Friday, June 09, 2006

Viva World Cup!

Germany and Costa Rica...

Besides being of German descent and I've always wanted to visit Costa Rica, I have no serious investment or interest in either country. So, watching the two countries play against each other on the soccer field this morning in the opening match of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, I should have been bored out of my mind. I mean, I'm American, and Americans don't like soccer, right? But, you know what's funny? I found myself yelling when the goals were scored, or almost scored, I voiced protests when hard fouls were made, and I realized I was doing it involuntarily. I was genuinely interested in the game. Then it hit me... I was watching REALLY GOOD soccer!
I grew up playing soccer, or football as it's called everywhere else in the world, which is logical, since you play the game with your feet. For eight years I ran around a field, as a defender, kicking a ball away from my team's goal every now and then. I didn't aim the kick, I just kicked it hard. We always had a couple of kids on our team who were pretty quick, so they would beat the other team to the ball, and race in and score. That's really what I thought soccer was, and I think that's what many Americans think soccer is.

I hear my American football fan friends say, "soccer is boring. They never score. Who wants to see a 3-1 game? Give me football where there's more action, and more scoring."

I played football about as long as I played soccer, so I started seriously thinking about the "action" in a football game. Now, don't get me wrong, I love football, but can you seriously say a hand off to a running back, who is tackled at the line of scrimmage, is action? And if you really break it down, a 21-7 football game, when you remove the scoring inflation, is equivalent to a 3-1 soccer game! We wait an entire half sometimes to see one touchdown. How is that different than soccer?

Back to that REALLY GOOD soccer thought... I love my son, but, like my Dad had to think watching my games, when Jake isn't in the action, I can't watch. It's brutal! Packs of kids running up and down the field, some not even realizing there is a ball on the field! That's not soccer, it's group running.

Watching the World Cup is like staring at Howard Stern all day, then Angelina Jolie walks into the room. You can't help but instantly snap to attention, sit up and take notice. Your heart races and your eyes follow every move.

That's what I felt watching Germany and Costa Rica play. It was beautiful! The control of the ball, the curling, precision passes, the aggressive defense, the power behind their shots... THAT was non-stop action. Almost like a chess match, you could see the strategy building, anticipating two or three moves ahead. It looked so effortless and graceful. I felt like I was watching a different game.

Germany beat Costa Rica 4-2 in the first of 64 world cup matches to be played over the next month, and this football fan finds himself anxiously awaiting the next one!

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