Herald Journal Columns
July 3, 2006, Herald Journal / Enterprise Dispatch

United States soccer needs more hooligans

By Matt Kane

America is celebrating its independence from Britain Tuesday, but maybe we should have stuck with the Englanders — just every four years during the World Cup, that is.

While the members of the American team are at home mowing their lawn,

England is bending it with Beckham deeper into the tournament.

The United States, on the other foot (this is soccer, no hands allowed), went into the World Cup tournament trying to hype the world’s most popular sports in its own country, which, for the most part, prefers to watch gallons of Dutch Boy “very blueberry” paint dry.

By the way, the Dutch boys (Netherlands) were eliminated in the round of 16 by Portugal.

The boys representing the red, white, and blue were featured in leading sports magazines and on sports television stations, giving the country hope that the 18-carat gold 14.7-inch World Cup trophy might come back to the United States as it did in 1999 with the American women.

But just as main stream America started taking note of the planetary tournament, the United States soccer team was waving goodbye to the crowd in Germany and the tournament after falling to Ghana in the preliminary round.

The Americans scored just two goals in three games, and only managed a tie to go with two losses.

Now, I know soccer is far behind baseball, football, basketball, hockey, NASCAR, tennis, golf, bowling, lawn darts, and cow chip throwing in the United States, but, come on, we are the super power. We should at least be able to field a competitive team in the biggest tournament in the world.

Billions of people watch the World Cup daily and I think this country owes it to both American fans to at least put out an entertaining team. It will take those fans longer to wash off the painted on stars and stripes from their face than it did for the United States to get eliminated.

For those living in the United States, it seems the best chance to see a winning soccer team during the World Cup is to cheer for a different country.

That seems unpatriotic from the outside, but for Mischa Schoenke it is 100 percent patriotic.

Schoenke was a foreign exchange student at Dassel-Cokato High School this past school year, and has no problem rooting for Germany. That’s his home country.

He admitted to being just a casual fan, but was looking forward to returning home and joining in the World Cup frenzy.

“I’m not a hard-core soccer fan, but I like to watch it,” he said before returning to Germany June 28.

Schoenke said he watched a good portion of the tournament during his final days in the Unites States, even when on a trip up-and-down the East Coast.

“I watched all the games live here. Even on our trip we went into bars and restaurants to watch soccer,” Schoenke said.

But the interest in the World Cup in the United States was lacking compared to his homeland.

“In Europe, it’s bigger than the Super Bowl here. It’s the biggest event ever,” he explained. “It’s very special. I think everybody loves soccer, and now the greatest teams come together to play together. There are groups who only wait for soccer games. They are always waiting in special parts of the stadium. There are hooligan clubs.”

Maybe that’s what the United States needs to pump up its soccer popularity — more hooligans.

We don’t seem to have a problem with disorderly fans in other sports.

Go to a Washington Redskins or Chicago Bears’ game and you can find hooligans; at a D.C. United or Chicago Fire game — not so much.

Guarantee more scoring, roughness, and cheerleaders and it shouldn’t be too difficult to convince NFL crowds to take in an MLS game.

Besides both sports are football. Or is it fútbol?

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Herald Journal / Enterprise Dispatch