A few challenging soccer questions that I tried to answer.
When I talk about soccer with people at fields, knowing that I’m Italian, inevitably I’m asked questions about the difference between here and Europe. More generally, what makes soccer succeed all around the world, in the past and now, and why here it hasn’t yet………………………… exploded like it seems it should have.
Basically the questions are:
What made soccer succeed in Europe and in general in the world, so that today it’s a main sport?
What do we need to make it succeed here too and create outstanding soccer players?
Why have women had more international success here than men, even winning the World Cup and the Olympic Games?
Wow!!! What questions. So, let’s see the first: What made soccer succeed in Europe and in general in the world, so that today it’s a main sport?
Besides the origin of modern soccer, more than a century ago, fifty years ago it was a kind of evasion from the ‘war nightmare’ for the lower working classes. People needed to put that madness behind them. So, 2 categories of people created the explosion of soccer in Europe: The ones that went to play and the ones that went to see others play!
Soccer, is a like a show, a play, so you need the 3 fundamental ingredients: THEATERS, ACTORS and SPECTATORS. So, soccer succeeded because STADIUMS, PLAYERS and FANS were found in just a few years. As simple as that!
Not just a piece of grass, but stadiums that could receive more than 100,000 spectators. One hundred thousands!!!! And not just a few teams, that continue to play each other, but dozens of them in every country! It was as if California had 20 teams that compete against each other, and all the other states also! Not 13 MLS teams spread out in 52 states, that continue to play each other, pretending to have a real season and after, if this wasn’t ridiculous enough, also have a play-off, with almost all of them!!!!
So people started to play soccer, in order to have something that helped them to forget that they were HUNGRY!!! Literally, not metaphorically! And a few hundred of them, discovered that they could even make a living by doing that! Clearly, with the passing of the decades, with the arrival of the TV that multiplied by millions, and now billions, the numbers of spectators, the phenomenon became a multi billion dollar business for the whole movement.
So, hunger, made soccer succeed in Europe. Hunger to forget and hunger about something that could help to forget hunger! For the players and for the spectators. And even if today, in Europe, it’s not like that anymore, it’s still like that in a few African nations and it’s like that in a few South American nations. Soccer is the only way to get out of poverty and give families a chance that NO OTHER ACTIVITY could give or EVEN LET THEM DREAM ABOUT!!!
So that’s why many of the greatest players of today, come from these 2 continents!!!
And here comes the second question: What do we need to make it succeed here too and create outstanding soccer players?
Obviously, we can’t make people hungry, just hoping to make them play soccer and succeed! Today, in Europe, the most talented youth players learn to become outstanding in a very simple way. Instead of playing at school or on teams made of other friends, and embarrassing them because they are too superior, these talented players, are put together and trained on the youth teams of PROFESSIONAL SOCCER TEAMS !
Is this simple and elementary? Yes it is! Besides the fact that after 145 years the USA doesn’t understand yet this elementary concept.(there is a timid attempt in the MLS, finally!!!) Here, the talented players still play at high schools, colleges and universities, and the only chance that talented players have to succeed is to go to Europe!
As I said, just recently, there is a timid attempt to individuate the top youth players and create youth teams on the professional American teams. But, even supposing that this could happen, there are only 13 MLS teams and a few of them are barely surviving. What can they do, if not just pretend to do that?
Better give 250 millions of $$$$$ to Beckham, instead of developing American youth phenomena that FOR SURE are out there and don’t have ANY CHANCE to succeed by staying here!!!
To conclude this answer, there are only 2 ways to become an outstanding soccer player:
-Being hungry!!! (fortunately, something unknown in the USA!)
-Being on the youth team of a professional soccer team that is at the top in the world of soccer, no matter what nation it’s in!
Third question: Why have women had more international success here than men, even winning the World Cup and the Olympic Games?
It took a lot for me to understand why. Sports in school, as it’s intended in the USA, is something unknown in Europe which I didn’t get at the beginning when I first arrived here. American coaches, helped me to understand why.
Basically the reasons are 3:
-Women’s soccer, strangely, is started here much earlier than in other top nations in the world. So, those who start correctly before the others, obviously get better results!
-Women’s soccer, on the contrary of men‘s, had much less competition from other sports so women were allowed to focus on soccer without other big distractions like football or baseball!
-More important, with the arrival of the sport law TITLE IX, that established that the same amount of money had to be given to women’s and men’s sports and considering that, at that time there were many less women than men in sports, obviously the improvements were enormous!
So, suddenly girls played soccer at school, even if not enough time, and entered onto soccer clubs where the most talented were able to develop their ‘soccer gifts’!
The level that they reached, even if it would have been enormously higher if they had being trained on the youth teams of professional teams and being that American athletes are very strong physically, it was enough to let them compete at an international level and greatly succeed. This, unfortunately, couldn’t happen with the men too, because the International level was to high for them anyway.
Did I answer the questions? From my point of view, I think, YES! Hope that a few of you, start to look at American soccer, if not from my point of view, at least from a different point of view than the way it actually is!
Posted on 05 Sep 2007 by coachgianni