Why the U.S. shouldn’t win the World Cup
This Thanksgiving, the conversation over the dinner table was about sports: College football, one of my favorite subjects and the biggest sporting event in the world. The World Cup. By now, I’m sure you’ve heard of the month-long tournament currently underway in Qatar and the ensuing debate in the American zygote. Is it soccer or football? Obviously, in the states, we call it soccer, but since the invention of the sport and everywhere else in the world, they call it football or futbol.
A dinner guest and friend of ours, an American like myself, began the typical conversation about why we can’t get into soccer. Our guest said the usual things that I, too, have said at one time or another: It’s boring, no action, teams can go a whole game without scoring, too simplistic, etc. My husband, who grew up playing the sport in his home country and still plays several times a week, vehemently disagreed.
My head ping-ponged back and forth between them as they made their points. I ate my turkey wing, macaroni and cheese, and red rice, only half listening because I’ve heard this conversation a million times before. Then the subject of the U.S. men’s team came up, and what are our chances of winning the whole thing? My husband: Your chances. That’s laughable. You have no chance. Our guest argued that, of course, we have a chance we’re American. In almost any global contest, we typically come out on top. No way. Not this time.
They continued their banter, and my husband said something that caught my attention. He said that even if the U.S. could win the World Cup off of talent alone, which they can’t, the U.S. doesn’t deserve to win the World Cup. Whoa. I, of course, asked him to explain. The U.S. doesn’t deserve to win the World Cup because y’all don’t care. Every country competing this literally means everything to their people. When they play, the streets are empty, and the country stops. Everything is at stake. They don’t have anything else.
I’d never thought of it that way. At that moment, the general cognitive dissonance I had toward the sport kind of changed. I began to put myself in the shoes of people from countries considered third-world and what the soccer ball actually represents. It’s more than a sport. It’s culture; it’s identity. Sports is the great equalizer. Whether you’re from the most powerful nation in the world or the poorest, none of that matters on the field, especially not at the World Cup. Everyone is the same.
The next day we went to a bar to watch the U.S. vs. England game. It was standing room only as Cup fans packed both levels of the place. We decided to stand around and watch since we were already there, and the game was only 90 minutes anyway. As luck would have it, one of my husband’s soccer buddies saw us and waved us over. He had a reserved table to watch the game and had three extra seats. I can’t lie as I sat amongst the crowd with my pineapple margarita, I sort of was rooting for England.
I mean, they do have some of the best players in the world: Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, and Saka. And I knew it meant more to the people of England (hence the rioting* that happened after the game ended in a draw 0-0) than it did to us.
Until Americans as a whole are on the same page with supporting our soccer programs from local to national and genuinely respecting the sport on the same level as football and basketball, then the U.S. will continue to qualify for the World Cup and be eliminated from the second round at best. Talent and resources can only take you so far when other countries have the same, if not better, but more than that, they have something invaluable: A whole nation cheering them on. So, for now, the U.S. does not deserve to win the World Cup.
BTW: My husband predicts France to win it all — again.
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