Friday, June 25, 2010


Why is it soooo surprising that Americans can get excited by the sport everyone else calls football? Every time any news source mentions the US team, it's always qualified by, "But, you know, Americans will never love it the way Europeans/South Americans/anyone else does."

Judging by what I have seen in Prague in the games against the UK and Slovenia, it's simply not true. Of course - it seems to make more sense to be rowdy if you're in a bar in Europe versus one in say, Buloxi, Mississippi - because you are much more likely to encounter people who actually support the opponent.

The UK game was played on a Saturday night, which I spent in a beer garden in the neighborhood park, Riegrovy Sady. There the benches were full with guys draped in American flags like Rocky, others with Uncle Sam hats, getting in chanting wars with the inebriated Brits and even holding their own against them.

As soon as the UK fans started with, "You're not singing anymore" their goalkeeper let by an embarrassment of a ball into the net. And everyone was excited! I shouldn't have to explain that - of course we were.

One thing I liked about the American crowd is that even the sorority girls in sundresses get into it. There seems to be a stigma in Europe about girls who play, or who are interested in, soccer. From what I'm told it runs along the same lines of the stereotype about girls who play softball in the US. Anyway, as someone who started playing the game at the age of six at the insistence of my high school soccer coach of a dad, I thoroughly reject this idea.

I saw the last minutes of the game against Slovenia in the main square of Prague, where study abroad students, English teachers, and whoever else had turned into a red, white and blue mob. I heard the anger when the ref took away Maurice Edu's perfectly good goal in the 86th minute and prevented the US from getting the win. Beer cups were thrown down, slurs were yelled.

I would say that the one thing that's really missing from the US soccer team is a star. A star who is so famous that he could get first name status like Pele or Ronaldo and little kids would put up posters of him on their walls. The only player who I think even comes close to that is a female player - Mia Hamm. When I was playing as a kid, all the girls would fight over who got to have her number (9) on their jersey. Who can do that for the US men?

Right now - nobody. But that won't stop me from screaming for blood when I go watch tomorrow's game against Ghana - who booted us out of the 2006 world cup. Vengeance is ours -- USA!