Posted by: Paul | June 10, 2010

World Cup Fever…but not in America

It’s something of a mystery, why the USA has not taken to football in the same way as the rest of the world. Even after the 1994 World Cup taking place in the country – something of a cynical, commercially-driven political gesture on the part of FIFA to raise the profile of the game in the only market it has not penetrated – still the average sports fan does not seem to be interested. Even taking into account the increasing quality of the US national team, they can’t generate any enthusiasm. So why the apathy?

I tested the waters with my stateside Facebook friends, and found that of those who are actually interested in sport at all, the big thing at the moment is the NBA (basketball) finals. So rather than joining in and taking a global view of sport at the time when the world’s biggest sporting event is on, the US turns inward to a sport that only the US puts much effort into and few other countries even play on a professional level.

Why is football such a unifying force for everyone except America, and why has America shunned it? It’s so entrenched into English society, from jumpers for goalposts for seven year old kids, to conversation between total strangers in the pub on a Friday night, football is a leveller. Football is tribal, football is simplicity, football is exhilarating. Football is also overexposed, football is greed, football is glamour. But that’s all the things which come from being something so high-profile, so pored over, so talked about.

It has been suggested that Americans aren’t interested in football because the score is so low – you can play 90 minutes without a goal. There are not always winners in football, and in league cases you’re not forced to decide a match in any way if its a draw. But what they don’t realise is that a goalless draw can be the most exciting and uplifting match of the season for you – for instance, if you’re a newly promoted Blackpool and you draw 0-0 away to Chelsea. Rather than despair at not winning, that would be a result to celebrate for the Blackpool fans.

So I and much of the rest of the country await Saturday with bated breath, when England take on the USA in their first group match. Despite the US having six times the population of England, I guarantee there will be far more than six times the viewing audience in the UK than the US for the game. I’d be interested to see what my American friends think again if they win. Which is a possibility…

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