I love soccer and am totally baffled by people who don’t like it. In honor of my home team (LA Galaxy what-what) winning the MLS cup for the millionth time I bring you some reasons why you should at least think about loving soccer as much as I do, and how that’ll help you fit in and make friends when you go abroad.
There are teams everywhere, Americans! Every major international city has at least one major soccer team. Even in the states they are crazy prevalent (the MLS has eighteen teams now-- although, if you live between Idaho and Wisconsin, you’re kind of screwed). What better way to show some local pride than to support your local team?
Both men and women are great at it. Growing up I played on a co-ed soccer team. The boys had big kicks but the girls had great precision skills and were crazy devious on the field. Despite the fact that men’s teams get more funding and attention, women’s teams are equally talented and awe inspiring. Mia Hamm has scored more international goals than any other US player, male or female and over 90,000 people attended the final of the Women’s World Cup in 1999 (fun fact: attendance at the men’s World Cup final in 1998 was only 80,000 people).
A soccer jersey is a universal greeting. There’s no better way to gain favor in a place where you don’t speak the language than with a soccer jersey. Just make sure you’re wearing the right one for the region. Also, a jersey from your home team makes a great gift for your host family.
Talking intelligently about soccer makes you sound brilliant. An American who can speak intelligently and accurately about soccer is a thing of legend in much of the world. Busting out your soccer knowledge is one sure-fire way to gain street-cred abroad.
Hooliganism! Fun word to throw around, and a fascinating topic. Who isn’t looking for an excuse to chant, jump around, and maybe get into a fight? Hooligans are known the world over as barra bravas, hinchada, and ultra. A few MLS teams even have some fledgling firms. Wearing a wedge of foam cheese on one’s head is adorable, but get a vuvuzela and then we’ll talk.
Constant motion. To the naysayers who like to point out that soccer is a low scoring game, I say: You are missing the point. Soccer is at least 90 minutes of pure action. Compare that to an NFL game, which includes sixty minutes of playing time and, by my estimate, approximately five and a half hours of standing around. There is no crying in baseball, and there is no standing around in soccer. Dudes be RUNNING. Studies have estimated that players run between six and seven miles per match. People are running up and down the field, tripping one another, and kicking each other in the face.
Everyone is attractive. It’s a scientific fact that all professional soccer players are attractive. The men are fit and the women are gorgeous. The quads! The abs! The adorable floppy hair! And do you remember the cover of People magazine with the 1999 US women’s team? Have you ever seen a group of people with such perfect teeth? Even the awkward ones have a certain lovability (I’m looking at you, Peter Crouch). Something for everyone.
WAGs. My god, the players’ wives and girlfriends! Americans, imagine NBA wives, or Real Housewives of Wherever, but amped up to eleven. For reference, please go read The Awl’s salacious features on two prominent WAGs: Colleen Rooney and Cheryl Cole nee Tweedy. Delightful.
For further proof of the absolute awe-inspiring amazingness of soccer, I’ll refer you to this list compiled by fantastic Indelible Teammate and fellow soccer enthusiast, Ally Pirret. She had plenty of time to complete it because the Sounders were pretty lame this season.
How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization, Franklin Foer
This series of saves just won Kasey Keller his second consecutive MLS Save of the Year Award. I was at this game - I hugged a stranger, threw beer around, screamed myself hoarse. Exhilarating.
Green Street Hooligans. Watch wee Elijah Wood turn into a reluctant member of a West Ham hooligan firm. Much violence ensues.
This is arguably the most famous goal ever scored: Maradona’s Hand of God. Incidentally, Sr. Maradona has had a fascinating career. Google him.