Tuesday, July 11, 2006

FBO: 'World Cup 2006 Fails the Case for Soccer in the USA'


EVERY FOUR YEARS soccer makes a case to be a relevant sport, a great one, one that should at least surpass hockey in the minds of most Americans, with the exposure to the World Cup. This year soccer failed. More so than in any World Cup in recent memory.

This year's 64-game tournament, held in Germany, just finished with Italy's anti-climatic penalty kick win over France (and the much-talked about head-butt by French captain Zinedine Zidane), most games it seemed were one-goal games, with the goal coming off a controversial penalty kick (like Italy's iffy call over Australia in a second-round, 93rd-minute 1-0 win), or aid of player ejections that seemed extreme (like the USA's two reds against Italy), and continous dives to call fouls for free kicks (France's win over Spain in the second round came off a non-foul foul).

Bad TV
American TV announcers didn't help. Constantly criticizing the referees is something that works when you're going after the BCS' burps for an audience that truly understands college football. But 'analysts' this time -- like goateed, long-haired Marcelo Balboa -- pulled no punches on the refs, only confirming some budding soccer fans' beliefs that the sport is unexciting or flawed. Rarely will you see more negative coverage (though it may be justified). One announcer, during an Iran game, inappropriately politicized it, by constantly referring to Iran's politics, then even pointed out the 'chill' of seeing an event in the Nuremberg stadium where Nazi rallies had once been held. TV coverage likes to promote story lines in games, and their (convincing) adoration for three or four games straight of French captain Zidane unravelled when he head-butted an Italian player 20 minutes into overtime. He got the red card, and the rest of the game felt stained.

Doesn't the USA have a soccer league?
Most enigmatically, the American soccer league, MLS, seemed to care less that the world's favorite tournament was on during their season. They didn't suspend games, and only made ONE advertisment in 64 games to signal that 'hey, American soccer happens every year... you can watch it now.' They should have at least advertised during US, Mexican, Brazilian and English games. If the New York Red Bulls can, purportedly, afford to pay David Beckham $100 million to play in the USA, SOMEONE should have the money for a few ads. They really missed an opportunity.

Teams were not 'beautiful'
Over-hyped favorite Brazil -- they never play well in Europe -- never gelled on the field. The 'world's team' were never much to see, and they fell in the semi-finals to France 1-0. The Americans, particularly coach Bruce Arena, got bitter from their first-round exit, something TV coverage zeroed in on, like ESPN analyst Eric Wynalda -- a former player -- giving sharp critiques at Arena at every break. Only Italian fans are satisfied with Italy's play in the final. They held out for a post-overtime shoot-out, where their 6'4" goalie had a huge advantage over France's. The 'beautiful game' was a little plain this time.

Wasn't 2002 great?
Recent Word Cups have done a better job. In 2002 co-host South Korea surpassed expectations and the US team came a non-call hand ball in the penalty box from getting pass finalist Germany in the second round. In 1998, host France shocked favorite Brazil 3-0 in the final, and Mexico had some inspired last-second wins to rally around. In 1994, the USA hosted the event, only lost to the winner Brazil in the second round 1-0, and underdog Bulgaria made it to the final four.

FBO's suggestions for World Cup 2010

--> a) never let a final game be settled by penalty kicks; let teams earn a new sub per every 20 or 30 minutes played in overtime, and go until someone scores; it's better entertainment, and it provides a more satisfying victor
--> b) check replays for ANY penalty kick awarded or red card given; these game-changing plays occurred too much in 2006; the field is so big that it's hard for a ref on it, or two on the sidelines to see what was a dive and what wasn't
--> c) MLS needs to think of how to market itself AT ALL during any World Cup
--> d) TV coverage should stop talking story lines during every break and compile a World Cup overview videos to explain tournament history to people who don't know it (yes! Uruguay won it twice!!), with some of the great goals and controversies on video
--> e) never ever politicize the event

Unfortunately for those Americans who haven't seen the 'beautiful game' when it's beautiful, soccer felt like a game of cheats, dives, ugly defense, and bad refs. A pity.

FBO Admin
Mobile/Semi-Permanent HQ -- Brooklyn, NY


Anonymous said...

It seems that it's the same old story for you poor old US sports fans trying to get your heads around a low scoring contest.

Why should the rest of the world even consider changing their game to please US TV viewers? You've already tried that with your domestic league with that laughable one-on-one thing with the keeper instead of a traditional penalty shoot-out.

This World Cup has been seen as a great success in Europe, especially in Germany. Maybe the perception of the competition you have has been too heavily influenced by how poor the US team performed where as the neutral fan would pick the Czech Republic's early win over the US as one of the highlights.

It seems, the culture of football is something the average US viewer still cannot comprehend, but the culture of changing the rules to suit yourselves seems to be alive and well.

Maybe just stick to 'Rounder’s', sorry, Baseball or 'Rugby', sorry '(American) Football' in future and leave the rest of the world to enjoy every aspect of the beautiful game, including the odd 0-0 draw and penalty shoot-out.

Bronc said...

Well, us old US sports fans like action. We want the effort that is expended on the field to be rewarded by a win or loss, not a stupid TIE or penalty kicks.

As I see it, three things need to change in soccer, not just for US viewers, but for everyone.

1) GET RID OF OFF-SIDES! This single change would do more to end the 0-0 draw garbage than anything.

2) Allow free substitutions. Let folks sub in and out on their possessions. Set the max number of players on a team to 17 (or whatever).

3) Revamp the card system. Make the 2 line judges into refs and let them call fouls (especially if they aren't calling offsides anymore). Allow instance replay on all cards.

Alan De-Mulletized said...

Ah, this is always a good debate!
The author of this blog, and myself started playing "soccer" or fooball in about 1971. We played through most of our school days, and still do once in a while for kicks, hah. It is the beautiful game, and still one, one of the most exciting sporting events on the planet.
Couple of responses to the US bashing going on on this post....
1- US tied the World Cup winner, period, enough said, we have become a contender, and will get better.
2- Yes MLS sucks, right now, but it will grow, and when the real athletes in the US start playing, and are able to make the money that baseball, football, backetball pays, we will dominate the sport, no doubt, any bets?....I will bet my life earnings on it! (if our best athletes played now, it would be no contest, and yes we use drugs to get better, maybe you should try it too, they work, and who is to tell someone they cannot injest what they want to into their own bodies)
3- American Football (both college and pro)(especially college) are the best sports on the planet, by far! There is nothing like college football anywhere in the world, it is unique, and absolutely amazing!
4- I totally agree with the comment that soccer/football should do away with the off sides rule! When I played outdoor, I hated the rule, thats why I like indoor soccer better now, because its faster paced, and there is more scoring. Don't get me wrong I love the defensive battles in any sport, the 0-0 tie is a thing of defensive beauty! but come on now, the 3-2, or the 5-4 game is much more of a nail biter, and keeps you involved the whole game.
Yes the US has its "issues" we are still a young country and still figuring out who we are. But when it comes to all out effort, and grit to do something well, need not challenge.

Oh, and by the way, Bush is a war criminal and should be tried in an international court....just an add on....

Failed Bands of Oklahoma said...

Clarity: The FBO are proud, sincere fans of football (soccer). Watching four World Cups in a row -- most games actually -- would help back up the case. The point of this article is how this World Cup, smeared by some iffy calls and uninspired play, did less to help the 'soccer cause' in the USA than recent World Cups.

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