Soccer or Football? Who Cares? It’s All About the Play

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Pass map Vanaken against Antwerp.

In America it’s soccer. In the rest of the world, it’s generally called football. Whichever you say, it is a sport with literally billions of fans spanning the globe. Maybe you have a local club and want to put up a sports tent with your sponsor’s logo on the sideline, or maybe you just like to kick back and catch some action at home, either way, you are a part of the game.

The Big Stage

The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup hosted by France is fast approaching. The 2015 version shattered previous television viewership numbers with hundreds of millions of people tuning in. With options like streaming services, cable/satellite providers and pay-per-view channels the chance to catch your favourite teams and players in action has never been better. The reigning champions, team USA, are the favourites to win this year’s tournament. France, Germany and England round out the top four. Also, the mix of the 24 teams that qualified this year exemplifies the international love of the sport with representatives from Thailand, Cameroon and Jamaica competing.

Professional Leagues

In North America, Major League Soccer (MLS) showcases 21-American and 3-Canadian teams with three expansion teams hitting the pitch soon. With each team playing a regular season schedule of 34 games, fans have ample opportunity to see their favourite players. When you include fantasy sports and video games, it becomes obvious that soccer fanatics in the States are legion.

Grassroots

Like most sports, the love of the game starts in childhood. For some, they become dyed-in-the-wool fans attending or watching games with mom or dad. For others, it could have come about because their friends decided to do something to alleviate their boredom. Soccer is one of the easiest sports to start playing as a kid. All you really need is a ball and some open ground. Many people remember playing pick-up baseball games where first base was “that tree,” second base “the small bush” and so on. In much the same way, two rocks on the ground can represent the soccer “net.” Once the love of the game takes root, the fun can continue in school and amateur leagues through to adulthood.

Rich History

Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea. These clubs were established in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and are typically well-known names to sports fans regardless of their generally preferred genres. In fact, they’re nearly household names that even non-sports lovers (unbelievably there are such people) are likely to recognize. Also, consider that the BBC first televised a live match in 1936. Just ten short years after the first broadcast in history and someone considered the game important enough to put on the air in real time.

It’s not just teams that earn a place in history. From time to time an individual rises to the ranks of legendary athletes. Boxing has Muhammad Ali, in baseball Babe Ruth and for basketball, there’s Michael Jordan. Consider these names:

  • Edson Arantes do Nascimento (better known as Pelé)
  • David Beckham
  • Mia Hamm
  • Hope Solo

It doesn’t matter if you’re a soccer fan, or even a sports fan at all, it’s probable that these names are familiar. When it comes to Pelé, he is, arguably, the reason the game caught the imagination of the American public. In 1977 soccer wasn’t a major attraction, it was a sideshow in the United States, and that might be overly generous. But on October 1st of that year, almost 77,000 people packed Giants Stadium for his final game. A different kind of football had come to America in force.

Whatever you want to call it, the game is deeply ingrained into the psyche of the world. The impending tournament bringing together the best female players from across the planet is guaranteed to be exciting and eventful.

Chris Darwen
Chris Darwen

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