Over the years I have had several born again Soccer experiences. Beginning "Dead in My Soccer Sins" I was raised by my Dad thinking that Soccer was for sissies and communists. It just was not a manly, American sport in my eyes. What a small closed minded American sportsmen I was!
My first conversion happened as a Freshman at UNC Chapel Hill. First, the women's soccer team was so ridiculously good that you could not help but be a fan. They were fun to watch, dominant, and many of them were smoking good looking (like my wife Kasey for instance - we met at UNC where she was on the soccer team). So I became a rabind "women's" soccer fan. At this point in my life soccer was good for "women, sissies, and communists." I married that soccer player and became a big fan of hers for life.
My next step in Soccer Sanctification happened in our first ministry assignment with Athletes in Action. Kasey and I were sent to the University of Kentucky to work with athletes and complete a two year period of ministry training. My first team to work with was...you guessed it "MEN's Soccer" - now at this time I thought these two words together formed an immediate contradiction...for their could be no "soccer" for "MEN" - boy was I wrong. I had so much fun ministering with these young men. We saw half the team come to Jesus and I ended up having about 12 dudes from this team in my house for Bible studies. These guys were raw, not typical church boys. Hungry to grow, with huge questions, all the rough edges you could imagine - just fun. And I began to go to their games and realized how intense, athletic, and yes...well, yes...even tough these guys were. Now, they could never whip wrestlers and they still look silly bouncing balls on their heads, but these were men, yes dudes, tough guys.
The final and complete step of my growth as a soccer fan took place spending summers in the Czech Republic during major soccer competitions (namely the 2000 Euro Cup and the 2002 World Cup). To watch beautiful play, with knowledgeable fans is a sure treat...which brings me to a quandry about last nights warm up game in Nashville between the US Men's side and the Moroccans.
- Short story - we lost...and Morocco is not good
- Longer story - we held out our best guys for much of the play and the game, from what I have read, was not pretty to watch.
I think these are great opportunities to showcase Soccer to the American public, good PR games, etc. But when the stars are not playing full out, the game suffers, and we loose to lesser opponents. What to do? I know we must focus on the World Cup Games - but it would be good to see more of the best we offer on our soil.
Anyway, the US men are currently ranked 5th in the world, made it to the 2002 World Cup Quarterfinals loosing a close (we got ripped off) match to the Germans. US Men's Soccer is on the rise. Our women, well they have been good for a long time.
Chear for our American Footballers this year in the World Cup - they open next month agains the Czech Republic - the nation where my final roots as a football fan were sunk deep. I pray we bring our A game as our initial pool is pretty tough. We need to win the first one as the Italians will be next.
Long live the dudes that bounce the ball off of their heads. But in honesty, I pray my two girls are All American Soccer players...but I hope my son puts on the Helmet and pads and grabs some pig skin. Or even learns from his pop how to grab a hold of somebody, sling em down and pin em.
For we know that real men are wrestlers...but soccer is for men as well...just perhaps softer, pretty boy men who like to use products in their hair.