27 August 2009

The Beautiful Game

I grew up playing soccer in Casper, WY where it was a somewhat popular sport in the '80s. My first memory of fandom is the 1986 World Cup tournament when I spent the better part of three weeks camped out in front of ESPN watching the likes of Diego Maradona and Roberto Baggio ply their craft. With the move to Texas in 1988, my interest waned except for an occasional check-in on the US National team and the World Cup that rolled around every 4 years.

That passing interest was rekindled about two years ago when I was bored one day and found myself cruising through Youtube and somehow ended up on a highlight reel featuring Steven Gerrard, the brilliant Liverpool midfielder. I knew I was instantly hooked. In the last few years, I've become a close follower of the English Premier League, the Champions League, numerous national teams, and have a working knowledge of the Spanish Primera League and Serie A (the Italian League). I "get" why so many across the world (sans Americans) are infatuated with the "beautiful game." As a matter of fact, I join them in the infatuation.

I once heard someone, in describing the game, state that every trip down the pitch (field) is like a novela. While that might be hyperbole, there is an element of truth in it if you really pay attention to the game. It's a game of skill, imagination, strength, and incredible physical fitness. I'm not sure why Americans have not appreciated the game to any great degree, especially with so many kids growing up playing the game over the past two decades, but it probably has to do with the perceived lack of action brought about by the presence of few actual goals scored. I hope that changes over time.

So, how much of a soccer nerd am I? Well, I own a handful of jerseys that I've picked up off of eBay or while working in Ireland. I have a Fernando Torres jersey from the Spanish national team. I have Fernando Torres Liverpool jersey. I have a Peter Crouch Portsmouth jersey. And I have a long line of other jersey's I'm "watching" on eBay. While working in Ireland I seriously considered spending my free weekend riding the ferry across from Dublin to Liverpool in order to attend a match. I catch every match I can on espn360 and the ones I miss I catch the highlights on footytube.com after the fact. I'm on the soccer sites daily in the offseason to watch player movement amongst the teams (especially Liverpool as I have adopted them as "my team"). I'm a nerd. I admit it. But I have no plans of changing as I love the game.

For those that might have interest, google or Youtube any of the following to see the who's who of the soccer world:

- Fernando Torres (Liverpool striker and Spanish national)
- Steven Gerrard (Liverpool and English national)
- Carlos Tevez (Manchester City and Argentine national)
- Cristiano Ronaldo (boooo - Real Madrid and Portuguese national)
- Ronaldinho (flashy player that has seen better days, AC Milan and Brazilian national)
- Robinho (Manchester City and Brazilian national)
- Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentine national)
- Thierry Henry (Barcelona and French national)
- Kaka (Real Madrid and Brazilian national)
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Barcelona and Swedish national)
- Didier Drogba (Chelsea and Ivory Coast national)
- David Villa (Valencia and Spanish national)
- Wayne Rooney (Manchester United and English national)

If you want a few American names:

- Landon Donovan (plays for LA Galaxy, but will be playing in Europe next year no doubt)
- Oguchi Onyewu (plays for AC Milan in Italy)
- Michael Bradley (plays in Germany)
- Clint Dempsey (plays for Aston Villas in England)
- Jozy Altidore (plays for Hull City in England)

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