Saturday, July 14, 2007

soccer, futbol, David Beckham and the US

Why Beckham Must Woo America's Soccer Moms"

Yes, I know, another article I note from the Financial Times. I can't help it. It's a more enjoyable read than the Wall Street Journal and satisfies my anglophile need to know a non-US perspective on world events.

I really liked this commentary article for two reasons: (1) It explains pretty well why plenty of people in the US watch lots of non-US soccer (aka futbol) and not US soccer, and (2) why hiring David Beckham for LA Galaxy is probably misguided. Beckham is no Pele, and even Pele couldn't get the States to want to watch the game after he stopped playing for the Cosmos.

I also really enjoy the anonomous nod to my (and others) support of the game on a world level. Calling in 'sick' when the World Cup or Champions League matches are mid-week and at some ungodly hour for someone in NYC to be watching TV if that same person expects to be ready for a 9am meeting at work.

Here are excerpts of the article I thought were poignant:

"The game has thrived as a pastime for kids such as Stone precisely because there is no big soccer in America. The soccer moms are glad that it is not a big professional sport such as basketball or American football. Many Americans are fed up with their professional sports, whose stars do lousy and unethical things such as shooting their limousine drivers."

"He [David Beckham] will find that impossible, because soccer is already on the map in America. The US has a strong soccer culture. It is simply different from any other country's soccer culture, and will remain different in spite of Beckham."

"Today more American kids under 12 play soccer than baseball, American football and ice hockey combined. Admittedly, they rarely watch it. By the lake, Stone said that in spite of playing the game all his childhood, he could never have named five professional players. In fact, he hadn't even been conscious of the professional game's existence. His was a very American suburban story. "It became a standing joke", writes David Wangerin in his book Soccer in a Football World, "that the reason so many Americans played soccer was that it enabled them to avoid watching it"."

"Many of America's ethnic groups follow foreign soccer. So does what Stone called the game's "geek cult following", a growing American demographic that bunks off work in mid-afternoon to watch Champions League matches. During World Cups, even some suburbanites switch on. Nearly 17m Americans saw last year's World Cup final, 4m more than watched an average game in the NBA finals and almost as many as saw the average World Series baseball game in 2006."

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