This archived article was written by: Nathan Davis
This week, my column will be on something a lot of people in Price might not be interested in: soccer. To the rest of the world, soccer is the most popular game. In countries like Mexico, England and Brazil it isn’t just a game, it’s a way of life. But not in the United States.
ESPN writer Bill Simmons wrote an article about his trip to Mexico City to watch the USA/Mexico World Cup qualifier game. In the article, Simmons said a Mexican newspaper asked if people felt Mexico’s national pride would be damaged if the USA won the game, 76 percent of the country said yes. Seventy-six percent! That’s huge, I can’t ever remember feeling that the America’s national pride was on the line, during a sporting event. Simmons described the passion of the Mexican fans by saying, “Take all the sports we care about here, mix that passion together, condense it into one mega-sport and you’d have soccer in Mexico.”
It’s not just Mexico that is soccer crazy, it’s most of the world. It is played in every country in the world. There are roughly 3.5 billion soccer fans and 260 million registered soccer players. Those numbers are phenomenal. The population of the USA is somewhere around 305 million people, there are nearly as many registered soccer players, as there are people in America.
So that lends the question, why is soccer so popular? Anyone can play soccer, you don’t need to have money, or equipment or even shoes. All you need is a ball. In many countries, soccer is played by barefoot children in the street. It is relatively a simple game, everyone knows the one main rule of soccer, don’t touch the ball with your hands.
Another reason why soccer is popular is because of the high excitement level in the game. A lot of people think it’s a boring game, since most games are low scoring. But to me, that’s what makes it exciting. Last weekend I was watching a game from the English Premier League, Tottenham Hotspur was playing against Birmingham City. The score was tied late in the game, and in the final minutes, Aaron Lennon hit a scorching shot from 20-yards out to secure the win for Tottenham. After the goal, pure pandemonium erupted.
In America you might see the same level of excitement following an overtime win during the playoffs, or after a team wins a championship, or after a big win against a rival team. But this was only the third game of the season, against a non-rival team. Imagine how much more excited the fans get toward the end of the season, or in a rivalry game.
Finally, I think one of the biggest reasons that soccer is so popular in the rest of the world and not in America is because the average American doesn’t fully understand the game. I heard that soccer is like jazz, it’s unpredictable and it’s something you have to have an understanding of to fully appreciate.