Sunday and Thursday are the official soccer days of this household. In the early days of my relationship with my husband I would go with him to the park believing, in my devoted, little heart, that I would cheer him on. I soon learned that I hate soccer and began taking a book or a bag of knitting. Now I don’t even bother going at all.
Soccer fans are true fans, in the whole sense of the word fan is derived from. They are FANATICS! When my husband’s soccer buddies meet me for the first time they are shockingly amused when I make it very clear to them that I HATE SOCCER. Then I have to explain why, knowing I am delivering the highest insult and they will never look at this Gringa the same way again.
I am an American country girl who grew up in a small school where basketball and American football were the primary sports. Anybody who was anybody played. If you played golf, you were a nerd who was afraid to sweat. If you played tennis, you were a baby who was afraid to get knocked around. If you wanted any chance at all of any level of popularity and acceptance, you played basketball or football. Soccer was not even in my vocabulary back then. Needless to say, when I met my husband and was finally exposed to the sport, I was clueless as to the rules. All that I was certain of was that you kicked a ball into the opponent’s goal to score, prevented opponents from doing the same, and you did not touch the ball with your hands. That remains the extent of my knowledge and it’s all I care to know now.
Growing up watching the Dallas Cowboys legends of Tony Dorsett and Roger Staubach, back when Tom Landry showed the world an NFL coach could train champions AND have class, I suppose I became spoiled to the ideal athlete who could take a hit, a hard hit, and not roll around the field crying like a baby, faking an injury in order to manipulate the game in their favor. That is the real source of my abhorrence of soccer. I think soccer players are big babies. If you get your leg broken, by all means roll around in agony. However, if you are just putting on a show, people like myself, who want to watch a sport and not a soap opera, turn the channel or leave the stadium. That’s not what I tuned in for. I was expecting to see athletes who busted their bums to develop a skill that would win a game, that skill being athletic, not dramatic, in nature. For drama I go to the theatre. So, professional soccer teams, if you want to win the hearts and minds of the American majority, ya gotta toughen up and play with some grit.
Now, putting those criticisms aside with the understanding those opinions primarily apply to professional soccer, I will confess I do enjoy watching amateur matches. These are the guys that play with their hearts and souls, whether in the spirit of true competition or just for fun. I don’t see them play-acting. Probably because they know their buddies, comprising both teams, will see right through it and either kick their ass or make fun of them for being a “puto” (my best English translation, “man-whore”). Occasionally someone will also get into a fight, which is very exciting. Since the amateur games lack referees, there’s no third party to prevent the overabundance of testosterone from leading to a bit of rough stuff, which will eventually piss someone off. Finally, a tackle! A hit! Now those are some moves I can really understand. When my husband comments, “Oh, that was an awesome pass!”, or, “He can really touch the ball!”, I don’t have a clue what that means. But a shove and some “in your face” verbal abuse, or maybe a quick tussle on the ground that involves every player dragging them apart, now that takes me back to some American football. That’s when I love soccer.
So, as my Latino Loverboy leaves for his playdate, I shout out the door, “Have fun! Don’t get in a fight!” Later, when he returns all sweaty and smelly, I ask, “Did you have fun? Did you get in a fight?” This Sunday he said he didn’t get in a fight. I was disappointed.