By: Twumasi Duah-Mensah
Blah, blah, blah, some bored British teenagers wanted to differentiate between the three types of football at the time: unregulated, association, and rugby, so they called the one you play with your feet “soccer.” Americans picked it up, put their own spin on rugby, and dropped the rugby in favor of just calling it “football.”
That story is boring. What’s not boring is the hate Americans can get from the rest of the world on Twitter for saying Lionel Messi is their favorite “soccer” player. If the US Men’s National Team embarasses themselves at the World Cup, you’ll see three “that’s what happens when you call it soccer” replies in ten seconds on Twitter. Why such vitriol, though?
Even if non-Americans know the origin story of “soccer,” they cringe at the sight of the word. Maybe it’s because their local news talks about the weather, crime, politics, and football. Maybe because from a young age, they see their parents go crazy over football. Maybe because they’d quit their job just to see their country lift football’s most valuable trophy.
So when non-Americans hear a Yankee dare call a big part of their life something that just doesn’t make sense and are reminded that those dirty Yanks call running an oddly-shaped egg down a field “football,” it reminds them of how frivolous and ridiculous Americans are. How could you be a serious part of the football community if you can’t even say the obvious password?
On the other end, Americans don’t defend “soccer” to the death. The regional and inter-city rivalries of Italy bring ultra-passionate fans to fill the stadiums. America doesn’t have the same deep divisions for Northeasterners to riot in the stands after a bad call in favor of a team from the South. The working class backbone of English soccer would turn to football or basketball in America. American soccer, however, may have its own appeal.
Diehard Major League Soccer (MLS) fans find league matches more than a glorified get-together with goofy flags and flares. MLS’ power is to bring Americans with diverse backgrounds together. Everybody is so different yet sings the same anthem. The game is an escape into a new world, and that’s why the game keeps growing in the US. Soon, we Yankees might start take exception to being kept out of the global “soccer” society.