1 Jul 2014

This World Cup is a breakthrough moment for US ‘soccer’

Americans like to win – hey, who doesn’t? – and they like their sports, so this World Cup is turning into a very happy experience. Team USA is inspiring neighbourhood parties, extensive bar bills and mass spending on red, white and blue paraphernalia.

The team has had a win (against Ghana), a draw (with Portugal), and a loss (to Germany).

Catching a flight during the game against Germany last week, you could see the indecision in the eyes of those watching at the airport bar: watch the game to its conclusion versus explaining why you missed the flight…

Ultimately, Germany won, but the US went through on points. Americans find themselves in an enviable position: a team still standing, knocking on the doors of the quarter-finals.

And so American soccer fans congregate and practice their pre-game rituals ahead of today’s tussle with Belgium (who, by the way, have won all three matches). Even the president re-scheduled a cabinet meeting for the morning since, as he said, “We all know that America will be busy this afternoon.”

Regardless of how the Americans fare, the biggest winner so far is football (or soccer, as it’s called here). This may be the third time in four World Cup tournaments that the US has made it through to the final 16 – but 2014 has had real impact.

Soccer has burst into the mainstream, winning sensational TV audiences thanks in no small part to convenient timing. The clocks in Brazil align nicely for American soccer fans, desperate to watch the game live but not prepared to get up in the middle of the night.

The game against Portugal (2-2) last Sunday evening drew an astonishing 25 million viewers. Granted that’s not as many as watched the playoffs for American football’s NFL this past season, but it is by far the most watched soccer game in American history.

Soccer aficionados are basking in the new-found recognition of the sport. The lonely nights spent hunched over satellite feeds of European games, relaying a sport no-one at work wanted to talk about, apparently a thing of the past.

Of course, this is America, so there’s already blowback, one right-wing commentator (Ann Coulter) railing at the game as un-American, its fans as unpatriotic, in an article which opens with the view that “Any growing interest in soccer a sign of moral decay”.  It’s all down to the immigrants who brought their fetish for football with them, apparently.

But as Americans prep their grills ahead of Friday’s 4 July national holiday, few seem too concerned. They just want to win.

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2 reader comments

  1. Philip Edwards says:

    Kylie,

    Please advise the Yanks the game is named football, not “soccer”.

    It is played with the feet, unlike grid-iron – which is little more than street fight handball in motorbike helmets and shoulder pads designed to interrupt TV adverts.
    :-)

    You can also tell them their national team played brilliantly and was a credit to their country. If the England team had played with one tenth of the US commitment we might have survived a little longer.

    And No, I don’t like rounders either.
    :-)

  2. Peter says:

    Yes, football in America is now a big thing and it will remain a big thing until the next big thing comes along, which is probably not very far off – it never is in America!

    Football fans are notoriously fickle, and you can bet your bottom dollar that U.S. footie fans will prove to be the most fickle of the lot. The U.S. team gave a tremendous, gutsy performance in the World Cup, and their match against Belgium was easily the most exciting and watchable of any of the matches played so far.

    However, now that the U.S. has been knocked out a large number of the newly converted fans will lose interest in “the beautiful game”. They will get tired of sitting through matches which end 0-0, and will decide that it is after all more exciting to watch gridiron, baseball and basketball.

    That is not to say that they will lose interest entirely, but they will be “World Cup fans”, tuning in enthusiastically every four years, but not being prepared to go to games to support their home city club week in and week out, through thick and thin come what may.

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