World Cup 101 for Americans: Dispelling the Top Misconceptions: by Ultimate Sports Wife, Nicole
Now, for you Americans who may think that football (read: soccer) is boring or who are thinking of the World Cup is some type of "goodie-goodie" event akin to the Olympics -where pin-trading is the height of cross cultural interaction and fun- well, you have four years to get up to speed.
After two World Cups, and previously little interest in soccer, I thought it would be helpful to develop a little study guide, if you will, in order to dispel the top three misconceptions that keep Americans away from the World Cup. Think of it as a World Cup 101 for Americans.
I know many of us think that American football is far more exciting than soccer, and the Superbowl is truly a "world" championship event, but this is SO American of us. The World Cup is where football takes a true world stage and trust me, football, the "beautiful game," will grow on you.
In the mean time, I will dispel a few of the top misconceptions about the World Cup, and maybe even convince you to give the World Cup a try-- even before you can get into the game.
Myth 1: You need to be a football nut to enjoy the World Cup.
Truth: You donít need to like football to like the World Cup.
As a Bears fan, I was reluctant and too proud to think twice about soccer. Letís admit it. To an American palette, it is a boring game that seemingly goes on forever with little happening in between. Plus, I saw enjoying soccer as being anti-the-real-football. Football should require helmets and shoulder pads to be truly a brutal and exciting game. Now anyone who watched Brian McBride from the US team walk away from the field with a bloody face will contend, there is brutality in soccer sans shoulder pads or helmets. But, regardless, you too can have fun without liking football. There are Fanfests where you can convene to watch (or ignore) the game along with 250,000 of your closest friends. These Fanfests are sometimes two to a city and are often positioned near the most amazing landmarks in Europe (i.e. Berlinís Fanfest in the Tiergarten or adjacent to the Brandenburg Gate). Think of it as a gigantic beer garden with a big screen TV. Ignore the game and drink your beer. Who wouldnít like that?
Myth 2: There arenít any Americans at the World Cup.
Truth: There are other Americans at the World Cup and they are having fun...why arenít you?
Every time America takes the field, US fans come out of the woodwork to cheer them on. Most Americans think that only Europeans like football. A few times Andrew and I have been asked by some Euros: why are you here? We thought Americans hate football? Well, this general stereotype is true, but in Nuremburg, when Ghana squared off against the USA, American fans from all around Europe showed up to cheer on the team. (check out "Fans and Fashion: World Cup ĎFandemoniumí At Its Best" for some true American fans). So, American fandom is growing, but there is still much more than needs to be done in order to match the global fervor for football. For instance, most countries have elaborate cheers and songs to honor their teams. Americans, a less evolved species of fan, merely has the embarrassing staple: U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A!!! So, there is a small but humble movement of Americans enjoying the World Cup, but there is still more that needs to be done.
Myth 3: When the US is out of the Cup, there is nothing left to enjoy.
Truth: You can still have fun even if your team doesnít advance.
Many Americans think that because our US team has struggled, there is nothing to see at a World Cup. I mean, what is the point of going, if, by the time you get off the plane, your team is out of the tournament? Well, we arenít the only country in this position. For instance, I saw a Japanese fan (after Japan was knocked out) wearing a Brazil cap. This fan had the right idea. To deal with your team getting knocked out, you must develop a strategy for adopting a surrogate team to cheer on. Now, my strategy is to cheer for Italy and/or Mexico-the two halves of my ethic background. And if they play each other, well, I root for the underdog. Many choose to cheer for Brazil-a global fan favorite. Or, you could just choose your favorite team on a game by game basis. Regardless, this type of allegiance is in the spirit of sportsmanship but also serves the purpose of giving the fans of weaker teams a chance to cheer on any team in order to stay interested in the game. So, Americans, we have some hope.
Think of these few myths and truths as a teaser of sorts. Americans, just dive into the next World Cup. You have four years to think on it and a plane ride to South Africa to think on a new and improved American cheer.