For Love of The Game

This month is chalked full of amazing soccer games. My love of soccer is rivaled, perhaps, only by my lover of writing, and this month soccer may win out. Why? Because two huge international competitions are being held. First, and already in progress, is the Copa America Centenario, the 100th anniversary of the oldest international soccer tourny in the world. On June 10th the European Championship begins in France, which is also bound to be extraordinary.

The other day, however, I went to a game in Seattle. Now, Seattle Sounder fans are a bit notorious for being Seattle fans first and soccer fans second–sadly the attendance at this game showed the truth of this all too well. The match was between Haiti and Peru. Two teams that never make the big stage of the World Cup. Peru has potential, and they showed flashes of it against Haiti, but Haiti never makes the World Cup and typically is a completely overlooked country in much more than just soccer.

The stadium is a 67,000 pot, but only 20,000 people came for the game. This is a major international competition, and yes, these were B teams of the tournament. They don’t have the recognizable players like Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Mexico do, but a love for the game is supporting the games that are smaller–because the play can still be great, the game exciting. But Seattle fans are fans of themselves, it seems, not so much of the sport.

On the 14th Argentina and Bolivia will face off in Seattle, and I expect attendance to be much higher then. If Messi is likely to step onto the field, more people are likely to show up.

The European Championship, on the other hand, is stacked for some intriguing and exiting matches. Germany must be the clear favorite. Their dominance in the 2014 World Cup was incredible and amazing to witness. But Spain, France, Italy, Holland, and even England, can’t ever be ruled out. Then there are the dark horses, or sleepers. Wales has made the Euros for the first time (maybe ever, I’m not sure), as has Iceland–which I’m hoping show well for themselves as it’s one of my top destinations for future traveling. With so much soccer coming up I don’t know how I’ll get anything done at all this month.

7/2/15 The Women’s World Cup

The Women’s World Cup has been an outstanding success thus far, and we still have the final to look forward to.

In my opinion this world cup has been nearly as good as last years. Sure, we haven’t had the fairy tale story of Costa Rica making it to the quarterfinals, or the shocking blowout of Brazil losing 7-1 to Germany, which was quite likely the most surprising and astonishing game of soccer I have ever seen in my short life. But we have seen Australia win their first ever knockout round match (men or women), we’ve seen England make it to only their third ever semifinal in world cup history (this includes the men’s team world cup history), but the first time the English Women’s National Team had ever made it that far–only to go out on one of the most bizarre goals yet seen in a world cup. Absolutely devastating for the player involved as well as a country that has been yearning for a successful national team since 1966.

Now, on Sunday we see a rematch of epic proportions. Nobody gave Japan a chance back in 2011 and this time around I’m not giving them much either. After the USA’s display against the most vaunted attack and what seemed to be the most complete team in the tournament, in germany, I can’t see what is going to slow the USA down.

Jill Ellis has made some very important tactical changes to the starting line up over the last couple days which has given Carli Lloyd more freedom in the attacking third, and she has proved to the world she is ready to shoulder that responsibility. While Alex Morgan has been coming off an injury, having her play a full 90 minutes against Germany was, perhaps a bit much for her, as she’s still shaking off the rust–however, it is good to know she can go the distance, if not the 120 minutes it might take if Japan is able to take USA to overtime in the final. But how many people were thinking of Morgan’s shot which went right at the German keeper even though she was on a complete breakaway, when Sasic stepped up to the penalty spot only to miraculously miss German women’s first ever penalty kick in a world cup, bringing their conversion record to 17-1.

This drama has been nearly as great as that of last summer’s. The difference I suppose is having a team with a chance of winning. Did anyone think the USMNT would ever actually make it past Belgium last summer? Sure, we played them toe-toe well into overtime, but Belgium, with all their star power, was a horribly underperforming team. Even with the chance Wondo decided to put wide, which would have seen us make the quarters for the first time since 2002, the USMNT chances of beating Belgium were slim, and eventually, in that game, Belgium found the quality they needed.

But now some different American’s have made it to the final. The way they’ve got there hasn’t always been pretty, but it’s been enough, and just maybe, it will give the United States a reason to cheer about soccer.

12/6/14

Two nights ago was the wake for a friend. To celebrate and to mourn we all went down to the bars. We all. There were just four of us at that point. Everyone else was beholden to a drive back down to the Seattle area and work the next morning. Living in Bellingham I didn’t have to deal with the drive so could drink all the way through.

I found my friends at the back of Kaps. It’s a dusty and dim place and on a Thursday night most the seats were empty. The whole place has an orange tint to it. After ordering a cheap beer I took a seat in the booth next to a friend, across from others. We held up our cans in a toast. I couldn’t help but curl my lips into touch my teeth, almost a grimace.

That morning we had attended his service. My long time neighbors were there. The young man’s family. My group of friends that I’ve rediscovered in the last three of four months. Some older friends from grade school who knew the man.

I found it strange that the last time I had seen the man’s brother and sister had been the night before their mother’s service. We had sat around a table at my neighbor’s house and drank wine and laughed together even though we knew we weren’t suppose to. Then the man showed up. The same man that just a couple days ago I sat and toasted because he too had died.

His service took place in a funeral home. It was traditional and not at all how I knew him. I think he’d have preferred to hold it in a bar–and so that’s what we were doing now. Dobs. The last time I saw him he was outside The Wild Buffalo, a local music venue, smoking a cigarette and talking to a girl. He introduced me but I was on my way out. He seemed in a bad way, just in vibe and body language–but I never thought this bad.

He was a soccer player. He loved soccer and he loved Italy–that being his heritage. He was so proud of Italy for winning the world cup in 2006. I rooted for France.

The day he came to my neighbors after dinner he needed a place to stay and I had an extra room. It was no problem for him to stay there. Everyone was questioning his motives. He was acting manic. Nobody knew what he was going to do next. Nobody even knew if he’d be at his mother’s service the next day. He wasn’t happy about being judged and he told me so when he came back to my house. For my part, I was deeply uneasy to even be spending time with him. He had a lot of ideas that didn’t quite make sense, just didn’t add up. He was obviously confused. He was obviously distraught, as anyone would be, and his stress was moving him to act in ways in which made people uneasy.