Call me a fringe fan, but I love watching soccer…er football. I discovered, quite by accident, that the Copa America Tournament would be taking place this June, with every game on U.S. soil. The tournament, which is older than the World Cup, features 16 teams from South, Central and North America. I was in a doctor’s office waiting room, when I saw the cover of Sports Illustrated featuring Argentina’s Lionel Messi, arguably one of the best players in the world.
How the heck did I not hear about this tournament? I thought. But such is life in a country that doesn’t care much about soccer. The reason I love watching this sport comes down to several reasons, though the following is not an exhaustive list.
- The action is continuous. There are no commercials once the game starts. Let that fact sink in a second. There is a break between halves, but an intense 45 minutes or so, I’m usually thankful for the reprieve. Sports like baseball and American football annoy me sometimes because it seems there is only action about 5-10 percent of the time.
- Soccer players are incredibly fit. Make no mistake, the game is an endurance sport. Players run an average of 7.5 miles per game, with midfielders perhaps even running more than that. Back when I played on a team, I appreciated that aspect. Soccer is anything but lazy.
- Sometimes the acting is comical. There certainly are plenty of plays and fouls where players have hard collisions. But inevitably it is a strategy for players to try and draw a free kick by feigning a foul. It’s amazing how a slight brush from another player can prompt a 180-pound male to fall over like a bag of bricks, writhing in pain. Sometimes the Oscar-worthy antics are funny, other times annoying. In the end, it’s all part of the sport.
- Soccer doesn’t require a lot of equipment. A pair of shoes, shinguards. That’s about it, really. Which is why it is a very widespread sport, even in poor nations. It explains why a much smaller country can give the U.S. a run for its money.
- Watching high level players is mesmerizing. It’s crazy to watch someone who can trap the ball like they have velcro on their feet, shoot with power and accuracy, or even one-time the ball off their chest and bicycle kick in the net.
- The U.S. men’s team continues to get better (the women’s team is already top-notch). This year is the first time the U.S. Men’s Team has advanced in the Copa America since 1995. That’s a long time.
- The fans and announcers are passionate. Anyone who has ever heard the announcers shout, “Gooooooooooooooal” have some understanding of this zeal. After all, soccer is the most watched sport around the world.
While the tournament didn’t start off so well for the U.S. Men’s Team (they lost 2-0 to Columbia), they have bounced back and won the last 3 games, and also their bracket, and are currently in the semi-finals game, essentially the Final Four of the tourney.
This has proved an excellent diversion for me the past few weeks. While I wish I was actually the one playing, I still am enjoying tuning into these games, and the action does still get the blood pumping a bit.
Though, it seems my game watching opportunities could be short-lived, considering the U.S. plays the number one FIFA ranked team, Argentina tonight at 8 p.m. People are not giving the U.S. much of a chance, especially because they will be missing several key players due to some controversial yellow and red cards. I would have to agree that the U.S. is really going to have to step things up if they want a chance.
Regardless, I’m thankful for the opportunity to watch some quality games from a quality sport this summer.