Monday, June 12, 2006

World Cup 101 - Embrace your inner hooligan!

Today, The US World Cup Soccer Team plays The Czech Republic.

(UPDATE: USA lost to Czech Republic 3 - 0.)

Prior to the last World Cup four years ago, I emailed Bob, a friend of mine who I used to work with and one of the absolute funniest people I've ever met, to explain exactly what the deal is with World Cup Soccer.

I want to enjoy World Cup Soccer. I really do. Perhaps it's my inner hooligan wanting to breathe free. Embrace your inner hooligan! That should be a bumper sticker, dontcha think?

I'm intrigued by how the rest of the world is so much more into it than Americans are. Do we not understand it? Do we not care? I kinda think that it's the same reason why we haven't fully converted to the Metric System that the rest of the world uses. We're lazy. We want the rest of the world to adapt to us so we won't have to change. We're busy sitting shirtless on aluminum bleachers in 100 degree heat watching cars drive around in circles 500 times. (That's no slam on NASCAR - for the record, I'd love for someone to explain the appeal of NASCAR to me too.)

*** Disclaimer: Not all Americans are this way, of course. The fact that you're reading this blog by your own free will (I'm assuming) and not just following the results of your search for Trashcan Jenga Strategy (or, more commonly and for reasons I fail to comprehend, self suck porn) is testament to the fact that you, dear reader, are of Above Average Intelligence. At least you are in my opinion. Congratulations. ***

Think I'm wrong? Watch The Amazing Race sometime and watch how the Geniuses representing our fine country expect the people they encounter in the middle of the farthest corner of the freakin desert to speak English. And my favorite scenario is when the innocent local person clearly doesn't understand whatever the Americans are trying to say, the Americans will say THE EXACT SAME WORDS ONLY LOUDER, their assumption, of course, being that perhaps OomFooFoo didn't hear us clearly the first time. No wonder the rest of the world hates us.

But anyway, here's what my friend Bob said about World Cup Soccer. I can't find the original questions that I asked because Hotmail deletes them after 30 days, but I think there's enough information there to get an idea of what I was trying to find out.

Dear Sarah,

You ask too many questions. But I have to congratulate you -- many Americans are not open-minded enough to appreciate the game of soccer (unless it's played by their own 6-year-old.)

Well, here goes. I'll give it a try.

1) It is a simple game, but once you begin to understand it, the most fascinating in its subtleties.

2) The amount of stoppage time, or extra time, is based on how many stoppages in play there have been. Typically, the referee adds roughly one minute for each injury and 30 seconds for each goal. But that's entirely at his discretion. I've seen as many as 7 minutes, as few as zero. The usual is about 3 minutes.

3) There's a fourth official that holds up an electronic board with the amount of stoppage time -- but only at the end of the full 90 minutes. The referee is the official timekeeper though, so the way the sideline official knows is by a hand signal from the referee just prior to the end.

4) There's a stadium clock that shows the amount of time played, but it's not the official time. Only the referee knows the official time, and the rest of us have to guess just exactly when the game will end. Will our team have enough time for one final attack? We can only hope.

5) World Cup pairings are decided about six months ahead of the tournament, at a drawing that follows the qualifying rounds. About 200 countries try to qualify, and it takes about two years to reach the final 32. Many of the best games are actually played in the qualifying rounds.

6) The top teams are seeded 1-8, then placed in the eight separate groups (kinda like NCAA basketball). Then the next eight are seeded, and allotted to those same eight groups. Finally, all the rest are drawn and placed in their groups as unseeded teams. The seedings are based on a team's record in qualifying, and also how well they've done in past World Cups.

7) Games always last 90 minutes, or two TV hours. You can set your clock on it. That's one reason I like soccer. Football games last 3 1/2 hours, baseball 3, playoff hockey and basketball at least 3 hours. But with soccer, you can watch a game and still have a big chunk of the day to do other things. The only time a soccer game might last longer (since ties are allowed) is in a tournament when one team must be eliminated. Then they add 30 minutes of overtime, then penalty kicks if necessary.

8) Most players do play the whole game, as only three substitutions are allowed. If you've used up your substitutions and lose a player to injury, you must play a man short.

9) David Beckham is indeed married to the beautiful Victoria Adams, aka Posh Spice, at (I think).

10) FIFA actually allows the size of the field to vary a bit, from 110-120 yards in length to 70-80 yards in width. (I think that's to allow for the older stadiums around the world.) New fields are about 115 x 75, but Soccer Park in Fenton is only about 105 x 65, if that, so games feel very cramped there.

11) You may find Senegal not on a map, but shock of shocks, in the second round of the World Cup playing Sweden.

So, there ya go, kids. All clear now?

Everybody watch the US team today - I don't have cable and won't be able to see it.

C'mon, now, lemme hear it!

U - S - A!
U - S - A!
U - S - A!


Rachel said...

Very informative! Maybe I'll turn the game on while I work.

I read "Embrace your inner hooligan" as "embrace your inner hoosier". Yeah, I'm from St. Louis, alright. :)

Penny Karma said...

I tried to use the word Hoosier (the way St. Louisans mean it) when I lived in Texas. People didn't get it. They also didn't understand why I kept wanting to know where everyone went to high school.

Bezzie said...

Ah alas they lost. I was sorta rooting for the Czechs anyway. My Sugar Daddy To Be is not too far off the boat from there.
But then again in HS on spirit days I was always the girl wearing the opposing school's colors just to mix things up a bit.
But thank you for that insight on futbol. I'm going to get back to my search for self sucking jenga games.

The Fluffy Ewe said...

Why aren't we Americans into Soccer?? One word FOOTBALL!!! And I am talking American football, here. I will give it to the soccer boys that they could probably last longer in a football game than said football players in a soccer game any day. They have stamina going for them and are constantly runnning up and down the field. No halftime, no 30 second time outs for TV commericals. Football is more commercialized than soccer is these days. We do have our local MLS team, the Crew, and I have supported them by attending a game but I just cannot get into it like I do football. Maybe if we were all raised watching college and pro soccer on the the weekends and had pep rallies for the soccer teams instead of football, maybe we too could be a soccer nation. (Or, as Pablo from the Backyardigans would say, soccer monsters.)

JRS said...

Sorry you don't have cable and therefore missed the game, but honestly, you didn't miss much of anything. For me it entailed staying up till past 3 am, but it was the game that almost put me to sleep, not the time. The Japan-Australia game was much more exciting (but equally sad).

I will be back at my local bar for the next game though, even though I think it starts at 4 am! After all, Brian McBride is a SLU homeboy, something everyone around me last night had drilled into them about a hundred times!

jackt said...

Congrats PK for trying to be a member of the international community. I get this all the time from my overseas friends, but frankly we have a lot of distractions in the U.S., so it's hard for us to pay attention to things that take place in totally different time zones. That's not always noble but I think it's the truth. Although I do think we should switch to the metric system. It's WAY more logical.

cpurl17 said...

My biggest jaw dropper on Amazing Race is when the contestants say stupid or rude things or make fun of the residents/culture of the country in which they are GUESTS. Makes me cringe.

I wish I loved football too. It would be fun to be as excited as the rest of the world!

doesntexist said...

if you really want to start letting out your inner hooligan, start off watching the football teams that are good. (another thing us Americans do expecting everyone else to change is call it soccer, but coming from an English background my family switches back and forth). Since it seems you have just now started getting into football I can give you some teams this year you should watch, or even think about watching.
England is a rather good, not doing their very best this year, but they do have quite a few good players (most Americans LOVE Beckham, but the players Owen and Rooney are much better then he is)
Trinidad and Tobago is shocking the world, this is their first year in the worldcup but they are good.
Brazil, world cup champions of last year rather good, but their first game wasn't overly impressive.
I can give you more if you want, but if you would like to understand football even better try
hope this helped

doesntexist said...

oh, I forgot to mention. USA doesnt do too well as a team for the fact that Americans don't know how to play soccer, but now if you notice the teams they say our players are playing on now, most are international. Give the players a few more years on the international teams, and the world cup in 2010 USA just might be a formidable force. sorry the comments are so long