A startling trend appears to be on the rise; apparently, many Americans hate soccer. The common mantra “ball is life” doesn’t seem to apply to this sport, with some individuals claiming it “sucks” and that it’s “not real.” A soccer lover’s visceral reaction to such abrasive statements might be heated, but it’s important to take a step back and consider where the haters are coming from.
One reason for America’s dismissal of soccer could be its obsession with football. It’s no secret that football is king in America, with Superbowl halftime shows and commercials being among the highlights of the year. However, when you take away these accessories - including the buxom cheerleaders, kneeling antics, and titillating stories of domestic abuse - football purely as a sport doesn’t have anything more to offer than soccer.
In actuality, soccer is superior on many fronts. During football games, each play lasts roughly thirty seconds and is then followed by a five minute break, which consists of incessant replays and chest bumps while the players get back in position. In soccer, the action is much more fluid and evenly paced. Play continues as soon as the ball goes out of bounds. This makes soccer more engaging to watch. Most football viewing parties involve more beer-drinking and chip-eating than actual game-watching, and that’s because the sport content itself is lacking.
Furthermore, soccer contains less on-field violence than football. While every sporting game has potential for brawls, football is fundamentally based on the ability to take down another human being. Soccer, on the other hand, relies on skillful maneuvers and agility rather than brute force. Perhaps violence is more entertaining for Americans, but the skill set required for soccer players warrants respect, not hatred.
Soccer has plenty of merits beyond its comparison to football. Soccer is open to both men and women, a significant attribute that other games like hockey, baseball, and football lack at the major league level. While some might find the men’s FIFA World Cup more exciting to watch, the United States’ women’s national team is undeniably a force to be reckoned with. Soccer superstars like Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, and Mia Hamm have inspired girls and boys alike to join the sport, making soccer much more progressive and inclusive than the other sports mentioned.
It’s difficult to believe a statement like “soccer sucks” when it has given so many opportunities not only to women but to other disadvantaged groups as well. The 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup was notable not only for its nail-biting final game, which ended in a round of penalty kicks after extra time, but also for its outcome. The Japanese team won the title, marking the first time an Asian team had ever won a FIFA World Cup. The win was especially significant for the Japanese women because, just a few months prior, a major earthquake and tsunami had devastated Japan. Their success boosted Japanese morale when it was at an all-time low. Soccer, like other equally valid sports, has the capacity not only to entertain but to change people’s lives. It doesn’t get any more “real” than that.
As Marek Kohn smartly puts it in Independent, “The few who do not [like soccer] are merely physical inadequates; the sporting underclass” (1995). Those who are somewhat competent at sports are more likely to respect all sports. Conversely, those who are sports-challenged are probably prone to hating on the complex, engaging game. Soccer may not be everyone’s favorite sport, but saying that it sucks or isn’t real is seriously stepping out of bounds.