Soccer Stories: Anecdotes, Oddities, Lore, and Amazing Feats

By Donn Risolo | Go to book overview

6

AMerica

soccer, the sport of the ’80s.
A SOUVENIR PENNANT sold in the late ’70s by the North American
soccer League, based on the hopeful public assertions of Commissioner
Phil Woosnam

I recently went to the United states, where soccer is nothing.
It interests no one. Their presence in Italy is frankly useless.

JOSEF HICKERSBERGER, coach of Austria, to France Football when
asked about one of his team’s first-round opponents at the 1990 World Cup
in Italy. Austria, needing a bushel of goals in its third match to advance,
was held by the United states to a 2–1 win and was eliminated.

Here, everyone’s interested in baseball and American football
and many people didn’t even know that a soccer match was
being played today. so it’s easy for them, because they aren’t
playing under any pressure. My mother, my grandmother, or
my great-grandmother could play in a team like that.
RICARDO LAVOLPE, coach of Mexico, on the U.s. National Team after
it blanked his side, 2–0, in Columbus in a qualifier for the 2006 World Cup

In the world of soccer, the United States is that land through the looking glass. Not only is it the only major nation where soccer is not among the very favorite team sports, but the hostility toward the sport in some quarters of the establishment can be breathtaking. America was playing the modern game in the mid-nineteenth century, decades before other countries knew of its existence, but by the twentieth century, while soccer took the rest of the world by storm, the game here had been eclipsed by sports ranging from bowling to badminton. In many countries the spectacle of grown men playing the game well for money before large crowds made soccer wildly popular and boosted participation; in the States, the sport didn’t get off its knees until the youth boom of the 1970s and ’80s, which came on the heels of the collapse of a string of professional leagues. And while in most countries the women have had to play catch-up to the men, in the United States the women’s national team leads the men’s in world championships, 2–0.

-169-

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