More than 3. 5 billion people either play or watch soccer around the world, 3. 5 billion, over half the world’s population loves this game. It is, by far, the most popular sport on this earth blowing away the number two sport, cricket (2. 8 billion fans), and number three, field hockey (2 billion fans). However, in arguably the most influential and powerful country this world has ever seen soccer is but a laughing stock to its citizens. Soccer in America has taken a back seat to the major leagues such as the NFL, MLB, NBA, even the NHL.
Sports analysts and critics alike, rip on soccer because the fans are too intense or that there is not enough scoring, reasons which baffle me since America is filled with Red Sox, Yankees, and Raider fans, and we enjoy watching the slow-paced game of golf. The same game which captivates billions around the world never clicked here in the United States, the game is the same but, the atmosphere and passion is so different. Now we all know England is the motherland of soccer, they are more passionate and intense about soccer than we are about baseball, football, or NASCAR it’s beyond anything our culture has ever seen or will ever see.
Everywhere you go, in England, someone has on their Chelsea Blues or their favorite United jersey. It’s more than a game over there. They construct a 90,000 seat stadium (Wembley Stadium) for their national soccer team, where no club games are played just the English National team. However it’s not all contrast from soccer in the US, comparisons run throughout the two sporting worlds, maybe to a lesser degree in some cases but nevertheless, they are still there. There is no getting around it, England loves tradition.
From the monarch system of government, including a queen and parliament, to tea and bowler hats, they live on tradition and soccer is no exception. Dating back to the early 14th century, the popularity of soccer in England has run vivid. The exact date of creation has not been pinpointed to the year; however, there are accounts of King Edward III, around the year 1349, punishing and jailing people who played the game of “futeball”. Any persons, usually children, who were caught playing this game were punished and sometimes even sentenced to a week in jail.
Citizens usually played with a pig bladder which was inflated and filled with beans, and if they were lucky sometimes leather was stitched on to make the ball last longer. Children, students, and adults all around England fell in love with this game and it quickly became England’s national pastime. This sport took the country by storm mainly due to its vast availability. One did not need to be member of the upper class to play soccer like you had to be for other sports such as polo. For soccer, all you needed was a pig bladder or a ball.
In 1848 England became the first country to create organized soccer rules under The Cambridge Rules. These rules are much like the common rules of today with a few advancements, such as the use of a full net instead of a piece of string and two flag posts, nevertheless soccer in England was born. A few years later, in 1863, the Football Association, or the F. A. , was created as the world’s first soccer league. The league was composed of primarily university teams and competed under the Cambridge Rules of Play (History, 2011).
Professional soccer grew and grew exponentially, league by league, team by team, until here we are in the year 2011 and England now has 507 professional leagues, 7040 professional teams, and roughly 120,000 players. England has loved this game for over 650 years. From the hostile beginnings of the jail sentences to now the famed Premiership, soccer is embedded in the DNA of each English citizen. Contrary to popular belief soccer in America has tradition as well. Early records report traces of soccer back to as early as 1885.
However, players and fans were not noticed or admired with the magnitude they were in England, but, around the turn of the century leagues were starting to pop up all over major cities and regions. A few of the pro leagues were The St. Louis League, The Pennsylvania Football Association, The New York State League, and The New England League among many other amateur leagues sprouting from California, Chicago, and other areas across the country. League matches drew crowds in the hundreds and for rival or championship games in the thousands. In 1909 the first national pro league was established, the NAFL.
The National Association Football League was a collection of six teams who played out a ten game season. At the finish of the season the East Newark Clark A. A. was tied atop the league table with West Hudson A. A. each tallying up 18 points, resulting in a share of the title. In that same year, 1909, the annual American Cup also had its strongest tournament ever, drawing teams and spectators from across the country. The top 15 teams from across America were assembled to play in the “national title”. The final was between True Blues and Clark A. A. who played to a 1-1 draw in the first match.
The final was ordered to be played again and it drew 10,000 spectators who watched True Blues defeat Clark A. A. to take the cup by a score of 2-1. People all across America constantly claim that soccer is too new to the United States. Fans, critics, and everyone in between say that people don’t enjoy it because they don’t know about it, when in reality it has been around for over 120 years. They use the “it’s too new” excuse as a universal fallback either to disprove the critics, by stating that not enough people know about it, or to prove fans wrong saying that pro lacrosse has been around longer.
Both soccer in England and soccer in America have had tradition involved. Early leagues were successful in both countries and in each situation soccer has continued to grow. However, over the past 120 years contrast has developed between English soccer and American soccer. The main contrast is the popularity and acceptance among its citizens. Here in the United States soccer is considered a joke by many baseball and football fans as well as criticized for numerous reasons, while across the Atlantic fans bleed the colors of their favorite club.
Here in America there are a few main reasons why we haven’t adopted the game as a major sport. One of the main reasons is the lack of scoring. With 2. 45 goals per game in the Premiership last season people look beyond the tactics and strategy of the game and only want the goals. The beauty of the game is quickly overlooked and the critics pounce on the 1-0 score line or the ever so dreaded 0-0 draw. Kevin Wong, a 48 year old football coach, was quoted in a USA Today article as saying “I don’t see that there’s the same level of intense strategy as we have in our sports (football and baseball)”.
When Americans are introduced to a soccer match their stereotype of a boring slow paced sport kicks in, causing them to lose interest. They look beyond the intense strategy and focus on how many times the players get hurt or how long the players stay on the ground. This negative outlook towards soccer has kept it in the dark, causing low rating among the MLS or other televised games. The low popularity here in the United States is due to the spectators praying for a 5-4 score yet the game produces a beautiful 2-1 match.
In England it’s a whole different story, acceptance is not the problem, England has accepted the game for what it is and they delve into the strategy of the game rather than the goals. Fans love the beautiful through-ball or the strong tackle, while in America they would never catch or appreciate the precision involved in making the pass. Yet over in England there is one problem, intensity. Analysts, league officials, coaches, players, and referees are constantly saying that the fans are too intense. “Hooligans”, as they’re called, pack stadiums by the thousands cheering, fighting, and drinking.
They set off flares when they score and spit on opposing fans when they lose, these fans are intense. “Hooligan firms” are like fans you’ve never seen. They storm the opposing team’s pubs with their colors on and start fights, mob opposing fans in the street if they feel they’ve been disrespected, or simply cause riots after a big win. Each team in the Premiership has a firm, such as Arsenal’s “Gooners”, Manchester United’s “Red Army”, or Chelsea’s “Headhunters”. The fans in England truly value the game of soccer. The game is so popular because the fans know the game.
They realize what a great clearing ball is or the strategy of a 4-3-3 set up is. The fans appreciate the game for what it is and the beauty it beholds. Soccer is the most popular game in the world. No other sport will ever touch the global popularity soccer holds. In England it is considered a national pastime and is the sport of choice among its citizens. From theearly days of a pig bladder to the modern 507 leagues, England loves soccer. Their tradition involving this game has run rich though its roots dating back to the early thirteen hundreds.
Much like the English roots America adopted the game early. Around the 1880’s America was introduced to the game that had been running across England for 500 years leagues popped up around the US and soccer in America was born. In the scheme of the 232 year independent history of America, soccer has been around for more than half of its existence. Although America has never really got into the swing of the soccer atmosphere there are certainly comparisons and similarities between soccer in the United States and soccer over in England.
English Football League System (2011). Retrieved may 20, 2011, from http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/English_football_league_systems History of English Football (2011). Retrieved may 20, 2011, from http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/History-of-English-football Hooligan Firms (2011). Retrieved may 20, 2011, fromhttp://www. ave-it. net/hooligan_firms. htm Lava, della, M. (2011). Why the United Sates Doesn’t Take To soccer. Retrieved may 20, 2011, from http://www. usatoday. com/sports/soccer/worldcup/2006-07-06-soccer-in-the-us_x. htm