A soccer field (aka a football pitch).
The Men’s World Cup is a lesson in humility for the United States. The US team is not competing in Russia this year. They lost their qualifying match to Trinidad and Tobago last October. Worse, Trinidad and Tobago didn’t make it to the World Cup either. Quite embarrassing for the US. I didn’t realize until I looked it up in 2014, that the US men’s team has not been near the top three at the World Cup ever. Not once! However, the US women’s national team has won three times since the international games for women began in 1991! This October, the women’s team will go to the regional playoffs, and most likely to France for the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
Why is US women’s soccer so different from the men’s? Perhaps because the best female athletes don’t have high paying baseball and US football careers to distract them from the game. In 1972, because of Title IX, more programs began for US girls to have an equal chance to play sports like soccer. By 1991, enough US women were pro soccer players that they won the first Women’s World Cup.
Thus, I found it very ironic when the boys at Nuestro Mundo dual immersion school told our daughter, “Girls don’t play soccer,” as she went to join them for games at recess.
So untrue, yet a self-fulfilling prophecy. What a coincidence.
No women’s teams from south of our border have won the cup so far. I guess the field isn’t open yet universally. Brasil won second place once. Colombia, and Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina and Costa Rica all play in the women’s world cup. The other Spanish-speaking country onboard is Spain. Since 1991, Colombia’s women’s team has won one game total; the other five countries, none (not including draws). The Women’s World Cup results show not many girls are playing fútbol in Latin America. Perhaps Spanish-speaking countries in our hemisphere need the equivalent of Title IX, so girls start playing fútbol in elementary school. Or, they need an economy where girls work less to help support their families.
Although the stars and stripes is not at the 2018 Men’s World Cup, I also like to support the teams from Latin America and Spain. This year, Uruguay, Mexico, Brasil and Spain are looking good. Uruguay won the first Men’s World Cup in 1930, hosted in Montevideo. In addition, they won the first World Cup after WWII, against Brasil on their home turf in Rio de Janeiro. That’s a huge deal, since Brasil is the biggest World Cup winner; 5 wins and 2 runners up! Why is it that romance language players dominate this game? Germany and England have bucked this trend on a scant five occasions.
What I love about soccer is that economics doesn’t determine the outcome as much as in many sports played by the US. Skill, teamwork, and endurance are key to winning the 90-minute games. I like to play the game, although a fleet-footed nine-year-old could dribble the ball around me if they were good at direction fakes. I was lucky to grow up in the era of Title IX. Soccer teams existed for girls at local parks and I played midfielder and defender. Then, I was a defender on our junior varsity high school team. Teamwork I was good at, endurance so-so, and I was building skills. The best I can say is I could direct the ball where I wanted it to go. I was a fierce protector of our goal and have the shinbone dents to prove it.
This month and next in Russia, may the best athletes win. Although they haven’t triumphed since 1950, my money’s on Uruguay. ¿Y vos? And you? What team are you cheering for?
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