It’s here. The World Cup has arrived in a massive crescendo of excitement and delirium that is rarely ever reserved for soccer here in the States.
Everyone from Beats by Dre to Subway and ESPN to McDonald’s are pushing (sometimes) epic commercials to remind us of the action to come. Every publication in the country has rushed to put out a guide and dish their thoughts on the world’s biggest events.
But there have been quite a few pieces doing the rounds ranging from “aiming to correct” to “straight up bashing” the way we American fans are supporting the game during this World Cup. Some have taken aim at our “incorrect” use of soccer — ahem, football — terminology. Others have mocked us for aping European supporter culture. And a scant few others revert to the 1990’s and scoff at us for liking soccer in the first place.
And you know what’s most astounding about all of this negativity? A sizable chunk of it is coming from our own fellow supporters.
That’s right, fans of a sport that is just now escaping the realm of the fringe are going out of their way to potentially alienate converts and relative newbies alike. Hell, I’m a very long-time fan of the beautiful game, and it’s even starting to alienate me.
Last summer, while at a crowded bar watching the Confederations Cup, I commented to a friend with me that “the field looked terrible”. Overhearing my comment, a kid next to me who I didn’t know and had maybe just turned 21 turned to me and said with a very negative tone, “It’s pitch, not field“. While I wanted to give him a lecture on how I’ve been playing and supporting soccer longer than he’s been alive, I thought that would do more harm than good. So I calmly replied, “They’re synonyms, you know. Neither is wrong”.
His response? “Well don’t try saying that in England,” while giving me a dirty look. I’d be willing to bet my would-be-educator — wearing an Arsenal shirt to an international soccer match featuring zero Arsenal players — had never actually been to England to try out the supposed faux pas himself.
Of course, the debate over “correct” soccer terminology has been around forever. Kits versus jerseys. Sideline or touchline. Cleats against boots. Even the name we use for the sport itself is open to debate.
And none of them are wrong. You see, there’s this magical thing about language: it changes depending on where you are. I use them all, interchangeably. Whatever works best in the moment.
Look at this picture. To some people, this might be a shopping cart. Others might call it a shopping buggy. Neither is wrong, it’s just regional dialect. Why should soccer be any different?
I’ve also seen a fair bit of angst aimed at American fans for our penchant for incorporating the supporting habits of other countries. Knocking aside the fact that we’re a nation whose culture has been entirely shaped by the importation of cultures from around the world as millions have immigrated here of over the last two centuries, is this really such a bad thing?
Take for instance the American supporters’ fondness for wearing and carrying soccer scarves. Sure, the tradition of scarves comes from England where it can be quite cold for much of the season and a scarf is necessary to stave off hypothermia. And true, American soccer is mainly played in the warmer months of the year when a scar will up your sweatiness from damp to drenched. But who cares? If someone wants to wear one, let them. You’re not the one getting sweatier.
Others have complained that we ripped of the Portugues/Italians/Argentina/etc. with our use of giant tifos to support our sides. I don’t recall any of the fans in those countries trademarking the idea and banning it’s use elsewhere.
This isn’t a one way street either. Loud blaring music being played over the crowd noise at stadiums around England and at the World Cup? Yeah, they got that from American sports arenas. You’re welcome, world.
Point is, who gives a rat’s ass about how someone is supporting soccer. All that should matter is that they’re supporting soccer.
Everyone has their own way of supporting, talking about and enjoying soccer. And whether you’re a soccer hipster who thinks they were in before the party started — and let me tell you loud and clear: you weren’t — or someone who’s just dipping their toes into the world’s game, you’re perfectly entitled to enjoy it however you like.
And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Unless it’s with a vuvuzela… those things are just stupid and annoying.