It takes time to appreciate soccer

July 17, 2010

I’ve never heard of [columnist Bill Benner], but I have been a fan of IBJ for quite some time, for its business quotes, interesting local news, sometimes overlooked by the [Indianapolis] Star and great titles. I decided to read [your June 28 column]—see, whenever there is soccer involved, my blood runs faster, my pulse gallops and my mind expands beyond reality. You said you try and try to understand soccer, but you couldn’t.

Your first failure was to sit in your easy chair. Soccer is not meant to be watched like that. You probably thought that sitting and watching the U.S. game was enough to know the game. It will take around five World Cups to have an understanding, a feeling, a taste for what soccer is to most of the world. Soccer is beyond a game—it’s culture, it’s history, it’s geography, it’s economics, sometimes even politics—and the game deserves its respect and prestige.

The World Cup is the biggest event for the soccer world, but it just doesn’t happen because it is scheduled every four years. It happens because every year more young kids, even in the United States, even here in Indy, are playing soccer. These kids become teenagers, and the good ones become professionals. That’s the easy part. The tough part is to be good enough to be selected from thousands to represent a soccer club, and later, if you are that good, the climax of all, to represent a country, and what that means to your family, your neighborhood, your city, your customs, your identity.   

But it takes time, sacrifice and talent to accomplish that, and for us mortals, today, to witness this event and its magnitude it is a privilege and a blessing. You see Europeans, Africans, Latinos, Orientals, even Americans screaming, crying, feeling alive, feeling that no matter how your life is going, today it’s better because your country or your favorite team plays.

So I invite you to educate yourself and learn the world and its history, geography, economics and customs. When that happens, you will understand soccer, its government entity FIFA and rankings, confederations, tournaments, rules and, more important, its fans.

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John Castaneda

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