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World Cup Fever in Argentina

June 26, 2010

We all know that Argentina is crazy about football (aka soccer in the USA). People don’t work during games, which are routinely on at places of work or in nearby crowded cafes around the country. But this phenomenon is not limited to Argentina.

Brazil, the U.K., Germany, Italy, and basically every country in the world with a rich tradition in football / soccer (where the heck does the word soccer come from anyway? And why do we (Americans) call American football, “football” if you basically never use your feet to kick the ball?) stop everything for world cup games.

So why the lack of enthusiasm in the U.S.? Well up until this year, the USA national soccer team had never advanced past group play since 1930 which was the first world cup ever! So basically, we’ve had about 70 or 80 years of sucking badly.

Now, with Donovan’s goal in the 90th minute against Algeria, we can expect a meteoric rise in the popularity of football / soccer in the USA, which really can be traced back to the 1994 world cup that was played in the USA. That marked the beginning of the growth in interest, the active marketing efforts to youngsters to get them involved in the sport, and the creation of the MLS (Major League Soccer) in the USA.

Will we Americans ever have the “hinchas” (crazy fan’s) that the rest of the world boasts? I’m not sure if that will happen anytime soon. Although they have begun painting their faces.

Will soccer ever become the most popular spectator sport in the USA like it is in every other country in the world? Doubtful. The reason? We American’s tend to prefer “logical” or “rational” sports where there is a lot of quid pro quo.

In basketball, if you are fouled you get free throws. In American football if there is a penalty, position is won or lost. In baseball, the teams with the best pitching and defense almost always win.

In soccer, however, as is routinely talked about, one team can outplay the other for 90 minutes–even to a dramatic level–and still lose the game on one freak goal, since goals are so scarce. The other problem that I personally have with soccer is that fouls don’t really mean anything unless they occur in the penalty box. But then also, the foul is overly drastic, because a penalty shot almost always results in a goal.

Normal fouls in soccer simply result in a free kick. Unless that free kick is taken from a great angle at the goal and very close to the goal, they never result in a goal, and since fouls are not tallied like they are in basketball, a player can foul as much as he wants without fear of ejection.

Take the Argentina / Greece game of a few days ago. The Greeks kicked the hell out of the Argentines. Literally. They simply kicked them and threw them to the ground a lot. Messi got clobbered so many times and held so many times that it prevented at least 3 goals. Argentina should have won the game 5-0. But since the refs in soccer almost never call fouls away from the ball, and since the fouls they do call effectively stop play and in the case of this game drastically benefit the defense, the game loses is rationality.

It is beautiful to watch, though.


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