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The US of A and the Beautiful Game

It is amazing how quickly the US Mass Media can develop a common perspective. It’s as if they spend too much time listening to each other and not enough time looking about; when one major outlet develops an anglethat sounds good all others rush to follow in similar vein.

Pervading US Media’s view in the lead up to yesterday’s World Cup Final, for example, was the idea that what everyone else calls football and the US calls soccer is just not catching on in the USofA. What a crock! If the US team had been in today’s final or even a semi-final you can bet there would be a very different buzz–as we saw when the US women advanced in women’s World Cup Tournaments.

But in addition to me tooreporting, the perspective de jour claiming that world football is not making it in the US demonstrates once again the US Media’s inability to get beyond the moment and the monitors. In the real US of everyday life world football is the coming sport. Spring and fall, tens of millions of US youngsters play world football with enthusiasm and abandon. And best of all the play is not limited to leagues set up and controlled by parents. In world football kids can–and do–play with virtually any number of players and in virtually any space that’s available. All you need is a ball–something those master subversives–US soccer coaches–are making sure go everywhere in the backpacks of millions of kids!

If the media pundits would look up from their laptops and out their commute windows they would see that in school yards across the US, from the poorest neighborhoods to the wealthiest exurbs and in rural areas too, most of the kids playing ball are playing with a round ball and with their feet.

And it is not just the children who are involved. In downtown Sacramento when state workers come out at lunchtime to the downtown park world football dominates the fields of play. On weekends across the US, ethnic teams play rain or shine what are often sparkling versions of The Beautiful Game. These neighborhood games are a whirl of languages; a spectacle of US diversity. Alongside immigrants and resident visitors a growing number of US-born, all-American, white, black, brown, red and yellow US adults also play.

US Media’s mass opinion makers will eventually recognize the rise of world football in the US–maybe even by the next World Cup. No doubt they will see the sport’s popularity as sprung fully formed from Zeus’ thigh. Still we can look forward to the day when The Beautiful Game finally comes to be known in the US by its true name –football.

When football comes to mean football in the USofA it will indicate that US awareness of and appreciation for the rest of the word will have grown and matured significantly. And if THAT where to happen? Well maybe we can visualize other miracles–a Unites States of America that included all America’s states–North, South and Central, for example. And maybe we can then go even further and conceive a world order based not on US military and financial dominance but on beauty. When that day comes we will realize yet another reason to call world football what it is–The Beautiful Game!

As a youngster FELICE PACE played American Football beginning with the Boys Club at age 10 and continuing through college. He saw soccer as a strange, inferior and foreign game. When he later had kids, Felice learned soccer and eventually became a coach and a fan. Felice came to recognize the cultural and political importance of The World Cup while he experienced two of the events outside the US in New Zealand and Mexico. He can be reached at: felice@jeffnet.org