Saturday, September 1, 2007

FOOTBALL (a/k/a soccer) AND YOU: Part I

First, I would like to discuss what, undoubtedly, is the key issue in the American Soccer dilemma.

Meriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition, defines soccer as follows: a game played on a field by two teams of 11 players each with the object to propel a round ball into the opponent’s goal by kicking or by hitting it with any part of the body except the hands and arms -- called also association football. The word soccer, itself, is an alteration of the term association football. A game fitting this definition and played, thanks to the Englishmen who disseminated it, around the world in more than 100 countries is commonly known as football. Could there be a more natural name for a game requiring that a ball be propelled by a foot?

Though extremely popular around the world, due to poor management and disastrous changes that corrupted their version of the game, football has never caught on in America. Typical of this mismanagement was the decision made in the 1970’s, a decision that reflects a complete lack of intelligence, to drop the name football in favor of the term soccer.

Some Americans, realizing the excitement that term aroused, cleverly proceeded to create a new sport that, while completely different from football, has become popular with the American public. The two versions of the game, one well-managed, the other mismanaged, are, in fact, so different, as different as night and day, that there is no reason why the two cannot coexist without competing with each other.

I would like to introduce American fans, especially that minority who wants to compete on a World level, to a sport hardly played here but revered in other parts of the world. It is called football. That’s the term I will be using. This may be confusing to those who have been using the term soccer, but I would like to drive home the fact that while vaguely similar to the game known worldwide as football, it is definitely different.

Let me explain a few of those differences. Professional soccer, as originally played in America, was actually a combination of football and various other sports popular with American fans. In an effort to gain the attention of fans, managers of the various leagues combined some rules of these American games with the rules of football and soccer was born. Unfortunately, their creation was a boring game that repulsed rather than attracted disappointed fans.

Today, even though those original professional leagues have died out, the game they contrived, soccer, can still be seen on college campuses and athletic fields. What a pity! Though there are talented players, they are handicapped by rules and practices that just don’t make sense. For example, you can’t substitute six or seven players at the same time and expect to maintain momentum. No way! All this does is disrupt the flow of the game. And Sudden Death, which makes it necessary for teams to keep playing until there is a winner, completely discounts the achievement of a hard fought tie. No, I’m sorry, this game isn’t football.

I could go on forever pointing out differences and mistakes, but that’s not my goal. My goal is to show you the excitement, beauty and art of the game. Yes, football is an art and only a few select people have the talent needed to master it. To cultivate the abilities required to play the game as it should be played, one must begin at an early age and continue to nurture those skills until adulthood when all their hard work will bare fruit in the form of a splendid and accomplished football player.

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