Sunday, June 27, 2010

Last soccer post... maybe

Mosey asked if I was into soccer before I met hubs.

Part of that answer is no. I didn't grow up playing soccer. I didn't grow up playing any sport or doing any activity that required fees or special shoes, or a ride anywhere. It's ok, that's just what life is like in a family of seven kids and no money. I don't even remember playing it at school during P.E. class. I also didn't grow up with a TV, so we didn't watch any sports at home. I only remember watching sports a few times-- college basketball games.

It is unfortunate I didn't play. I think I could have been good. The few times I have played for fun with friends and my husband, people comment on my unmined talent. I can run and I am tenacious as all hell.

So I don't think I even knew what soccer was until maybe high school... definitely college. Part of this, of course, was that I wasn't very interested in sports in general, or jocks.

Living in Chile was my first introduction to soccer as a world-wide phenomenon. I was there in 98, the last time Chile went to the World Cup. I had watched a few games with my husband, but I was stunned to see how the whole country shut down, in the middle of the day, gathering around TVs in department stores and bars to watch their team. I loved that sense of excitement.

Another part of the answer to that question, though, is that I am not all that into watching soccer. I am not that interested in watching sports period, especially on TV, and soccer is actually the only one I can watch for more than five minutes. Football bores me to tears; baseball too; golf is not even a sport and I'd rather eat glass--(I told my husband if he ever starts playing golf I will leave him, and I am only partly kidding); tennis is for cats-- watching the ball go back and forth. I made a very clear statement about basketball when I was four years old and unhappily attending a game--I said that Jesus didn't like basketball, and as proof, I looked around and said he wasn't even there-- apparently the fact that I didn't like it did not carry much weight, so I thought I'd use Jesus to get my way. It didn't work, naturally.

But I do like the World Cup (and I am clearly bossy and judgemental when it comes to sports, but I'll work on that later).

Of course, I also cheer for the US in the World Cup and I was disappointed that they lost yesterday. But in my heart of hearts, I secretly want Chile to do well. Part of it is because most of my history with soccer has to do with this second country of mine and my favorite Chilean. The other part of it is that there is a part of my essence that cheers for the underdog, that is just who I am.

I asked a facebook friend whether he was going to cheer for Spain or Chile in the last game, a part of his comment was rooting for the underdog. One of his Spanish friends claimed that Chile was NOT the underdog. Chile is not the only underdog in the World Cup, but Chile is always an underdog when it comes to international soccer.

First, Chile is a small country, with about 15 million inhabitants. That is like trying to find a competetive US team, but limited to the state of Florida. They just have a smaller population to choose from. If extremely talented athletes are one in a million, Chile doesn't stand a chance against many countries. (My husband and I always joke that if the US ever takes soccer seriously, the rest of the world should watch out--we have a very large, very genetically diverse selection base.)

Second, as a country, they don't have the sports infrastructure to attract, endorse, and raise star players. In the US we have the money and the best technology to train and pay players. We pay athletes (for sports we care about) an insane amount of money.

Finally, because of how teams qualify and who they have to play to do so, there are countries that play in every World Cup (Germany, Brazil, even the US). Chile has to play against Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, Columbia, Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, and probably a few more that I am forgetting. The competition is fierce and only five teams advance. Brazil and Argentina almost always advance; they are soccer powerhouses (though Argentina fought to classify this time). The other spots are won through a series of intense games. Chile does not play in every Cup, the last time they played was 98, 12 years ago (look! math!), where they did not make it out of the first round.

So, given what it takes to get a decent team together and the effort it takes just to classify...yes, Chile is the underdog. Chile also has a bit of an inferiority complex, so they will have to overcome the psychological challenge of playing a team like Brazil--World Cup winner on numerous occasions.

So tomorrow, I will be cheering for Chile, against a soccer giant. It's David and Goliath and who doesn't love when the little guy wins?

***On a side note, have you noticed how many games there were where the colonized played the colonizer?

Brazil : Portugal
US : England
Chile : Spain
Mexico : France (ok, this one is not perfect, but France did invade Mexico and Cinco de mayo commemorates a battle that France lost to Mexico)

Is that rigged? or deliciously random?


lydia said...

hahhaha tennis is for cats!! i love it
golf- so true.
basketball- you're all wrong...but bringing JESUS into it literally cracked me up!

i cannot believe you didn't know about soccer until high school... even playing around in the streets or yard? or knowing that other kids did at least?

i totally want chile to win... especially because i'm part of the continuos celebration that will entail. i fully hope tomorrow is a case of one of those triumphant underdog cases

Kyle said...

I definitely want to Chile to win, and I do think they're the underdogs against Brazil...because let's get real here, EVERYBODY is an underdog against Brazil. But Chile finished second in qualifying in the CONMEBOL group, which is hands down the toughest out of all the World Cup qualifiers so I definitely wouldn't be shocked if they went far and I really wouldn't qualify them as underdogs. Obviously they're not as big of a soccer name, so they're not as well known as the soccer giants, because they're not consistently good every qualifying cycle. However, against Portugal, Germany and many of the other teams (basically everyone but Argentina or Brazil) still left in the knockout stage, I'd be surprised if they didn't win!

Unless they play like they played against Spain. In which case, we might as well just throw the towel in right now.

But fortunately I'm pretty sure Bielsa won't let another fiasco like that happen :)

Marmo said...

A few days ago, someone wrote that this world cup was like the WW2:
France: Defeated almost instantly, and almost screwed itself.
Italy: Too busy being irrelevant and just defending, they also got knocked down easily.
Germany and England: Doomed to clash once again.
Japan: With a lot of self confidence, when playing against weaker foes, just wait till they get to a worthy opponent.
USA: Not really into it at first, but with each new opponent getting better and stronger.
Russia: Appears from fkng nowhere to the final.

I think Chile will play a good game against Brazil, we have not said the last word on World Cup yet. I´m also somehow disappointed that almost everyone thinks we´re going to lose this match, before we even play it. I don´t like that.

Annje said...

@Lydia--I played kick the can in the street, sometimes baseball or kickball. Never ever soccer. I am a decade older than you though, at least, apparently a lot can change in 10 years ;-)

Marmo, just so you know, I don't think we are going to lose. My title is actually because I don't know how many soccer posts my other reader can take ;-) So I don't know if I'll post when Chile goes on to play Uruguay in the semi-finals--I'll just post my horrays on facebook...

Interesting WWII comparison too.

Black Wanderer said...

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mosey said...

Maybe we can kick the ball around when I come visit? Or if you really want to get to know me, sometime I'll take you with me to a hockey game. I rarely watch games on TV, except if my Dad is visiting. But I turn into a rabid shouting-at-the-referee type when I attend a game. It must be bred into every Canadian at birth, whether they like the sport or not.

English hubby refuses to attend games with me - I think it makes him wonder who the heck he married.

Annje said...

Mosey, I do like Hockey, I think it come in just under soccer on my two sport list. I think I like it ok because it is an active sport. I have only been to one live game though. It would be fun to go to a game in Canada.

My husband is only into soccer (thank god!)--he is very passionate about it, but more about playing than watching, though of course he likes to watch big games. I like to watch him play, he is transformed into this person I hardly recognize--it is the only place where he is quite aggressive...

Phoenix said...

I'd vote that the universe is deliciously matching up would-be conquerors and conquered is totally not random. Although it might be just to teach people to get over it rather than "Hey, it's payback time!" ;)

sarabeck said...

I'm bummed that Chile went home. I was pulling for them. I like cheering for the underdog (and my adopted country).

I like your theory as to what would happen if the US took soccer more seriously. Yes, watch out world!

Oh and it seems like more people are into it this time (here in the US that is).