Ah, the MLS, so great they named it twice. OK, it isn’t and they didn’t but this great league that superseded the even better NASL (OK, it wasn’t) is apparently taking off in America. The HTW has almost finished its sell-out tour across America (by sell out tour we mean that we are sell outs and we are also touring across California on holiday) and has observed footballing matters across the pond.
Before you hit the back button on your browser, let us assure you that we do not intend to reference tedious differences between the language the British use when talking about football, and the language our American cousins use, such as referring to football as soccer, or referring to penalties as “PK”s, etc, etc. On the whole calling football “soccer” matter, the HTW would like to point out that it was the English who coined the phrase, and it comes from the full name of our beloved sport, “aSOCciation football”. Hence, “soccer”. So the next time you hear someone trotting out that tired old cliche about the Yanks calling football “soccer”, hit them round the fact with THAT fact.
That said, we couldn’t help but laugh when we learned, via American news sources, that David Beckham was on the “disabled list” for the Galaxy, which seems a tad severe and, indeed, permanent. Maybe Capello was right to call time on his career?
Reading the LA Times newspaper the other day, the HTW did as any man would and started at the sports section before working his way forward. Searching through the 12 page sports section we eventually found the “soccer” section. All ninety six words of it. And eight of those words were either “David” or “Beckham”. So maybe football isn’t important enough to warrant major news coverage.
However, when 90,000 fans descend upon the Rose Bowl stadium to watch a friendly match-up between Beckham’s LA Galaxy and Real Madrid it’s difficult to say that football is still a minority sport in America. That said, it’s easy for fans to turn up to a big match like this with a rare opportunity to watch stars like Ronaldo, Kaka and Xabi Alonso; but in the league where the only opportunity is to watch players like, er, Freddie Ljungberg – who, frankly, was past it when he was at West Ham – it’s a different matter. 20,000 turned up for LA Galaxy v Ljungberg’s Chicago Fire FC, and that’s about average for the Galaxy this season. So not bad, it’s perhaps as well supported as many clubs in the Championship in England.
Walking through different cities in California, the HTW was somewhat pleased to see a number of different football jerseys being worn – and not just by the Mexican contingent. We saw a number of Man United, Arsenal, AC Milan, Real Madrid and Barcelona shirts worn by Americans. We saw two LA Galaxy shirts being worn and a NY Red Bulls shirt as well. We also saw a Hartlepool United shirts and were shocked when the accent didn’t have a North Eastern twang but a Southern Californian one. Maybe they watch Gillette Soccer Saturday and are converted to supporting this proud team?
Football is much more in the public consciousness in America than it’s ever been before. It doesn’t seem to be the preserve of white middle class families with “soccer moms” driving their kids to and from soccer practice. It seems to have broader appeal across the nation and that’s a good thing for the sport.
Given the amount of money America tends to invest in its sports, if football ever does really take off here, it’s a scary thought. With more than a quarter of a billion people who live here, heavy investment could truly turn America into a world force in the next 10 to 20 years. The HTW has come over all Pele – wait, that’s not good phrasing – has decided to do a Pele – wait, that’s not right either – has decided to join Pele in trotting out bad prediction after bad prediction. We reckon that the good ole USA will win the World Cup by the turn of the Century. When Pele said the same of an African team, he said it with only three World Cups to go. We’ve got about fifteen World Cups to see our prediction come true, and the very real likelihood that we’ll be dead by the time this prediction doesn’t come to fruition.
Nevertheless, we are confident that the USA will win a match-up on the world’s biggest stage (edit – removed tiresome joke about the American “world series” featuring only two countries).