American's put little old soccer back in the box
The World Cup seen from Chicago
Well that's it for another 4 years. I was thinking during the final yesterday about being a kid during the '74 and '78 world cup (I still love this music
), a teenager for the '82 and '86 ones and then being at work and drinking in the pubs for the '92 and '96 finals then newly seperated from my (now ex) wife and therefore being able to watch the majority of the 2002 matches (an extreme reason to split I know!) and now here in Chicago for the latest 2006 German finals. Yet all those years and tournaments seem to blend together in a mix of a personal lifetime.
I know memory plays tricks but where was the skill, theatre and drama of previous tournaments? It was great to see the hosts do well but how bad were we? How disappointing were Brazil? Argentina, probably the best team went home the day before England did.
The Czech's started on fire but disappeared, Spain played some good stuff but choked again (they have only once made the semi-finals and that was in 1950). Holland, the inventor of total football also suffers from total internal politics and once again dressing room disputes marred their competition.
France, ageing like a good bordeaux, became the neutrals favourites but Zidane's chest-butt put pay to that, but it at least consigned Rooney's nut-job to past history!
Only Australia surprised anyone and were very unfortunate to go out to the eventual winners. And the Asian and African nations look further away than ever of lifting the famous trophy. Sepp Blatter once said "it wouldn't be long before an African team would win the World Cup."
Well, the twat also said that "women should play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball,"
tighter shorts he suggested!
And where were the stars? What happened to Ronaldinho and Van Nistelrooy? And how much did Chelsea pay for Shevchenko?
I'm an old football romantic but there were no Cryuff's or Arie Haan's. Or a Brietner, a Baggio or a Socrates. No Rossi's or Platini's. No Valderrama, Milla or Cubillas. Just the memories of play-acting, over zealous refeering and teams being over cautious to the point of tedium. It says something that my favourite game was Holland v Portugal. And it also tells you a lot that the top goalscorer, Miroslav Klose only scored 5 goals, two more than anyone else.
From an American point of view and from what I saw around me I think 'soccer' took some big strides. Despite a political commentator on MSNBC calling the game "anti-American,"
and one idiot in the media suggesting that US government use World Cup gatherings across the country "to round up illegal immigrants,"
television audiences increased by 112% on the 2002 tournament, with an average of 3.2m per game (3.8m watched the final compared to 24m in the UK) and whereas in the past fans probably had to fly down to Mexico to watch a game, most pubs here in Chicago had the games on live. ABC showed just one game live in 1982!
Of course the thing with Americans is that they like a big event, they would prefer it if they could win it but don't we all but what peeves it's critics, besides low-scoring matches and draws, is that 'soccer' does not depend on the United States for success. We do just fine without them.
So American's put little old 'soccer' back in the box for another 4 years but meanwhile the MLS
continues with little or no media exposure and they wonder why they don't have a cat in hells chance of ever being best in this game "the rest of the world insist on calling football."