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Wednesday, June 19
The Indiana Daily Student

Forget American soccer, turn to Europe

On a recent trip to Ukraine – the host of the 2012 Union of European Football Association Euro championship and the country where I was born – I started reading Franklin Foer’s “How Football Explains the World.”\nFoer describes through a series of 10 essays how the game of soccer – the clubs, players and especially fans – has influenced the world more than people assume.\nReading the book gave me a quick 280-page education in how deep the devotion is that fans have for certain teams and how fervent the hatred they have for other teams. And when I finished reading one thought came to mind: “How can America – the country of McDonald’s, Disney and MTV – possibly develop a love and appreciation for soccer that can even compare to European countries?”\nI’ve always been fascinated by the attempts of some Americans to introduce “the beautiful game” to the U.S. Despite many attempts and the arrival of David Beckham, soccer has not made a significant dent in American culture.\nAnd how can it? As the “national pastime,” baseball has already claimed a spot in America’s heart. Football and basketball – along with less popular but still relevant golf and hockey – occupy the other facets of U.S. sports. In short, sports fans have plenty to choose from.\nSupply and demand. There are enough sports in supply, and demand for something else – something foreign no less – is small. How can you integrate a sport when there are options galore and no deep base? Soccer is king in Europe because it has been there for centuries. It has become a part of their culture, something it has not done in the U.S.\nBasketball, football and baseball have deep roots in this country. Even golf – which was developed in Scotland – occupies a large slot in TV ratings during the Majors. After the lockout in 2005, hockey has been on the rise, drawing fans with new talent like Sidney Crosby.\nIn Europe, soccer is a way of life and for many people a loyalty that can never be broken. The most intense sports rivalry in the U.S. cannot compare to the most mundane in soccer. One of the most interesting essays in Foer’s book describes the powerful hatred between fans of the Glasgow Rangers and Glasgow Celtic. These fans will kill – or at least attempt to – any opponent who dares to stray onto their territory. How can you compare that to the middle and upper-class students at Duke and the University of North Carolina who merely scream and paint their bodies?\nInstead of trying to import fading talent (see: Beckham) or hype up American prodigies (see: Freddy Adu), Americans can turn to European soccer or more specifically to the UEFA Euro 2008 which started this month and ends on June 29.\nI’m not saying soccer will never catch on in America. There was a time when professional basketball players had to have second jobs in the off-season. And now? The average NBA player makes $5.356 million. So to say that soccer doesn’t have a future in America would be to deny that change happens, especially in sports.\nBut why create, fund and promote an American league when the talent in European teams is overwhelming? The product is out there, but it has yet to be marketed successfully to American fans. \nSo flip on the TV, find a UEFA match and settle in for a few hours of pure obsession, pure enthusiasm and pure zeal. Turn on the beautiful game.

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