 girls were playing for the school, many of us playing for private teams at the same time and offseason ... but very few, even ones that played at the university, were interested in United States professional soccer- just more interested in playing it ourselves. Many people tend to follow and claim support for a foreign team....and in the US that's OK. Lots of people are die hard fans (soccer, basketball, football) of teams from some country or state they are not from... and nobody really thinks twice about it unless that team is up against the home team.

    In all honesty, soccer on TV is not as attention grabbing as many other sports that soccer has to compete with in the US... basketball, American Football, hockey... they appear much more fast paced and higher scoring, and generally the style of filming usually has more closeups than soccer...which is usually filmed from above and has visual distortion when the ball is in the air. I think that loses people in the US.

    today's game had a lot of "could have been better" aspects.

  3. Way to set that kid straight and be firm! I didn't grow up with soccer (or any activity, really--the joys of poverty) and I can see how we don't look like a country that is fanatic about soccer, but as Marmo pointed out, there are enough of us watching and that care to make up a country of soccer-lovers. I think there are just so many other sports here that compete...

    Marmo, I thought Chile played awesome today. They had a little bad luck (the first goal and the red card and a few misses that should have been goals) but they played really well, especially considering they were down a man. It would have been nice to show those espanoles llorones que se caian solos a victory, but in the end Chile played well, attacked constantly, dominated the ball a good portion of the game, and we classified for the next round! In the end who know whether it is better to play Brazil or Portugal...

    ... and I don't get why American football is attention grabbing at all on TV. That has got to be the slowest, most god-awful boring game on earth--I can't stand it!

  4. you are SO right American football is quite slow at times from all the stops,

  5. Marmo makes a really great point numbers wise when it comes to US soccer fans. I really don't know much about soccer but I have been following the cup just cause I think it's cool that it gives the world something to talk about.

    And I've been pretty surprised to a lot of Argentines' reactions here in terms of the US team. I thought they'd all be total haters and naysayers but a lot of them have actually been congratulating me on the wins (as if I did anything) and saying that the team has been pretty decent this year. (Which I chalk up to the fact that they don't view them as a threat and the teams they save their rancor for are England and Brazil.) But still, it's nice to not be hated on for a change!

  6. @Annje: Now that I´m more calm than last night, yes, they played well. What made me angry was that those goals were originated by our own mistakes. And yes, who knows whether is better to play against Brazil than Portugal.
    Also, internet trolls tend to point out the fact that the most popular games in the U.S.are actually "tv add oriented", with a LOT of interruptions.
    There´s huge (and fun) discussion all the time about American Football vs Football, europeans call it "Hand-Egg" (because is actually played more with the hands than feet, also the ball´s shape), some call it "American Rugby", others say that is funny that Americans call football "soccer", because when they call their sport "American Football", they imply there´s other "football", the real one.
    Those internet trolls are fun to read, but it´s a useless and never ending argument.
    @Renee That´s how most people feel about the World Cup, everyone is involved in their national team´s wins and losses. I think is a safe form of nationalism, and it´s fun share it. Also remember, the U.S. team put the English team to epic-world-class embarrassment, and that is a big deal to Argentinians.

  7. @Marmo-- only people who have travelled or who speak another language call it "American Football" to distinguish it from what others understand as "futbol". Most people just call it "football" and think it is the only sport on the planet worth watching. ;-) These people don't think of soccer as the real football--they think of it as the sport you play when you are too small to play football (i.e., american fb). They are wrong of course. In the end, I think "Americans" like a game that is all ours. When there is a risk of playing against other countries and losing, we can't maintain our sense of superiority (haha).

  8. xD
    I was just repeating what those people said.

    FACT:The Super Bowl and the "world series" baseball have ALWAYS been won by American teams! Isn´t that awesome or what! (lol, just repeating another troll, but I think is funny).
    PS: I like the video shown above, but I also noted that it´s called "world´s reaction..." And then it shows reactions from people across USA, except for some American expats in France.Now turning on the tv to watch today´s matches...