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Out of Bounds: Playing chess while running a maration
by Yonie K. Espiritu, Sports editor

The most popular sport in the world will be on one of the world’s biggest stages this summer. The 2002 World Cup, to be held for the first time ever in Korea and Japan, will be broadcast in more than 50 different countries, in 50 different languages. The most played sport in the world, and we here in the United States can only catch the really good games on pay-per-view. We live in a country with a free press, yet we have to learn from foreign students who won what game or who tied whom.

Why is that?

The major contributor to this dilemma, I feel, is the fact that advertisers are the gatekeepers to the material we see on television. If advertisers can’t get their commercials in, then the networks have no use for a program. FIFA, Federation Internationale de Football Association (the governing body of international soccer), has refused to give up basic aspects of the game just to cater to the preferences of American networks, which want to schedule time within the game for commercials – as they do now, for example, in basketball.

Previous presidents of FIFA have expressed their dismay with media breaks and have explained to American networks and advertisers why such commercial interruption could be detrimental to the flow of play (momentum) in soccer.

In 1997 the NCAA tried timeouts during regular and postseason play, but went back to banner advertising for the final eight games. Al Pacino said it best, in Any Given Sunday, when he said “The day we cut to a commercial was the day we stopped playing football.”

Do soccer fans need to see their favorite athlete in commercial breaks throughout the games they are playing? On nights when he isn’t having a good game, basketball fans get to see more of Kobe Bryant during the commercial breaks than on the court. I don’t want to see my favorite soccer players anywhere but on the field – playing soccer.

Soccer is known to the rest of the world as Jogo Bonito, Portuguese for “the beautiful game,” a term that is synonymous with the legendary, Pele. Now, there is a great role model. He continues to further his sport. Anyone else, at his age and wealth, would only be thinking about fast women and faster cars, but not Pele. He regards his World Cup victories as life defining moments, and he feels that his lifelong dream was only realized when the 1994 World Cup made it to the states.

Most people don’t know this, but Pele probably took the biggest pay cut in the history of sports by deciding to play in the United States. International soccer clubs can pay just as much as, if not more than, high profile professional basketball teams. Franz Beckenbauer, the greatest defender of all times, felt the same as Pele, and also took a large paycut to play here.

Why did they do this? Why would they take less money to play to crowds of 10,000 in the United States when they could make more and play to packed stadiums and crowds in excess of 50,000 by playing almost anywhere else? They knew that if soccer came to the states without international stars, it would probably lose its integrity, like everything else, once it hit primetime television. They came because they wanted North Americans to see the game played correctly and well. True sportsmen, they took a pay cut in order to enhance their sport.

In ’94 FIFA brought the World Cup to the United States in an attmept to use the international popularity of Pele to jump start a professional soccer league in North America. Unfortunately, not even Pele was enough. It’s been eight years now, and major league soccer has yet to have even one broadcast on primetime network television.

Seamus Malan, probably the best soccer analyst that this country has produced, believes that “Americans still don’t really grasp the concept of soccer; it’s not in your face.” It’s about mastering the sport, he explained, not the opponent.

Soccer is called the “gentlemen’s game.” Disputes occur between players and referees, but rarely between players. In soccer being a player means knowing how to distribute your energy in an efficient way. In other North American sports it seems that players believe arguing with each other will some how magically make a referee change a decision. Soccer players recognize who truly owns the game.

In fact the soccer rulebook stipulates that retaliation between any two players will result in immediate ejection. If a player is ejected, that means the team must play a man down for the duration of the game. Ejected players will probably spend a lot of post-game explaining to teammates why they allowed emotional reactions to get the better of common sense.

Finally, why do North American audiences think soccer players are weaker than athletes in other sports? In basketball, teams may dash back and forth several hundred times, but the court is only 94 feet long. In football a team may rush for several hundred yards, pass receivers may carry for even more, but in soccer, the average professional runs about six miles per game.

Is it size? Yankees like things big. Do North American reject soccer because it doesn’t have players the size of Lawrence Taylors or Shaquille O’Neal? Pele only stands 5-7, and the second-greatest offensive player, Diego Maradona, is only 5-5. Is speed and intelligence not enough for American audiences?

As HPU soccer coach, Mark Kane would say, “Soccer is a marathon and a chess match all rolled into one.” Most North Americans don’t understand chess, either. Maybe it’s time we did?

Soccer Facts

The 1924 Olympics, held in France, solidified soccer as an international contest. The final match was witnessed by 50,000 spectators and was won by Uraguay.

With all the surrounding turmoil, the 1928 Olympics would not bring the same results.

FIFA, the governing body of international soccer, voted on May 26, 1928, to create a tournament that would solely cater to the world of soccer.

Called the World Cup, the first event was held in 1930. The host country was Uruguay.

The first teams were invited; they did not have to qualify. Teams in the World Cup today experience rigorous qualifying schedules two years prior to the actual event.

Players are not paid but receive bonuses, i.e., making the final roster or scoring goals.

The 2002 World Cup will be held in Japan and Korea, as well as in 20 different host cities.

 

2002, Kalamalama, the HPU Student Newspaper. All rights reserved.
 
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