Monday, June 15, 2015

Why I Still Watch International Soccer

For fans of the beautiful game, it seemed like days like these would never come.

Soccer is front page news. It's being tweeted about, blogged about, photoshopped and meme-ified like nothing else in sports.

Of course, the majority of the soccer news is about just how corrupt, conniving and deplorable FIFA executives can be rather than how thrilling any match is, but hey, one step at a time.

 It may not be as adorable as Riley Curry, or as polarizing as LeBron James, or as unifying as American Pharaoh, but it has definitely captured the public interest (as anything that pops up as a go to joke for Drive Time DJs and NPR hosts has to). Unfortunately for those of us who really love international soccer season, it's a little aggravating to try to see past the clouds of corruption and the deluge of drama to get at the games.

"Besides," carp the wags and critics, "how can you support such a corrupt system? If you hate Blatter and Co. as much as the rest of us, why not boycott? Why not shut it off? Why not let them count their ill gotten gains in the sketchy back rooms of bureaucrats around the world?"

"Because," I respond, "this is beautiful.

"Because four years ago, women in Thailand and Ivory Coast were lucky to get half a bleacher full of people at their matches, now they're playing on international television.

"Because Adama Traore didn't ask for CAF officials to take bribes, he's just trying to play a beautiful game in a beautiful way.

"Because for every idiotic Jack Warner video/scheme/claim, there's a kid in the Caribbean who wants to walk out on the pitch next to the greatest stars in the game, and they see people who look like them doing it.

"Because Guam got a win, and Bhutan's still playing and so are Belize and Curacao and St. Kitts & Nevis, and just think how richer the game would be if the actually got all the money they deserved rather than what was left over after officials skimmed the top.

"Because these players: these inspiring and devoted women, children and amateurs, are bigger victims of systemic corruption than I am. And rather than ignoring them, rather than ridiculing, disparaging, dismissing or isolating them, I want to celebrate who they are and what they are doing.

"Because the game is beautiful, and commitment is beautiful, and a committed game in the face of all the other stupidity and corruption in the world is absolutely beautiful."

Author's note: I'll write about specific teams and players again soon, now that summer vacation has started I should have time to actually write consistently. [Crosses Fingers]

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